The Ottomans were a ruling dynasty (family) of Turks who had a large empire in both Europe and Asia from the 1400s to 1922. The Turks are an Asian people who migrated to Arabia and Europe, became Muslim, conquered the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), and ruled Palestine and the rest of Arabia for five hundred years. The leader of the Ottomans was a sultan, what we would call a king.
The Rise of Nationalism and World War I
Before the 1700s, people were content to live in empires or kingdoms and did not consider it important if their leader spoke the same language as they did, or if they had the right to vote. In the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, however, people throughout the world began to see themselves as part of nations, with the right to have their own countries. Historians call this idea nationalism. Both Arabs and Jews began to dream of their own, independent country in Palestine.
During World War I, the people of Palestine wanted to separate from the Ottoman Empire and form their own countries. The Ottoman Empire fought alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, and the U.S.A.). Wanting to weaken the enemy, Great Britain made a secret promise to the Arabs (known as the Husayn-McMahon understandings) that if they attacked the Ottomans, the Arabs in Palestine would have their own state. At about the same time, British foreign minister issued the Balfour Declaration announcing British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. And, secretly, Great Britain and France agreed to carve up the Arab provinces once the Ottomans were defeated.
The British Mandate, 1920 – 1948
The Allied Powers defeated the Ottoman Empire and established the League of Nations. Allied political leaders wanted The League of Nations to be an organization that resolved world conflicts peacefully. The League of Nations split up the Ottoman Empire into separate areas controlled by Britain and France. Palestine was defined as the area west and east of the Jordan River, and given to the British to control. In 1921, the British split this area in two. The area east of the Jordan River became the country of Jordan. West of the Jordan River became an area of great conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. Both wanted to realize the British promise of having their own country.
The 1930s and World War II were catastrophic for Jews. In 1933, the N.A.Z.I. Party in Germany won a plurality of the vote, and Hitler quickly took dictatorial power. Hitler blamed nearly all of Germany’s problems on Jews and over the next 12 years the Germans and various Europeans murdered over 6,000,000 Jews in Europe. Throughout these years, Jews tried to escape to various countries, however, they were rejected in many instances. For their survival, many fled to Palestine with the hope of building their own country.
In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, the United Nations voted to establish two countries west of the Jordan River; a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab country. The Jews accepted this plan, but the Palestinians and surrounding Arab countries did not.
1. Who were the Ottomans?
2. What is nationalism?
3. How did nationalism affect the Jews and Palestinians?
4. What happened to the Arab provinces after the Ottomans were defeated?
5. What did the United Nations vote to establish in 1947?