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Palestinian History 101


The history of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has its roots in the events that began during World War 1. At the turn of the twentieth century, Palestine was a province of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. During the course of World War 1, the British promised to support Arab independence in exchange for Arab assistance against the Turkish Army. These British promises are clearly documented in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (1915-1916) which largely focused on the borders of a post-war independent Arab State that included Palestine

Although the Arabs rallied behind the infamous Lawrence of Arabia, fulfilling their part of the bargain, the British and the French repaid them with imperial plots that ran contrary to the letter and spirit of the promises made to the leaders of what came to be known as the 'Arab Revolt'. In the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), the British and French secretly agreed to colonize the Eastern Arab world after the war. Almost on a whim, the British also issued the Balfour Decleration of 1917.

The Balfour Declaration was an agreement between European and American Zionists and the British Government to create a 'Jewish' national home in Palestine. The text read:

"His Majesty's Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object: It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

The 'existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine' were the Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians, who comprised over 90% of the population. Both the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement were secret agreements between England, France and the Zionist interest groups. In drafting both agreements, no attempts were made to consult the Arab inhabitants of these lands. In fact, the existence of the two agreements were successfully kept under wraps until they were disclosed by the Bolsheviks in Moscow after the Russian Revolution. They were then widely publicized by the Turkish Government as a way of demonstrating British betrayal of assurances given to the leaders of the 'Arab Revolt'.

In response to the revelation of these secret agreements, The Anglo-French allies gave the Sherif of Mecca more assurances in the form of the Anglo-French Declaration of November 9, 1918. This promise was that "France and Great Britain agree to further and assist in setting up indigenous governments and administrations in Syria (which included Palestine) and Mesopotamia."

The end result of British promises and counter-promises was the implementation of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the division of the Eastern Arab World into British and French Mandates. These mandates were given international sanction by the League of Nations. Legally, a mandate was a 'pet colony' where the colonizing power's sole mission was to prepare the natives population for eventual self-governance.

Once the Sykes-Picot double cross was completed, the British moved on to another, more sinister, act of duplicity. Instead of preparing the natives of Palestine for self-rule, they prepared them for eventual exile.

To get an idea of the magnitude of this most heinous of British Colonial crimes, one only has to take a look at the demographics of the Palestine mandate in 1922. The area was inhabited by a population of 650,000 Palestinians and a little over 50,000 Jews. By the end of the Mandate in 1948, the population had increased to 1,380,000 Arabs and 650,000 Jews. The unnatural growth of the Jewish population was facilitated by a heavy influx of European Zionist immigrants who came with the explicit ideological intent of displacing the native Palestinian Arabs.

During the period the Palestine Mandate, the British conducted themselves in a manner that amounted to sanctioning the creation of a Jewish 'government' for the Zionist immigrants. In 1936, the Palestinians revolted against the British. Their major demand was that Jewish immigration be curtailed. By then, the Palestinians, at all social and political levels, were acutely aware of the Zionist program and its ultimate goals of dispossessing the Palestinians. It took three years for Great Britain to put down the revolt. It was a revolt that decimated the leadership of the Palestinians and further paved the road to the political and military domination of Palestine by the Zionists.

In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, made up mostly of European and Latin American countries, approved the partition of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The partition plan provided for the establishment of a Jewish State on 56% of the total area of Palestine, This 'Jewish State' had an Arab population of almost 50%. It took blatant gerrymandering to carve out the borders of the 'Jewish' state in a manner that would give the minority Jewish population over half of the land.

The Partition Plan, although grossly unfair to the native Palestinian majority, contained many provisions to safeguard their rights. The text of the Partition Plan had provisions "Guaranteeing to all persons equal and non-discriminatory rights in civil, political, economic and religious matters and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion, language, speech, publication, education, assembly and association". These were lofty words that the architects of the plan knew would not be honored by a Zionist movement determined to create a state as "Jewish as England is English".

The Partition Plan resolution had a whole chapter on religious and minority rights. The provisions of the plan included the following choice legalisms:

1. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants on the ground of race, religion, language or sex.
2. All persons within the jurisdiction of the State shall be intitled to equal protection of the laws
3. No expropriation of land owned by an Arab in the Jewish State (by a Jew in the Arab State) shall be allowed except for public purposes. In all cases of expropriation full compensation as fixed by the Supreme Court shall be paid previous to dispossession.

The provisions were principally directed at the government of the proposed Jewish State. Which was accorded 56% of the land area of Palestine. This area contained a population of 498,000 Jews and 497,000 Arabs. The remaining 44% of the land had a population that consisted of 10,000 Jews and 725,000 Arabs. These figures can be confirmed by referring to the original Resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations on the Palestine Question.

While the Partition Plan provided for all kind of legal protection for the native Palestinians, it did not provide any mechanism for enforcing these rights. Instead, it relied on the unlikely good will of the British and the Zionists. Not long after the Partition plan was adopted in 1947, the Zionists initiated a campaign of terror aimed at expelling the Arab inhabitants, confiscating their property and occupying as much of Palestine as they could before the British left.

The massacre of 250 men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948 was one of many methods the Zionist forces resorted to in their efforts to induce the Arabs to flee. Menachem Begin, the leader of the attack, later declared that "The massacre was not only justified, but there would not have been a state of Israel without the 'victory' at Deir Yasin."

Before the British left, the Zionists had already occupied territory reserved for the Arab State and International Zone in Jerusalem. This was in addition to controlling the 56% that had been allotted to the Jewish State in the Partition Plan.

One of the greatest canards that the Israelis disseminate is that the Palestinians fled of their own free will to make way for the invading Arab armies from neighboring states. By the time the Arab armies entered the fray on May 15,1948 the Zionist forces had already penetrated deep into the area allotted to the Palestinian 'Arab' state and 650,000 of the natives of Palestine had become refugees.

Ben Gurion, a Polish immigrant and Israel's first Prime Minister, said of this offensive that was initiated six weeks before the British Mandate ended,

"As fighting spread, the Arab exodus was joined by Bedouin and Fellahin, but not the remotest Jewish homestead was abandoned and nothing a tottering administration (the British) could unkindly do, stopped us from reaching our goal of May 14, 1948, in a State made larger and more Jewish by the Haganah".
David Ben Gurion, Rebirth and Destiny of Israel

Having achieved Ben Gurion's goals, the State of Israel was declared the very next day, May 15,1948. In June 1948, The United Nations formally demanded a statement of policy from the new Israeli Government regarding the Arab refugees who had fled the carefully scripted Haganah reign of terror. Israel's Foreign Minister replied in an official letter on August 1,1948. The letter not only denied responsibility for the exodus, not only pleaded security, but went on to state that "On the economic side, the reintegration of the returning Arabs into normal life, and even their mere sustenance, would present a problem." Meaning, the Palestinians could not return to their village and harvest their fields. The land that had sustained them for untold generations was now incapable of providing sustenance. This Israeli stance marked the beginning of a policy that endures to this day, the denial of the right of return to the Palestinians.

The 'Shahak Report', written by Dr Israel Shahak, who was for many years the chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, details what happened to the villages that were left behind by the exiled Palestinians. He reports that Israel destroyed 385 Palestinian villages in order to establish a 'new' State. The purpose was to make the Arab presence disappear. In the decimated wastes of these villages, 320 Kibbutzim were erected together with 267 moshavim.

From the birth of the state, the Israeli trademark has been to 'make facts on the ground'. The Shahak report details this process of manufacturing facts:

"To say that three quarters of a country was destroyed, and only a small fraction of its land left in the hands of its original inhabitants, is no figure of speech. For this is what happened. A largely non-native collection of people simply effaced 385 villages in order to establish a 'new' state. This was no land without people. Rather it was the case of a land, Palestine, with people, transformed into a desert so that a 'new' land could blossom."

"The pattern of destruction was chillingly radical. An Arab village would be invaded. Then every house, every garden wall, every cemetery and its tomb stones would be razed, literally to the ground."

"The truth about Arab settlements which used to exist in the area of the State of Israel before 1948, is one of the most guarded secrets of Israeli life. No publication, book or pamphlet gives either their number or their location. This, of course, is done on purpose in order that the accepted official myth of 'an empty country' can be taught and accepted in the Israeli schools and told to visitors."

"The significance of this increases when it is remembered that until late 1948, Arabs owned 93% of the land of Palestine."

The end result of the Partition Plan and the horribly violent Zionist campaign that preceded the exit of the British was the creation of a nation of refugees. Israel disclaimed any responsibility for their flight, obstructed their right of return and passed laws to confiscate the properties that they left behind. The official Israeli attitude was that sooner or later the Palestinians would melt away and be absorbed into the surrounding Arab states.

Throughout the 1950s, the Israelis retained the hope that the Palestinians would simply vanish. But it was not just a random mass of individuals who fled the terror of 1948. It was a whole society. A common land and language, a common political fate and the cruelty of exile created a distinct Palestinian national identity. Although scattered, they survived as a nation.

Over 50 years later, many Israelis still cling to the false history that the Palestinians just 'up and moved' as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The fringe Zionists still teach their children that the 'there was no such a thing as a Palestinian'.

This Israeli denial of culpability infuriates the Palestinians who have suffered the torments and turmoil of an undignified exile. Many still live in the very refugee camps their parents fled to in 1948. It is a rare Palestinian family that was left unmolested by the events that led to the creation of a 'Jewish' State on real estate that amounted to 78% of what was the British Mandate in Palestine.

Israelis must abandon the mythology of Zionist history if they are ever to come to terms with the Palestinians. In Germany, the denial of the Holocaust is a punishable crime. Had it not been made a crime, who knows what German textbooks would be teaching today? The truth has been good medicine for post-war Germany. Widespread international awareness of the horrors of the Holocaust has also facilitated a healing process among the Jewish survivors and given them the strength to cope with their darkest memories.

It is long past the hour for Israel to acknowledge the reality of what was inflicted on the Palestinians. The continued denial reinforces Palestinian rage. Zionist fables will no longer sell in Paris or Peoria. As for the Palestinians, they would have to contract a bad case of mass amnesia before succumbing to the humiliation of accepting a contrived historic account that slanders the experience of every Palestinian family.

An essential part of making peace in the Middle East is coming to terms with the past. Let the Israelis use their desperate need of a safe haven from European anti-Semitism as an explanation for their systematic crimes against the Palestinians. Let the Israelis plead collective insanity emanating from the evil cruelty that was inflicted upon them at Aushwitz. But let them put an end to this denial of history that only serves to add to the deep sense of injury that is felt by almost every Palestinian.

January 8, 2001