The formation of Israel - a few questions...

I am hoping for some objective, non-partisan replies to honest questions, so please leave any cutting or abusive comments at the door. Thank you.
[li]What are the given justifications. legally and practically, for the existence of Israel? I don’t mean completely historically, but in 19-20th Century terms. [/li]
[li]As I understand, there was no Israeli state for almost 1000 years until May 1948, when land was taken from Palestine to form the state. How was this initially justified?[/li]
[li]Why are areas such as the Gaza strip being forwarded as something to negotiate under the current road map, when it is accepted that it is currently ‘occupied’ by Israeli troops, and not under ownership? Should it not be a ‘given’ that it is returned?[/li]
[li]Can someone knowledgeable confirm if this site is a decent, objective look at the conflict, or can other recommendations be made rather than this?[/li][/ul]
Just trying to understand this all a little better. Thank you.

Please bear in mind this has been posted in GQ and not in GD, not to mention Manhattans policy towards the posting of political opinion in GQ, when you give any answers.

While everybody’s looking for good citations, I’ll address one nitpick.

It’s actually 2000 years, not 1000, reckoning from the fall of the Second Temple in 0070 CE to the creation of Israel in 1948 CE.


I had (honestly) initially typed ‘2000 years’ but was actually unsure as to who claimed legal ownership of the land prior to Palestine being established as a predominantly Arab state at the end of the 7th century, so erred on the side of caution in that question.

I guess it was still Palestine then, arab majority or not.

The Jews were being persecuted and some wanted a homeland of their own. Note that not all Jews at that time, nor in the present, were Zionists and different types of Zionists were more or less insistent on Palestine being the new Jewish homeland. I believe a section of Nigeria was even considered by some Zionists, but they never got much popular support.

These feelings intensified after the Holocaust.

First, remember that it’s not exactly like Palestine was an ancient, independent nation. Its borders were basically created after WWI by the British, going off of old Greek maps and names (which is why Iraq was called Mesopatamia for a while under British rule).

Basically it was justified by the fact that the people in charge felt that Jews should have a homeland in Palestine and there really wasn’t much that the Arabs could do about it. Plus, there was the Balfour thing, but that whole thing was just a big giant mess so we won’t get into it.

Sort of. For the most part, it’s a matter of when and how much, not if, that’s being debated.

Is this the only given justification? That the Zionists wanted it?
This was always how it read in commentary, but I assumed there must be more substance to it, especially in a legal context. Interesting.

How was Nigeria first forwarded as a possible site for the Jewish homeland? I had never heard of this, and it sounds strange due to access to Jerusalem being of seemingly key importance in the creation of an Israeli state.

Thanks again for the answers.

  1. I believe the given justifications are several, but, to be fair and honest, the creation of the modern state is due in large part to the Jewish suffering in the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and the rest of the world. Even before the Holocaust, for the previous hundred years or so, immigration by Jews to Palestine had been on the increase. Many think that this immigration was due to increased anti-semitism in Europe. The reality (IMHO) is not that there was increased anti-semitism, but rather that Jews were realizing that no matter what they did and how high they rose within the ranks of society, they would still be looked upon as merely Jews. The fact that a lot of Jews immigrated to Palestine at that time (both legally and illegally) doesn’t necessarily justify the creation of a state for them, but when the continued societal anti-semitism continued and resulted in aiding Hitler in carrying out his final solution (because Jews were having an extremely difficult time finding safe harbor anywhere) there was a trans-global sense of guilt and a feeling that if the Holocaust could happen, perhaps the Jews needed their own country. Modern Jews (as well as Arabs) of course use biblical justifications for their holding of the territory as well.

  2. There was never an Israeli state before 1948. In the year 70 CE, the Judean Kingdom was overtaken by Hellinistic influences. Although an arguement could be made that the Hellinists had taken over many years before, 70 CE is commonly accepted as the year of the destruction of the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the last time that Jewish Kingdom reamined in the land before the formation of the state in 1948. As far as the 1948 partition taking land from Palestine, you must remember that there was no official, sovereign land called Palestine. Palestine was under the rule of the British until it was turned over to the newly formed United Nations for the purpose of answering the Palestine question. The question, simply, was who should hold sovereign control of the territory. The 1948 partition, which was significatly smaller than the land that has ultimately come to be considered the “undisputed” portion of the modern state of Israel, was supposedly drawn to encapsulate where the different popultaions were living. While some overlap naturally occurred, the Jews generally lived along the sea between Jaffa (Tel-Aviv) and Haifa, and then north and east from there toward the valleys of the Golan Heights (although not including the Golan), as well as the Negev desert. The partition included only those areas. How this land came to be controlled mainly by Jews (and other areas were controlled mainly by native Arabs) I think is a result of British policy because it was the British who controlled land ownership in the area prior to 1948.

  3. The reason that disputed areas such as Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights are negotiable is because everything is always negotiable. International law and the international community have very little power overall in the situation between Israel and her neighbors. If a posture is taken that something is negotiable and everyone else accepts that posture, then it is negotiable. There are no rules because the same people who make the rules are doing the negotiating. They can start completely from scratch if they want to. Whether such areas should be negotiable or not is a more appropriate question for the GD section of the SDMB.

I can make no comment on the web site you are referring to, I haven’t even looked at it.

As for a previous post, I am not sure when the area began to be called Palestine, but I believe it was sometime late in the Ottoman Empire, 17th/18th century IIRC.

The founder of Modern Zionism was Theodore Herzl, a french journalist who saw anti-semitism as a great threat to Jews. He just wanted to establish a safe haven somewhere in the world for the Jewish people. He looked around and tried to find somewhere for Jews to go that wasn’t, at that time (circa 1900) occupied by many natives and was not important to Europe. He look around and found Uganda (not Nigeria). The Uganda proposal was considered for a time, but never really made it past the drawing board.

It was Uganda, not Nigeria. British Imperial suggestion, with the backing of Balfour. However, AFAIK most Zionists at the time favoured historical Zion, so the idea was swiftly dropped. Good background to the early 20th C beginnings of the state on that cite, too.

Uganda was actually considered, not Nigeria. I don’t think it had anything special going for it other than the fact that it was largely unsettled by Europeans and that the British government might be persuaded to allow a colony there.

Is this the only given justification? That the Zionists wanted it?
Well, wanted it in the context of wholesale slaughter of Jews in part of the world, and a longstanding history of little or nothing being done to relieve their suffering or ameliorate hatred toward them in most of the rest of the world. There is a significant element of self-preservation in that want.

Well, legal contexts mean nothing since international law wasn’t really anything anyone really thought about at the time.

Plus, there is a little more to it. The Jews were being heavily persecuted throughout Europe, especially in the east. No one that that was very good, and a lot of people felt the best way to fix the problem was to give the Jews their own country. Plus, a lot of folks didn’t exactly get misty eyed over the prospects of a large chunk of their Jewish population leaving.

Plus, many people felt that the Jews could help against the Ottomans during WWI, so some members of the Allies told some Zionists that they would maybe give them a homeland in Palestine if they helped out. Ironically, Ben-Gurion first made an offer to the Sultan to organize a large Jewish contingent to fight against the British in return for a chunk of land the Jews could run autonomously (although still as a techinical part of the Ottoman Empire). The Sultan responded by razing several Jewish villages and slaughtering a nice chunk of the people living there.

And then there were the Christians who felt that it would be one step closer to the return of Christ.

But by the end of WWII, mostly it was because nobody saw any other way to protect the Jews from pogroms, persecution and outright slaughter outside of their own homeland.

It is, that’s why the Nigeria (or maybe some other West African state, I can’t remember exactly) proposal was rejected by most Zionists.

The details are a little fuzzy, but I believe that the Nigeria option was worked out before the British took control of Palestine. Anyway, it was felt that it would be easier to set up a Jewish homeland there because of the relatively larger size and seemingly less hostility of the natives to the idea. But it never worked out because no one really wanted to go to Nigeria.

Uganda. Dammit, I thought Nigeria was wrong.

Legal and practical justification? They’re there, and they have the strength to keep it. That’s all it takes, especially with a football like Palestine. Legally, Palestine belonged to Britain after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and they were free to do with it what they would. It’s difficult to tell exactly what promises were made to the Arabs, and which were enforceable, but the Balfour Declaration appears to be Britain’s final say in the matter.

Palestine was part of the Roman Empire, if we count the Byzantines as Romans, up to 636, when they were driven out by Muslims (there were also brief interludes of Persian rule). Palestine was not an independent nation under Ummayad, Abassid, or Fatimid rule, and certainly not during the Crusades, nor after the Mamluk conquest, nor under the Ottoman Empire. I don’t believe either side’s assertions as to whether or not there’s a native (or age-old) Arab population in Palestine, but no doubt the truth is out there.

The negotiability of Gaza and other areas rests on Israel’s willingness to give them up. That definitely isn’t a given, no matter what other people think is “right.” National sovereignty and actual possession are trump cards; as I said, they’re there, and that’s all it takes.

Finally, that site is pretty one-sided. There is relatively centrist material mixed with vehemently anti-Israel material, without much to point out the difference, and there is no vehemently pro-Irsael material to balance it out. Of course, if there were, the site wouldn’t present nearly as coherent a story, would it?

Oh, and I think this history on MideastWeb is fairly even-handed; any experts disagree?

I don’t want to get into a debate on this (or any) issue here, I was merely searching for some factual justifications.

Question: (after db4530’s informative post:) Was the land originally designated as Israel in 1948 actually Palestine at the time, or not?

Nametag, can you then suggest a more suitable and objective site from which I can learn?
My time for lots of background reading on this subject will be limited, and would I prefer it to be spent on reading objective sources. Thank you.

Wow. A pre-emptive cite offering. :wink:


1: That territory of the former Ottoman Empire was legally mandated to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations.

2: There is no such thing as “Palestine” as a country. It has never existed. There was a British MANDATE of “Palestine”, and there has been a geographical region of “Palestine”, but neither were ever at all, under any circumstances, independent countries. Before it was Ottoman Turks, it was Crusaders. Before it was Crusaders, it was the Caliphate. Before the Caliphate, it was the Roman Empire. There never has been a “Palestine” to “take land away” from. There are and have been “Palestinians”, but they are “Palestinians” the same way that someone who lives on the Anatolian peninsula is “Anatolian” or someone who lives in Australia is “Antipodean”. It’s purely a geographical designation, at least for now.
As for the claim that “Palestine” was “established as a predominantly Arab state at the end of the 7th century”, this is nothing but an outright lie. At the end of the 7th century, there was no “state” of “Palestine”. There was a Muslim Empire. Likewise, at that time, the region was most likely not “predominantly Arab”. It was far more likely to be a mixture of Syriac, Roman, Greek, and other cultures.

As for legal ownership before the conquest by the Muslim Empire, it went like this:

BCE Reckoning
11th Century: Israel (Kingdom)
8th Century: Assyrian Empire
6th Century: Neobabylonian Empire (“Babylonian Exile” of the Old Testament)
5th Century: Achaemenid Empire
4th Century: Alexandrian Empire
4th Century: Ptolomaic Kingdom
2nd Century: Seleucid Empire
1st Century: Israel (Hasmonean then Herodian as Roman Client State)

CE Reckoning
1st Century: Roman Empire
7th Century: Muslim Empire
7th Century: Omayyad Caliphate
8th Century: Abbasid Caliphate
9th Century: Tulumud Emirate (theoretically under Abbasid Caliphate)
10th Century: Ikhshidid Emirate (theoretically under Abbasid Caliphate)
10th Century: Fatimid Caliphate
11th Century: Seljuks and Crusader States
12th Century: Seljuks, Ayyubid Sultanate and Crusader States.
13th Century: Ayyubid Sultanate and Crusader States.
15th-16th Century: Ottoman Empire
1920: British Mandate (“Palestine and Transjordan”)
Note: In 1917, the UK had tied its hands by the Balfour Declaration, which promised the formation of a Jewish State in the Palestine region.
1923: Transjordan administratively separated from Palestine (which is still not an independent state).
1948: State of Israel declared by United Nations.

Some Sources to check:

Thus, as you can see, there never has been a state of “Palestine”. It has never been more than a geographic region. The upcoming Palestinian state will be the first time ever, in all of recorded history, that a “predominantly Arab” state of “Palestine” will exist, at all.


I will defer to Dogface for the answer to the question you posted. I agree with his interpretation of the facts that Palestine was a geographical rather than national distinction and will remain so until the formation of a Palestinian state (which appears to be likely to happen in the next 2 to 5 years.


As for a justification for a modern state of Israel, as I mentioned before, the UK had tied its hands during WWI with the Balfour Declaration (

The story of the Balfour Declaration is an odd tale of the inner workings of British politics, hidden negotiations, British Imperial Realpolitik, and complete lack of understanding of the USA on the part of the the UK’s government of the time.

The players:

Prime Minister David Lloyd George: Raised in a form of Christianity that taught it was the place of Britain to return the Jews to Israel.

His own commentary on Balfour was

Cabinet Minister Jan Christian Smuts: Known to have written “the day will come when the words of the prophets will become true, and Israel will return to its own land”.

Arthur James Balfour, who stated

In addition, there is the idea that a Jewish client state would be a good location to control trade and communication with India.

Likewise, there was the complete misapprehension that a gesture to favor Zionist aspirations would influence Russia to stay in the war and induce the USA to enter the war. This grossly overestimated the influence of Jews in either country in 1917.

Was this a justification? By 1920, when the UK received the mandate for the Levant, it didn’t matter if it were justification. They had publically and unequivocally committed themselves to a Jewish state in the Palestine region. Essentially, by 1948, the USA and the USSR were finally holding them to their promise in order to get them out of the Middle East.

Thanks to everyone for your answers.

Back to the OP for a minute:

*Originally posted by Aro *
**I am hoping for some objective, non-partisan replies to honest questions, so please leave any cutting or abusive comments at the door. Thank you.
[li]What are the given justifications. legally and practically, for the existence of Israel? I don’t mean completely historically, but in 19-20th Century terms. **[/li][/QUOTE]

Before we go onward, let me turn the question around: What are the given justifications. legally and practically, for the existence of the United States? Or England? Iceland? Denmark? Italy?

Get my point?

The fact that the question can even be asked in polite discourse suggests a larger, more insiduous problem. But, this isn’t GD, so I’ll leave it with this: I purport that the OP, as asked, has no factual answer.