The Creation of Israel in 1948: Timeline & Resulting Conflicts

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  • 0:08 Creation of Isreal
  • 0:30 Zionism Pre-WWII
  • 2:15 Holocaust and Post-War…
  • 3:23 Creation and War
  • 5:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the movements and political developments that led to the creation of the state of Israel and the subsequent backlash from the Arab world.

Creation of Israel

Whether it's the Iranian president claiming it has no right to exist, or its Parliament building homes in territory it technically doesn't own, Israel always seems to be in the news - and the news is often contentious. This is due largely to the circumstances surrounding Israel's creation, the end result of several intersecting movements, events and political developments of the 20th century.

Zionism Pre-WWII

Though the real political maneuvers which fostered the creation of Israel took place in the 20th century, the movement of Jewish people back to the Holy Land began even earlier. In the mid and late 19th century, anti-Semitism throughout eastern Europe led to violent attacks against Jewish people. These had occurred sporadically and locally throughout European history, but these attacks were particularly fierce in Russia, where pogroms killed thousands. In reaction to this persecution, many Jews began to believe the only way to ensure their own and their community's safety was to begin organizing in solely Jewish enclaves. Many of these same Jews believed in Zionism: the belief that the Jewish people should return to the Holy Land and establish a Judaism-centered state. By the mid-19th century, this region was largely inhabited by Arabs, many of whom were Muslim. What few Jews who already lived there were largely concentrated in Jerusalem.

As the Zionist movement grew, large groups of Jews began migrating to the Holy Land in the 1880s and setting up Jewish agricultural settlements. Only a decade later, Theodor Herzl began publishing a magazine promoting the creation of a Jewish state and held the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. Herzl was the man whom many consider the founder of political Zionism.

Despite offers of territory in Africa from colonial Great Britain, Zionists wanted control of ancestral territory in the Holy Land. Indeed, another large wave of Jewish immigration to the Holy Land from eastern Europe took place when violence against Jews escalated once again in Russia after the turn of the 20th century. Many of these new settlements were bankrolled entirely by wealthy European and American Jewish families.

Holocaust and Post-War Settlement

In the first half of the 20th century, the Zionist movement continued to gain support amongst Jews and non-Jews alike. For example, in 1917, the British government signed the Balfour Declaration, which stated that the British government would do everything in its power to create a Jewish state in the Holy Land. This support was a huge boost for the Zionist cause, because Great Britain controlled Palestine after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. This endorsement in part led to another huge surge in Jewish migration to the Holy Land in the decade immediately after the war.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism was growing at an alarming rate in central and southern Europe under fascist regimes, most notably in Germany and Italy. Jews were singled out and often forced to wear clothing which identified them as Jewish, and violence against Jewish businesses and Jews themselves became state-sponsored. During WWII, the vitriolic anti-Semitism of one man in particular - Adolf Hitler - led to the worst genocide of Jews in modern history. During WWII, Hitler's German forces executed approximately 6 million European Jews.

Creation and War

The Holocaust - as the genocide of 6 million Jews has become known - created worldwide sympathy for the Jewish people and the Zionist cause. In 1947, only two years after the end of WWII, the newly formed United Nations passed a resolution calling for the creation of two states - one Arab and one Jewish - out of the British mandate of Palestine. The resolution divided Palestine into two states and left Jerusalem under UN control.

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