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Zion was the, early the Jerusalem mountain on which the City of David was built. The word Zionism is derived from the word Zion. Zionism, to which the modern state or Israel owes its existence, first achieved a definite and purposeful organization in 1897. In that year, on 29 August, in the Swiss city of Basel, the First Zionist Congress assembled, under the leadership of Theodor Herzl. This Congress adopted the Basel Programe which stated that the aim of Zionism was to create for the Jewish people a publicly recognized and legally secured home in Palestine, and provided for certain measures designed to realize this aim.

These measures were: To promote the settlement of Palestine by agricultural and industrial workers, to organize the whole Jewish people by local and international institutions, to strengthen Jewish national sentiment and consciousness, and to seek the concurrence or the powers so far as necessary in achieving the Zionist goal.

Other Congresses followed the first, and under Herzel's guidance Zionism became a firmly established mass movement. He died in 1904, but his work was carried on by others. In 1914 there were 12,000 Zionist settlers in Palestine. Not all, however, had immigrated as a result of the work of the Zionist Organization founded by Herzl; many were indebted to the generosity of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The total number of Jews in Palestine in 1914 was a little under 100,000.

The Zionist institutions at this time helped to put Jewish colonization on a sound basis. The Jewish Colonial Bank made possible a modern system of credit. The Jewish National Fund in some measure controlled land problems, and together with other and related land development companies, prepared the land for Jewish settlement. The Palestine Land Development Company (founded 1908) had acquired large areas of land, and subdivided it into small holdings, laid out plantations, built homes and roads, and helped new settlers to acquire estates or independent farms. It has acted in close relation with the Jewish National Fund.

Early in the twentieth century the Zionist movement advocated a compromise between secular Zionists, who envisioned a state without traditional Judaism, and religious Zionists, who argued that the state must be grounded in traditional Judaism.

The Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917 embodied the results or negotiations conducted between Great Britain and the Zionist organization. Therein, British policy was committed to support the establishment or a Jewish National Home in Palestine, despite the intense and widespread Arab objections to the idea of Zionism.

"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 facilitat.e 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 the Jews in any other country."

The Arabs considered that a commitment regarding Palestine had been made to them in correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Cairo, and Hussein, the Grand Sherif of Mecca. The letter, in setting forth his terms for joining the British in fighting the Turks, stipulated in a letter dated 14 July 1915 that independence should be recognized for the area including the whole of the Arabian peninsula. The British, on the other hand, steadily maintained that it was their consistent intention to exclude Palestine from the independent area. But the Palestine Arabs have never been willing to accept this view. To the Arabs, the name Syria included Palestine, the last being a term not in use among them.

Palestine figured in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 9 May 1916, between Britain and France, in a way not incompatible with the British interpretation of their understanding with Hussein. The portion of the Sykes-Picot agreement applying to Palestine stated that it was to be "separated from Turkish territory and subjected to a special regime to be determined by agreement between Russia, France and Great Br1tain."

The status of Palestine as it emerged from:the settlements following World war I was that of a mandated territory allocated by the League of Nations to Great Britain on 25 April 1920. This allocation to Britain was accompanied by a rider making Britain responsible for implementing the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration was further implemented by provision for a recognized Jewish Agency to advise the Mandatory Administration on the establishment of the National Home, and for the encouragement or Jewish immigration and settlement on the land, subject to the rights and position of other inhabitants.

As set up by the League or Nations, the Mandated Territory of Palestine included Transjordan. But this area was regarded by Britain as falling within the limits agreed upon between McMahon and Hussein. An agreement recognizing the Emir Abdullah, second son of Sherif Hussein and one of the two older brothers of Faisal, as "administrator" of Transjordan under the mandate was negotiated, in February 1921, by the British authorities in Jerusalem.

From 1922 until 1929 the Zionist Organization acted as the JeWish Agency. In the latter year, after negotiations had been going on since 1924 with non-Zionist Jews, including the non-Zionist American Jews, and after consultation with the Mandatory, the Jewish community created a new and enlarged JeWish Agency. The Jewish community was also organized into political parties, at least from 1927 on, when it was granted a certain measure of self-government.

The period of the 1920's, except for an Arab attack on the Jews in 1921 and again in l929, passed peacefully.

The Hope Simpson Report was published on 20 October 1930, along with a and government statement ot policy, in the form of a White Paper, based on the report. The White Paper stressed the plight of the growing Arab landless proletariat and the increasing land hunger, and stated as principles that Jews should be forbidden to acquire more land while Arabs were landless and that account should be taken or Arab as well as Jewish unemployment in estimating the absorptive capacity or Palestine for determining the rate at which Jewish immigration should be perm1tted.

On 14 February 1931, the publication of a letter from Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald to Chaim Weizmann, President of the Zionist Organization and President of the JeWish Agency, changed the whole situation. It was not the policy or the Government to prohibit the additional acquisition of land by Jews; and the stoppage of Jewish 1mmigrat1on, in any of its categories was not contemplated.

In 1932, 9,553 Jews had immigrated into Palestine; but 1933, the year in which Hitler came to power in Germany, had seen such an acceleration that. the total for the year was to be 30,327.

The Peel Commission held hearings in Palestine from the middle of November 1936 until 18 January 1937. An Arab boycott of the Commission was called ott only 12 days before the Commission left Palestine. In its report, which was published on 8 July 1937, the commission declared itself convinced that the Arabs and Jews could not get along together, and recommended a scheme for partitioning the mandate. The immediate reaction or both the Jewish and the Arab community in Palestine to the partition scheme was disapproval.

In Palestine, a gradual but noticeable increase in tension following the publication og the Peel Report led up to the renewal of a terrorist campaign or murder and intimidation by tne Arabs. Striking back hard, the Mufti of Jerusalem was deprived of his office as President of the Supreme Moslem Council and of membership in the General Waqf Committee, of which he was chairman. The Mufti left Palestine secretly for Lebanon. The dismissal of the Mufti from his office prevented him from exercising the extensive rights of pattonage and the local influence connected with the office.

The Palestinian Jewish leaders pledged their loyalty to Britain at the beginning of World War II and affirmed their intention to fight on the side of the democracies. These promises were made good as thousands or Jewish men and women volunteered tor national service; many or the men served with the British armed forces.

At the World Zionist Conference in New York, in May 1942, Ben Gurion succeeded in Winning endorsement for the so-called Biltmore Program which was published on 11 May. This called for unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine under the supervision of the Jewish Agency, the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth, and the creation of a Jewish Army. This Program in whole or in part received considerable support in the United States.

As the Hitlerite persecution of Jews in Europe proceeded in the course or the war, there was a great deal of illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine. Jewish organizations, notably the Irgun zvai Leumi (Revisionist Defense Corps) and the Stern Gang (named for its leader, Abraham Stern), engaged in bombings, shootings and other terrorist activities in Palestipe, but violence of this sort was denounced and disavowed by the leaders of the Jewish community there.

Daniel Pipes noted that " ... the Allies stayed humiliatingly silent about the genocide taking place against the Jews; failed to refute allegations about Jews dominating London, Washington, and Moscow; ... and shied away from endorsing Zionism. Merely to dispute Nazi accusations, the Allies worried, would only confirm Nazi claims about Britain, America, and Russia being stooges of Jewish power. An internal U.S. directive in late 1942 acknowledged that "the subject of Zionist aspirations cannot be mentioned, inasmuch as ... [this] would jeopardize our strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean." Thus, when two leading US senators, Robert Taft of Ohio and Robert Wagner of New York, proposed a resolution in 1944 endorsing a Jewish national home in Palestine, Berlin radio in Arabic called this an attempt "to erase Islamic civilization" and "to eradicate the Koran." Panicked, the entire weight of the Executive Branch came down on the senators, who felt compelled to withdraw their resolution."

A special session or the United Nations met on 28 April 1947 to deal with the problem. The Jewish case was presented before the Political and Security Committee of the General Assembly by Ben Gurion, Moshe Sharett, and Abba Hillel Silver; members of the Arap Higher Committee presented the Arab case before the same body. On 14 May the Soviet delegate, Andrei Gromyko, surprised everyone by proposing, in a departure from Soviet Russia's anti-Zionist past, that a binational Arab-Jewish state be established, with equal rights for both sides, and, if that proved impractical, partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.

On 11 December 1947 the British Government announced that it would terminate its mandate over Palestine on 15 May 1948, and complete the evacuation or troops and civil servants by 01 August.

On 14 May 1948, Jewish authorities in Tel Aviv proclaimed the establishment or Israel. On the same day, President Truman extended recognition to the Provisional Government of Israel.

Fighting between Jews and Arabs in Palestine had been going on for years, but on 15 May the regular forces of Egypt, Transjordan, and Iraq began to invade Palestine, turning the struggle into a full-scale war. If ever an example were needed of the weaknesses inherent in coalition warfare, the Palestine conflict provided it. The Israelis, outnumbered, outweighed in heavy armaments, and surrounded on three sides by hostile states, were, nevertheless, well organized, determined, and, most important.of all, united in their efforts. Not so their enemies.

Fighting over the spoils of war before the war is won, or, as in this case, before it is even begun, can often lead to disaster for the intended victors. In the Palestine War, it ensured the existence of the state of Israel, at a time when the viability of the new nation was open to serious doubt.

Within the first month Israel had conquered a large portion or the territory assigned by the UN partition resolution to the Arab State in Palestine.

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Page last modified: 22-08-2016 18:39:01 ZULU