According to Wikipedia:

Zionism is a nationalist movement that emerged in the 19th century to enable the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, a region roughly corresponding to the Land of Israel in Jewish tradition. Following the establishment of the modern state of Israel, Zionism became an ideology that supports the development and protection of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

According to this article, when Zionism started in the 19th century, Jews were only a small minority of the population:

In the 1880s, when the first colonies were formed, Jews made up only 3 or 4 percent of the inhabitants of what would become Palestine. Most of them were Biblical scholars funded from abroad. The rest of the inhabitants were Arab Muslims and Christians. [..] In 1947, on the eve of the United Nations decision to partition the country, Jews still made up only 32 percent of the population. In the partition, which the Arabs rejected, Jews got 55 percent of the land, including the most economically viable areas, and the Arabs only 40 percent

Before and during the creation of Israel, the founders of Israel acknowledged that ethnic cleansing was necessary for the purpose of establishing a Jewish state (from Wikipedia):

Israeli historian Benny Morris, widely regarded as an authority on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the leading authority on origins of the Palestinian refugee problem [..] goes on to describe Zionism as "a colonizing and expansionist ideology and movement" whose "ideology and practice were necessarily and elementally expansionist." Morris describes the Zionist goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine as necessarily displacing and dispossessing the Arab population. The practical issue of establishing a Jewish state in a majority non-Jewish and Arab region was a fundamental issue for the Zionist movement. Revisionist Zionist Ze'ev Jabotinsky described the notion of "transfer" (the Zionist euphemism for ethnic cleansing of the Arab Palestinian population) as a "brutal expulsion" which could resolve this challenge. The idea of transfer was not unique to Revisionist Zionism, in fact, as explained by Morris, "the idea of transferring the Arabs out... was seen as the chief means of assuring the stability of the 'Jewishness' of the proposed Jewish State".

In Israel, the US and Europe, to what extent is it officially acknowledged that ethnic cleansing has been carried out for the development of Israel as a majority Jewish state?

For example, in these countries, are there UN speeches by government officials which mention it? Do standard history textbooks in Israel (or other Western countries) mention this? Would it be explicitly mentioned in regular documentaries about the history of Israel or about the Israel-Palestine conflict?

  • 2
    OK, this is somewhat more answerable. It's fairly accepted that the expulsions known as the Nakba were a type of ethnic cleansing, and they clearly were important to the founding of the modern state of Israel. It is still a bit overly broad (and the question about whether Israeli history textbooks deal with the Nakba has already been asked here), so it might benefit from restricting its attention to the governmental stance—I am sure we could find 10 documentaries about ethnic cleansing in Israel and 10 that dispute it.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Feb 29 at 22:55
  • 1
    To everyone interested: I'm interested in whether the ethnic cleansing is officially acknowledged in Western countries (not to what extent it's accepted in the population). I know that everybody suspects me but I truly don't know the answer, it's not a push question. For example I assume that Ben Gurion's or Jabotinsky's sayings are well studied, and they didn't hide the need for the "transfer" of Arab populations.
    – Erwan
    Commented Feb 29 at 22:56
  • RE necessity of ethnic cleansing: Jabotinsky's Iron Wall essay states quite clearly: "First of all, I consider it utterly impossible to eject the Arabs from Palestine. There will always be two nations in Palestine – which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority." Ben-Gurion agreed. Why should Western leaders recognize something Zionist leaders did not?
    – Zev Spitz
    Commented Mar 13 at 9:50

1 Answer 1


At a governmental level, the only Western country that comes close is Ireland.

The Irish Dáil (lower house of legislature) in 2021 passed a motion characterizing the pattern of inexorably expanding Israeli settlement in the West Bank as "de-facto annexation" - Irish Times 2021

More recently the Irish Senate has called for sanctions on Israel due to the brutality in Gaza, its disregard of the ICJ, etc. Al Arabiya 2024

However, as far as I'm aware, these don't go so far as to call into question the time of 1947-1949 for instance, though individual Irish MEP's such as Clare Daly have done so in public statements. Sinn Féin has evidently proposed recognition of both Palestinian statehood and the Nakba, as Palestinians refer to their expulsion from their homeland prior to Israel's independence, but the political party has not decided to do it as of yet, as far as I know. (nb- I'm not Irish)

As the question alludes, the most pointed statements are attributed to Israeli sources, to include leadership from the time of the country's founding. Some select quotes from Israeli statesmen of the time [Institute for Middle East Understanding], isolated for dramatic effect. For more context, the book by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine - Ilan Pappe - One World Press - 2006" goes into more detail, focuses on Ben Gurion in particular (who both articulated a clear vision as early as 1938, and kept a diary recording meetings where minutes were not otherwise kept). The contemporaneous term was of course not "ethnic cleansing", but rather "population transfer", i.e. compulsory. He also clearly expressed rejection of the 1947 UN proposal to divide the land 50/50, aiming for all of it if possible (and which proposal the Arabs likewise rejected, as their population was far more than 50% at the time of the UN partition). The book by Ilan Pappe is highly recommended - though it pulls no punches and may be uncomfortable reading for some, like myself, who were raised on the Israeli version of the story.

In today's time, where the West has proclaimed a more enlightened system of values, this is of course not widely advertised. Many bitter conflicts took place since Israel's founding, and there is ample room to pick out any of the countless tit-for-tat episodes of violence as the root cause of the most recent escalation.

  • 2
    There's some level of confusion in this answer between the Nakba and the 'Naksa'. OTOH the Q itself was bit vague wrt to some issues, ascribing Nakba as part of the goals of Zionism, so in that case similar events would be relevant. And it's not called a 'catastrophe' because of the deaths, but because of expulsions, obviously @wrod. Few people died recently when Azerbaijan retook Karabach [and the Armenians all fled that region], but you can be sure the Armenians will recall it for generations, even if Az didn't offi. expel them. Etc. Commented Mar 1 at 15:58
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 1 at 19:50

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