In 1918 the British had taken control of the Palestine region and did not give it to the Arabs as promised. This betrayal was furthered by the Balfour declaration which was lobbied for by the influential Jew Chaim Weizmann. This memorandum stated the British intention to help create a “homeland” for the Jews in Palestine in sympathy for the Zionist cause and movement. It proposed to maintain the rights and presence of the hundreds of thousands of Arab inhabitants but then in a secret memorandum said that the interests of the Arabs were not important and that the alliance with the Zionist movement was of far greater importance than the “desires and prejudices” of the Arab population. The League of Nations British mandate of Palestine created in 1922 said that the British were under obligation to support the establishment of a Jewish “national home” by allowing Jewish immigration. So the British were caught between promises and both the Arabs and Zionist Jews thought they were next in line for the area. This was sowing the seeds of the tension between the two groups and suspicions were harboured by both that Britain had the other’s interests at heart. So the Jews and Arabs now both thought that they should be given the area, this dispute created great tension between the groups.
The inter-war period was also a key time when foreign influences added fuel to the fire in the Arab-Zionist disputes. The appointment by the British of the British Jew and Zionist supporter Sir Herbert Samuel as High Commissioner of Palestine was a mistake. This appointment angered the Arab Palestinians as it was seen as a display of the fact that the British had the Zionist/Jewish interests closest to its heart. It made it seem as though the British were aiding in the formation of a Jewish state by allowing immigration of Jews to the area to level out the numbers of Arabs to Jews. This caused resentment to brew in the Arab world towards the British and the Zionist movement, by making the Arab nationalists seem outnumbered and isolated. As a result the tension between the different groups was further heightened as the issue of sovereignty and fair treatment of the two parties was disputable. In order to try to resolve the issue of split promises the British proposed to the Palestinian National Congress that they would set up a government with equal representation by Jewish Zionists and Arabs in Palestine, this proposal was refused by the 80-90% majority of Arabs who thought that giving this much control to a very small Jewish percentage was unfair and disadvantageous. The Zionists though obviously supported this proposal so more resentment was created in these differing beliefs. To make these matters of disagreement worse the largely Arab Palestinian National Congress rejected the terms of the Balfour Declaration (which favoured the Jews) so the Zionists resented the Arabs for the open act of refusal of Zionist theory, so tension further increased.
The British support for Jewish immigration into Palestine also caused much tension as the Huge Jewish increase, to about a third of the total population by 1939 (from previous figures of about 10%) saw much of the most fertile and valuable land go to Jewish immigrant who bought land and took it away from Arabs whom occupied but had no legal right to the land. So Arabs resented the Jewish increases as they saw it as a blatant attempt for Zionist Jews to achieve a majority and take over Palestine.
Influence from other foreign powers also added to the build up of tension, especially during the Second World War and the 30’s where anti-Semitism was rife. In Germany and Poland especially, under the influence of the Nazi party there was widespread resentment which led to the formation of concentration and death camps. This meant that many Jews had to flee from the persecution and many chose to flee to the Palestine. This saw immigration levels skyrocket and again the Arabs resented this increase in Jewish population as they were further alienated from their area. So the tension was increased once again.
There are also, though, reasons for the development of tension that did not involve foreign influence. The major reason for this was the differences in opinions that were largely religious differences, and in some cases similarities. The Zionist belief that a “homeland” was needed caused dispute as the desired region was under a large Arab majority. The reason for the selection of this area was largely due to the religious affinity and history of the area with respect to Judaism. The area contains the hugely significant sites of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and the Galilee region. These all had ancient religious links to the Jewish religion. They also, unfortunately, in many cases, had religious significance to the Muslim faith held by the majority of the resident Arabs. These sentimental areas were important to both faiths so the prospect of the Jews just having the area was upsetting and unfavourable in the eyes of the Arabs. This obviously caused a lot of tension.
Zionist immigration or “Aliyah” was also a point that generated much heated opinion as the vast influx of Jews into the Arab area was seen as an attempt by the Jews to gain control of the state by attaining a majority. They were often fleeing persecution in Europe and encroaching on the then Arab land. This therefore caused dispute and anger to arise. The malcontempt was especially rife from the Arabs toward the Zionists, whom seemed totally devoid of any concern for the rights of the existing Arab majority. Most Jews thought of the area as a barren wasteland when actually there was a sizeable Arab population. The Zionists suggested that only the Jews should be allowed to cultivate and develop the land and that a Jewish National Fund should be established. This ideal excluded and deprived the Arab residents and was very unequal and unfair so the Arabs were resentful of the Zionist policies.
Another reason for tension, this time by Zionist towards Arabs was in 1929 and the early 1930s when it was revealed that the Grand Mufti, an important Arab leader, had discussed with Hitler the “final solution” (the killing of Jews in concentration camps) and had stirred up anti-Semitism amongst the Arab population. It was then the turn of the Arabs to accuse the Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky of being violently pro-Jewish immigration. This sparked riots and other public displays of the hatred that was manifesting between the groups.
In conclusion I feel that the most important cause of the tension between the groups was, in fact, foreign influence. This acted as a catalyst to the second most important factor of religious differences, which had started the tension in the first place. I think the issue of Jewish immigration was the next important factor and then lastly the unprovoked acts of anti-Sematism from the Arab leader.