History of Palestine Part III
As early as World War I, it was clear that the Ottoman Empire would disintegrate and that the victors would have a great cake to share. The political future of the Middle East lay in the mold, boundaries had to be drawn, spheres of influence defined and regimes created. This process was led by the Western powers based on their own narrow powers. The result is today’s conflicts in the Middle East.
During the war, the British entered into three contradictory agreements on the future of the Middle East:
- one with Arab nationalist leaders that the Arabs should have national independence after the war – i.a. in Palestine, according to the Arab interpretation – if the Arabs supported the Allies against the Turks (Hussein -McMahon Agreement of 1915);
- one with France where the two victories divided the Middle East into spheres of influence (the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916);
- one with the Zionist movement in which the British pledged their support for the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine (Balfour Declaration of 1917).
In the case of Palestine, according to ITYPETRAVEL, the result was a kind of mix of the last two agreements: the settlement after World War I led Britain to get Palestine as a mandate under the League of Nations and committed to implementing the Balfour Declaration. This was contrary to the British agreement with the Arabs on national independence.
Developments in Palestine
Up to 1920, the relationship between the indigenous population and the Zionist movement had been marked by rising tensions and increasingly frequent clashes, but not yet full war. In 1882, when the first Jewish immigrants came to Palestine, there were approx. 20,000 native Jews in the country. Most were devout women and men who practiced their religion in Jerusalem and the other holy cities – Shephat, Tiberias, and Hebron. They lived peacefully with the other Palestinians and regarded Zionism as alien and heretical.
After 20 years of colonization, the immigrant community in 1902 was only at approx. 10,000 people – out of a total population of approx. half a million. Practically everyone had come from Eastern Europe – especially Russia, where the Jews were subjected to bloody persecution. In comparison, approx. 2.6 million Jews from Eastern Europe to the United States during the period 1880-1914. The lack of immigrants and the major restructuring problems led to up to 90% of immigrants leaving Palestine again. This threatened the Zionist colonial project.
The settler community would have dissolved by the turn of the century unless French Baron Edmund Rothschild had bought through most of the Jewish colonies through the Jewish Colonial Association and based the economy on cheap indigenous labor. However, increased immigration of well-organized and politically motivated Zionists led the local Zionist organizations to take over responsibility for the colonies in the period up to 1920.
The new generation of Eastern European immigrants came to dominate the construction of the settler community and later the state of Israel. This pioneer generation set itself the goal of creating a “normal” Jewish nation based on a Jewish proletariat. To realize this, they felt the need for complete separation between the settler community and the Palestinian community: only Jews should be employed in Jewish-owned businesses and Jews should deal with Jewish-produced goods to the greatest extent possible.
Immigrants did not have to depend on the indigenous population in any area. This principle, combined with a policy of conquering the country, must necessarily lead to a total conflict with the Arabs of Palestine. The slogans were «Conquest of land! Conquest of work! ”. Ironically, it was the Zionist Left that led this development. Initially by building the kibbutz movement. The Kibbutzim had a democratic inner structure, but acted within a colonialist framework and became spearheads in the Zionist conquest of Palestine. (See Kibbutz.)
It was only after 1908 that the anti-Zionist struggle on the part of the Palestinians entered an organized framework after the Turks introduced a more liberal regime in Constantinople (Istanbul). A limited local nationalism was allowed. The Palestinian nationalist movement soon founded two newspapers, Falastin and al-Karmil, and the attacks on the new colonies escalated. But the Palestinians were still most preoccupied with the struggle for independence against Constantinople and allied themselves with other Arab nationalists who had the same goals – especially in Syria and Lebanon.
In 1914, there were 84,000 Jews in Palestine – the proportion of immigrants unknown – and approx. 710,000 Palestinians. During the war, many Jews left the country. Only 57,000 – 8% of the population – remained in 1917. More than half of them were immigrants or descendants of immigrants.