May 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush arrived in Israel on Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state as Palestinians mourn the "Nakba", or catastrophe, of 1948 when half the Arabs of Palestine were driven from their homes.
Israel has roots in the 19th-century Zionist response to Jewish persecution in Europe -- a state on land Jews say God gave to them. Arabs say Western imperial powers supported ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to answer European Jewish aspirations.
When World War One ended Ottoman Turkish control, the League of Nations gave Britain the Palestine Mandate in 1920, endorsing its Balfour Declaration to create "a national home for the Jewish people" and to protect the rights of Arabs.
In 1948, Palestine had 1.4 million Arabs and 720,000 Jews. Two thirds of these were born abroad, notably in eastern Europe.
Following is a brief chronology of how the land was divided:
Nov. 29, 1947 - United Nations General Assembly agrees plan for partition into Arab and Jewish states and for international rule over Jerusalem. Jewish leaders accept plan that gives them 56 percent of Palestine land. Arab League rejects the proposal.
Jan. 10, 1948 - British report to U.N. says 1,974 people killed or wounded in violence by both sides since Nov. 30.
April 9-10 - After Jewish guerrillas launch major push into Arab-designated areas, Jewish gunmen kill more than 100 Arab men, women and children -- many more by some estimates -- at Deir Yassin near Jerusalem. Word of massacre fuels Arabs' fears.
April 13 - As tens of thousands of Arabs flee mounting violence, Arab forces kill 79 Jews in Jerusalem hospital convoy.
May 14 - David Ben-Gurion proclaims the State of Israel hours before the British Mandate is due to end at midnight.
May 15 - Troops from five Arab states attack Israel and Israeli forces operating in areas U.N. proposed for Arab rule.
May 28 - Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City falls to Jordan's Arab Legion. Most buildings there later demolished.
June 11 - First truce.
June 23 - Defying U.N. arms embargo and raising fears of a Jewish civil war, paramilitary Irgun group tries to land weapons at Tel Aviv. Israeli government artillery cripples the ship.
June 28 - Swedish U.N. mediator Count Folke Bernadotte puts new peace plan, with Jerusalem to be Arab. Both sides say No.
June 30 - Last British troops leave.
July 8 - Egyptians attack in south. Israelis soon take Lydda (now Lod) and Ramle. Some 50,000 Arabs driven from area, some dying on roads. Israelis take control of road east to Jerusalem.
July 19 - Second truce.
Sept. 17 - Day after he proposed another peace plan, Folke Bernadotte killed by Jewish Stern Gang gunmen in Jerusalem.
Oct. 15 - Israeli forces attack Egyptians in Negev, capturing Arab city of Beersheba. Offensive against Arab armies in north produce further, swift Israeli territorial gains.
Dec. 11 - U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 asserts refugees' rights of return and to compensation and reaffirms plan to establish international control of Jerusalem area.
Dec. 22 - Israeli forces invade Egypt's Sinai peninsula.
Feb. 24 - Israel signs armistice with Egypt.
March 10 - Israeli forces take Umm Rashrash (now Eilat), near Jordanian port of Aqaba, giving Israel access to Red Sea.
July 20 - Israel-Syria armistice ends war. Israelis control 78 percent of Palestine, including West Jerusalem and about half the area designated for an Arab state under U.N. plan. Jordan occupies West Bank and East Jerusalem, Egypt holds Gaza Strip.
U.N. estimates 770,000 Palestinians were refugees. Hundreds of Arab towns and villages razed, left empty or taken over.
Dec. 5 - Prime Minister Ben-Gurion lays out Israeli claim to Jerusalem as "eternal capital". Defying U.N. stance, parliament moves to West Jerusalem from Tel Aviv later than month. (Sources: Reuters, Encyclopaedia Britannica, U.N. General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194) (Writing by Alistair Macdonald and David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)
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