Israel's Rebirth and the Rise of Arab Nationalism
The 1948 war between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbors was a revolutionary event, setting in motion many drastic changes in the Middle East. To the Israelis and their admirers, the war was a struggle for Jewish independence, fought first against the resistance of the indigenous Palestinians, later against British imperialism, and finally against the armies of the Arab states. When the Israel Defense Force (IDF) gradually brought more force to bear, the Arabs overreacted and overestimated the Jews' strength. Iraq viewed itself as the real leader of Arab nationalism, a rival to Egypt. The Palestine disaster uprooted about 725,000 Arabs, who sought refuge in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, or Lebanon. The Arabs failed to defeat Israel in 1948 because of political divisions. Political unification would increase the wealth and power of the Arab world as a whole.