On 29th November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for the partition of Palestine into two separate states associated together in an economic federation.

The partition was for the Jews a fulfilment of their yearning for a national homeland and they joyfully welcomed the UN resolution, despite the fact that the proposed Jewish state would contain only slightly more Jews than Arabs.

Golda Meir, destined to be a future prime minister, told thousands of revellers, “Our hands are extended in peace to our neighbours.”

In the Arab cities however there were violent demonstrations against what was seen as a shameful surrender of a part of the perceived pan-Arab patrimony by a foreign invader. The response of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective ‘government’ of the Palestinian Arabs, headed by the militant ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, was all out war.

During the period between the UN resolution and the declaration of the state of Israel by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, the former Mufti’s forces, together with a sizeable pan-Arab force, launched thousands of attacks on their Jewish neighbours in an endeavour to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel. This failed and by the time the British Commissioner left the country Palestinian Arab society had all but disintegrated, and 300,000 to 400,000 Arabs fled their homes to become refugees in neighbouring Arab states. Within hours of the state of Israel being declared on the 14th of May 1948, Israel came under attack by Arab regular armies. This further aggression proved to be equally counter-productive. Instead of driving the Jews into the sea as they had promised, the Arab armies were outfought and as a result, the borders of the state of Israel were enlarged. By this time the number of Arab refugees had risen to about 600,000.

Arab leaders to this day continue to claim that Israel was responsible for forcing the Palestinian Arabs to flee and insist that these refugees and their descendants should have the “right of return” to their homeland, just like the Jews. Such a course of action at the time would have made the Jews a minority in their own country.

In his book, Efraim Karsh, Professor and Head of the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program, Kings College, London tells the story from both the Arab and Jewish perspectives. He argues that from the early 1920s onward, a corrupt and extremist Arab leadership worked toward eliminating the Jewish national revival and protecting its own interests. Karsh has examined many Western, Soviet, UN, and Israeli documents declassified over the past decade, as well as unfamiliar Arab sources, to reveal what happened behind the scenes on both the Palestinian and Jewish sides. It is an arresting story of delicate political and diplomatic manoeuvring by leading figures – Ben Gurion, Hajj Amin Husseini, Abdel Rahman Azzam, King Abdullah, Bevin, and Truman – over the years leading up to partition, through the slide to war and its enduring consequences.

As a result of the corrupt Arab leadership and its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist there have been many missed opportunities for peace. Palestinian refugees continue to live in misery isolated from the mainstream societies in the countries in which they live.

Israel has also suffered and in recent times Palestinian groups have been successful in influencing world opinion, portraying Israel as an aggressor, illegally occupying Palestinian land. A country whose government maintains a policy of apartheid and that discriminates against Palestinians. A country having no ancient history associated with the Holy Land.

Such groups also deny that the Jewish Holocaust ever took place!

As Bible students we should not be surprised that such enmity should exist towards Israel in these last days, for we have the words of Jeremiah 30:14, “All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.” Certainly there has been a rise in antisemitism throughout the world. Even in Australia we have seen the supporters of the Palestinian cause calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Palestine Betrayed then is vital reading for understanding the origin of the Israel/Palestine disputes that remain crucial today. This book of 342 pages is well researched, as is evidenced by the 62 pages of Notes.