What were the causes of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war? By Jakob Johnson

Southwest Asia, 1948

On May 14, 1948, after a 1947 United Nations ruling for the partition of Palestine into separate Muslim and Jewish states, Israel declares independence. Soon after, Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon allied against the state. This led to a violent war spanning the next year.

1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence

We'll be taking a look at three primary causes of this conflict. First, we'll be looking at how Nazi Germany attributed to this conflict. Then, we'll look at Muslim-Jewish differences over Jerusalem. And, lastly, we'll look at the involvement of powers like the U.S. and the U.N. and Arabic perception of their participation.

Germany, 1930s

In the 1930's, as Nazism spread and Hitler rose to power, Jews were encouraged to migrate from Germany. And, many did. By 1939, 282,000 had immigrated, 60,000 going to Palestine. This produced a quick change in the demographics of the area, which at the time was primarily Muslim. Eventually, this in combination with the vast differences in the religions would lead to major conflict between the Arab states and the Jewish nation of Israel.


Differing Views in Muslim and Jewish Cultures

One of the biggest points of conflict between the Muslim and Jewish religions is over their stakes in Jerusalem; both feel it is a sacred land. And because of this, both groups sought out to inhabit this land. Many Jews migrated from Europe to seek its safety, but were greeted with hostility by Muslims. As conflicts like this one grew, separation became the only clear solution.

United Nations General Assembly, 1947

At the U.N. General Assembly in October of 1947, a ruling ordered a partition of the state of Palestine into separate Muslim and Jewish states. However, Palestine, as well as numerous other Arab states did not take this lightly. They felt that it was not the decision of the United Nations nor Europe's, nor the United States'. Additionally, they felt that in this assembly, they had hardly been heard out. This was a major problem when Israel declared independence in 1948.


The Muslim-Jewish war was rooted in differences between two very different cultures after major migration flows of Jews to Southwest Asia. The war was also caused in part by a rather ill response to the United Nations 1947 ruling.

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