SOUTH WEST ASIA
“WHAT WERE THE MAJOR REASONS FOR THE CREATION OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL?
WAS THE BALFOUR DECLARATION THE TURNING POINT IN THE ZIONIST QUEST FOR ISRAEL?”
Ms S. Chappell
Lecture / Tutorial Group:
Wednesday 9 - 12 p.m.
04 September, 1996
The state of Israel emerged on May 15, 1948. It was the first Jewish state to be established in nearly 2,000 years and was the culmination of efforts by the Jews to secure a homeland for themselves.
This paper will explore the major reasons for its creation. It will be shown to be a long enduring quest that has biblical origins. Subsequently both biblical history and geography will be worthy of mention as they are integral to the question - I will furthermore suggest that the Jewish belief from the bible forms a basis for motivation for the creation of a state. Allied with this belief is the persecution sufferred by Jews when they dispersed worldwide during exile. This persecution, they felt, could end if they were able to realise a state of their own, whereby they would be able to govern and protect themselves from others who would persecute them. However, the bible and events thousands of years ago have been ‘stepping stones’ in the outcome of 1948. Accordingly, I will concentrate on the more recent ‘stepping stones’ that facilitated the creation of the Israel state. Some of the areas that have been selected include the Zionist Movement, World War One, World War Two and myriad of politics that came to the fore during this period. In particular I will discuss the Balfour Declaration and its effect on the situation, and comment on whether it was a turning point in the Zionist quest for the creation of the state of Israel.
Two more points are worthy of mention. Firstly, this paper does not intend to debate or suggest an Arab versus Israel, Jew versus Muslim situation even though their religions are different and and are a factor. Secondly, it is not a debate on the Palestinian claim for the land in question. It is rather an exploration on ‘why’ Jews sought this area of land and the subsequent chain of events whereby this was successfully realised in 1948.
GEOGRAPHICAL, BIBLICAL AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The area of Israel, formerly Palestine, is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and is bounded by Lebanon in the north, to the north east by Syria, to the east and south east by Jordan and to the south west by Egypt. To the west is the Mediterranean Sea. Its total area is about 23,000 square kilometres (Harper 1986, p.14) This particular area, as one of the oldest recorded in mankind’s civilisation has experienced numerous occupations. However, this situation sees two main ‘claimants’ to the land. The Palestinian claim is simple; they believe they were first inhabitants of the land descending from the ancient tribes of the Philistines and Canaanites. They argue the land is theirs perhaps much the same as the French regard France as their country, for example.The Jewish claim is not as straight forward. It has a complex historical and biblical argument.
On the religious level, the Jews believe that God promised Palestine to them. The Book of Genesis in the bible’s Old Testament records that Abraham, the father of the Jews, was told by God “the whole land of Canaan , where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you”. (Harper, 1986 p.16) The Jews claim their right to this land originates directly from the bible. Historically, the Jewish claim to Palestine rests on Jewish habitation, there from about 1300 B.C. when the tribes of Israel (after initial exile from there due to famine) escaped under Moses’ leadership from Egypt, where they were enslaved, entered and conquered Palestine from the Canaanites, Philistines and other tribes living there. This occupation...
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