May 14, 2008
Israel at 60, a Brief Documentary History
The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14 1948, making today its 60th anniversary. Depending on your choice of timelines, it was the successful completion of the Zionist objective expressed in the Basel Program adopted on August 30, 1897 by the First Zionist Congress or the culmination of nearly 2,000 years of hopes by Jewish people to return one day to Eretz Yisrael after being exiled to the Diaspora by the Romans following the Bar Kochba revolt in 135. See Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Timeline.
Political zionists base the territorial legitimacy of Israel under international law as a Jewish state on the British government's Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917 which was re-affirmed in the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine in 1922. The Mandate for Palestine gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael, and to the right of the Jewish people to recreate a "homeland" in one fourth of the Transjordan territory controlled by Britain. The historic connection to the Land of Israel in general and to Jerusalem in particular can be traced back in Jewish national and religious consciousness to the 10th century BCE, culminating in King David forging a unified nation from Jerusalem by uniting the twelve tribes.
On November 29 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under an international regime (UN Resolution 181) despite oppositon from the Arab community which have called the declaration of the State of Israel "al-Nakba", the catastrophe. What follows is a selection from the documentary history leading up to the the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
The Basel Program. The First Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland, adopted the "Basel Program" resolutions August 30, 1897, which proclaimed Zionism's aim "to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael to be guaranteed by public (ie international) law":
Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:
- The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
- The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
- The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
- Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.
Some would call the Basel Program, the first expression of Political Zionism because of its reliance on diplomatic activity as the main method for getting the Jewish homeland. The Conference itself is clearly significant because it was the first international gathering of Jews on a national and secular basis; the delegates were largely assimilated Jews seeking to craft a secular manifesto based on the rule of law. The Basel Program was clearly influenced by Vienna journalist Theodore Herzl's political pamphlet Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State, English translation available at Project Gutenberg) which had been published in 1896, the year before the the First Zionist Congress. Herzl, who chaired the Congress, opposed unlawful efforts already made by other Zionist groups to settle Jews in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, arguing that "important experiments in colonization have been made, though on the mistaken principle of a gradual infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end badly. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration.” Quoted from The Jewish State.
The Balfour Declaration. Issued by the British Government in 1917 as the so- to-be victors of WW I contemplated how Western powers would administer territories of the vanquished, in this instance the territories of the Ottoman Empire, the Balfour Declaration promised that a "national home for the Jewish people" would be founded in Palestine, while preserving the "civil and religious" rights of non-Jewish communities there. From the Balfour Declaration:
His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The British could not reconcile the conflicting principles, perhaps because while the phrase "national home" was intentionally used instead of "state" it was undeniable that the creation of a Jewish state would be the eventual outcome under the Balfour Declaration and that Arab cooperation was uncertain at best. See, for example, Theodore Herzl's utopian novel, Altneuland (The Old New Land, 1902) for an illustration of how Arabs and Jews were to live together in harmony but note the arrogance of the supremacy of Western European culture and industry expressed therein).
Faisal-Weizmann Agreement. One attempt at Arab-Jewish cooperation was the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement, a short-lived secret agreement signed on January 3, 1919, by Amir Faisal I ibn Hussein (acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz) and Chaim Weizmann (acting on behalf of the "Zionist Organization"). The Agreement, brokered by T. E. Lawrence, sought to harmonize the positions of all three parties -- Jews, Arabs and Britain -- before the Paris Peace Conference. The Agreement stipulated Arab-Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East. However, the Paris Peace Conference refused to recognize an independent Arab state in the region. Ultimately, the principles expressed in the the Balfour Declaration were recognized under international law by the League of Nations in the Mandate for Palestine (July 24, 1922) which carved out one-quarter of the territory of Palestine for a Jewish home and provided for immigration to that homeland.
British White Paper of 1939. In the spring of 1920, spring of 1921 and summer of 1929, civil unrest broke out between Zionist settlers and Arab nationalists who opposed the Jewish homeland and immigration policies expressed in the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. This unrest culminated in 1936 with widespread rioting, now known as the Arab Revolt or Great Uprising. During this period, the British government pursued a number of policies to restrict Jewish immigration that culminated in the British White Paper of 1939 which effectively closed Jewish immigration to Palestine and restrict land purchases. Specifically, the 1939 White Paper decreed that 15,000 Jews would be allowed to enter Palestine each year for five years. Thereafter, immigration would be subject to Arab approval. Effectively, it had rescinded the Balfour Declaration and reneged on the British commitment to a Jewish national home in Palestine. The League Mandates Commission declared the White Paper to be unlawful, stating "The policy set out in the White Paper is not in accordance with the interpretation which, in agreement with the Mandatory Power and the Council, the Commission has placed upon the Palestine Mandate."
Readers are well aware of the historical context. While many people may not have known about the Nazi atrocities, the increasingly frequent and vivid reports of the Holocaust were common knowledge in government circles in Britain and the US. Despite the desperate need to find a haven for refugees, the doors of Palestine remained shut to Jewish immigration as the British tried to maintain internal peace in Palestine.
The Biltmore Program. In Nazi-occupied Europe, there were still millions of Jews trapped in the Nazi occupation, and the Zionist were looking desperately for a way to get them out. Though the World Zionist Congress had been cancelled owing to the war, a small group of leaders met in the Biltmore Hotel in New York on May 6-11 of 1942. Towards that end, the Conference removed any doubt over the diplomatic fiction of a "homeland" by calling for the creation of sovereign Jewish state. The Conference adopted the following resolutions, now known as the Biltmore Program::
- the fulfillment of the original purpose of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate
- to found there a Jewish Commonwealth"
- unalterable rejection of the White Paper of May 1939
- that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth integrated in the structure of the new democratic world.
In reality what followed the British White Paper of 1939 until the British Mandate expired on May 14, 1948, was the a gradual infiltration of Jews into Palestine.
UN Resolution 181. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted on the Partition Plan for Palestine, UN Resolution 181. Passing by a vole of 33 in favor, 13 against, with 10 countries abstaining, UN Resolution 181 specified that the Mandate for Palestine would expire no later than August 1, 1948 and did expire on May 14, 1948. Pursuant to the Resolution, the territory covered by the Mandate would be divided into two sovereign states, one Jewish and one Arab. Under Sec. III of the Resolution, the City of Jerusalem would be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime administered by the United Nations for no less than 10 years.
On May 14, 1948, The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, oftentimes referred to as the "Israeli Declaration of Independence," was released as the official announcement that the new Jewish state, named the State of Israel, had been formally established. We all know the rest. The inter-communal fighting between Palestinian Arabs and Jews that had preceded the Declaration while Palestine was controlled by the British after WWII escalated into all out war as armies from five Arab states invaded the territory of the new State of Israel. By the time of the 1949 armistice, the Israelis had extended their territory, leaving Jordan with the West Bank, Egypt with Gaza and Jerusalem divided. [BBC's Changing Map of Israel] Thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled or were driven out of Israeli-controlled territory. See Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007). The refugee count now numbers some 4 million. [BBC's Facts and Figures] For a chronology of war and peace in Palestine since the Declaration, see the BBC's Timeline. See generally BBC's Special Report: Israel at 60]. [JH]
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As live in Israel I would beg to differ on the claim that there was massive ethnic cleansing in 1948-49, there may of been isolated incidents it was not massive.
On another note a search machine called gogimon has launched a product that will open some eyes.It will soon be featuring a application that will interest college students very much.
Posted by: Search machine | Jun 4, 2008 6:50:48 AM
As I live in Israel I wanted to comment a bit on the article written and write a bit about modern Israel and it economy. I don't think that the term ethnic cleansing is appropriate when explaining arab exodus from the State of Israel in 1948-49. The Jewish state was attacked from all sides and ethnic chaos ensued. There may of been isolated incidents of ethnic removal but it was not on a large scale.
On another note I wanted to mention an interesting high tech company that is situated in Israel. It is a search machine that is soon to have a feature that will greatly interest students.
Posted by: Search machine | Jun 4, 2008 6:44:25 AM