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About IsraelWar, Peace and Politics in Israel
War and terrorism directed against Jews has been a fact of life for Israel ever since the modern Zionist movement began to bring Jews from around the world to resettle their biblical and ancestral homeland. Find out more about the wars Israel has had to fight for its existence, as well as the continued efforts Israel has made to make peace with its hostile neighbors.
The Holocaust refers to the slaughter of millions of Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before and during World War II. Jews sometimes refer to the Holocaust as the Shoah, meaning "terrible catastrophe." Motivated by a fanatical hatred of Jews and a desire to rid society of "undesirable" elements, the Nazi regime that ruled Germany during the mid-20th century engaged in a systematic and brutal effort to destroy the Jewish people. Read more »
The modern "olim" stepped foot into a land that was inhospitable, not arable, and surrounded by hostile neighbors. However, the young, idealistic immigrants of the first Aliyot did not let that deter them. Determined to escape an anti-Semitic society in Europe, and filled with a love of their homeland, Israel, those first olim came off the boat and began the backbreaking work of building a country. Read more »
The Balfour Declaration represents the first time a world power—Great Britain—recognized the need for a Jewish homeland and openly supported and legitimized Zionist efforts in an official statement. Read more »
The League of Nations—predecessor to the UN—was founded as a result of the treaty of Versailles, following WWI. Its founding was based on an anti-war sentiment, because of the world's horror at the scope of the war and its losses. Following philosopher Immanuel Kant's idea of a peaceful group of nations, its stated goals were to uphold the "rights of man" (specifically non-whites, women, and soldiers); disarmament; preventing war; settling international disputes through diplomatic means; and improving the quality of life for the citizens of all countries. Read more »
In 1947, a plan adopted by the UN envisioned a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The roots of the UN Partition Plan, also known as Resolution 181, began approximately ten years earlier. During the 1936-1939 riots in the Holy Land, a British commission came to Palestine to examine the root causes of the conflict. The head of the commission, the Earl Peel, after investigating the deteriorating situation in Palestine, suggested solving the problem through a partition plan, the first time such a plan had been recommended. His report became known as the Peel Commission. Read more »
The 1948 War, known to Israelis as Milhemet Ha'atzmaut (War of Independence) or Milhemet Hashi'hrur (War of Liberation), and to Arabs as al-Naqba (the Catastrophe), was the first of Israel's many wars fought against its Arab neighbors. Read more »
Lord Arthur Balfour, a former Prime Minister of England and later its Foreign Minister, is most well-known for the declaration that bears his name. The Balfour Declaration, issued in November 1917 (at the close of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire) stated Great Britain's commitment to establish a "national homeland for the Jewish people." Lord Balfour sent the declaration to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, a British banker and influential Zionist. While it stopped short of declaring Palestine "the" homeland of the Jews, it was the first time Zionist aspirations were realized. In 1922, the Balfour Declaration was formally recognized by the League of Nations, which allocated Palestine as a "British Mandate" (i.e.: under British regional administration) and reiterated the promise of establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The government stipulated that the emerging Jewish nation appoint an agency to run Jewish affairs in Palestine, and the Jewish Agency was born. Read more »
Following Israel's victory in the 1948-1949 War of Independence, Israel signed armistice agreements with each of the invading countries—Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Iraq refused to sign an agreement of any sort with Israel, and even the countries which signed cease-fires were not prepared to sign a permanent peace treaty and recognize Israel's legitimacy as a country. Israel's sovereignty now included the Coastal Plane, the Galilee, and the Negev, while the Gaza Strip remained under Egyptian control and the West Bank and Old City of Jerusalem were ruled by the Jordanians. Read more »
The Palestinian Liberation Organization—the PLO—is perhaps the most legitimized, the most recognized, and the best-financed terrorist organization in the world. Founded in 1964, in the West Bank, its goal was the liberation of Palestine and the destruction of the "Zionist entity." In 1974, the UN recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO called for the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, and like the Arab states that backed it, refused to recognize Israel's right to exist. Read more »
The Six Day War represented a stunning victory by Israeli forces, despite the tremendous odds against the country, which then was only in its second decade of existence. Beleaguered by attacks from its Arab neighbors since 1948, Israel nonetheless managed to pull off a surprise attack, defeat the well-financed Arab armies, and gain significant portions of land, including the Old City of Jerusalem. Read more »
Israel's third decade was a volatile time. Golda Meir sat in the Prime Minister's chair, having taken over after former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died in office. In September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan launched a military campaign to drive out the PLO from his country and reestablish his monarchy. When Syria invaded Jordan, intent on helping the PLO, Israel massed troops at the Syrian border, and Syria withdrew its forces. The PLO subsequently moved its headquarters to Lebanon, taking over the south of the country. Read more »
The Palestinians have had numerous opportunities to create an independent state, but have repeatedly rejected the offers:
In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.
In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of an Arab state alone, but the Arabs rejected the plan. Read more »
"This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."
— Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League (BBC, May 15, 1948) Read more »