The Treaty of Versailles gave control of German and Ottoman colonies to various Allied nations in the form of mandates. The mandates were authorized by the League of Nations.

The former Ottoman territories in the Middle East were put under the control of two Allies. France was given mandates in Syria and Lebanon, and Britain received mandates in Palestine and Iraq. Later, Britain gave a large part of the Palestinian Mandate, TransJordan, to an Arab ally, King Abdullah.

Arabs felt betrayed by the West—a feeling that has endured to this day. During the 1920s and 1930s, their anger erupted in frequent protests and revolts against Western imperialism. A major center of turmoil was the British Mandate of Palestine. There, Arab nationalists increasingly clashed with Jewish nationalists, known as Zionists.

Conflicting Promises About Palestine

Since Roman times, Jews in the diaspora had dreamed of returning to their ancient homeland of Israel. In 1897, Theodor Herzl (HURT sul) responded to growing anti-Semitism, or prejudice against Jewish people, in Europe by founding the modern Zionist political movement. His goal was to reestablish a Jewish homeland in the region called Palestine.

In tsarist Russia, brutal pogroms prompted thousands of Jews to migrate to Palestine. They joined the small Jewish community that had lived there since biblical times.

During World War I, the Allies made two vague and conflicting sets of promises that greatly impacted Arab and Jewish nationalists. First, in an effort to gain Arab support for the British war effort, Britain promised Arabs their own kingdoms in former Ottoman lands.

Then, in 1917, the British attempted to win Jewish support by issuing the Balfour Declaration. The declaration affirmed Britain's support for the idea of establishing “a national home for Jewish people” in the Palestine Mandate.

Many Jews took this to mean that Britain was announcing its intention to establish a Jewish homeland, but the Balfour Declaration stopped short of making this promise.

The declaration noted that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The conflicting promises made to Arab and Jewish settlers set the stage for conflict between Arab and Jewish nationalists.

A Bitter Struggle Begins

From 1919 to 1940, tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews immigrated to the Palestine Mandate. Both the Zionist movement and the effects of anti-Semitism in Europe encouraged Jewish immigration. Despite great hardships, Jewish immigrants set up factories, built new towns, and established farming communities. At the same time, the Arab population almost doubled. Some were immigrants from nearby lands. As a result, the population of the Palestine Mandate included a changing mix of settlers. The Jewish population, which was less than 60,000 in 1919, grew to about 400,000 in 1936, while the Muslim population increased from about 568,000 in 1919 to about 1 million in 1940.

Photo of a desert area where a shack has been built against a simple oil derrick. Oil is spewing from the derrick, while men look on.

In the early 1920s, the first oil wells were drilled in Persia (now Iran). This photograph shows an oil strike at the oil fields in Masjed Soleyman.

At first, some Arabs welcomed the money and modern technical skills that the newcomers brought with them. But as more Jews moved to Palestine Mandate, tensions between the two groups developed.

Jewish organizations tried to purchase as much land as they could, while many Arabs sought to slow down or stop Jewish immigration. Arabs attacked Jewish communities, hoping to discourage Jewish immigration. To protect themselves, the Jewish settlers established their own military defense force. Competing claims to the land continue to lie at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments