Before the Holocaust, Zionism was already in existence. Tel Aviv being founded in 1909 was the first Hebrew speaking city, yet Zionist settlements were popping up around Palestine since the 1800s and becoming increasingly popular. After the Holocaust, these Zionist Jewish settlements, all comprised of mainly European Jews, some of which were kibbutzim, were seen as places post-WWII refugees could go as a safe haven. As the number kept rising, so did aggression with the British who were in control of the land. That hit a boiling point at some point and drove the UN to craft up the partition plan that eventually led to the formation of the State of Israel.
This being said, how much was the Holocaust an influencer in the state of Israel? Would the state have been created regardless? I believe that it was simply a catalyst in Israel’s creation. In fact, the Holocaust almost prevented the rise of the state of Israel. People were going to migrate to Israel if they were able to, but most of the people that were going to were killed. If the Holocaust lasted even two years longer, there is a very good chance that there would have been no Israel, because there would be nobody to go there.
In this paper I am exploring what influenced the creation of Israel. Specifically the impact that the Holocaust had. Such an event also then influenced and motivated many groups and countries both for and against the formation of the State of Israel.
Before the Holocaust, there was no State of Israel, just Palestine. However, there were numerous Jewish settlements, or Yishuv, that resided in Palestine. Jews have been moving back to the Holy Land, in very small numbers. It was only in the late 1870s when many Jews started to migrate to Palestine. The Jews that came during this time were part of The First Aliya. Then in 1879, there was the birth of the Zionist movement which was lead by Theodor Herzl. This movement simply advocates for the establishment, development, and protection of a Jewish nation. The first aliya was an incredible step in the right direction as roughly twenty new Jewish settlements were created.
Throughout time there are more aliyas, but the important thing to note, is that there are Jews in Palestine, and Jews always were migrating before the Holocaust and before the creation of Israel. The increasing Jewish presence and want for their own state was not something that the Palestinians were pleased with.
In 1917, the Balfour Declaration, a public statement issued by the British government, supported the creation of a home for the Jewish people and therefore caused a massive negative Arab response resulting in riots and the killing of many Jews. While this was happening the League of Nations approved the Palestine Mandate in 1922, which gave Britain full power to figure out how the land of Palestine would be run so that they could “secure the establishment of the Jewish National home”.
Shortly after this, the rise of the Nazism resulted in many Jews looking for a place to escape to. For example the citizenship was revoked for over 500,000 Jews in Germany and Nazis annexed Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia, which added 300,000 more Jews that were now refugees looking for a place to go. With 800,000 Jews looking for a place to go and call home, you would think the Arabs in Palestine would be happy that only 100,000 of them wanted to live in Palestine… but they weren’t. They caused an uproar which resulted in Britain’s 1939 White Paper.
This paper said that the Jews now had a home and that only 75,000 Jews could immigrate to Israel within the next five years. At first the Arabs did not support this and rebelled, but in time they accepted this policy. The massive amounts of Jew that tried to immigrate regardless, were sent to internment camps in Cyprus. Between August 1946 and January 1949 these camps held 53,510 people.
By the end of World War II, there was way to much violence going on in Palestine, and on top of that Britain was depleted of resources so it was therefore much too hard for Britain to keep control of Palestine. They then had to hand the land back to the League of Nations. The fighting between the Arabs and Israelis is due to the fact that the Israelis are taking back the land that they once had. Britain was originally very Pro Israel, yet when things got tough, they revoked a lot of that Pro Israel, and instead sided with the Arabs. More Jews began to immigrate to Palestine, during and after the Holocaust, which further supports the idea that the Holocaust was a major catalyst in the creation of Israel.
The United States of America was pro Israel. After WW2 numerous Jews came back to central europe, specifically the American zones within Germany and Austria. America did not know what to do with these Jews, but didn’t want to continue to “keep” them. They needed their own safe haven, their own place to go. In addition to this it is thought that President Harry S Truman needed to win over New York, as they had a very large Jewish Population, and supporting the creation of Israel was a smart political move. In fact, Truman even asked for the admission of 100,000 Holocaust survivors into Palestine, but the British said no, and that they would still stand by the White Paper of 1939.
The Soviet Union also was largely pro Israel, but only to support the Communist agenda, they did not care about the welfare of the people. Stalin wanted to have a foothold in the Middle East and the creation of a New State would possibly destabilize the middle east. That along with Britain being out of the picture would result in the ability for Communism to try to grow even more.
I believe that Israel would have been created if or if not the Holocaust happened. It would’ve taken a lot longer, but it still would’ve happened. The Holocaust was solely a catalyst. However, getting away from a binary causality is important. The state of Israel would have been possible but it would have been much harder to found and Israel might not have been able to survive. That being said, one could say the Holocaust helped Israel survive rather than help it be created.
The Holocaust enabled Israel to pressure Germany into supplying the economic base necessary to build infrastructure and support the immense amount of European Jews. For instance in 1952, the Reparations Agreement between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), stated that West Germany was to pay Israel the costs of “resettling so great a number of uprooted and destitute Jewish refugees” after the war. They agreed to pay Israel 3 billion marks over the next fourteen years, along with even more money that would go directly to the Holocaust survivors.
This money helped build the infrastructure of Israel massively. It was used to purchase equipment for numerous industrial plants, factories, the electrical system, Israel Railways, water supply machinery, oil drilling, mining equipment, fuel, a merchant fleet, and so much more. These reparations accounted for 15% of Israel’s gross national income along with about 45,000 jobs being created during the period of these reparations.
Israel was founded on May 14, 1948 by David Ben-Gurion. It said as soon as the British mandate ended, the State of Israel would be established. In fact, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel which was later known as the Israeli Declaration of Independence, directly mentions “the catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe, was another clear demonstration of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations.”
This is essentially forcing the point home that such a terrible event occurred, and events like it could continue to occur if there was no Jewish state. If another event like this occurred there would’ve been a chance that a “large majority of European Jewry may not survive the war, and that those who might would be left without the strength to rise again and rebuild their shattered lives and communities,” The idea of the Holocaust not having much of an effect in the creation of Israel, and if anything almost causing the creation not to happen is the opinion of Yad Vashem and the overall Zionist View. The thought was that Zionism was in full effect at this period of time, and it would’ve created the state of Israel.
Leading up to Israel being founded, the United Nations continued to try to help create a Jewish state, and one way that they tried to do this was through the Partition Plan for Palestine. This was trying to create some sense of peace between the Arabs and Israelis, however, it still was therefore advocating for the State of Israel.
Actions speak louder than words, and this partition plan that was approved in November 1947, still had not been implemented. It was still approved, meaning the UN accepted the creation of a Jewish state. Yes the Holocaust swayed world opinion and therefore helped countries vote for the creation, but since the Jews wanted to take a piece of what the Arabs saw as their land, most of the Middle East voted against this creation. Surprisingly, the United Kingdom abstained from this vote despite it giving them a way out and to pass the “problem” onto the UN.
Anyways, Israel needed as many people to support their creation as they could because the Jews officially had “no country of their own, they were unable to assert their political self-interest or self-defense. Instead, they were forced to rely on others to act on their behalf.”
It was Zionism along with the influence of the Holocaust and numerous countries with both good and bad intentions, that helped turn Palestine into the State of Israel, a safe haven, a home for Jews everywhere. Now Israel is a thriving nation with just under 9 million citizens, and with about 6.3 million of which being Jews.
The Israeli government’s current position and actions on it’s ongoing disputes with the Palestinians have drawn criticism from many foreign governments, but looking beyond the politics, Israel’s massive tech sector and booming economy are just some of the reasons why more nations are looking to it as a leader than ever before.
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