Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, November 2011
Balfour's Apartheid Legacy in Occupied Palestine
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 16, 2011
Stuart Littlewood charts the British lies and duplicity, manifested most blatantly in the Balfour Declaration whereby Britain promised to give something it did not own (Palestine) to someone who had no right to have (the Zionist settlers), and the resulting bloodshed, pain and injustice.
Arthur Balfour's infamous "Declaration" was written 94 years ago this week. Palestinians, of course, don’t need reminding.
And to mark the anniversary Israel ordered its warships to carry out yet another act of piracy on peaceful, innocent shipping carrying humanitarian relief to the imprisoned people of Gaza.
Let's cast out minds back – Stephen Ostrander's simple verse cuts through all the rhetoric to the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The country called Palestine was “liberated” from Turkish Ottoman rule after the Allied powers, in correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca in 1915, promised Arab leaders independence in return for their help in defeating Germany's ally.
However a Jewish political movement, Zionism, was finding favour among the ruling élite in London, and the British government was persuaded by the Zionists' chief spokesman, Chaim Weizmann, to surrender Palestine for their new Jewish homeland. Hardly a thought, it seems, was given to the earlier pledge to the Arabs, who had occupied and owned the land for 1,500 years – longer than the ancient Jews ever did.The Zionists, inflated by the notion that an ancient Biblical prophecy gave them the title deeds, planned to push the Arabs out by bringing in millions of Eastern European Jews. They had already set up farm communities and founded a new city, Tel Aviv, but by 1914 Jews numbered only 85,000 to the Arabs' 615,000.
Declaration of 1917 – actually a letter from the British foreign secretary,
Arthur Balfour, to the most senior Jew in England, Lord Rothschild – pledged
assistance for the Zionist cause, ignoring the consequences to the native
Balfour, an ardent Zionist, wrote:
He later wrote the introduction to a book published in 1919, History
of Zionism 1600-1919 by Nahum Sokolow, in which he said: “Conversations
I held with Mr Weizmann in January 1906 convinced me that history could not
thus be ignored, and that if a home was to be found for the Jewish people,
homeless now for nearly nineteen hundred years, it was vain to seek it
anywhere but in Palestine.”
The American King-Crane Commission of 1919 thought it a gross violation of principle. "No British officers consulted by the commissioners believed that the Zionist programme could be carried out except by force of arms. That, of itself, is evidence of a strong sense of the injustice of the Zionist programme."
And the scheme was heading for serious trouble for another reason. A secret deal, called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, had been concluded in 1916 between France and Britain, in consultation with Russia, to re-draw the map of the Middle Eastern territories won from Turkey. Britain was to take Jordan, Iraq and Haifa. The area now referred to as Palestine was declared an international zone.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration and the promises made earlier in the McMahon-Hussein letters all cut across each other. Was it really a case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing in the confusion of war?
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 Lenin released a copy of the confidential Sykes-Picot Agreement into the public domain, sowing seeds of distrust among the Arabs. The unfolding story, from the start, had all the makings of a major tragedy. Subsequent crimes – on both sides – flow from this triple-cross.
Apartheid and occupation: “in practice there is little difference”
At Cambridge Arthur Balfour read
moral sciences, but much good it did the poor Palestinian Arabs he helped
The “running sore” Sydenham warned of has been festering for 94 years, crippling the Middle East and turning the Holy Land into an abomination. Balfour and his clueless pals in the corridors of British power clearly had no idea of the true purpose and base methods of Zionism.
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