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Arab-Israeli Conflict. Early beginnings : 19 th century to 1947. The pogrom. This is the name given to a racist attack, particularly on a Jewish community. ‘Pogroms’, as a term, came from Russia in the 19 th century. It means ‘to destroy’.

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arab israeli conflict

Arab-Israeli Conflict

Early beginnings : 19th century to 1947

the pogrom
The pogrom.
  • This is the name given to a racist attack, particularly on a Jewish community.
  • ‘Pogroms’, as a term, came from Russia in the 19th century. It means ‘to destroy’.
  • Jewish communities had long suffered from pogroms even as long ago as Roman times. As a close-knit group they were small, easily identifiable and as a result were easy to scape-goat (blame for others’ problems ).
  • Jewish people had no specifically Jewish country that would defend their rights or allow them a place to flee. They were uniquely vulnerable, sustained only by their faith and traditions.
examples of anti jewish attacks
Examples of anti-Jewish attacks
  • The Roman Emperor Caligula
  • 12th century London and York riots
  • After the Black Death in Europe.1348
  • In Ukraine 1648
  • 1821 Ukraine. (the first riot actually called a ‘pogrom’)
  • 1881-4 Russia. Few deaths, but much fear and property destruction.
  • 1903-6 Russia. Many deaths. Much Jewish emigration to Europe and the USA
  • 1918, and beforehand, sporadic outbreaks in Poland.
  • 1919 Argentina
  • 1927 Romania
  • 1933 Germany. The Holocaust
  • 1945 Arab states such as Libya
the holocaust
The Holocaust.
  • Nazi Germany, and Hitler, perpetrated the worst ‘Pogrom’ in living memory by systematically trying to eliminate all Jewish people.
  • The factory-like process by which Jewish men, women and children were identified, labelled, moved, stored, abused and finally killed became called the ‘Holocaust’.
  • Over 6 million Jewish people died.
  • The Germans did not succeed in eliminating the Jews however.
a german death camp at the end of world war ii
A German death camp at the end of world war II.

German people are brought, by the Americans, to see the horror of Nazi brutality against the Jews in a concentration camp.


Zionists are a political group of Jewish people.

They argued for a homeland for all Jewish people, a place where Jews would not fear pogroms, and where they could live safely. ’Zion’ is a Biblical name for Israel.

They received a huge amount of support towards the end of the 19th century when many Jews were being displaced from around the world.

Zionists looked particularly at the land of their Jewish ancestors in Palestine, the land that had been called Judea and had given its name to ‘Jew’.Capital city Jerusalem.

This land was already occupied, however, by Arabic peoples called ‘Palestinians’.

Many Jewish people were anti-Zionist however despite the pogroms. They felt that a small country would make them easy targets and in any event their ‘Jewishness’ did not make them any less Russian, or German or American. Judaism, they argued, was a religion.





1920 riots
1920 riots.
  • The Arabs had been promised Palestine after World War One, but the British had decided to retain control in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. This supported the Zionists’ idea of a national home for Jews in Palestine whilst promising to curb any erosion of the rights of the local Arab population. Many Arabs did not believe that the British could, or would, protect their rights if many Jewish settlers were to arrive.
  • Meanwhile Jewish people who already lived in Palestine had been clashing with their Arab neighbours.
  • April 4,1920,during a Muslim procession, a riot broke out in Jerusalem. It lasted 4 days.
  • Jewish people- ironically non-Zionists- were the main casualties.
  • The consequences were:

that Jewish immigration to Palestine was temporarily stopped (turning the Zionists against the British),and

the Jews themselves realised that they had to defend themselves if they were to survive.

1921 more riots
1921:more riots.
  • Clashes between rival Socialist and Communist Jewish groups in Tel-Aviv reached a peak.
  • Arab Palestinians, feeling threatened by the violence, readily joined in and had to be controlled by the British military.
  • The Arabs were ever fearful that they were being pushed out of Palestine by the growing numbers of Jewish immigrants.
  • Riots also occurred in Jerusalem.
  • Casualties were low, and were mostly where Arab protesters met with a military response from the British.
the western wall a flash point
The Western Wall- a flash point.
  • In Jerusalem, is the Western Wall of the old temple of Solomon. It is sacred to Jews who pray there regularly.
  • Above the wall is the Al Aqsa Mosque which Arab Muslims revere as the sacred place where Muhammed (PBUH) ascended to heaven.
  • The two sides angrily watched each other here for the slightest sign of an infringement onto their territory. This duly came in 1928-9.
1928 9
  • September 1928. Jewish people were seen putting out chairs (!)in the area of the Western Wall.
  • The Arab Muslims were furious because the Jews had never been allowed to build anything in this sensitive area. This was seen as Jewish people marking out territory, a deliberate provocation.
  • 1929. Jewish Zionists met at the wall shouting that it was theirs!
  • This infuriated the Arab Muslims who began rioting. Many Jews were killed by the Arabs who, in turn were shot by the British police who came to restore order.
  • The British police were vastly outnumbered however. There were merely 300 to cover the whole country. They just couldn’t control the fighting everywhere.
  • In nearby Hebron over 60 Jews were murdered in other riots. The single policeman could only telephone for assistance and watch helplessly.
1936 9 arab revolt
1936-9 Arab Revolt.
  • The British tried in vain to compromise between the two sides.
  • 1936, an Arab leader suggested a general strike as a protest to Britain against giving Jewish immigrants permission to settle and buy land in Palestine.
  • Elsewhere Palestinian Arabs became more organised and deadly. Outlying Jewish areas were attacked, buses bombed and the oil pipeline blown up.
  • A British Commissioner was assassinated.
  • Still the Jewish immigrants arrived.
the british response
The British response.
  • Over 20,000 soldiers were sent to Palestine. The main Arab leaders either fled, or were expelled.
  • 120 Arabs were executed. Houses were demolished. People were arrested without trial.
  • The British began cooperating with the rudimentary Jewish forces ‘Haganah’ to restore order.
  • Some of the Jewish settlers decided to launch revenge attacks of their own however. The fighting was often indiscriminate and this made the conflict nasty for men, women and children alike.
  • Some historians take 1929 as the time when Israel actually began functioning as a state independent of Palestine.
The British mandate of Palestine. 1923.

The area labelled ‘Palestine’ by 1936 had become a war zone with regular clashes between Arab and Jewish settlers.

By 1939 however the Arabs were completely repressed by the harsh British military presence.

A Jewish military was being encouraged, and the partition of Palestine would seem to be an acceptable solution along the line shown on this map.

world war ii 1939 1945
World war II 1939-1945

The British Empire was severely shocked by the war and needed men fast.

It was proposed that Palestine could be a recruiting base for Jewish soldiers.

The government agreed and a Jewish Brigade was established. It was even allowed the Zionist emblem as its flag.

By the end of the war the British sought to break up the Brigade. They confiscated equipment- but military knowledge they couldn’t erase.

world war ii
World war II
  • The discovery of Hitler’s death camps profoundly shocked the world and highlighted the case of the Jewish people who had survived.
  • Many Jewish people began seeking refuge in Palestine.
  • The Arab states near Palestine were, meanwhile, throwing off colonial rule and getting together to preserve Palestine for the Arabs.
Orange marks Jewish settlers’ land.

Yellow marks Arab Palestinian land.

the arab league
The Arab League.
  • The Arab states now combined together to form the “Arab league”
  • The Arab league consisted of Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and it became a formidable Arab force arranged against the Jewish settlers.
The Arab league today (in green) and Israel in blue.

This huge imbalance between the Jewish settlers in 1947 and their Arab adversaries has changed little.

the united nations plan of 1947
The United Nations Plan of 1947
  • The world was sick of war by 1945 and the prospect of another starting in the Middle East cheered no-one up.
  • The United nations decided to partition Palestine as a way to separate the warring Arabic and Jewish peoples.
  • Neither the British, nor the United Nations implemented this plan, and the cavalier way in which it was seen to be an outside imposition did not appeal to Jew or Arab.
  • British limits on immigration also further angered Zionist groups.
  • The idea of an ‘international’ city (Jerusalem) was also found to be unworkable. Neither side could recognise others’ control of their most special places.
  • The rejection of the plan laid the path clear for the Arab-Israeli war of 1948
the refugee ship exodus
The refugee ship ‘Exodus’.

Meanwhile Jewish refugees continued to arrive from war-torn Europe.

Many arrived with, or without, British permission to land.

This was like adding petrol (gas) to a smouldering fire. It would make it burst into flame.