1896: In response to anti-semitism in Europe and the pogroms in Russia, and convinced that the Jews form a people, not just communities bound by a common faith, the Austro-Hungarian journalist and writer Theodor Herzl proposes the establishment of a “Jewish state”, marking the beginnings of political Zionism.
1897: The majority of the Jewish establishment is opposed to the organization of a Zionist Congress. For the rabbis, the creation of a Jewish state can only come from the divine will, not man’s. The first congress is finally held in Basel, after which the World Zionist Organization is created. Several alternative locations for the establishment of the Jewish State are considered: Argentina, Cyprus and Uganda, but the choice finally falls on the most obvious option: Palestine.
1906 : The Jewish immigrants set up the first Hebrew schools in Palestine. Eliezer Ben Yehuda’s modernized Hebrew becomes the common language of all the Jews, who keep coming in successive waves, mainly from Europe. The common language contributes significantly to the creation of a new identity..
1916: During the First World War, France and Great Britain sign the Sykes-Picot Agreement in secret, dividing the Middle East into spheres of influence. Palestine will go to the British after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.
1917 : British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour states that his government views “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews”.
1922: The League of Nations, basing themselves on the Balfour Declaration, grants the mandate on Palestine to the British occupation force.
1929: The newly created Jewish Agency is responsible for organizing the immigration of Jews to Palestine, who settle on the land purchased by the Jewish National Fund. Tel Aviv, whose construction began north of Jaffa before the war, gradually grows into a large modern city in the Bauhaus style.
1936: The Great Palestinian Revolt paralyzes the British administration. The Arab Higher Committee requires the end of the Jewish immigration and the sale of Arab lands, and asks for independence. The confrontation, with civil war undertones, ends with the death of 211 English, 300 Jews and 2 000 Arabs.
1939: War breaks out in Europe. Hitler sets up concentration camps and proceeds with the extermination of the Jews. The horror’s magnitude will only be fully revealed during the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.
1945 : The British authorities maintain the 1939 restrictions on Jewish immigration and deny the Shoah survivors the entry into Palestine with their boats. This position causes widespread indignation and terrorist groups like the Irgun and Lehi undertake new actions, not against the Arabs this time, but against the British.
1947: Britain decides to withdraw from Palestine and hands the problem over to the freshly created UN organisation. The general assembly’s proposition is to divide the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, with an international status for Jerusalem, regardless of the Palestinians’ opinion, who are strongly opposed to half of their country’s amputation.
1948: After ratification of the Palestine’s partition plan, clashes between Palestinians and Jews burst out. Ben Gurion, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, decides to launch the Dalet plan, which is to expel the non-Jews (42% of the population) of the Jewish part of Palestine.
After the British withdrawal and the proclamation of the State of Israel, the neighbouring Arab countries declare war against the Jewish state. Israel successfully fights back and extends the Dalet plan to the Arab part of Palestine, in order to create a Jewish territorial continuity going up to Jerusalem.
In total, more than 800 000 Palestinians flee the hostilities, taking refuge elsewhere in Palestine or in one of the neighbouring countries.