It often takes a crisis to focus the mind. Until now I had paid little attention to the Israel - Palestine question, dismissing it as a religious struggle, a humanitarian crisis, and something unlikely to be solved while people still believe in god, or that they have a god given right to anything. Perhaps I haven't changed my mind, but I thought it was worthwhile trying to understand the history of the problem.
I am not going to start with scripture, there is little point. Things only start to become relevant after the Great War. Between 1917-1948 the territory was administered by the British Mandate for Palestine. The mandate declared:
"Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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 latter section of this statement is either the greatest paradox in history, or the most blatant and dangerous lie ever told.
Things then started to hot up after the Second World War. The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946 was a joint attempt by Britain and the United States to agree on a policy regarding the admission of Jews to Palestine. In April, the Committee reported that its members had arrived at a unanimous decision. The Committee approved the American recommendation of the immediate acceptance of 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe into Palestine. As you can imagine, 100,000 people moving into a country was likely to cause problems. Britain therefore referred the matter to the UN.
In 1947 the UN created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). UNSCOP recommended a partitioning of the territory. The USSR and USA were keen supporters, the Arab League, unsurprisingly, was not. Britain refused to implement the plan, arguing it was not acceptable to both sides. Britain also refused to share the administration of Palestine with the UN Palestine Commission during the transitional period, and decided to terminate the Mandate on 15 May 1948.
The following day the Israeli Declaration of Independence was issued. One part stands out:
"The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people—the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe—was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in 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 led immediately to the 1948 Arab Israeli War, during which Israel increased its territory by 50%.
Much of this article is a distillation from various Wikipedia articles. Apologies.