A century ago, the British Government committed a grave act of treachery on the people of Palestine which inflicted untold suffering to the population and whose consequences have spread globally and continue to reverberate today. The date 2 November 2017 will mark the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration – the infamous event which led to the creation of the Zionist settler-colonialist state of Israel on the territory of historic Palestine, and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population.
By this Declaration, the British government committed themselves to facilitate the establishment in Palestine of ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ but ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’.
The declaration was meant to lead to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine which at that time had a Palestinian population of over ninety percent. It was wilfully expressed in ambiguous language to pacify some cabinet ministers opposed to a Jewish state and to deceive the local Arab leaders who had been promised complete autonomy as reward for helping the British defeat the Ottomans in World War I. Zionist leader Weizmann admitted that both Balfour and his Prime Minister David Lloyd George had told him that in using the phrase ‘national home’ they meant a Jewish state.
Palestine was placed under the British mandate in 1922 by the League of Nations and the Balfour Declaration was incorporated into it. The object of the mandate was to create institutions in Palestine that would lead to its independence in the near future. Contrary to this, and insidiously, Britain turned it into a colonial project for colonisation of Palestine by European Jews.
A Zionist British minister Herbert Samuel was appointed the first High Commissioner of Palestine who laid the foundations for the emergence of Apartheid Israel. British policy blatantly discriminated against the Palestinians.
Samuel promulgated laws to facilitate Jewish migration and acquisition of Palestinian lands. He established separate Jewish institutions in banking, public works, education and power generation.
Zionists were allowed to establish the Zionist Commission which, in the words of an honest British official, became an ‘Administration within an Administration’ rendering ‘good government impossible’. A separate Jewish armed forces (Haganah) was established which, together with other terrorist armed groups, eventually carried out ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make way for the Jewish state of Israel.
While the Palestinians were not allowed any representative institutions, the Jewish minority had been permitted to hold elections for a Jewish Assembly to deal with matters affecting their community. The reason for the discrimination, in Samuel’s words,: ‘there is a possibility that the Moslem and Christian communities might wish to establish assemblies of their own…(whose) activities might conflict with the policy in relation to Palestine adopted by His Majesty’s Government’. That is the policy for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.
Tens of thousands of Jews were allowed to migrate to Palestine and by the mid-thirties, the Jewish population had jumped from 8 percent to 30 percent of the country. Arab landowners, living in Syria and Lebanon, were obstructed from coming back to Palestine and, therefore, had to sell their large tracts of land to the Jewish Agency. The land was parcelled out to Jewish settlers and the former Arab tenants evicted.
The surge in Jewish migration and the displacement of Palestinian tenant farmers ignited the Palestinian Arab Revolt (1936-1939) which was put down using barbaric methods. The RAF bombed Palestinian villages indiscriminately. British forces attacked villages, destroyed their supplies and held the men in cages for days without food or water. Collective punishment was applied widely. Leaders were imprisoned or deported. Armed Jewish forces assisted the British army to suppress the Palestinian uprising.
By 1939, the Palestinian society was dismembered, defenceless and leaderless. Less than ten years later, the Palestinian Nakba took place. Zionist forces, trained and armed by Britain and other Western states, committed atrocities against the Palestinians and forced over 700, 000 women, children and men to flee from their homes and become refugees. The British troops stood by and watched the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Commenting on Britain’s treachery to the Palestinians, the former British Minister Anthony Nutting wrote: “…the Government of the day stand condemned out of their own mouths and writings of conniving at and furthering every Zionist design from the issue of the Balfour Declaration onwards…
Worse than this, the Government deliberately set out to deceive the Arab majority in Palestine as to their real intentions with promises and guarantees that they had ‘nothing to be frightened about’ and that Britain would ‘never consent’ to a Jewish Government being set up to rule their land.”
The result of the British-assisted Jewish colonisation of Palestine is the intractable century-old Palestine-Israel conflict that has produced untold suffering, misery and indignity for the Palestinian people; Israeli exceptionalism and the devaluing of international law and institutions; and the growth of racism and erosion of morality in Israeli society.
Imagine, the Israeli parliamentarian Ayelet Shaked, a woman, condemning all Palestinians as terrorists and calling for the killing of Palestinian children and their mothers. How low can one sink! Not surprising, the famous music conductor Daniel Barenboim commented that the occupation ‘has eroded all sense of decency and humanity and morality from people like me [Jews], who had been persecuted for over 20 centuries.”
Recently the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) commissioned a report on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian population. Titled ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’, the report establishes, on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
A hundred years after Britain’s shameless role in deceiving the Arab leaders of Palestine, Britain can now bask in the glory of having helped the Zionist state of Israel become the Apartheid regime of the 21st century. It is time for the reasonable citizens of Great Britain to hold their government to account for the horrific injustice that has been done to the people of Palestine. The British Government should do the right thing and apologize to the people of Palestine for their century-long suffering and humiliation. And it should take lead under international law to initiate action against Israel to end the Apartheid.
Director of Citizens International