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The Inevitability of the 1947-48 Conflict Between Jews and Arabs in Palestine

This piece seeks to examine whether 1947-1948 violent disagreement among the Jewish immigrants and the Arabs could be prevented. Also, it discusses if it would have happened despite any possible efforts, in other words – was inevitable. The conflict between Arabs and Jews arose following the First World War. According to history, this war itself was deemed to be unnecessary, and it could have been prevented. However, another immediate conflict, which would have a bloody set of outcomes, would follow soon after. Although some may argue otherwise, the Arab/ Israeli conflict has proven to be unavoidable. The reasons for this rooted in Britain’s involvement in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Britain declared to establish a state Home for Jews inhabiting Palestine. This action led to the escalating of the conflict and eventually breaking out of a war between the Jews and Arabs spontaneously. The Zionists could only have accomplished their mission in establishing an independent Jewish state with the condition that Palestine natives – Arabs – was to offer them some territory. Eventually, after long disputes, the Arabs organized the resistance to prevent Jews from migrating into Palestine. The Jews, in their turn, were not ready to surrender their lifelong ambition of establishing a Zionist state, compelling them to attain it through a defensive/offensive posture. Therefore, this paper seeks to show aspects regarding the question of why violence and conflicts among Jews and Arabs in Palestine in 1948 were inevitable.

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A major reason behind this conflict in Palestine has been found out to be fear. The Jewish immigrants were afraid of being forced into the sea and not being able to establish their state, while Arabs feared the eviction from their homeland. Following the end of the first world war, Britain gained power and control of the Palestinian land. The Jews hoped for the assistance of Britain regarding the establishment of a Jewish Home in Palestine. Their expectation was reinforced by the formulation of a British Mandate in 1922. It led to the establishment of the Balfour Declaration. The British were to assist Jewish immigrants to set up self-governing structures in Palestine. The Jewish Yishuv (settlement) leaders collaborated with the British leadership expecting that they would be of help in the execution of their mission in Palestine as they feared the Arab forces.

Optimism that prevailed among Jewish Yishuv governance regarding the British Mandate, however, vanished after constant constraints within Yishuv. The support and funding which Jews had been receiving from Europe for their settlement initially before the end of the first world war came to an end. On the other hand, the Arabs went against the British declaration and Mandate. They even resisted British attempts to create a generalized self-governing structure in Palestine that would involve both Arabs and Jews. Arabs viewed this to be a threat and feared evictions from their territory. The result, therefore, was the riots against Jews by the Arabs. The riots lasted throughout 1920-21, and reached the peak in 1929 (Rich, 1995). The Arabs strived to demonstrate how unstable Palestine was and that there was no chance to govern a Jewish Homeland. It is a clear indication of how the origins of the conflict between Arabs and Jewish people by 1948 became inevitable given after this conflict, and it was clear that the reaching of the compromise is doomed. None of them were willing to give up their ambition.

The Jewish Agency Executive was appointed at the start of the year 1921 by the Zionist Congress during their twelfth world conference (Morris & Benny, 2004). It was designed to be the main opposition group whose fundamental role was cooperating with the British in the execution of the declaration in the British Mandate in creating a Jewish National Home in Palestine. There was an appointment of the Arab Higher Committee, which was to act as the Arab opposition group; it became well organized later on. Its achievement would be through how they carried out their interactions with their governing constituencies, between one another and with the British. These initiatives by opposition groups intended to assist each of them towards executing their mission, resulting in the inevitable conflict.

The British Mandate in Palestine came about as a result of Britain gaining power and control over territories that were initially under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. It was also an outcome of peace treaties that saw World War I come to an end, and also the philosophy concerning self-governance that came up following the end of this war. The Mandate included the Balfour Declaration as one of its articles. This declaration was meant to assist in the establishment of a home for Jews inhabiting Palestine through British commitment. Britain did this in an attempt to gain support from different groups of individuals in the Middle East. The agreement by the British was one of those that possessed conflicting ideas; however, executed in pursuit of support. This Mandate played a major role in the conflicts that came up between Arabs and Jews as its motive was biased since its initiation.

After its approval by the League of Nations, the British were accorded the Mandate. As a result, they did not only have a mandate over Palestine’s occupants but also on international society. It meant that the Balfour Declaration had dual Mandate as well towards Arabs and Jews even though some of its main articles included supporting a Jewish national home. According to the Mandate’s conditions, Britain was supposed to carry out its policies in Palestine in consideration of both the Jewish and Arabs’ needs. The act would involve the creation of administrative, political, and economic regulations that could enhance the independent governance of communities ruled by the British. These goals were, however, in contradiction with Britain’s motives, who went ahead to manipulate the Mandate’s objectives in favor of themselves and their allies, like in the determination of Palestinian borders. The contradictions brought about by this Mandate following its manipulation by Britain were a major factor. In this regard, it led to inevitable conflicts among Arabs and Jews, as it seemed to be in favor of the Jews.

After the British conquest of Palestine in 1917, it had to participate in different treaties in the Middle East to ensure that it received the support. They include Husayn McMahon Correspondence between 1915 and 1916. During the first world war, it sent several letters, which was to grant independence to different Arab nations. In return, King of Hejaz, Husayn ibn Ali was to launch a revolt in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey). Other treaties were Sky Picot Agreement and the Balfour declaration in 1916 and 1917, respectively. These two treaties were to ensure that they provided a national home for the Jews. Before the occupation of Palestine, it was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. However, during the San Remo Conference on 25th April, the Mandate was granted to Palestine. The League of Nations approved this Mandate on 24th July 1922. They deemed this Mandate as dual importance for the Jews and Arabs, which was to provide the Jews with a national home. As a result, it was acting in the best interest of the Jews and the Arabs. These actions involved the creation of sufficient conditions that would be useful in facilitating independent rule for those who were under British tutelage. As a result, the British authority in Palestine took part in determining borders, which was in accordance with what they had made with their allies. For example, the Eastern Bank of R. Jordan was now under the rule of King Husayn (rule between 1882 and 1951). He became the rule of Jordan with the help of the British. During this time of partition, there was the devilment of two critical political frameworks. They include the Jewish and the Arabs.

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The United Nations plan focused on partitioning a Mandatory Palestine by the time the British Mandate came to end. Its recommendation was to create independent Arab and Jewish States as well as an international regime for Jerusalem. Arabs were strongly opposed to the United Nations plan since they felt that the partitioning plan was in favor of Jews. Jews were to own greater than half of Palestine land even though their population was below half of the entire Palestine population and that they were only immigrants in that land. Arabs felt denied and robbed of rights in their own country by the United Nations plan. United Nations, however, went ahead with the execution of their plan without considering the conflicts that came along with it. The plan called for an end of the British Mandate and evacuation of their armed forces. The plan also ordered delineating boundaries among the two states and Jerusalem. These imposed rules regarding partitioning caused riots by Arabs against Jews with an almost instant effect.

This plan had an objective in addressing conflicts between Palestinian nationalism and Zionists, who were in a competition and differed from each other. The plan also demanded unity among the two states. It demanded that religious and minority rights be protected. While Jewish agencies in Palestine embraced this plan as much as it held many ramifications because it favored them, Arab leadership opposed and rejected the plan stating its violation of philosophies on self-governance. However, as soon as the General assembly adopted the plan, an inevitable civil war started leading to the failure of the implementation of this plan. Alternative solutions could have been useful in solving the conflicts in Palestine more amicably rather than the United Nations plan. These include fully involving leaders from both states in making critical decisions regarding partitioning of the land, considering population constitution in entire Palestine, and considering democratic solutions from both states without favors and biased initiatives.


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