How did Zionism and Arab nationalism represent the quest for modernization in the 20th century, and how did the British mandate in Palestine affect them?

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The quest for modernization in the twentieth century is related to several tendencies in human thought and activity having roots as far back as the European Enlightenment. In the case of both Zionism and Arab nationalism, the striving for equal rights for all people regardless of background and the drive for ethnic and religious self-determination were manifestations of modernization that were, perhaps paradoxically, both strengthened and frustrated by the British Mandate in Palestine.

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With the collapse of several empires as a result of World War I, numerous nation-states were born. The idea that a country should be organized along ethnic lines had existed for some time. However, the numerous empires in Europe and elsewhere meant that this idea had mostly existed as pure theory. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the war, various Arab nationalities which had previously been under Turkish rule had the chance to create new nations based on their national identity.

However, despite their promises that Arabs would be given autonomy over their lands in exchange for fighting the Ottomans, the French and British reneged on their agreement. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, in which the French and British agreed on spheres influence and a partition of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat, meant that Arabia was divided up into various British and French mandates. This included the British mandate in Palestine. These imperialistic pursuits went counter to much of the drive for modern nation-states in the twentieth century.

European Jews had been coming to Palestine in significant numbers since the nineteenth century. The Ottomans generally permitted this. During the period of the British mandate, both Palestinian Arabs and Jews in the region began to promote the notion of the creation of modern nation-states. Even before the end of WWI, hopes for a sanctioned Jewish homeland in Palestine were fed by the Balfour Declaration. This public statement by the British government that it would support a Jewish homeland never came to fruition. When the territory fell into their hands, the British found themselves reluctant to grant statehood to the territory. They even made efforts to curtail further Jewish settlement there, as they did not want to antagonize the Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs, there and elsewhere, were also frustrated by the hesitancy of the British to give up control and grew resentful of being under the thumb of yet another empire.

In retrospect, British control helped preserve the fragile peace in the region. When the mandate ended in 1948 and the United Nations established the nation of Israel, the neighboring Arab nations all attempted to invade. This ended in their failure. However, it did not end the tensions and deep animosity that still exists in this region.

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Modernization is a term that can be applied to many different activities and tendencies among people. The establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the subsequent independence of Israel, were events that could not have occurred without the convergence of several "modern" tendencies in political and social life in the decades before the Allied victory in World War I. It was this victory that ended the control of the Ottoman Empire over Palestine and most of the Middle East.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, as a result partly of the Enlightenment which had taken place even earlier, ethnic self-determination became a major goal of the European peoples and eventually people in all continents. The term basically means that all ethnic or national groups should have the right to control their own destinies rather than being governed by foreign powers or other nations. The nation-state became a political and social ideal.

In Europe at the time of Napoleon's final defeat in 1815, much of the continent did not conform to this ideal. In other words, in many cases, the convergence of a national or ethnic group within a unified political entity hadn't yet been achieved. The German-speaking peoples were not united but were split up among many principalities. The same was true of the Italians. In central Europe, many of the Slavic national groups, such as the Czechs, Slovaks, and Poles, did not have their own countries and were governed by German-speaking Austrians and (in the case of Poland) by Russia. In addition, of course, the Jewish population of Europe, despite its gradual liberation from the harsh restrictions under which they had lived for centuries, had no national homeland or nation-state of their own.

The situation in the Middle East and North Africa at the time was analogous in some respects to that of Europe. The Arabic-speaking peoples did not have a country of their own but were part of the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, though the local Arab rulers had always been given a wide degree of autonomy by the Turkish leadership of the empire. With the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were dismantled.

In Europe, the settlement after the war granted independence to the "smaller" European nationalities that had been ruled by outsiders and who had been affected, like all of Europe, by the wave of nationalistic and liberal thought that had been growing through the course of the nineteenth century. During the same period, as a result of the ongoing antisemitism in Europe that came to a head in the Dreyfus Affair, Jewish leaders such as Theodore Herzl felt it was impossible for the Jewish people to have any real freedom or self-determination without having a nation-state of their own. The ancestral homeland of the Jewish people in Palestine, then still a part of the Ottoman Empire, became the focus of their efforts to create a nation-state.

Once the Ottoman Empire had fallen, the victorious European powers established "mandates" over much of the non-Turkish Middle Eastern territory that had been part of the Empire. France took control of what has become Syria and Lebanon, and Britain took control of Palestine, "Transjordan" (now Jordan), and the territory that became Iraq. These divisions were in some sense artificial constructs. Palestine presented a special case, because both the Jewish and Arab peoples wished to establish a state of their own on this territory. The Arab peoples, in addition, had the long-term goal of a unified kingdom that would recreate the Arab hegemony over the Middle East and North Africa that had existed in the Middle Ages.

The Jewish and Arab populations can be said to have had the goal of modernization in creating these (at the time) hypothetical nation-states, since the nation-state was the ideal "modern" political entity. The British hindered, or delayed, their goals by refusing until 1948 to relinquish control over Palestine. Yet at the same time, without the British–French victory in World War I, it might never have been possible for either a Jewish or an Arab state to be created there, since the Ottoman Empire could theoretically have continued indefinitely.

The Arabs, perhaps with good reason, accused the European powers of deliberately blocking their efforts to create a country of their own that would encompass all the Arab territories of the former Empire. At the same time, Jewish leaders wanted the British out of Palestine so that an independent Israel could be created. This goal, of course, was realized in 1948, though the UN plan to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states was not carried out. When the British, who had paradoxically enabled the liberation of Palestine from Ottoman rule, were finally forced to leave, the Israeli War of Independence resulted in the state of Israel while the Arab powers at the time, defeated militarily, took control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan river. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israeli took control of these territories as well, while at the same time, the Arab peoples, long liberated from European control, continued to have their own independent states in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the North African countries.

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In what ways were both Zionism and Arab nationalism representative of the quest for modernization, and how were they either advanced or frustrated by the British mandate in Palestine?

The British mandate was an inevitable result of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. For centuries, Palestine and the majority-Arab territories elsewhere had been semi-autonomous provinces of an empire centrally ruled by the Ottoman Turks. With the victory of the Allies (Britain, France, and from 1917, the US), in 1918, the Empire was dissolved, with the supposed intention of granting independence eventually to its constituent territories based on the principle of ethnic self-determination, as was to be applied in Europe as well.

Zionism and Arab Nationalism were both partly founded on the modern concept of the nation-state. Since the early nineteenth century, in Europe and elsewhere, intellectuals and political leaders had believed increasingly that each ethnic group or nationality should have its own unified country and therefore control its political destiny. This became an ideal, as opposed to the situation where, in various cases, national groups were split up into many different small states (as Germany and Italy were before 1870) or existed within a multiethnic empire, such as Austria (from 1867, Austria-Hungary) and Ottoman Turkey, where one dominant nationality ruled over the others.

Both the Arab and Jewish peoples wanted to realize this ideal. The unfortunate thing was that they both claimed "Palestine" as the territory on which they intended to build their nation-state. The Arabs, additionally, had the goal of creating a vast, united state including all of the majority Arab territories, from North Africa to the Middle East and the Arabian peninsula. Palestine was only a small part of this, but Arab nationalists were unwilling to share it with any other group. The British mandate merely delayed the conflict between Arabs and Jews, which broke out in full force in 1948.

Had the British not established their mandate (not only over Palestine but Iraq and Jordan as well, just as the French did with Syria and Lebanon), it's difficult to know what the outcome would have been. If the British had just packed up and left the region after defeating the Ottoman forces, it's possible the Middle East would have been plunged immediately into an even greater state of unrest, with all the religious and ethnic groups—Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Arab, and even Turkish—trying to gain or regain Palestine and other territories. It may have turned out similarly to the situation in Asia Minor, where Turks and Greeks were engaged in warfare for years after World War I had ended. In any event, as stated, British control from 1917 to 1948 only temporarily kept the peace, without resolving the conflict that still exists today over Israel/Palestine.

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In what ways were both Zionism and Arab nationalism representative of the quest for modernization, and how were they either advanced or frustrated by the British mandate in Palestine?

The term modernization, when used in the context of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, generally refers to the advancements in the productive forces brought about by industrial capitalism. Zionism was brought to Ottoman Palestine with the assistance of the British Empire. Britain was to a large degree motivated by a desire to secure the Suez Canal and ensure the dominance of the canal by British trade ships, which were loaded with raw materials extracted from colonies such as British-controlled India. The canal had become crucial for the cheap and efficient transport of these resources, allowing smooth passage from the Indian Ocean and Red Sea into the Mediterranean, often destined for factories in the industrial cities of Great Britain.

The Zionist settlers who arrived in Palestine served as insurance for the financial oligarchs in London, solidified with the Balfour Declaration, which established the former Ottoman lands as a British Mandate. The Zionists, often fleeing persecution in Tsarist Russia, learned the procedure and the mentality of European colonialism from their British sponsors in a case where the oppressed became an oppressor. Zionist settlers, like the early Europeans in North America, sought after land that they could develop for profit. The land and its resources would be used as capital, and from that basis, industry could be developed. The Zionist vision did not include the people who already lived on the land. In fact, Arab nationalism and Arab identity could only develop as a national liberation struggle against British and Zionist imperialism. The imperialist powers of Europe and their respective colonies existed by exporting finance capital to their colonies, and although the expansion of capital did introduce industrial capitalism to the colonies, it was always at their expense. British railroads in India transported materials for British industrialists, not for Indians. Similarly, the Zionist settlements were established as profitable enterprises which sought to monopolize the resources of Palestine.

Imperialism tends to prevent the natural development of a national and indigenous bourgeois class, who would normally act as a force of progress and would develop the productive forces themselves. But the Palestinian Arabs, beset by the British and their pawns from Eastern Europe, effectively formed a national identity, refusing to be exiled from their own land. For this reason, Arab nationalist states such as Baathist Syria and Iraq, would become models the Palestinians would admire, and these states became sponsors of the Palestinian resistance. Even outside of the Arab world, the Islamic Revolution would take up the Palestinian cause as well, due to the fact that the Iranian Revolution was an event where the national bourgeois forces in the country removed a dictator who represented the interests of foreign monopoly capital. Therefore, when it comes to Arab nationalism in regards to Palestine, manifestations of Arab nationalism in this conflict have similar dialectical relationships as other exploitative relationships between imperialist states and their colonies.

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