Palestine War

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Palestine War
Israeli soldiers hoist the improvised "ink flag" after taking Eilat without a fight
Israeli soldiers hoist the improvised " ink flag " after taking Eilat without a fight
date Guerrilla war in the mandate area: November 30, 1947 to May 15, 1948
Intervention by the Arab armies: May 15, 1948 to July 20, 1949
place Mandate Palestine
output Victory of the Jewish national movement
Territorial changes Transjordan annexed the West Bank . Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip .
Parties to the conflict

to May 14, 1948:
Irgun Tzwa'i Le'umi
from May 15, 1948: Israel

to May 14, 1948:
Army of the Holy War.
Arab Liberation Army
from May 15, 1948: Kingdom of Egypt Syria Transjordan Lebanon Kingdom of Iraq Saudi Arabia
Egypt 1922Egypt 
Syria 1932Syria 
Kingdom of Iraq 1924Kingdom of Iraq 
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia 


Jaakow Dori
Jigael Jadin

John Bagot Glubb
Abd al-Qadir al-Husaini
Hasan Salama
Fausi al-Kawukdschi
Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi

The Israeli War of Independence ( Arabic النكبة, DMG an- Nakba  'The Catastrophe'; Hebrew מלחמת העצמאות Milchemet haAtzma'ut ) is the first Arab-Israeli war that was fought in the years 1947–1949 in the former mandate of Palestine or Israel ( ארץ ישראל erez Yisrael ).

The war began without a formal declaration of war after the adoption of the UN partition plan on November 29, 1947 with the first local fighting between Arab militias (including the Army of the Holy War ) and Jewish military organizations (including the Hagana ).

After the declaration of independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, on May 15, shortly after midnight, regular army units of an alliance formed by the Arab states of Egypt , Syria , Lebanon , Jordan and Iraq moved into the former British mandate area and attacked Israel.

The goal of the Arab alliance, which did not accept the UN partition plan for Palestine and denied Israel's right to exist , was to eliminate the emerging Jewish state of Israel . Jordan also pursued the goal of annexing the West Bank . An important secondary goal of the Egyptian and Syrian rulers was to prevent Jordan from gaining power.

The war ended with a definite military victory for Israel. In 1949, through the mediation of the UN, Israel concluded armistice agreements with its Arab war opponents. Only Iraq withdrew its troops without a treaty. These agreements created ceasefire lines for Israel that included about 75 percent of Palestine and increased Israeli territory by a third compared to the UN Partition Plan for Palestine. A strip on the south coast that stretched from Gaza to the Egyptian border came under Egyptian administration. Eastern Palestine went to Jordan. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan, which was given to East Jerusalem . Many states did not officially recognize the partition of Jerusalem.

The Jewish national movement was able to establish its state successfully. With the diplomatic recognition of Israel on January 29, 1949, the British government showed that it recognized the changed political situation in its former mandate area.

The military and political defeat of the Arab side and the contradicting goals of the Arab feudal regimes prevented the emergence of an Arab state in Palestine as the UN's partition plan had foreseen. Around 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were displaced. Around the same number of Jews were expelled from Arab states during and after the War of Independence and mostly settled in Israel.

In the Arab states, the defeat led to the weakening of the ruling regimes , which was indirectly expressed in coups and revolutions.


Jewish immigration

At the time of the First World War , when the British army conquered Palestine with the help of Arab troops from Sherif Hussein in the fight against the Ottoman Empire , around 90% of the inhabitants of the then sparsely populated region were Arabs. In the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, the British government promised the leaders of the World Zionist Organization to create a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The promise to the Sherif Hussein (mainly traced back to the Hussein-McMahon correspondence ) to merge the Arab provinces into an Arab kingdom was nullified or broken with the Sykes-Picot Agreement . The British government took control of Palestine as a mandated territory with the intention of creating a buffer zone with the Suez Canal , even if many politicians and officers were not convinced of the strategic value of Palestine.

In January 1919 the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement was signed between the Zionist functionary Chaim Weizmann and the then King Faisal I of Syria , in which the Arabs consented to Jewish national aspirations and Jewish immigration to Palestine.

After the " seizure of power " in January 1933 in the German Reich by Adolf Hitler , the number of Jewish immigrants took leaps and bounds. The anti-Semitic repression and later extermination policies of Hitler and his Nazi regime caused many German Jews to flee to Palestine - especially since many other countries denied them immigration or asylum. The experience of persecution and the Shoah then prompted many surviving European Jews to move to Palestine from 1945 onwards. In 1936 around 30% of the people in Palestine were Jewish immigrants. At the beginning of 1948 a total of 600,000 immigrants and around 1.2 million Arab Palestinians faced each other. When the state was founded, the yishuv , the Jewish population in Palestine, comprised around 700,000 people.

Jewish immigration caused rejection among the Arab population of Palestine. Jewish land purchases often displaced the poor rural Arab population, who mostly leased their land from rural or urban landowners. The large landowners decided over the heads of their clients. The declared aim of Zionism , the establishment of a Jewish state, aroused fears of displacement and political oppression and was diametrically opposed to the nationalism of its own population. Attempts by the Zionist movement to find a compromise failed. Musa al-'Alami, a Palestinian notary with good connections to the mandate administration, responded to David Ben-Gurion's suggestion that the Arab population would benefit enormously economically from the immigration of educated Jews: “I would prefer the country remains impoverished and desolate for another hundred years until we are able to develop it ourselves. "

Arab uprising

British troops on an armored railroad car with Arab hostages during the crackdown on the uprising, 1936

To represent the Arab population in Palestine, the British administration upgraded the office of the Mufti of Jerusalem, which in Ottoman times had been restricted to the city and was subordinate to the Islamic judges , to that of a Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian region and gave him that Chair of the Sharia Supreme Council. By managing the income from religious foundations and also direct British payments, the Mufti achieved a dominant political position in Palestinian society. In 1921 the British High Consul for Palestine appointed Herbert Samuel against the protests of the Jewish immigrants Mohammed Amin al-Husseini as Grand Mufti. This marginalized all other political movements in the Arab population with the help of the Muftiamt and a political party led by his cousin. The Mufti also dominated the Arab High Committee , which assumed a representative role vis-à-vis the British authorities. Besides family circles, his rule was based on the traditional, urban notables of the Palestinian Arabs. Husseini's goal was an independent Arab state of Palestine under his leadership. To achieve this goal, he mobilized his followers through nationalist and Muslim religious symbols and rhetoric.

During the British mandate, there were several anti-Jewish and anti-British riots on the part of the Arabs. At the height of these riots in 1929, 67 Jewish civilians were murdered in a massacre in Hebron . The surviving Jews had to leave the city. In the mid-1930s, numerous Palestinian organizations - above all the Society of Young Muslim Men and the radical nationalist Independence Party ( Hizb al-Istiqlal in Arabic ) - tried to turn the discontent of the Arab population with Jewish immigration into an armed uprising. These organizations were dissatisfied with the policies of the mufti, who had hitherto hoped for an amicable solution with the British. A leading figure in these movements, the Muslim preacher Izz ad-Din al-Qassam , was killed by British soldiers in 1935 while trying to start an armed uprising in Haifa . Thousands of people attended his funeral and Qassam was widely regarded as a martyr . In April 1936, the Arab side called a general strike . In 1937 armed uprisings began against the British mandate power. The British temporarily lost control of parts of Jerusalem , Nablus and Hebron . It took a total of around 18 months for the revolt to be put down by the British, who deployed tens of thousands of soldiers. 5000 insurgents were killed, 10,000 wounded and by 1939 5679 were imprisoned. An unknown number were expelled or fled into exile. Overall, the Palestinian Arab population lost around 10% of its adult male members.

The uprising had failed and had serious consequences for the position of the Arab population in the mandate area. The Palestinian economy declined rapidly because of the strike. To finance the uprising, money was often collected from compatriots through the use of force and in some cases embezzled. In order to pay the taxes to the insurgents, many Arab landowners had to sell land to Jewish immigrants. The strike made it possible for the Jewish population to build a modern port in Tel Aviv , so that from then on they were independent of the predominantly Arab-controlled port in Jaffa . In addition, the mandate power to fight the rebels armed around 6,000 Jewish residents as paramilitary auxiliary police (" Notrim "), which laid the foundation for the establishment of the Israeli military police. Politically, the uprising ended in a complete dead end. Al-Husseini fled to Beirut because he had risen to become its leading figure in the course of the uprising, and sought contact with representatives of National Socialist Germany . This led to an open collaboration between the Mufti and the Third Reich. This removed him from the events in Palestine, but nevertheless asserted his political sovereignty by branding any potential political opponent as a traitor, which often amounted to a death sentence. In 1946, the Arab High Committee was reconstituted with the support of the Arab League under the leadership of Husseini, even if Husseini was unable to return to Palestine.

Second World War

When the Second World War broke out , the British government tried to bind the Palestinian Arabs more tightly through concessions. The British White Paper of 1939 , which aimed to build a unified Jewish-Arab state within ten years and promised to control immigration, was opposed by both the Jewish side and the Palestinian leadership. In response to the restrictive provisions of the White Paper, which allowed a maximum of 75,000 Jews to immigrate to Palestine for a five-year period, illegal immigration increased during World War II . Overall, British efforts to make concessions to win Arab public opinion over failed. In an opinion poll in the Mandate area in February 1941, 88% of Palestinian Arabs said they hoped for a victory for the Axis powers , and large parts of the Arab political leadership, above all Husseini, openly collaborated with Nazi Germany through public propaganda to raise Muslim troops Waffen SS . As a result, the British government relied on the Yishuv to raise military units in Palestine in the event of a German invasion and, with the Palmach and the Jewish Brigade, created the nucleus of the later Israeli military. A total of around 26,000 Jewish residents of the Mandate area served in the British armed forces during the World War, while this was the case for only 12,000 Arab citizens.

Civil war in the mandate area

Schematic map of the partition plan into Arab (yellow) and Jewish (orange) national territory

The British government tried several times to persuade both parties to the conflict to come to an agreement through diplomatic channels. The British Peel Commission (November 11, 1936 to July 7, 1937) and an Anglo-American committee (November 13, 1945 to May 13, 1946) worked out plans for dividing the mandate area. However, these were rejected by both parties. As a result, the British government turned to the United Nations to force a solution through a binding resolution.

On November 30, 1947, one day after the proclamation of the UN partition plan for Palestine in Resolution 181, the Zionist-Arab civil war began . The Israeli side had approved the partition plan. However, the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states turned against the establishment of a Jewish state and had threatened war in the run-up to the conflict.

A representative of the Arab High Committee for Palestine summarized the expectations of the Arab side as follows:

“The decision of the United Nations has brought the Arabs together in a way that has never been done before, not even against the Crusaders […] A Jewish state has no chance of survival now that holy war has been declared. Ultimately, all Jews will be massacred. "

On the Arab side stood the Army of the Holy War , which had been set up within the Arab population by one of his relatives under the leadership of Grand Mufti al-Husseini. It was only set up after the outbreak of hostilities and comprised several thousand men. The Mufti still had a militia from the pre-war period , the Futuwa. Shortly before the outbreak of war he succeeded in uniting them with the competing militia, the Najada. Both organizations together had 11,000 to 12,000 members. Around a tenth of them had served in the police units of the mandate administration and thus had limited military experience. However, the Arab paramilitaries lacked central leadership. Many militia units only formed more or less spontaneously in the Arab settlements after the outbreak of war. Little is known about the degree of their arming due to the lack of a central recording, registration and guidance system. It was fed mainly from the private gun possession of the Palestinians.

British machine gun post over the roofs of Jerusalem before the withdrawal, 1948

In early December, the Arab High Committee called a three-day general strike. From January 1948 infiltrated units of the Arab Liberation Army of Syria one to Palestine. This comprised around 4,000 men and was led, armed and financed by the Arab League . The League was unable to invade until the British withdrew completely, but planned to do one the day after the withdrawal was complete. Grand Mufti al-Husseini wanted to prevent the intervention of other Arab armed forces because he feared that this would result in a loss of power himself. The Arab League had appointed a declared opponent of the Mufti, the Syrian ex- Wehrmacht member Fausi al-Kawukdschi , as the leader of the Arab Liberation Army . In addition to the aim of preventing the establishment of a Jewish state, the establishment of the Liberation Army also served to limit the Grand Mufti's political influence. Al-Husseini demanded arms deliveries and financial support from the Arab states, which the Arab League provided only in negligible amounts. The Palestinians, as well as Syria and Egypt, recruited a handful of German and Bosniak World War II veterans as mercenaries. However, due to their small number, these were of little consequence.

Hagana female paramilitaries, dating unknown

The yishuv had built a powerful network of paramilitaries and militias under the aegis of the Jewish Agency . Their umbrella organization, the Hagana , comprised three sub-organizations that differed according to their degree of military readiness. The Palmach served as the elite unit . It comprised 2,100 de facto professional soldiers and 1,000 reservists who had received similar intensive training. The field troops (Hebrew Ḥel Sadeh ) comprised 2,000 active members who, supported by a pool of 10,000 civilians between the ages of 18 and 25, were trained in their free time and trained in case of war. This list was completed by so-called guard troops (Hebrew Ḥel Mischmār ). At their peak, these comprised around 20,000 militiamen who were primarily intended and trained to defend their settlements and places of residence. They consisted of men over the age of 25 and women. The activities of the various associations of the Hagana were directed by a general staff operating in secret . This included around 400 full-time employees. In addition to the Hagana, there were two other paramilitary groups, Irgun and Lechi . They were much smaller. The former comprised around 2000 to 4000 members, the latter only had 500 to 800.

Arab volunteers of the Army of the Holy War, 1947

The armament of the Jewish paramilitaries fell in the first stage of the war. The Hagana, as the largest of these organizations, had 10,000 rifles , 1,900 submachine guns and a total of around 630 machine guns in 1947 . Tanks , armored vehicles, anti-tank guns , anti-aircraft artillery and modern communication equipment were not available. The air force consisted of eleven civil aircraft. Due to these shortcomings, the Hagana was only able to arm one in three members. The other paramilitary groups were even worse equipped with weapons. The leadership of the Jewish community under Ben-Gurion was well aware that they were not prepared for war. Since the USA , Great Britain and France adhered to the arms embargo on the potential parties to the conflict, the Jewish paramilitaries, with the approval of the Soviet Union , took supplies from the emerging Eastern Bloc . In December 1947, the first contract was signed, according to which Czechoslovakia should deliver 10,000 rifles, 4,500 heavy machine guns and three million rounds of ammunition to Israel.

Jewish-controlled territory in December 1947 (blue) and gain by May 1948 (light blue)

Due to the lack of cooperation and organization of the Arab militias, it was easy for the Hagana to put down the renewed uprising of the Palestinian Arabs. Until April 1948, the Hagana remained primarily defensive and limited itself to retaliatory actions against settlements from which guerrilla attacks had been carried out. After the successful arming of the Hagana, Operation Nachshon began the planned offensive against the Arab guerrillas. The aim was to clear a route into Jerusalem, which was occupied by Arab associations, which was achieved on April 4th. Three days earlier, an intelligence officer had negotiated with Kawukdi that the Arab Liberation Army would not come to the aid of the Grand Mufti's troops. A few days later, their commander, Abd al-Qadir al-Husaini , a nephew of the Grand Mufti, was killed. With this, his troops lost their most capable and best-known commander and gradually disbanded. As a result of the collapse of the Palestinian armed forces, Jewish troops were able to take control of large parts of the country; the first Palestinians fled their homes. The Hagana could not completely wipe out the Arab paramilitaries, but with Haifa and Jaffa, the two most important urban centers of the Palestinian Arabs conquered. No prisoners were taken by either side during the civil war because no means were available for guarding: those who surrendered were simply shot. There were assaults and sometimes targeted killing of civilians on both sides. The Deir Yasin massacre, committed by Irgun and Lechi fighters , contributed to the panic and flight of the Palestinian people. The leadership of the Hagana tried to intensify this panic through psychological warfare in strategically important regions with Arab populations in order to have a safe hinterland before the expected invasion of Arab armies. Reported Major General Yigal Allon:

“I gathered the Jewish Mukhtar [chiefs] who had connections with the various Arab villages and asked them to tell some Arabs that huge Jewish reinforcements had reached Galilee and were about to clean up the villages of the Chula Plain ; as friends, they should advise them to flee while they still could. And the rumor spread through the Chula Plain that the time had come to flee. The escape comprised tens of thousands. "

The attack by the Arab Liberation Army ended in debacle after the troops at Mishmar HaEmek were decisively defeated on April 4 and the Druze allies deserted . The attempt by the Arab states to support the Palestinian guerrilla fighters with regularly equipped volunteers thus failed.

Israel's declaration of independence and invasion of the Arab armies

Telegram from US State Department diplomatic correspondence informing US missions regarding recognition of Israel

On May 14, 1948, Ben-Gurion declared Israel's independence when the British mandate officially ended. The US recognized the new state on the same day. The Soviet Union followed on May 17th. The Arab states had already agreed at a summit meeting of heads of state on April 30th to intervene in the war with regular forces in the event of the British withdrawal.

Offensives of the Arab states

Jordanian offensive

Map of the Arab offensives against Israel from May 15 to June 10, 1948
Soldiers and officers of the Arab Legion with Israeli prisoners
Israeli supply convoy on the Burma Road to supply Jerusalem

With the Arab Legion under the command of Glubb Pasha, Jordan had a military built according to British standards with around 9,000 soldiers, supported by 1,200 irregular auxiliaries. After troops of the Arab Legion took part in a massacre in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Etzion on the way from Jerusalem to Hebron on May 13, 1948 , in which 129 people were shot and a total of 157 people died, the main elements of the Legion advanced on May 15 across the Allenby Bridge in Palestine. The king was present in person. Days before, smaller units had infiltrated Palestinian territory. Abdullah's goal was not to destroy the newly created Jewish state, but to occupy as large a part of the territories as possible which the Palestinians were entitled to after the partition resolution. Jerusalem should not be attacked. At the urging of Arab notables in Jerusalem, Abdullah changed his mind on May 17th and ordered the attack on the Jewish part of the city. The Legion managed to conquer the besieged Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city in house-to-house fighting . After negotiations to surrender, the Legion allowed the Jewish civilian population to withdraw and captured the remaining defenders. The quarter was then completely destroyed, including Jewish sacred buildings, including the Hurva Synagogue . The Legion used violence to defend civilians and prisoners of war against attacks by Palestinians. In addition, troops of the Legion took over the positions around Latrun with the heavily fortified police station from units of the Arab Liberation Army. From Latrun they could control the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As a result, Israeli West Jerusalem was cut off from supplies and supplies. Thus, about 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem and a significant proportion of the Yishuv were by hostile forces trapped and particularly threatened because of scarce ammunition from the collapse of the defense. For example, against the will of the local commander Jigael Jadin , who was better able to assess the military situation , Ben-Gurion ordered three assaults by Israeli troops against Latrun up to June 9th . All attacks failed with great losses. The Arab Legion was able to hold the positions. To bypass Latrun and Bab el Wad , pioneer units built the Burma Road south of them in impassable terrain that was not controlled by Arabs and completed it on June 10th. This alternative route to Jerusalem was supplemented by a water pipeline. This enabled the Israelis to restore both civil and military supplies to West Jerusalem. For the remainder of the war, the Jordanian units remained strictly defensive. King Abdullah had achieved his limited goals. In addition, the Legion suffered from a massive ammunition shortage as the western states had imposed an embargo on the Middle East. In August 1948, the Legion only had artillery ammunition for around five days of fighting.

Iraqi offensive

Iraqi military units were stationed in Transjordan even before the war broke out. On May 15, a brigade with a tank battalion crossed the Jordan independently of the Arab Legion; they unsuccessfully attacked the Gescher kibbutz and then crossed back to Jordanian territory to regroup. Shortly thereafter, the unit took control of the Arab-inhabited triangle between Tulkarm , Nablus and Jenin . Only a few units of the Arab Liberation Army had previously claimed this area. It was strategically important because it was the ideal stepping stone to advance to the Mediterranean Sea and thus divide the State of Israel into two parts. The Iraqi troops were continuously reinforced, so that at their peak they comprised around 15,000 to 18,000 men. An Israeli attack by the Golani and Carmelite Brigades on Jenin failed after heavy fighting on May 28th. The Iraqi troops then remained passive, as no further orders were received from Baghdad.

Egyptian offensive

The Egyptian government sent an expeditionary force of around 10,000 men into the fighting for Palestine. It consisted of five infantry battalions and one tank battalion, equipped with British Light Tank Mk VI and Matilda vehicles . In addition, there were 24 guns, some of them heavy, as well as a machine gun battalion and a few units of combat support troops. The regular units were additionally supported by around 2,000 volunteers, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood , who had infiltrated the mandate area before the war broke out.

The commander of the Egyptian expeditionary forces, Major General Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi , planned two main thrusts. The smaller part was to advance through the Negev desert via Be'er Sheva to Jerusalem. This advance reached Ramat Rachel on May 23 on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem and was only stopped there by Israeli troops.

The greater part of the Egyptian armed forces, under the command of Al-Mwawi, was supposed to advance along the coast on Tel Aviv and encountered determined resistance in the Jewish settlements along the way. The fighters in Nirim and Kefar Darom could not withstand the advance of the Egyptians, but at Jad Mordechai , on the coastal road just beyond what is now the Gaza Strip , the attacking troops were held up for five days, from May 24th to 29th the defenders finally withdrew. During this time, the Israeli forces could be significantly strengthened. Several other Jewish settlements could also be conquered. The kibbutz Nitzanim between Ashkelon and Ashdod , which offered strong resistance, was bypassed and the Egyptian troops continued their advance. In the vicinity of Ashkelon, an advance to the east was even made, creating a corridor as a connection to the troops south of Jerusalem. This cut off two Israeli brigades in the Negev. The advance of Al-Mwawi's units was finally stopped north of Ashdod at a blown bridge by parts of the Giv'ati Brigade . Coincidentally, this front line of the furthest penetration into Tel Aviv was identical to the demarcation line of the UN partition plan, behind which the territory assigned to the Jewish state was to begin. At this point the Egyptian forces had shrunk to around 2,500 men. This, as well as the first use of the Avia S-199 fighter aircraft imported from Czechoslovakia , a modified replica of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 , and two light guns by the Israelis consolidated the front line.

Al-Mwawi, who feared that his troops would be in too exposed positions, handed over command at Ashdod to Brigadier General Muhammad Nagib . He himself personally led the operation to clear the bypassed settlement of Nitzanim and other remaining Israeli resistance nests behind the Egyptian front and was able to successfully complete them around June 7th.

Syrian offensive

Syrian volunteers in Palestine, 1948
Building of Kibbutz Degania after the fighting

Even before the official outbreak of the war, Syria had supported the Arab Liberation Army with soldiers and war material. On May 14th, the first Syrian troops entered the former mandate area south of the Sea of ​​Galilee . The original plan was a limited offensive to occupy and separate as much of the Galilee as possible . The main goal of the government, which was not publicly admitted, was not to support the pan-Arab war aims, but to obtain a territorial bargaining chip against a possible Jordanian expansion on Palestinian territory. The government under Quwwatli had deliberately kept the armed forces small in terms of numbers and equipment in the prewar period in order to prevent a coup. As a result, the political leadership assessed the chance of a decisive contribution to a possible victory as very slim.

Even before the war, the Syrians set up a supply depot near a bridge north of the lake to simulate a main attack north of the lake for the Israelis. The deception succeeded and Israel concentrated its mobile units north of the lake. The Syrian Expeditionary Army south of the lake comprised an infantry brigade, a battalion of armored vehicles and a company of Renault R-35 and Renault R-37 tanks . On May 18, the Syrian troops captured the village of Zemach south of the lake. In the following days they tried to conquer the two kibbutzim Degania Aleph and Bet. However, the outnumbered Israeli troops, reinforced by a battery of 65mm howitzers, were able to repel the attacks. The Syrians then withdrew to Zemach. On May 22nd, an Israeli commando destroyed the northern supply depot. This delayed the northern offensive that the Syrian army wanted to start after the retreat in the south. On June 6, a second brigade, again supported by tanks, advanced north of the lake. On June 10th she succeeded in conquering the settlement of Mishmar HaYarden. The further advance to the west failed because of Israeli resistance. The Syrians had not achieved their original goals, but were able to build two bridgeheads in the West Bank .

First truce

On May 22, the UN Security Council called for a two-day ceasefire for all warring parties. The Israeli side signaled approval, but the Arab states refused, hoping for a victory. On May 25, the Security Council appointed Count Folke Bernadotte and Ralph Bunche to act as mediators between the warring parties. Four days later, the Security Council again called for a four-week ceasefire. In addition, an arms embargo was imposed on both sides, as was an entry ban for people who wanted to join the fighting. The armistice demand was again rejected by the Arab side. The Lebanese Prime Minister Riad as-Solh summarized the main motive of the Arab leaders as follows: "Any Arab leader who would have unconditionally accepted the ceasefire [...] would have done so in the current state of public opinion at risk of his life." The Arab governments said only reports of successful combat operations to their media, so that the population was largely convinced that the war was going well for the Arab nations involved. The domestic political pressure on the Arab regimes was intensified by the fact that the Muslim religious leaders, above all al-Azhar University , propagated the confrontation with Israel through Fatawa as jihad and thus the complete annihilation of the Jewish state as a holy war and Muslim obligation to believe demanded. They did this not only before the Arab states officially entered the war, but also upheld this demand after the war.

On the Israeli side, the higher officer corps was unanimous in favor of a ceasefire in order to further arm the army and gain a respite. Bernadotte and Bunche finally succeeded in persuading both sides to agree to an armistice, which was to be observed from June 11, 1948. The Arab governments had realized that their armies needed rest, as did the Israeli forces. They also used the intervention of the great powers within the framework of the UN to acquit themselves in front of their public of responsibility for the course of the war.

The Israeli army used the four-week ceasefire to strengthen its armed forces. From May 14th to June 9th, the number of active soldiers rose from 35,000 to 65,000. These included numerous veterans from World War II , primarily from the United States , Czechoslovakia , Great Britain and Canada . The Israelis also managed to smuggle large quantities of weapons and military equipment past the UN's inefficient embargo oversight. This material came from illegal, informal trafficking in private individuals as well as the Eastern Bloc, which disregarded the embargo. The Hagana and later the Israeli armed forces were able to fall back on networks of functionaries and lobbyists of the Jewish Agency from the pre-war period. The weapons were mostly dismantled and imported by sea. The Soviet government approved the arms sale. The purchases in the Anglo-American area had to be carried out illegally. As a result, purchases from the Eastern bloc predominated. In total, around 25,000 rifles, 5,000 machine guns and 50 million rounds of ammunition reached Israel (see Operation Balak ). The Air Force was reinforced by Avia S-199 from Czechoslovakia and three Boeing B-17 bombers. Artillery and armored vehicles were also illegally imported. With the creation of the 8th (armored) Brigade and the 9th Brigade, the Israeli army increased its strength to a total of seven brigades.

Before the war, the Arab side was mainly dependent on British and French arms and ammunition deliveries, which were abruptly abolished with the embargo. Since they could not find any vendors to successfully circumvent the embargo, the Arab states could only reinforce their armies with personnel. With the exception of a few Sudanese soldiers, they also failed to win over foreigners who had not previously been involved in the conflict for their military.

Overall, the ceasefire proved fragile as both sides occasionally broke it in order to gain a tactical advantage for resuming hostilities. Arab soldiers shot at Israeli convoys to isolated settlements, and the Israeli troops used the time to carry out pinprick attacks. On July 6, the states of the Arab League decided in Cairo not to extend the ceasefire. Jordan, already realizing its territorial ambitions, was the only country to push for an extension. Because of the attitude of the other states, the Jordanian envoy nevertheless voted to resume the war.

The ten days war

Egyptian front

In the south, the Israeli forces planned an offensive to break the Egyptian territorial bridge between the Negev and the rest of Israel. However, on July 8, the Egyptians preceded the Israelis and launched a pre-emptive strike to prevent the Israeli offensive and to strengthen the territorial bridge between Majdal and Beit Jibril , thus further increasing the pressure on the Israeli troops in the Negev. The fighting culminated around Kibbutz Negba , which was defended by only around 100 Israeli soldiers. The kibbutz was held, despite the use of around 4,000 artillery and mortar shells from the Egyptian side. The fighting finally exhausted itself until the renewed armistice on July 18 in individual actions, in which neither side could gain a decisive advantage. The Egyptian army was emaciated and increasingly suffered from a lack of ammunition. Her commander, Al-Mwawi, saw her no longer capable of the offensive after ten days and described the military situation to his superiors in Cairo as grim. The Egyptian general asked the High Command in Cairo for permission to withdraw his troops on more favorable lines of defense. However, this was rejected for political reasons.

Northern front

The Arab Liberation Army was still operating in Galilee , while the Syrian Army still held the bridgehead at Mishmar Ha'Yarden. As part of Operation Dekel , which was carried out from July 8 to 18 by the 7th Panzer Brigade, a battalion of the Carmeli Brigade and parts of the Golani Brigade, the Israeli units succeeded in routing the remaining units of the Liberation Army . Al-Kawukji himself had tried to strengthen his units by recruiting men from the surrounding villages, but met with little response. The Israeli side, on the other hand, was able to persuade many Druze villages to cooperate, whose inhabitants were allowed to keep their weapons. The Arab Liberation Army had little support within the Arab city population, as it was often responsible for attacks on city dwellers. Christian Arabs were exposed to this to a greater extent. On July 16, Israeli troops entered Nazareth without a fight , whose notables had previously capitulated. Al-Kawukdschi moved his headquarters in the course of the operations to southern Lebanon, his army played no role in the further course. The attempts by the Israeli army to remove the Syrian bridgehead failed because of the Syrian resistance.

The Lebanese government had promised the Arab League that it would enter the war, but the officer in charge of the impending attack refused to obey orders. It remained in smaller reconnaissance operations without significant combat operations. In view of the inefficiency of the armed forces and the unwillingness of the Maronite population , the government decided to keep its own army on the defensive instead of going to war against Israel.

Jordanian front

Before the end of the armistice, King Abdullah sent a secret message to the Israeli government that he wanted to end the war. He did this contrary to his announcements before the Arab League that the war would continue. The Israeli side saw this as a ruse and expected an offensive by the Arab Legion against Tel Aviv. As a stepping stone, the Israeli military intelligence identified the space between Lydda and Ramla , where they mistakenly suspected 1,500 Legion soldiers. The Israeli army deployed its elite forces with three brigades (Harel, Yiftah, 8th Armored Brigade) for this task. In truth, Glubb had long assumed that the plain between the two cities could not be held. As a result, there were only 150 legionnaires there, supported by local militias. Glubb saw it as his main objective to defend the already occupied, hilly area of ​​the West Bank. King Abdullah expressly instructed Glubb to remain defensive and, so to speak, only wage a sham war. This strategy was dictated by the Legion's worsening ammunition shortage, along with political considerations. The Israeli side, for its part, was planning an advance against Lydda and Ramla, which would lead through Latrun and Ramallah . The goal was to open a second route, alongside the Burma Road to Jerusalem. This offensive, known as Operation Dani , began on July 10th. On the same day, Israeli forces captured Lydda and Ramla two days later. This brought the Tel Aviv International Airport , previously controlled by the Arabs, under Israeli control. The fronts stiffened as Glubb sent his reserves into battle. The Israeli attack on Latrun failed on July 16. As a result, the Israelis abandoned the goal of conquering Latrun and Ramallah. However, the offensive severely restricted the ability of the Arab Legion to fight. A quarter of the Legion had fallen since the invasion, and the ammunition crisis worsened with each day of fighting. As a result of the Israeli conquests, which went hand in hand with another exodus of Palestinians, demonstrations against King Abdullah broke out in Amman. Glubb Pasha has been denigrated to other Arab League governments as a British spy for propaganda purposes. Abdullah himself made no allegations of espionage, but tried to blame Glubb as a person for the Lydda case.

Second truce

Armistice Lines July - October 1948

On July 15, the great powers unanimously demanded another ceasefire in the UN Security Council. This was proclaimed in the UN resolution of July 18, 1948 and remained in force until October 15. The Arab heads of state were, on the one hand, inclined to a ceasefire due to the precarious military situation: the British government judged the situation in Jordan to be so threatened that it had weapons and other war material brought from its bases on the Suez Canal to Amman in order to be able to use it in the event of an Israeli advance Jordanian territory to support King Abdullah's army. Arab public opinion, on the other hand, viewed the pressure from the Security Council as a backlash on the Arab side. The Lebanese daily Al-Hayat, for example, commented on the resolution as follows: "No justice, no logic, no law, no equality, no understanding, but blind submission to everything Zionist." The Arab governments had indirectly promoted this willingness to go to war so far. They pursued a deliberate disinformation policy towards their media and their population , which , contrary to reality, showed the military situation in a very good light. The Israeli side hoped that the ceasefire would provide breathing space for further armament. At the same time, the Israeli government feared the displeasure of the great powers, because it was convinced that the future existence of the state would depend on the goodwill or neutrality of the great powers.

During the ceasefire, there was no significant fighting between the Israeli forces and the regular Arab armies. However, there were isolated armed attacks by Palestinians on soldiers and civilians south of Haifa in Israeli-controlled territory. The villages from which the attacks started refused to surrender to the Israelis. As a result, the Israeli forces bombed several villages and blew up numerous houses. The majority of the residents fled to Arab-controlled areas. Several hundred were displaced.

Both sides took advantage of the break in combat to strengthen their armed forces. The Egyptian army received support from three battalions of the Saudi army . The Jordanian army managed to replace the losses of the Arab Legion with new recruits. The Iraqi expeditionary forces were reinforced by additional units from their home country. The units on site also used the time to build field fortifications.

The Israeli armed forces were able to increase their strength by 20,000 to 85,000 soldiers through the influx of volunteers from abroad and the recruitment of recently arrived immigrants, and they managed to obtain arms from abroad by circumventing the embargo. Jigael Jadin came to the conclusion in October 1948 that the typical infantry unit now had more firepower than its Arab counterpart. The Israeli artillery had grown from five guns to around 150. In this way the Israelis managed to use the ceasefire more effectively than their Arab counterparts.

After the armistice expired, Israeli Lechi terrorists murdered UN chief mediator Folke Bernadotte. The four murderers were never caught. The Israeli government responded by disbanding the Lechi. However, its paramilitary members were not imprisoned, but integrated into the Israeli armed forces.

Israeli offensives until the end of the war

Destruction of the Egyptian armed forces

Israeli infantrymen with mortars in October 1948
Fight on the Egyptian front in October

The Egyptian commander in chief al-Mwawi regarded the situation of the expeditionary force as very precarious. His units were forced on the defensive, and Mwawi feared they could be cut off if Israel broke through the strip that cut off the Negev from the Israeli heartland or if they breached the coast. The Israeli leadership was aware of this, but saw their own situation as equally threatened. The Egyptians still held large parts of Palestine and threatened the Israeli heartland from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion feared that the current positions would prove to be the limits of the newly established state. He also saw an extension of the armistice as a danger, since the majority of Israeli material and human forces were tied up in warfare, while the Arab states - measured by their overall size - had only a low degree of militarization. On October 6, Ben-Gurion and the cabinet decided to attack the Egyptian expeditionary corps with the aim of routing the Egyptian army and thus throwing the first Arab warring party out of the conflict. Ben-Gurion set a very tight time frame of seven days for the army command, as he did not expect to be able to prevent a new armistice any longer.

The Israeli high command was initially divided on the implementation of the offensive. Chief of Staff Yadin planned frontal attacks on Gaza and Majdal. The Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Front, Jigal Allon , advocated the use of the indirect method . He envisaged breaking the road and communication links between the Egyptian units and gradually destroying them. When the compromise was finally reached, Allon was able to implement most of his ideas. Two Israeli brigades were to attack from the north. The Negev Brigade and another brigade were supposed to move from the actually enclosed enclave in the Negev from the south against the Egyptians. To this end, the Israeli high command infiltrated an entire brigade into the Negev by land and air, unnoticed by the Egyptians.

Although the Egyptian high command was aware that an Israeli attack was imminent, the Israeli air force managed to shut down the airfield in El Arish on the first day of the operation, October 15 , thus gaining control of the air for the duration of the operation secured. Before the air strikes, Egyptian forces fired at an Israeli convoy that had been ordered to expose themselves to such an attack in order to provide an occasion for attack. The following day, the Israeli army began its ground operations, and on the very first day it managed to break the blockade of the coastal road between Gaza and Majdal. The northern elements of the Egyptian expeditionary force were able to save themselves from the encirclement. Egyptian pioneers laid a kilometer-long road made of wire nets through the sand dunes on the coast to make an orderly retreat possible. The narrow strip of communication between the eastern and western wings of the Egyptian armed forces was broken just as quickly, and the Israelis were able to lock 4,000 Egyptian soldiers in the Falujah pocket. The eastern wing of the expeditionary force collapsed after a few days under Israeli pressure and withdrew in disorder. Al-Mwawi tried to consolidate his troops along a new line at the level of Gaza and Beer Sheva . With regard to the western wing, he also succeeded. Mwawi and his staff only narrowly escaped being encircled by Israeli troops. The eastern wing, however, could not hold Beer Sheva against the Israeli forces from the Negev. When a new UN ceasefire came into force on October 22nd, Mwawi radioed to Cairo that Egypt itself was now threatened and any prospect of success in Palestine was gone. The Egyptian high command initially tried to hide this fact from the allies, but nevertheless unsuccessfully asked Jordan and Iraq for help. The Israeli military secret service Aman had deciphered the Egyptian code in the course of the operation, and so the political leadership of Israel was fully aware of the collapse of their opponents.

The Israeli forces eventually advanced into Egyptian territory and captured the al-Arish airfield . The city itself was not attacked. As a result of the Egyptian collapse, the British government (Prime Minister: Clement Attlee ) stepped in and threatened Israel with military intervention if the Israeli army did not withdraw from Sinai . To reinforce the threat, Royal Air Force fighter jets patrolled the Sinai and Negev desert. As a result, the Israeli government ordered the withdrawal. On January 6, 1949, the last Israeli soldiers left Egyptian soil.

Offensive in Galilee

For strategic as well as historical reasons, the Israeli government considered Galilee indispensable for a viable Jewish state. The area was under the control of the Arab Liberation Army due to the high Arab population density. In October, Israeli forces succeeded in evicting remaining troops from the Arab Liberation Army and Syrian forces from the area. In order to create a territorial buffer and to destroy supply bases of the Arab Liberation Army, Israel occupied part of southern Lebanon . The Lebanese army did not offer any resistance.

Access to the Red Sea

Israeli Armored Unit of the Palmach , equipped with M4 Sherman , 1948

The last major operation by the Israeli forces took place in March 1949. Motorized units penetrated the Gulf of Aqaba and took the area around what is now Eilat . In doing so, the Israeli government secured access to the Red Sea and prevented a land bridge between Egypt and Jordan.

Armistice Agreement

After the Egyptian military was put on the defensive, it found itself in an extremely vulnerable position. The trapped brigade in Falujah would sooner or later be destroyed. The remaining units of the expeditionary force expected another Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The military and political leadership anticipated the total collapse of the army in the event of another Israeli attack. The political leadership feared a coup in this case. As a result, she agreed to negotiate. The Israelis saw in a ceasefire with Egypt, the most powerful Arab state, the chance that the other Arab states would follow suit.

The talks took place in Rhodes and were led by Bernadotte's successor, Bunche, as mediator. Initially Egypt wanted sovereignty over the Negev in addition to saving its own army. This would preserve the land bridge to Jordan. Israel called for a full withdrawal of Egyptian forces from Gaza. Bunche tried to use US diplomatic influence to weaken Israeli demands. However, the Israeli government used its diplomatic influence in Washington to prevent this from happening. As a result, the United States did not interfere in the talks. On February 24, 1949, a compromise was reached that satisfied both sides. The orderly withdrawal of the Falujah Brigade and the retention of Egyptian armed forces in former mandate territory in the Gaza Strip were concessions to Egypt. The Egyptians gave up their claims to the Negev. To prevent hostilities from flaring up again, a demilitarized zone was created around Al-Auja. On the Israeli and Egyptian sides, it comprised the main arteries between Israel and Sinai.

Territorial conditions according to the various armistice agreements

After Egypt officially withdrew from the war, the other Arab states gradually followed suit. The Lebanese government withdrew from the war on March 23, 1949 against a withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. The government also undertook not to station Syrian troops in southern Lebanon. Israel had thus created a small buffer zone on its northern border. The Jordanian government accepted the Israeli presence in the Gulf of Aqaba and signed on April 3, 1949. Syria signed on July 20. The Syrian government has called for territorial concessions, particularly control of the upper reaches of the Jordan . Israel did not want to agree to this with regard to the country's water supply. The two states finally agreed on the borders created by the war and a demilitarized zone along the Jordan.

The ceasefire agreements were not followed by permanent peace agreements, as no Arab government concluded a peace treaty with Israel or accepted Israel as a sovereign state. Iraq and Saudi Arabia even renounced a ceasefire agreement. Official talks were not held by the Arab governments for fear of further loss of face in front of their own people. In unofficial talks, King Faruq agreed to make peace in order to surrender the Negev desert . Syrian negotiators promised a peace agreement for the return of 300,000 refugees and territorial cessions on the Sea of ​​Galilee . In view of the dwindling ability of the Arab governments to act as a result of domestic political pressure, the Israeli government assessed the offers as unrealistic and showed no interest.

Between Jordan and Israel there were repeated minor skirmishes and mutual attacks along the border. They went so far that Israel set up its own unit for commando operations in the West Bank in 1954 . The first noticeable impact on civilians in Israel came from the Egyptian side when Gamal Abdel Nasser had guerrilla groups operated from his territory against Israel and financed them. From 1949 to 1956, 486 Israeli civilians were killed by irregular forces and terrorism. In 1956 the Israeli-British-French military attack took place in the Suez crisis .

After three other wars with Israel, Egypt finally concluded the peace treaty in 1979 , and Jordan followed in 1994 . There are still no peace agreements with Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Lebanon.


War victims

According to official Israeli data during the fighting 5,700 to 5,800 people were the Yishuv killed. Around 25% of them were civilians. This corresponded to around one percent of the total Jewish population at the time. The number of wounded was put at around 12,000. The number of Arab fatalities is controversial. Al-Husseini reported around 12,000 deaths after the war. There was no central documentation.

The official statistics from Egypt are 1400 dead and 3731 war invalids . However, these numbers are questioned in the historical literature. The Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian armed forces each recorded several hundred war deaths. The Lebanese army had to mourn a few dozen dead. In 1947 and 1948, the British troops had 174 fallen and 419 wounded.

Flight and expulsion of Arabs

Palestinian refugees from Galilee, 1948

Around 750,000 to 800,000 Palestinian Arabs, more than every second Arab resident, became refugees, most of them during the civil war before the intervention of the Arab states in the conflict. Around 65% of these remained within the boundaries of the mandate area. A total of 39% of the refugees remained in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank . In the Egypt-occupied Gaza Strip, 26% of the total fled. 14% crossed the border into Lebanon . 10% each remained in Syria or Transjordan .

The Arab High Committee as well as the Arab League tried to stop the mass exodus, but were not heard by the population. In several cases civilians have been asked to leave their homes by irregular or regular Arab troops. These requests corresponded to the intention to get civilians out of the battle area or to favor the formation of one's own troops. In several cases the aim was to prevent civilians from remaining in Israel as citizens. A minority has been displaced by Israeli forces. The majority fled for fear of the fighting as well as fear of the Israeli armed forces. First the wealthy elites, then the middle class, and later the poorer social classes. Israeli forces were involved in expulsions and isolated massacres. In addition, they used armed violence to prevent Arabs who had already fled from returning. This often happened when refugee farmers tried to collect their crops. In addition, shortly before the intervention of the Arab armies, they deliberately set the flow of refugees in motion in order to block the routes to Palestine. However, for reasons of foreign policy and moral scruples, a consistent policy of displacement was not announced. As a result, Arab minorities remained mainly around Jaffa and Haifa . At the turn of the millennium, these made up around a fifth of the Israeli population. The collapse of Palestinian society entered Arabic usage as the nakba (catastrophe) . The experience of flight and displacement as well as the will to return to the old homeland became central elements of the Palestinian identity.

The Arab armed forces, both regular armies and paramilitary forces, displaced residents of Jewish settlements in several cases. The same happened to the Jewish inhabitants of East Jerusalem. However, since the Arab armed forces were unable to penetrate into densely populated areas of the Yishuw, the number of refugees within the Jewish community remained marginal - and consequently the level of property destruction. Likewise, the Hagana and Arab militias, later the Israeli army and Arab troops, carried out smaller skirmishes and sniper operations on local initiative in order to control agricultural production areas. Unarmed civilians were sometimes shot at from both sides.

Jewish refugees from Iraq after their arrival in Israel, 1951

Escape and expulsion of Jews from Islamic countries

During and after the war there was a wave of pogroms in the Islamic world against the Jewish minorities living there. Violent riots broke out in Aden , Aleppo , Peshawar , Isfahan , Bahrain , Cairo , Beirut , Tripoli and Oujda , among others . This was followed by a wave of state repression in Egypt and Iraq. The civil rights of the Jewish residents were curtailed step by step, there were mass arrests of thousands of people because of their religious affiliation. As a result, some 500,000 to 600,000 Jews from Muslim countries fled to Israel during and after the war. 260,000 of them reached Israel between 1948 and 1951 alone and accounted for 56% of the total immigration of the newly established State of Israel. 600,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries were able to reach Israel by 1972. Most of them reached the young state completely penniless, as their home countries forbade them to emigrate and confiscated their property when they emigrated. The Israeli Air Force evacuated 43,000 Jews from Yemen by 1950. The massive immigration of the so-called Mizrachim created social tensions in Israel with the Ashkenazim immigrated from Europe, who were usually better educated and wealthier.

In addition, there were also refugee movements of Jews from Arabic-speaking countries to Europe and the United States. From the beginning of the war between Israel and the Arab states in 1948 until the early 1970s, between 800,000 and one million Jews were displaced or had to flee from their home areas in the Arab states.

Another fate of the Arab and Jewish refugees

Israel categorically refused to allow Arab refugees to return after the war. However, while the Israelis tried to integrate the Jewish newcomers as citizens, some Arab states refused to integrate Palestinian Arabs into their societies. These remained for decades, sometimes until today, in refugee camps as stateless persons. As a result, in some countries, like other stateless Arabs ( Bedun ), they were excluded from property rights, economic opportunities, educational opportunities and medical care. The low protection status proved precarious after the Second Gulf War , when around 450,000 Palestinians were again expelled from Kuwait alone in 1991 . Basic standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have not been recognized and have been massively violated.

The only Arab state to date that has offered Palestinian refugees full citizenship was Jordan . In 2010, around 1.4 of 4.76 million Palestinian Arabs recorded by UNRWA were still living in camps. In contrast, the Israeli state accepted the remaining Arabs as citizens with legal and political rights.

Destabilization of the Arab governments

The Arab public had taken up the war in an extremely emotional way. All Arab leaders expressed themselves in internal discussions about their fears that the pressure from the streets would not end the war, even when the military situation was already hopeless. As a result, all Arab regimes institutionalized strict press censorship. Because of this, setbacks were kept quiet in the state-controlled media and the military situation was knowingly misrepresented. This only led to greater dissatisfaction with their own political leaders among the population after news of the extent of the defeat abruptly penetrated the country.

The Egyptian government ordered the military not to send wounded soldiers to the Nile Delta as they feared word of mouth in the capital, Cairo. The Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmud an-Nukraschi Pasha was murdered in December 1948 by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood . The discontent of the Egyptian military culminated in the 1952 military coup led by Nasser and Nagib , both veterans of the Palestinian War .

In Transjordan there were demonstrations of several thousand people in Amman, which could only be dispersed through the intervention of the king. King Abdullah himself was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 1951, but the Hashemite dynasty was still able to secure its rule over Transjordan.

Due to the defeat in the war, the Syrian government lost a massive amount of legitimacy . In the military, displeasure with the political leadership spread, and the dismissal of the civilian government under Shukri al-Quwatli by the coup leader Husni al-Za'im in 1949 ushered in a phase of political instability.

The Lebanese Prime Minister Riyadh as-Solh was assassinated in 1949. As the last incumbent head of government during the war, the Iraqi Nuri as-Said was murdered in 1958 during the “ July 14th Revolution ”. The post-colonial Arab regimes, with the exception of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, were overthrown after the war.

According to Edward Said , the 1948 defeat was followed by increasing militarization and the development of an intolerant political climate within Arab societies. This has led to the neglect of civil institutions, open political discourse and the persecution of religious, political and ethnic minorities.

In addition to the destabilization of the old regimes, Arab public opinion developed that the United States had been partisan on Israel's side in the conflict. The reputation of Great Britain as a great and regulatory power in the region was also called into question.

Israeli statehood

The success of the Israeli armed forces led to the safeguarding of the Israeli statehood. Israel was able to secure a territory that was larger than that which the UN partition plan had provided (Galilee and the Negev). East Jerusalem with the Old City and the Western Wall remained under Jordanian control. The Arab states, which rejected the partition plan and the establishment of a Jewish state before the war, had to accept the facts created, even if they did not officially recognize Israel as a state. After the war, Jordan banned Jews from entering the Western Wall, a central shrine of the Jewish religion. The resulting Israeli state had control of 77% of the former mandate area, compared to 55% that had been granted to it under the partition plan. Large parts of the agricultural area of ​​the former mandate area were transferred to Jewish property through the expropriation of refugee Arabs.


The collective memory of the two sides of the war is very divergent. On the Israeli side, an official story emerged from eyewitness accounts, which focused very much on the history of the battle and which blamed the origin of the refugee problem primarily on the Arab side and based on an order to escape from the Arab government. In 1987, Simha Flappan , historian and politician of the Mapam party , initiated a change in historiography. He was followed by numerous so-called New Israeli historians who, by opening the Israeli archives, drew different conclusions than their predecessors, but also contradicted one another. Up until this debate, there was consensus in Israel that the mass exodus took place primarily on the orders of the Arab leaders, that the Israeli army was consistently outnumbered, and that the lack of peace agreements was solely due to the radicalism of the Arab warring parties. The reassessment of historical facts led to heated public debates in Israel about the correctness of the state's national narratives. The New Historians were often assumed by all parts of the party spectrum to have the political motive of wanting to delegitimize Israel. Older generation historians such as Anita Shapira and Efraim Karsh also accused their colleagues of political bias and technical deficiencies. Some New Historians like Ilan Pappé also publicly distanced themselves from Zionism , while others like Benny Morris publicly affirmed their loyalty to the Israeli state. Despite the debate, the new scientific findings prevailed. In 1999, textbooks for history lessons were introduced, which thematized the Nakba as an experience of the Palestinian people and an active role of the Israeli state and military in displacement during the war. The later Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke out in a campaign speech in 2001 in favor of banning the theses of the New Historians from school books.

Whether the Israeli government or the Israeli armed forces carried out a planned ethnic cleansing is controversial. The Israeli historian Benny Morris assumed an officially unconfirmed plan to evict civilians who actively supported the opposing side. Efraim Karsh sees the main responsibility in the aggressive politics of the Palestinian Arabs, but also admits an active role of the Israelis. His colleague Ilan Pappé even assumes that a planned eviction will be sought before the term of office.

On the Arab side, access to official archives is still largely blocked, and a historical and scientific analysis of their own sources has not yet taken place. The official historiography of the Arab states, if any, served to assign blame to other Arab states rather than for scientific investigation. In addition, there are a number of publications below scientific standards that primarily reflect personal experiences and collective memory. The historiography of Palestinian authors since the 1950s has often been devoted to preserving oral history and documenting the extent of displacement and loss. Aref al-Aref attempted a complete list of destroyed Arab settlements as early as the mid-1950s . In 1959, as a scientist of Palestinian descent, Walid Khalidi first challenged the official state version in public. He was also of the opinion that one should speak of two wars because of the divergent war goals of the Palestinians and the Arab states. The Palestinian historiography and social narratives have been criticized by Western scholars for attributing the status of a passive victim to their side.

A scientific elaboration on the role of the British armed forces in the civil war is largely lacking.

Media processing

In 1958, Leon Uris published the historical novel Exodus , which describes the story of the refugee ship of the same name and the war. The novel was made into a film in 1960 . In 1966 the Hollywood film The Giant's Shadow was completed, which thematizes the fictionalized story of David Marcus , an ex-US officer in the Israeli armed forces. In 1972 there was a journalistic review with the title O Jerusalem by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre . The book was filmed in a Franco-British co-production in 2006.

The youth novel Zeit für die Hora , which deals with immigration and the time after the founding of the state, received the German Youth Literature Prize in 1989 .

In 1981 Israeli television published a documentary about the civil war in the mandate called Amud Ha-Esh (German: "Pillar of Fire") and in 1998 a documentary series about the war against the Arab armies called T e ḳumah (תְּקוּמָה / German: "Resurrection") .

See also


Web links

Commons : Palestine War  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rashid Khalidi: The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure. In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007 2 , pp. 12, 19, 24.
  2. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 9-11.
  3. Tom Segev: Once upon a time there was a Palestine - Jews and Arabs before the founding of the state of Israel. 4th edition, Munich 2005, p. 216 f.
  4. ^ Rashid Khalidi: The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure. In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007 2 , pp. 12, 19, 24.
  5. Tom Segev: Once upon a time there was a Palestine - Jews and Arabs before the founding of the state of Israel. 4th edition, Munich 2005, p. 127 f.
  6. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 12-15.
  7. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008; P. 15; Original text in English: "I would prefer that the country remain impoverished and barren for another hundred years, until we ourselves are able to develop it on our own."
  8. ^ Rashid Khalidi: The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure. In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007 2 , pp. 21-38.
  9. a b c d Albert Hourani: The history of the Arab peoples. 3rd edition, Frankfurt am Main, 2001, pp. 437-440.
  10. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 12.
  11. a b c Rashid Khalidi: The Palestinians and 1948: the underlying causes of failure. In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007 2 , pp. 21-38.
  12. ^ Efraim Karsh: The Arab Israeli Conflict - The Palestine War 1948. Oxford 2002, p. 16.
  13. ^ Efraim Karsh: The Arab Israeli Conflict - The Palestine War 1948. Oxford 2002, p. 21.
  14. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War New Haven 2008, pp. 18-23.
  15. ^ Efraim Karsh: The Arab Israeli Conflict - The Palestine War 1948. Oxford 2002, p. 17.
  16. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 18-29.
  17. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 423.
  18. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 27-38.
  19. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 396 f.
  20. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 395; Statement by Matiel Mughannam, original text in English: “The UN decision has united all Arabs, as they have never been united before, not even against the Crusaders. ... [A Jewish State] has no chance to survive now that the 'holy war' has been declared. All the Jews will eventually be massacred. "
  21. a b c Avi Shlaim: Israel and the Arab Coalition. In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007 2 , pp. 81 f., 85 f.
  22. a b c Efraim Karsh: The Arab Israeli Conflict: The Palestine War 1948. Oxford 2002, p. 25.
  23. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 403 f.
  24. ^ A b c Arnold Krammer: The Forgotten Friendship - Israel and the Soviet Bloc 1947-53. Urbana 1974, pp. 54-61.
  25. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 206.
  26. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 93-197.
  27. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 157-161.
  28. ^ Original quote in Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven, 2008, p. 159 f .; Original text in English: "I gathered the Jewish mukhtars [headmen], wo had ties with the different Arab villages, and I asked them to whisper in the ears of several Arabs that giant Jewish reinforcement had reached the Galilee and were about to clean out the villages of Hula, [and] to advise them, as friends, to flee while they could. And the rumor spread throughout the hula that the time had come to flee. The flight encompassed tens of thousands. "
  29. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 242.
  30. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 180-187.
  31. ^ PM Brown: The recognition of Israel. In: American Journal of International Law. Vol. 42, no. 3, July 1948, p. 620.
  32. ^ A b Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 219-232.
  33. ^ Mark Daryl Erickson, Joseph E. Goldberg, Stephen H. Gotowicki, Bernard Reich, Sanford R. Silverburg: An Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict , Greenwood, 1996, ISBN 0-313-27374-X ; P. 149.
  34. ^ A b Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 207-211.
  35. Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War. Lincoln 2004, p. 271 f.
  36. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 211-219.
  37. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, p. 250. Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War - Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991. Lincoln 2004, pp. 149-155.
  38. ^ A b c Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War - Military Effectiveness, 1948–1991. Lincoln 2004, pp. 14-27.
  39. ^ Efraim Karsh: The Arab Israeli Conflict - The Palestine War 1948. Oxford 2002, p. 56.
  40. a b Central Welfare Office for Jews in Germany e. V .: The War of Independence ( Memento from February 28, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  41. Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War - Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991. Lincoln 2004, pp. 448-457; Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 188, 255, 258.
  42. Joshua Landis: Syria and the Palestine War: Fighting King 'Abdullah's "Greater Syria Plan". In: Eugene L. Rodan, Avi Shlaim (Eds.): The War for Palestine. Cambridge 2007, pp. 180 f., 196 f.
  43. Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War - Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991. Lincoln 2004, pp. 448-457; Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 188, 255, 258.
  44. a b c d e f g Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 264-271.
  45. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008; P. 266. Original text in English: "Any Arab leader who had accepted the ceasefire appeal unconditionally [...] would, in the present state of public opinion, have done so at risk of his life."
  46. ^ Benny Morris: 1948 - A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven 2008, pp. 232, 394, 395.
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