King's College London
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From Empire to Nationhood

Palestine - partition

Dome of the RockDome of the Rock The Palestine question and the future of Israel continue to be key issues in post-war international relations.

Jews fleeing persecution began to arrive in Palestine in large numbers in the early twentieth century.

The 'Balfour Declaration' issued by the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour in 1917, supported calls by Zionists to make Palestine the Jewish national home.

Palestine, 1939Palestine, 1939British involvement in the region escalated during World War One culminating in the granting of a mandate to Britain by the League of Nations in 1920.

Immigration continued throughout the interwar period but it was the experience of the Holocaust that brought to a head demands for a Jewish state.

British forces struggled to keep the peace as relations between Arab and Jew began to break down irretrievably. Attacks by terrorists mounted.

King David HotelKing David HotelThese included the Jewish Stern Gang, which was opposed to continued British rule in the region. Such groups were responsible for high profile assassinations and for bombings including the destruction of the British Headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946.

The UN intervened in 1947 with a plan to partition Palestine between Arab and Jew.

From its inception the plan was hugely controversial and was eventually rejected by the Palestinians. In November 1947 the UN Security Council called for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Sharon mapSharon mapThe British Mandate ended in May 1948 with the Israeli declaration of independence.

Nablus demonstrationNablus demonstrationBritish forces then withdrew. Independence marked the beginning of decades of warfare between Israel and its neighbours including the war of 1948, the Six Days' War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Britain's withdrawal from the area and transfer of authority for peacekeeping to the United Nations reflected the growing authority of the organisation as well as Britain's own post-war physical exhaustion.

At the time rationing persisted in Britain and it also faced the sustained burden of Lend-Lease repayments to the USA.

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