Zionism for dummies

I know it’s a massively complicated subject and my knowledge about it is as minimal as you can get but I’ve got a few questions.

So if I understand it correctly after WWII there was international sympathy for the Jewish people because of the holocaust and all that so they wanted to give them their own Jewish state for all of the displaced immigrants around Europe.
So they gave them a chunk of land in an area that was highly disputed by the Arabs and has been ever since.
So my question is was the goal in creating Israel to give them any old piece of land to call their own, or did it have to be THAT piece of land?
Why not give them a big old chunk off the north coast of Australia or something and call it Israel?
Why put it right in area that would be known to be hotly disputed for decades? Just becasue the land held sentimental value?

I can’t give you anything definitive, but the “give them some other land” question is definitely answerable. At one point Uganda was discussed by Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of the Zionism movement in the 1890s.

Weird, eh?!

Boy, I think even I know a little about this.
One problem is that the British were giving away land that other people thought they owned, and in many cases had been in their families for generations. You can make all the arguments you want about the British being in effective control, or how those families might not really be the owners for whatever reason, or about how Zionists might have been acquiring land nearby, or how they more effectively used the land, or whatever. If the people felt they legitimately owned that land, they’re not going to be very happy when a bunch of foreigners declares by fiat that it really bwelongs to somebody else.

that they were giving large chunks of it to the same group, and that group one that they resident folks have a long-standing disaffection for vastly increases the tension by orders of magnitude.

Did it have to be that land? Of course. This is the actual hstoric location of land that held the old Jewish kingdoms. More to the point, it’s the Promised Land, which was granted directly by God to his Chosen People multiple times in their scriptures. A strip of land in North America or australia or an island somewhere wouldn’t be equivalent. Of course, it helps increase tension that these same lands also have Muslim and Christian holy sites.

Was the land that became Israel really “highly disputed” by the Arabs, prior to the formation of Israel? I thought that land was more or less a part of Jordan, right? It’s my understanding that none of the Arabs ever gave a shit about it, or had any notion of an Arab “Palestinian” people, until the Jews occupied it - and THEN it became highly disputed.

Lots of stuff here…too much for an easy answer I think.

Instead I suggest reading up on the following:

The British Mandate of Palestine

United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine

Zionist History

Should keep you busy for 30 minutes or so and probably answer a lot of your questions (and likely to prompt others).


Jews had been immigrating to the region for some time before WW II, and had been buying land. Rishon LeZion, for example, was founded in 1892 by the first wave of Aliyah.
The partition was drawn along ethnic majority lines, and the Jews living there demanded self-determination once the former sovereign, the Ottoman Empire, fell.

In fact, the Mandate had been conceived as a “establishing in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people” in 1920, not 1945. Although at that time the issue was more one of immigration and not sovereignty, and in fact over the decades the vast majority of the Mandate was legally off limits to Jewish immigration.

And although the UN passes UNR 181, nobody really ‘gave’ anything to anybody, especially since the land that the Jews were living on had been purchased from its owners. Essentially, the British pulled out and the Jews who were living in the region decided to create their own sovereign state.

You also have to understand the difference, under the Ottoman legal code, between Mulk and Miri land. Mulk was the only type of land that could be owned as private property by regular citizens. Miri land was state owned, and could only be held as long as its tenants cultivated it properly. The vast majority of the Palestinian lower classes lived on Miri, not Mulk. As such, for roughly 400 years they didn’t own the land, but essentially rented it.

As for why it was that piece of land, well, because that’s where Jews were moving to, buying land, wanting to set up a new state, and willing to defend against the planned genocide of '48. 181 was more a seal upon an already existent reality than a decree of ontology by fiat.

Australia might have disputed it. Unlike the Mandate of Palestine, it was even a sovereign nation.

Another pertinent document: The Balfour Declaration.

When we’re talking about Zionism, we have to start with Theodor Hertzl. Hertzl was an (ethnically) Jewish reporter for the Vienna newspaper, the Neue Freie Presse, working out of their Paris Bureau. As Paris correspondent, he covered the Dreyfus Affair… The Dreyfus Affair, btw, were the events surrounding the trial of Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer who was falsely accused of being a German spy. He was convicted based on perjured testimony and false evidence manufactured by a group of anti-semites in the French army.

Anyway, after covering the Dreyfus trial and the wave of anti-Semitism it set off, Hertzl came to the conclusion that fighting anti-Semitism was pointless, and that as long as Jews existed as a minority population in Europe and America, they’d always be in danger there. The only way for Jews to be safe would be to create a Jewish state. So, he, along with another journalist, Nathan Birnbaum, created the World Zionist Organization, which had its first International Congress in 1897. The World Zionist Organization then spent a lot of its time trying to convince the Ottoman Sultan to give them Palestine, and trying to get Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany to pressure the Ottoman Sultan to give them Palestine.

Meanwhile, while all this was going on in Western Europe, Jewish groups in Eastern Europe were starting their own organizations with the goal of emigration from Russia to Palestine. This became known as the First Aliyah, and lasted from around 1880 to around 1900, and the First Aliyah set up farms and communities in Palestine. The city of Rishon LeZion, for instance, dates from the First Aliyah.

I could go on if you wanted, but as you can see, Zionism started before World War II, and from the beginning, it was Palestine-centric. Herzl and the World Zionist Organization may have thought about Uganda as a backup plan, but their hearts were set on Palestine, and for the Eastern European Jewish settlers, if they weren’t going to America, Palestine tended to be their destination.

Also, you’re mistaken when you say, “they wanted to give them their own Jewish state for all of the displaced immigrants around Europe.” Britain banned most Jewish immigration to Palestine before, during, and after WWII. Most of the Jews who came during that period were smuggled in illegally. And Israeli independence only came after a three year resistance movement against Britain, and a war against the Arab nations surrounding in, in which the Arabs were backed by Britain.

Could you expand on this?

Well, putting aside the officers of the Arab Legion (who you could argue were acting more as Jordanian subjects rather than Britons), Britain threatened direct intervention if Israel crossed into Egyptian territory or threatened the Canal Zone, and RAF planes patrolled the Egyptian border and interfered with Israeli operations against the retreating Egyptians. (there was an incident on Jan 7, 1948, where a squadron of Spitfires on the border were shot at by Israeli anti-air and sortied by Israeli Spitfires.)

Then, there was the fact that while the British went along with the American arms embargo to Israel, they continued to sell arms to the Arab countries leading up to the war. There’s also the revelation of two years ago that Attlee considered intervening in the war if Israel crossed into Jordanian territory to protect the RAF base at Amman and provide treaty assistance to the Jordanians.

Apropos of nothing, what does a Zionist say after sex?

Was it good for the Jews?

File under: politics makes for strange bedfellows…

After the end of WW II, it was the British who aided the Arabs and opposed Israel.
Before the end of WW II, it was the Nazis who aided the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and helped train/equip partisan Muslim forces to kill Jews.