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This week in history: Birth of a Nation

Officially the Civil war in Mandatory Palestine (a bit like a Mandatory Question in exams but with more tanks) ran 30 November 1947 to 1 April 1948, but it would be fair to say it hasn’t really ended even now.

The delegates at the 1920 Cairo conference. The men who decided much of Palestine’s future. The rather rakish looking chap on the right hand side, that’s TE Lawrence. Yes that Lawrence. (Picture from the Library of Congress)

From the 1920s Palestine had been under British Mandate. The British Mandate Palestine, which is now Israel, the west Bank and Gaza. The official reasons for the mandate being to help those areas that were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire until they were in a position for self rule. However, for the dying British empire having control of another country, albeit in a ‘charitable’ sense was a bit of a bolster for the old girl. Even in those early days, though, there was tension between the needs of the Arab and Jewish communities. Everyone from the growing Zionist movement, led by the former journalist,lawyer and renouned orator, Ze’ev Jabotinsky to Lebanon, Damascus and Mecca wanted a piece of Palestine. (I’ve never been but I can only assume it is amazing given the bickering)

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

After the second world war ended the results of the Nazi’s infamous Jewish Question led to another Jewish question. Where were thousands of homeless, persecuted, scared and angry people, who (for obvious reasons) weren’t all especially keen on settling back into life in Warsaw or Dresden, going to live?

The Peel recommendations 
In the early agreements the Zionist movement had sought to make for the European Jewish community a permanent home in the Middle East, and the Peel Commission, in the late thirties, recomended the partitioning of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. The Arab community strongly opposed these moves and Britain and other members of the League of Nations indeed placed limits on the numbers of Jewish people able to immigrate from Europe. Though Aliyah Bet (illegal emmigration) supported by the immigration beureau Mossad LeAliyah Bet (yes *that* Mossad).

Lord Balfour, another of the men instrumental in the creation of Palestine.

In 1946 a British and American enquiry recomended that there not be Jewish or Arab states, but that 100,000 of the jewish refugees be admitted. The committee was quite clear in it’s statement that neither party should be dominating in the community, and nor should it be seen as either’s land. However, though the British delegation and government supported this cross-cultural Kibbutz approach Harry S Truman supported only the movement of the refugees. Making the plan almost impossible to implement.
The following year the United Nations met to discuss the Palestine Question, which resulted in the Partition Plan. In Israel 29 November 1947, the date that the partition was voted for, is widely regarded as the beginning of the Israeli state. And so appropriately, the Palestinian civil war began on November 30 1947. What began with protests moved onto Arab protestors shooting bus passengers and Israeli millitants blowing up refinery workers. All in all by the time the market place, bus stop and workplace bombings were done by April 1 1948 the population of 2,000,000 had been dimished by an average of 100 people a week since the previous November.
All Just in time for the next part of the battles which culminated in the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 14 May 1948…And a whole new set of wars.

Arcane Scenery sells a range of World War Two items and some later (including very modern) Israeli tanks if this period of history interests you. Are you a modern history war gamer? Tell us more about your battles in the comments…

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