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Partition: November 29, 1947

November 29, 1947, at 5:50 p.m. EST, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution that would divide the Land of Israel between a Jewish and an Arab state. Thirty-three nations voted in favor, 13 in opposition and ten abstained. Rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, supported partition. The UN would recognize a small, but nonetheless soon-to-be Jewish State, which would follow the British evacuation on May 14. The world body that would be a repository for so much hostility towards Israel over the next 76 years apparently experienced a moment of common sense and sound judgment.

With the long awaited prospect of Jewish statehood now a reality, Jews rejoiced and danced throughout that night. People embraced and offered congratulations. At a gathering at the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, David Ben Gurion called for everyone gathered to sing the Hatikvah. Jewish Agency official, Golda Meyerson (Meir) assured those Holocaust survivors still languishing in displaced persons camps in Europe and Cyprus that “together with us, you will live in a free Jewish state.”

According to UN Resolution 181, the Jews would soon receive a small sliver of land consisting of the Negev Desert, a large portion of the coast and parts of the Galilee region, which made up about twelve percent of the original Jewish home called for by the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Jerusalem was designated as an international city. Those Jewish communities outside the designated Jewish controlled areas would become incorporated into the proposed Arab state. As Jews of the yishuv celebrated and danced horas, their lives were in jeopardy with escalating Arab opposition.

Arab UN delegations reacted swiftly, expressing opposition. Ambassador Amir Arslan of Syria proclaimed, that his nation, “will never recognize such a decision,” Ambassador Jamali of Iraq, declared that resolution 181, “Undermines peace, justice and democracy,” as they and their Arab colleagues abruptly walked out of the halls of the UN in Lake Success, New York, in protest. Almost immediately, Arab labor strikes in Palestine were called, and acts of terror were launched against Jews throughout the Palestine Mandate.

In the first month following the UN vote, 118 Jews were killed and 217 were wounded. Civilians on the streets, convoys to cities, institutions such as medical clinics were attacked. Violence also extended into the Arab world as Jewish communities there were physically attacked. In the Yemenite city of Aden, anti-Jewish riots broke out with reports of 82 Jews killed and 74 wounded. In Tripolitania, Libya, 130 Jews were murdered.

Soon, the Arab Legion of irregular troops led by Nazi-trained commandos Hassam Salameh and Abdul Kader Husseini, nephew of the infamous Mufti, Amin Al Husseini, led the Arab campaign of violence and terror while the surrounding Arab nations preferred to wait until the British evacuation before launching an invasion. On February 11, a bombing on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem killed and wounded hundreds.

As attacks against the Jews were waged, troops of the Haganah and Irgun came to the defense. Jerusalem and its 100,000Jews faced a siege, with supply routes under assault and supplies dangerously low.

The Jewish State, given international approval but not yet officially born, was fighting for its very existence.

United Nations resolution 181 represented the rebirth of the Jewish State and simultaneously dealt a crushing blow to the proposed two-state solution, which was rejected by Arab leadership.

Seventy-six years later, Israel thrives but still faces dangerous threats. Today, significant dangers come from the Iranian regime and its terror proxies who have caused devastation and threaten the well-being of the Jewish State.

Resolution 181 and the process of Jewish statehood that it helped put into motion should be remembered, as well as the lessons from that triumphant yet traumatic era.


Larry Domnitch is the author of “The Impact of World War One on the Jewish People” by Urim Publications. He lives in Efrat.

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