Today In History: UN Partitions Palestine

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Today in 1947, the United Nations reached a highly contested decision to partition Palestine and create an independent Jewish state, Israel. It has proven one of the most politically contentious and violence-provoking decisions in the history of modern statecraft.

European Zionists laid claim to Palestine in the 1910’s. The area was under British control, and despite protest from the native Palestinian Arabs, the Zionists began colonizing the area.

Jews and Arabs entered into open conflict starting in 1929. The British government tried to impose limits on Jewish migration to Palestine in order to appease the Arabs, but it would ultimately prove ineffective. During World War II, many Jews illegally immigrated to Palestine.

Radicalized parts of the Jewish population in Palestine utilized terrorist tactics against the British forces, whom they saw as traitors to Zionism. The Zionists found a stauncher ally in the United States at the end of the War than they had in Great Britain. Britain forwarded the land dispute to the United Nations, who voted in favor of partition.

Although Jews constituted less than half the population of Palestine, they were granted over half of the land. The Palestinian Arabs fought back, with volunteer support from foreigners, but the Jews were able to take full control of the land ceded to them by the United Nations.

The British withdrew from the area at the end of the stated term of their mandate, on May 14, 1948. The Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the State of Israel. Outright war broke out the following day, with troops from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon fighting on behalf of the Palestinian Arabs.

The Israelis thwarted the attack and seized more land, including Galilee, the Palestinian coast and a tract of land connecting the western section of Jerusalem to the coast. The United Nations brokered cease-fires in 1949 that put the State of Israel in permanent control of the territories they captured during the war.

When the war drove many Palestinian Arabs to flee the country, it left a significant Jewish majority, strengthening Israel’s claim to legitimacy.

The Israel-Palestine conflict has continued to rage ever since. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian Arabs, and their ceaseless campaign to “settle” Palestinian land, has provoked cries of outrage and condemnation from most of the international community. Some scholars have even gone so far as to call Israel a “rogue state” and an “apartheid state,” for its military belligerence and discriminatory, violent treatment of the Palestinians.

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