The Birth of Israel

The process by which Mandatory Palestine became Israel

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At the end of World War II, the conflict over Palestine gained momentum. As early as 1942, the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, had turned to the United States for support of the Jewish state in Palestine.

Even after the horror of the Holocaust, Britain refused to change its policy of allowing no further Jewish immigration. Despite the hundreds of thousands of Jews languishing in Allied displaced persons camps, the British locked the gates to Palestine. British ships stopped ships and forced the refugees into camps they had established on Cyprus. Despite expressions of world outrage, the British interned more than 51,500 Jews who were desperately trying to get to Palestine.

Jewish resistance increased dramatically. The Yishuv gathered weapons for the war they knew was coming. Despite British intervention at every turn, the Haganah [literally “Defense,” the non-governmental Jewish military organization] prepared for military conflict, hiding guns in kibbutzim [collective communities] and training volunteers in orange groves.

Arab terrorism increased. The Irgun and Stern Gang [armed Jewish underground organizations that rejected the Haganah’s policy of moderation and restraint toward the Arabs and the British] retaliated. The Irgun turned its forces against the British as well. In 1944, Menachem Begin became the head of the Irgun. Having escaped from the Nazis in Poland, Menachem Begin was subsequently arrested by the Soviets but survived. When he arrived in Palestine, he declared armed warfare against the British. Many in the Yishuv were angry because they feared that Jewish terrorist reprisals would turn world sympathy from their cause. Begin responded that the world didn’t really care; the Jews would have to kick the British out themselves.

On June 29, 1946 ([later] called Black Saturday), the British arrested the leaders of the Jewish Agency, the organization responsible for running the Yishuv. This further radicalized the country. On July 26 the Irgun, after first warning the British, blew up their headquarters in Jerusalem, located in the King David Hotel. More than 100 British, Arabs, and Jews were killed.

israel independanceIn order to keep the peace, Britain had more than 100,000 troops in the country. Their efforts were in vain. Arab snipers were killing people, Jews and British, daily. The Stern Gang was getting bombs regularly. The Irgun was attacking British supply lines, bases, and compounds. On May 5, 1947, a combined Haganah/Irgun raid blew a hole in the British prison at Akko, and 251 prisoners escaped. The British had considered the Akko prison invulnerable. And they were shaken by this audacious, successful attack.

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