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Why in the News?                                                    

In the ongoing Israel-Palestine dispute, the Israeli military has ordered thousands of civilians to leave Gaza City as it prepares for a possible ground offensive.

Anti-semitism and Zionism:

  1. According to the Hebrew Bible, ‘Israel’ is the name God gave to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.
  2. Abraham, is considered the patriarch of all three ‘Abrahamic’ religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  3. The descendants of Abraham settled in Canaan, which is roughly the territory of modern Israel.
  4. By the 19th century, the land of Canaan was a part of the Ottoman Sultanate after passing through several empires such as Greeks, Romans, Persians, Crusaders and Islamists.
  5. The followers of Judaism, or Jews, were living in many countries often as prosperous minorities, but vulnerable to persecution, especially in Europe.
    1. In Imperial Russia, there were pogroms targeting Jews in the 1880s.
    2.  In France, the Dreyfus affair of 1894 highlighted the prevalent anti-Semitic prejudices against Jews.
    3. This led to a feeling among Jewish community that they would not be safe till they had a country to call their own.
    4. This led to a movement for establishing a Jewish homeland came to be known as Zionism.
  6. Initially, countries like Uganda and Argentina were considered as potential locations for this homeland but it later shifted to Palestine, where the biblical home of the Jews had once stood, and where many of their holy sites were still located.

Before World War I:

  1. The first wave of arrivals of Jewish migration (Aliyah) to Palestine, from 1881 to 1903, is known as the First Aliyah.
  2. The migrants began to buy large tracts of land and set to farming it, which meant losses for the native Palestinians.
  3. A conflict started to form on the factors of:
    1. Absentee landlordism common in Palestine where land was being sold to Jews by landowners and local residents and actual tillers of the land has a little say.
    2. the new settlers who came in did not reflect assimilation and mingled only among themselves. 
    3. Arab labourers were hired to work on their farms also dwindled due to arrival of more and more Jews.
    4.  The Jews marked out their different and ‘superior’ status in many ways such as,
      1. Agriculture was mechanised
      2. Electricity was brought in 
      3. Their towns and settlements followed European sensibilities.
  4. The overthrowing of Ottoman Sultan after the Young Turks revolution in   1908 made Jewish migration efforts more streamlined.

The Balfour Declaration, 1917:

  1. The British government which needed Jewish support in its World War I efforts, wrote a letter to a British Jew official in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.
  2. It was also mentioned 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.
  3. By this time Palestinian nationalism was growing voicing opposition to the growing Jewish influence.


British Mandate and World War II:

  1. After the defeat of the Ottoman empire in World War I, its erstwhile domains were divided among the Allies, with the eventual aim of promoting self-governance.
  2. Palestine fell under the British mandate and all efforts of various commissions and reports failed, only for the ‘Palestine question’ to end up at the UN in 1947.
  3. After World War I, the Arab frustration and feelings of being cheated led to attacks on Jewish settlements and civilians.
  4. Jews by now had efficient intelligence wings and trained, disciplined militias.
  5. Moderate Jews had long advocated that Arab rights should be accommodated, began losing influence in the community.
  6. World War II and the Holocaust brought much international sympathy to the Jewish cause.
  7.  Training with British soldiers also brought much more discipline and lethal power to the Jewish armed groups.
  8. The great rebellion (1936 to 1938) led to the Peel Commission, set up by the British which proposed partition as the only solution to the problem.
    1. The Jewish side negotiated for better terms, but the Palestinian side boycotted the suggestion.
    2. In 1947, with neither side agreeing to a partition or any other solution, the British announced they were exiting Palestine, and the question would be settled by the UN.

UN resolution and wars:

  1. The Jews were very much a minority, but whenever violence broke out, they dominated as they mobilised better medical treatment facilities.
  2. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem under UN control.
    1. The proposed Jewish state was to consist of 55 per cent of the country, including the largely unpopulated Negev desert.
    2. Its population would comprise some 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs.
    3. The Arab state was to have 44 per cent of the land and a minority of 10,000 Jews.
    4. The Arab areas would include the West Bank and Gaza.
  3. the Palestinian side rejected the resolution, while Israel, on the other hand, declared independence on May 14, 1948. 
  4. The creation of Israel is called Naqba, or the catastrophe, by Palestinians.
  5. Immediately after Israel’s declaration of independence, it was invaded by Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, but the former managed to beat them bolstered by arms and funds from the US.
  6. This was followed by more Arab-Israeli wars, with Israel capturing large territories.
  7. Today, of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 139 recognise Palestine, while 165 recognise Israel. Gaza and the West Bank remain under Israeli military control.