The Second World War was the first major outbreak of Palestinian-Zionist hostilities. Although Palestine remained the target of Zionist agenda during World War I as well, but it was the Second World War which benefitted Jews the most. During the First World War, Israel provided hidden support to those countries which would later help them in achieving their targets in the Middle East. By the time World War II started, a decent population of Jews had already migrated to Palestine. During the war, different Jewish military organizations such as Haganah, IZL, and Stern Gang remained active in the region. Israel used both diplomatic channels and armed forces to strengthen their position in Palestine. Despite a phase of British-Israel tension during the War, the Zionists managed to achieve their political motives. The Jews gained international sympathies due to the Holocaust while Zionist propaganda against the pro-Nazi role of Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini also worked in their favor. Frequent acts of violence took place in Palestine during the War, marking the beginning of its troublous times.
During World War II, the Jewish Agency completely dishonored the 1939 White Paper issued by British government, which outlined the steps related to Jewish immigration into Palestine. The White Paper included the following major recommendations:
- Ten years after the release of the paper, Palestine will be given conditional independence. It will function as a unitary state.
- For five years, 10,000 Jewish immigrants can enter Palestine on an annual basis. Further immigration will be subjected to Arab acquiescence.
- Palestinian land will be protected from Zionist acquisition and safety of the citizens will be ensured by both the parties.
Since the White Paper was a major blow for the Zionist agenda, they never accepted it. The outbreak of World War II deteriorated the situation even further as Jews came out in the open to oppose the Paper and continued their illegal migration to Palestine. David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, went as far as saying:
“We will fight the White Paper as if there is no war, and fight the war as if there is no White Paper.”
Despite Jewish attitude towards this policy paper, WWII saw a brief period of close British-Jewish military cooperation mainly due to Churchill who was a Zionist sympathizer. Around 20-25,000 Jews illegally migrated to Palestine in a period of five years from 1940 to 1945. By December 1945, Jewish population increased to 31% while their registered landownership rose to 6.0% of area of country. It is noteworthy here that much of this illegal immigration was carried out by three Jewish military organizations, Haganah, IZL, and Stern Gang who played a significant role in ensuring Jewish control on Palestine during and after WWII.
Haganah, also known as Irgun HaHaganah (means defense), was the Jewish defense organization which was declared illegal during the British Mandate period. It mainly remained a part of Jewish Brigade and fought with the Allied forces during the Second World War. Haganah began its major operations against Palestinian Arabs after 1947 and carried out illegal Jewish immigration on a large scale. It also formed the nucleus of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which was established in 1948 to unleash brutal force on the Palestinian citizens. IZL and Stern Gang (also known as Lehi) were especially active in Palestine during and after World War II. They were mainly targeting British authorities then but were later integrated into IDF in 1948. While the war ended in Europe in 1945, these military organizations continued their activities against Palestinians which clearly hinted at the hidden motives of Jews to capture the land. So much so that in 1946 a British White Paper on terrorism was issued which condemned the acts of sabotage and violence carried out by Haganah, IZL and Stern Gang in Palestine.
While different regions of the world faced the hazards of World War II, Palestinian Arabs had to lose a lot more than just their land. The clever moves of Jews during the War paved the way for the creation of Israel and made Palestine a battlefield for many decades to come. It also invoked nationalist passions among the Palestinian Arabs and they shown full resistance against the illegal Jewish occupation. By 1939, the resistance developed into a full-scale revolt and the struggle continues even today.