The Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel

The Jewish diaspora

For centuries following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 Jews were dispersed and settled throughout Europe, often regarded with suspicion by Christendom nations. They were frequently persecuted or expelled at particular times over the last 2000 years, ostensibly on the grounds that the Jewish race had rejected the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah.

The Nazis and the Jews

Shops labelled as Jewish in Nazi GermanyAnti-semitism was always part of Adolf Hitler's message. It was a key theme in his 1924 book Mein Kampf (My Struggle). When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, their policy, at first, was to make Jews feel unwelcome. They hoped this would encourage them to leave Germany:
  • They ordered a boycott of Jewish-owned shops
  • Marriages between Jews and Germans were forbidden
  • Jews were banned from public places
  • Many Jews were sent to concentration camps. At this stage, these were punishment camps, not death camps.
Because of these policies, around 250,000 Jews left Germany between 1933 and 1939. Many of them went to the territory bordering the east of the Mediterranean Sea known as Palestine, within which was the ancient Jewish holy city of Jerusalem.

The Holocaust

The Second World War began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Poland had a large Jewish population which the Germans slaughtered as they advanced through Poland. In 1941 Hitler ordered what he called the 'final solution' of the Jewish question. He wanted all the Jews in the countries which he had conquered to be exterminated. Special death camps were built. Perhaps the most notorious was Auschwitz in Poland. Altogether, around six million Jews were slaughtered, most by being gassed. This systematic extermination became known as the Holocaust (the term referring to mass destruction, often by fire).


Up to 1945

Up to the First World War, Palestine was controlled by Turkey. After that war, the League of Nations put it under British supervision. In the period up to the end of the Second World War, many Jews settled in Palestine and there was a growing demand that they should have their own homeland there. The problem was that such a homeland would be at the expense of the existing Arab inhabitants of the area. There was constant tension and violence between the Jewish and Muslim Arab communities.

The aftermath of the Second World War

The slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust intensified Jewish demands for a homeland in Palestine, which was treated with some sympathy after the suffering they had undergone. Various plans were proposed for dividing the land between the Arabs and the Jews, however all were rejected by one or both groups.
The British government became so frustrated that, in May 1948, it withdrew from Palestine and the Jews declared the creation of the independent state of Israel.

The state of Israel

The Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948Israel was, from the start, surrounded by hostile states. The hostility sometimes led to open fighting.

The independence war, 1948-49

The day after the state of Israel was declared in 1948, Arab forces attacked. In the course of the war, around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from - or fled from - Israel.

The Suez crisis, 1956

In the early 1950s, Israel was frequently under attack, especially by Palestinians living in Egyptian-controlled territory. A particular cause of tension was that, in 1950, Egypt banned Israeli ships from using the Suez Canal.
In 1956, Egypt seized total control of the Suez Canal. Israel, the United Kingdom and France formed a secret alliance to regain jurisdiction over the canal. The military campaign was a disaster, but it led to the United Nations guaranteeing Israel's shipping rights in the Suez Canal and Red Sea.

The six day war, 1967

Relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours continued to be tense. In June 1967, a number of Arab states mobilised their armed forces. Israel attacked first, rather than wait to be attacked. It won an overwhelming victory in just six days and extended its borders, including military jurisdiction over the West Bank area (part of the biblical Jewish country of Israel).

The Yom Kippur war, 1973

Following the six day war of 1967, Israel itself, and Jews around the world, were subject to attacks by Palestinians. The Israelis responded with force. In October 1973, Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria. It took Israel twenty days to defeat them.

Israel since the 1970s

The story of this period is of continuing tension and violence, despite attempts to make peace:
  • In 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, because it was being used as a base for Palestinian raiders
  • In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty
  • From 1980, the Israeli government began to encourage Jews to settle in the West Bank, an area which had been reserved for Palestinians in the 1948 settlement, to the annoyance of the Palestinians
  • In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, in order to destroy Palestinian military bases. It withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986 and from the rest in 2000
  • 1987-93, there was a Palestinian uprising (intifada) against Israeli rule
  • In 1993, the Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords. The Palestinians were given land to govern and, in return, they recognised Israel's right to exist
  • In 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty
  • From 2000-2001, after the failure of peace talks, there was a second Palestinian uprising
  • In 2006, there was a second war with Lebanon.
In recent times, there continues to be tension and violence between Israel and the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Rockets have been launched into Israel from Gaza. Israel has responded both militarily and by controlling access to and from Gaza.
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.