Exactly 89 years ago today the United Nations voted to divide Palestine between Arabs and Jews, known as the Partition Plan. While this opened the door for the creation of the state of Israel, nine decades and several wars later, the plan has little hope of going into effect.
This failed effort may, however, help us understand the conflict in the region today.
What was Palestine in 1947?
The territory had been administered by the British since 1923 as part of the peace treaties of WWI. The British had long harbored plans to create a Jewish state in the Holy Land, and had publicly declared it in 1917 stating that the British “government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.
It was only after WWII, however, that the United Nations considered the future of Palestine. By 1946, the growing sympathy for the Jewish people following the Holocaust–the systematic murder of millions of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s–spurred the international community to action.
A plan emerged to divide the area into a patchwork of three Jewish sections, four Arab sections, and international control of Jerusalem under the auspices of the United Nations. This was broadly supported by Western countries and the Soviet Union.
A crucial missing piece of support
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General assembly voted 33-13 in favor of partition. The only problem was that all Arab states protested the vote, signalling that the decision would not be recognized by the Arab population of Palestine.
This is when the troubles begin. The British refused to use their military might to impose the partition unless it had the support of both sides. Since the approved plan didn’t include international oversight, it fell to Jewish and Arab militias to ensure internal order.
Decades of dysfunction
Jewish leaders declared the independence of the State of Israel six months later, on 14 May, 1948. Arab Palestinians fled, and Arab neighbors retaliated by invading the tiny country.
The Arab-Israeli War lasted for 10 months, and by the end Israel occupied approximately 60% of Arab areas under the UN partition plan. This was the first of 17 major conflicts between the two sides, and there is no indication of peace to come.
The events surrounding Palestine and the creation of the State of Israel are hotly debated, and it is perhaps the most contentious subjects in modern history.
Do you have an experience relating to Palestine and Israel?
Journalist Harvey Morris submitted one of his — take your chance to go on the record with your memories too!