Arabs and Israelis in Conflict

In 1948, when Britain withdrew from the Palestine mandate, Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel. Neighboring Arab nations launched the first of several wars against Israel, but were defeated.

As a result of these wars, Israel gained control of more territory. After the 1948 war, Jordan took control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while Egypt took the Gaza Strip. Today, Palestinian Arabs do not have an independent state, but a series of negotiations over the years has resulted in peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and the creation of an autonomous Palestinian authority within Israeli-controlled territories.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli war created a huge refugee problem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in Israeli territory. The UN housed them in temporary camps in nearby countries, where they remained for decades. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab lands fled to Israel.

Photo of a street where people are holding hands to celebrate under a flying an Israeli flag.

Israeli flags fly in New York City to celebrate the birth of Israel, which became an independent state on May 14, 1948.


Why was an Arab state not established as well?

The Growth of Israel

After the 1948 war, Israel developed rapidly. A skilled workforce set up businesses. Kibbutzim produced crops for export. A kibbutz (kih BOOTS) is a collective farm.

In 1950, Israel passed a law called the right of return, granting every Jew the right to live in Israel and become an Israeli citizen. This was a response to the Holocaust when countries closed their doors to Jews fleeing the Nazis. This law established Israel as a safe haven for the Jewish people. Jews from around the world migrated to Israel. They joined native Israelis who had struggled to win independence.

An early leader was Golda Meir, who had emigrated from Russia to the United States as a child. In the 1920s, she moved to a kibbutz in Palestine and later joined the Jewish independence movement. In 1969, she became Israel's first woman prime minister.

Photo of women and children walking along a dirt path holding hands and packs of belongings in the sun.

Palestinian women and children flee to Arab-held territories in June 1948. Refugee camps were set up to accept those who could not find shelter.


How long did some Palestinian refugees live in the refugee camps?

New Nations in the Middle East

After independence, Middle Eastern nations set out to build strong modern economies. Only a handful of nations in the region had rich oil reserves. Most Middle Eastern nations were poor, and each faced its own set of challenges.

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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