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May 15: The Arab-Israeli War

Lawrence Bush
May 15, 2010

Nirim1948_1Armies from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked the brand new state of Israel on this date in 1948, one day after Israel declared its independence as a nation (and received rapid recognition from the U.S., the USSR, Iran, and numerous other countries). Arab-Jewish violence had already taken upwards of 2,000 lives in the months before war broke out in earnest. Approximately 60,000 Arab troops would participate, and 115,000 Jewish soldiers and paramilitary forces; Israel would suffer more than 6,000 killed in action, and more than 8,000 would die on the Arab side. The war would be called the War of Independence by the Israelis, the Catastrophe by Palestinian Arabs. It was as ugly as most wars, filled with massacres, expulsions, house-to-house fighting, sieges, refugees, hateful rhetoric, and death. More than 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their land. Between February and July, 1949, Israel signed separate armistices with the invading Arab states under supervision of the United Nations; the agreements expanded Israel’s territory by about 18 percent over the original partition plan.

“We . . . who have returned from battles stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have attended their funerals and cannot look in the eyes of their parents; we who have come from a land where parents bury their children; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians — we say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice: enough of blood and tears. Enough.” —Yitzhak Rabin, 1993

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.