Arab-israeli conflict

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The Jewish Claim

  • Have lived in Palestine since 1500 BC/BCE under Roman rule in the 1st Century.

  • Expelled due to two rebellions in 70 and 130 CE, leading to the scattering of Jews around the world – Diaspora.

  • Hold strongly to the dream of a homeland and their religion.

The Arab Claim

  • Spread across the Middle East in the 7th Century CE, establishing culture, medicine and trade.

  • Conquered in the 16th Century CE by the Ottoman Empire.

  • Fought for independence and created the first Arab National Congress in 1913.

  • A lot of disunity among Arab states.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916

  • Named after the British and French politicians who signed the Agreement to split Arab ands between them after the war.

  • This was to remain allies against Germany, to gain more trade and oil and to protect the Suez Canal.

  • Arabs thought it was for their independence.

The Balfour Declaration, 1917

  • Lord Balfour promises the Jews “British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine”.

  • Regarded as the promise of the state of Israel.

  • Used as a kind of undeniable proof of the rights to Palestine.

Timeline of Events

  • 1917

    • Balfour Declaration – British support of a Jewish homeland.

  • 1919

    • One million Arabs vs. 60,000 Jews.

  • 1929

    • One million Arabs vs. 160,000 Jews.

  • 1933

    • Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany – influx of Jews to Palestine.

  • 1936

    • 1936-1939, The Arab Rebellion – attacks on Jewish settlements, training of the Haganah.

      • British side with the Jews.

  • 1937

    • The Peel Commission – suggested the separation of Palestine into two separate states.

      • Jews rejected it because they wanted more land, Arabs rejected it because it was a partition.

  • 1939

    • 450,000 Jews in Palestine.

    • Unrestricted immigration was abandoned.

    • British soldiers regain control.

    • White Paper – British support of an independent Palestine in 10 years regardless of the race ruling it, but restricting Jewish immigration.

Post WWII – 1945-1949

  • The status and population structure of Palestine fundamentally changed during 1945-1949l

  • It was a time of tension, violence, civil war and the origins of future conflict and crises in the Middle East are from this period.


  • Under a mandate of British administration for three decades.

  • Jewish population less than a third of total population.

  • Jewish survivors of Nazi death camps as well as large numbers of displaced Jews meant that immigration was pushed.

  • The urgency of the situation of the Jews in Europe had direct implications on Palestine.

  • Arab League formed in 1945.


  • Apart from humanitarian motives, Zionists also had political aims.

  • Wanted to increase the size of the Jewish population – Zionist state.

    • Actively discouraged schemes to settle Jewish refugees anywhere else.

  • After WWII, Zionists had emotion on their side due to the sensitivity of the Holocaust.

    • This was ammunition for Zionist propaganda.

    • They focused on a propaganda offensive in the USA where there was strong Jewish lobby in Congress.

    • Rallies and meetings were held to raise funds, and US President Harry Truman announced his support for Zionist demand and demanding instant admission of 100,000 Jewish immigrants – which was rejected by the British government, triggering violent reactions in Palestine.

  • British actions to intercept were viewed by heartless and inappropriate.

  • Efforts to establish a Jewish state included smuggling immigrants, launching a propaganda campaign in the USA and using terror tactics on the British.


  • Britain was economically weak after six years of war.

  • Due to urgent problems on the home front, Britain could no longer afford to keep a large military presence in Palestine.

  • Many people in Britain began to feel that the situation in Palestine was taking up too much money and attention.

Timeline of Events

  • 1944

    • Alexandria Protocol – Arab states argued that Palestine should not be used as a solution to the European problem.

  • 1945

    • Arab League formed.

    • Labour Party came to power in Britain under Clement Attlee; British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.

      • Proposed an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to force the American government to become involved with the issue.

    • August, Zionist conference adopted a more active opposition by encouraging the Haganah (Jewish defense force) to work with extremist underground groups (Irgun and Lehi).

      • Terror attacks begin – Jewish buildings desecrated.

  • 1946

    • Terrorist attacks increased, British respond with tighter security.

    • 29 June, British authorities use 100,000 soldiers and 10,000 police to occupy the Jewish Agency’s HQ in Jerusalem, make raids on Jewish settlements, and detain 2700 individuals.

    • July, Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel.

      • Terrorist attacks weakened British morale.

  • 1947

    • February, due to mounting violence and post-war economic problems at home, the British government referred the Palestine issue to the United Nations.

    • July, two British soldiers hung by Irgun in response to three hostages.

    • August, UNSCOP recommends a partition of Palestine into two separate states – one Arab and one Jewish.

      • Arabs rejected this plan outright.

    • November, UN accepts and supports partition.

  • 1948

    • April, Full scale civil war.

    • May, British withdrawal completed.

    • Deir Yassin Massacre – Zionist Haganah massacre about 300 people.

      • Scare Arabs into leaving their villages.

    • 14 May, declaration of the state of Israel.

    • 15 May, start of the First Arab-Israeli War.

      • Five Arab countries invaded – Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria.

      • 40 million Arabs vs. 500,000 Jews.

  • 1949

    • Israel occupied 78% of Palestine as opposed to supposed 55% from UN Partition Plan. (Palestinian state under Israeli, Jordanian or Egyptian control).

      • Military victory due to Israel’s larger force of experienced soldiers, and flaws within the infrastructure of the Arabs.

      • Palestinians lost land, West Bank annexed by Jordan, Gaza ruled by Egypt.

      • Nahum Goldmann – “It showed the advantages of direct action over negotiation and diplomacy in glorious contrast to years of persecution and humiliation.”

The Arab Israeli Wars

  • Humiliated and divided, the Arabs became anti-Western, especially as they felt that the USA had bullied the UN into creating Israel.

  • Israel feared to be a base for Western powers to control the Middle East.

  • No peace treaty and no definitive borders.

Suez Canal Crisis – 1956

  • Egypt was in an important geographical location between Asia and Africa.

  • The Suez Canal was vital for Britain militarily and for getting oil to Europe.

  • 70,000 British troops in the Suez Canal.

  • People blamed King Farouk for allowing that British control.

Timeline of Events

  • 1952

    • Gamal Abdul Nasser and the “Free Officers” overthrew King Farouk and took over important buildings.

  • 1954

    • Nasser rises as President of Egypt.

    • Convinces British to put troops back in the Suez Canal Zone.

  • 1955

    • Israeli attack on Gaza, destroying Egyptian military headquarters.

    • Nasser begins securing Soviet arms through Czechoslovakia.

  • 1956

    • Aswan Dam

      • Britain and USA cancelled loans to dam in an attempt to control Nasser and to respond to his acknowledgment of Mao’s China.

      • French avoiding “appeasing Hitler on the Nile”.1

      • Nasser responds be stating that the British and French can choke on their rage.

    • Suez Crisis

      • Britain and France condemned by the USA under Eisenhower over the attack on Egypt.

      • Egypt emerges victorious.

  • 1958-1961

    • United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria) ends due to Egypt forcing “Arab Socialism” in Syria.

Six-Day War – 1967
When: June 5th – June 10th
Who: Israel vs. Syria, Jordan, Egypt
Why: Israel believed the three Arab nations were preparing for a mass attack.
How: Israel launched a hugely successful military campaign against the Arabs, destroying most of the military forces by the 7th of June. They reached the Suez Canal, cleared the West Bank, captured Golan Heights and moved 30 miles into Syria.
Consequences: It was a disaster for the Arab world and weakened Nasser. It was a massive blow to the Arab morale; one nation had defeated four. Israelis had captured very strategic land (West Bank, Golan Heights) and over 600,000 Arabs came under Israeli administration. This led to many young Arabs joining the PLO as well as complications of domestic policies.
Timeline of Events

  • 1967

    • Six-Day War

      • Israeli victory, Arab embarrassment.

    • Resolution 242

      • Stated that Israel must withdraw from the lands taken in the War and that the Arab countries must recognize Israel.

        • Not fulfilled – Israel still occupied much of Egypt, Arab countries still hostile towards Israel.

Yom-Kippur War – 1973
Who, What, When:

  • 1967-1970, War of Attrition over Suez Canal.

  • 1970, Nasser dies and Sadat takes over.

  • Willing to recognize Israel if they return Sinai – Israel refuses.

  • War was the only way to remove Israel from the Sinai.

  • Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year and a holiday.


  • October 6th, 90,000 Egyptian troops and 850 tanks crossed the Sinai while 500 Syrian tanks overwhelmed Golan Heights.

  • Israelis successfully pushed back by October 12th.

  • Arab states reduced oil production until the Israelis agreed to withdraw.

  • Saudi Arabia banned all oil exports to the USA and the Netherlands.

  • USSR asked Egypt to accept peace, USA encouraged Israel not to take Cairo/Damascus.

  • October 24th, ceasefire.


  • The myth of Israeli invincibility was shattered despite being victorious.

  • Arabs discovered that oil was a weapon and that they could work together.

  • Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State, engaged in shuttle diplomacy from 1973-1975, resulting in Israel withdrawing from part of the Golan Heights and the Suez Canal.

  • The Canal reopened in 1975 and Saudi Arabia began selling oil again.

The Camp David Agreement, 1978

  • Sadat invited by President Carter.

  • Israeli forced to leave the Sinai.

  • Egypt to gain all the Sinai within three years.

  • Israeli shipping was to have free passage through the Straits of Tiran and the Suez Canal.

The Treaty of Washington, 1979

  • Signed by Israel and Egypt.

  • Recognizing and confirming terms agreed upon at Camp David.

  • Some impressed with Sadat, some thought he had sold out.

  • Sadat assassinated in 1981.

Timeline of Events

  • 1973

    • Yom-Kippur War

      • President Sadat of Egypt and Syria declare war on Israel.

      • Egypt (with USSR aid) vs. Israel (with USA aid)

  • 1978

    • Camp David with Jimmy Carter

  • 1979

    • Treaty of Washington

      • For “Mutual Recognition” whereby Egypt and Israel recognize each other’s rights to live peacefully.

  • 1981

    • Golan Heights Law

      • Peace came for Egypt, other Arab states such as Syria and their Golan Heights received no peace.

Water Crisis

  • Scarcity of water was a characteristic feature of the Palestinian terrain.

  • Neighbouring countries had an abundance of resources for irrigation (i.e. Syria and Iraq – Euphrates, Syria and Lebanon – Orontes).

  • Water was the most important commodity next to soil.

  • 1952, United Nations Relief and Works Agency proposes coordination with Israel for the utilization of the Jordan River.

    • Arab States refused.

    • Israel proceeded with plans for its own needs.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

  • “The existence of Israel is a danger that threatens the Arab nation.”

  • Sole aim to win back the lands lost in 1949.

Timeline of Events

  • 1964

    • Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formed.

      • Fatah formed a large part of the PLO.

      • Arab state leaders encouraged PLO terrorism in Israel.

  • 1965

    • Fatah – Part of the PLO with bases in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon carry out first raid on Israel.

      • Syria fully supported, Jordan and Lebanon attempted to restrict activities in fear of reprisals.

  • 1966

    • New radical government in Syria that wanted the liberation of Palestine.

    • November, Nasser signed a defense agreement of mutual defense.

  • 1967

    • Israeli contractor shot at while ploughing the demilitarized zone. Syrians began shelling, Israel sent in planes, shooting down two Syrian planes over the capital and flying low over the city of Damascus.

      • Syrians enraged and embarrassed.

        • Thought to be 80% the cause of the Six-Day War.

    • Six-Day War and Resolution 242 makes PLO begin to realize it needs to fight for itself as other Arab states weakened.

  • 1968

    • Fatah defends Karameh and manages to knock out several Israeli tanks and aircrafts, killing 28 people – boosted morale of PLO.

    • Arafat installed as leader of the PLO.

  • 1972

    • Black September Palestinians murder 11 Jewish athletes.

    • World is introduced to the Palestine Problem.

  • 1974

    • Arafat addresses the UN and calls for a “mini-state” to discuss the refugee problem.

Arab Nationalism

  • The concept of creating a single Arab state based on common language and religion.

  • Strengthened from:

    • The Arab revolt against the Turks in 1916

    • Against the British and French occupation since 1919

    • Against Jewish immigration in the 1930s

    • The Arab uprising of 1936

    • Against Zionism

  • Divided by tribes/clans, unified in the Arab League of 1945.

  • Nasser led Arab Nationalism.


  • Inspired by Egypt’s failures after the 1948-49 war.

  • Took control of Egypt in 1952.

  • Removed British forces in 1954.

  • Furious at The Baghdad Pact of 1955 between Britain, Turkey and Iran and the attempt to bring Arab states into the alliance.

  • Nasser used a radio station to further the nationalist cause – “Voice of the Arabs”


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