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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - The Age of Partition (1948–1967)



About 2.5 million people now lived within the borders of what had been Mandate Palestine. In the newly created state of Israel, these included newcomers, the majority of them Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Arab countries, but also the 160,000 Palestinians who somehow had been able to stay on the land. Nearly one million of Palestine's indigenous population had been made refugees; many of these had been expelled to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, others to nearby Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The refugees came from all walks of life, but those who found themselves thrown together in the camps shared a similar socio-economic background. Whether camp dwellers or not, rich or poor, they had all experienced the collective and personal trauma that would consolidate their future ties as a national community, their sense of identity centred on their lost homeland. This allows us, indeed obliges us, to include the history of the refugees within that of the land itself. The majority were farmers, who began to prosper after the Second World War but found that this little changed their standard of living as much of their profits were spent in their villages on the construction of a social and welfare infrastructure that the Mandate had failed to provide. Now, in 1948, expelled by force from their homeland, they were beggars who depended on United Nations hand-outs, and living in the hope of soon returning to their homes.