“We must do everything to insure they (the Palestinians) never do return … The old will die and the young will forget.” -Ben Gurion
C onsidering the British Mandate of Palestine “carved out of Ottoman Southern Syria” and its favourable view of a Zionist drive for the colonisation of historical Palestine, is to seek, somewhere, an honourable historical discourse in a dishonourable colonialist fulcrum.
The British Mandate was to last from 1920 to 1948. The ideological democratisation of other Middle Eastern states was to fail then as it does now. Fail Palestinians then as it does today.
British Mandate meant British Occupation. The self-declared Zionist State of Israel, which learnt the lessons of Colonialism from Britain, was gifted a land for this pernicious ideology. Colonialism “always unlawful” under international law is yet practiced by Israel’s machination for a greater Israel: “A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only a beginning.” -Ben Gurion
Facing persecution and worse in 1880s eastern and central Europe, revivalist Zionists recognised the idea of assimilation was never going to be an option. Instead, they saw a Zionist colonisation of Palestine as the political solution.
British Colonialism, Zionism and the inherent racism formed an unholy Troika in the early part of the 20th century. Montagu, only “the second Jew to serve in a British Cabinet” as Secretary of State for India 1917-1922, sent a memo suggesting the British government’s policy was anti-Semitic:
“When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens … You will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants taking all the best in the country.”
Accordingly, those Jews “in whatever country he loves” would “[remain] as an unwelcome guest in the country” he “thought he belonged to”. In Montagu’s case: Britain.
Not wanted in Britain, Balfour looked to send persecuted Jews to British East Africa as debated in 1903. There to find a searing asylum. Kattan’s forensic book From Coexistence to Conquest notes: “It was Balfour, who as Prime Minister, steered the passage of the Aliens Act through Parliament in 1905 that restricted [the] westward movement of Jewish immigration into Britain.”
In 1921, the agonised Jewish exodus from Europe was stemmed by America with: the Emergency Quota Act 1921 and the National Origins Act 1924. An “open door” was closed and immigration restricted. This led to “fear of immigrants, xenophobia and racial persecution” (BBC). Assimilation requires compassionate political will. Neither Great Britain nor America manifested such virtues.
Dissuasion as applied today is a Conservative Party policy to discourage Muslim refugees lawfully seeking asylum; this xenophobic policy encouraging here Islamophobia.
Colonialism was seen by a certain British class of the early 20th century as their almost evangelical birth-right, the Zionists as their collective destiny. Zionism -always an expropriation movement- to be a “secularized and nationalized Judaism” (Pappe)
It is of no surprise then that the pernicious reality of anti-Semitism was used by both groups to further their own ends of perceived racial superiority. The Zionists in Palestine. The British anywhere and everywhere.
As the long nights and days of World War I began (August 1914) the Zionists sensed an opportunity. The Ottoman Empire in decline, in retreat, was not the target of Zionist claims for eventual sovereignty in Historical Palestine, but, through the eloquent and persistent “scientist” Chaim Weizmann, Great Britain embodying a racist exceptionalism. British racist “disdain” for Arabs only matched by their racist suspicion of Jews.
Britain viewed the Middle East through a rheumy eyed strategic vision, controlling as it did the Suez Canal, exerting colonial influence in India and dominance in Egypt.
Arab independence could see the light of a Middle Eastern day by indebting Sharif Hussein ben Ali of the Hashemite family. A letter from Hussein ben Ali 14 July 1915 to Henry McMahon British High Commissioner in Egypt states in part he: “prefer[s] the assistance of the Government of Great Britain in consideration of their geographic position and economic interests.”
Hussein ben Ali in October 1916 was “King of the Arabs”. Maybe. But the colonial powers of Great Britain and France were to be kings of the region. For in February 1916 the duplicitous Sykes-Picot Agreement (Asia Minor Agreement) was mapping the bloody Zones of blue, red and brown where the Middle East would be “directly controlled” or “influenced” by the British or French. In regard Palestine the Ottoman Sanjak (district) Jerusalem was to be a: “brown area [where] there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca.”
The British mandate of 1920 -1948 was on; as was the beginning of protracted inhumanity (Edward Said) inflicted on Palestinians. The 29 November 1947 partition plan hatched together by the hapless United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was boycotted by the Arab Palestinians opening the door for the Zionist. The Palestinians rightly rejected even the idea of partition. Indeed, history and hindsight have proven that the lethal weapon that was/is Zionist Israel never had any intention on agreeing to an economic union or long term control by a UN body of the corpus separatum that was to be and remains today Jerusalem.
A letter sent by President Truman 27 February 1948 to Edward Jacobson -an old army buddy and evolving Zionist amanuensis- expresses then what we know now. It reads in part: “sorry that I did not have a chance to see Dr [Chaim] Weizmann … there was not anything he could say to me that I did not already know anyway … the situation is not solvable as presently set up”. Tragically for the Palestinians It still is not.
NB: Commissioned by Days of Palestine, this article was first published on 25 May 2016.
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