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Israel and Palestine

Stop Blaming the Victims

The long arm of history on the Palestine problem.

The Palestine problem arises directly from the stupid contradiction between two declarations by the British Government during W.W.I, namely:

1. The Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917:

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

2. The joint Anglo-French declaration of 7 November 1918, after the campaigns of Allenby and T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), issued simultaneously in Palestine, Syria and Iraq:

"The goal envisaged by France and Great Britain.... is the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations that shall derive their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous population."

Both these declarations were in sharp contradiction, not only to each other, but to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 in which Britain and France had mutually agreed (in secret - the Agreement was made public by the government of Soviet Russia in December 1917) to the partitioning of the Arab territories of the Turkish Empire into a French administration in the north (i.e. Syria, which then included Lebanon) and a British administration in the south (i.e Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula), but setting aside Palestine for international administration.

At the San Remo Conference of April 1920 the Allied Supreme Council decided that while the states of the Arabian Peninsula should become independent, that the areas close to the Mediterranean should become Mandated Territories. This decision was sealed by the Treaty of Sèvres, 1920. For these territories. the League of Nations devised a special form of Mandate - 'A' Mandate - for which the task of the mandatory power was specified as "the rendering of administrative advice and assistance.... until such time as they [these territories] are able to stand alone," in accordance with the summary statement in the League of Nations Covenant - applying to the whole area (including Palestine) -that "Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory."

[A summary of the conflict is listed on Key dates in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict [Study text of the University of Michigan-Dearborn]; and much greater detail is recorded on the United Nations site at Palestine Problem 1917-1988; and their links]

The contradictions arising from the conditions of the Mandate, the Balfour Declaration and the joint Anglo-French declaration of November 1918 are discussed in extenso on UN on Palestine Part 1.

So far as the indigenous population is concerned the following from Whitaker's Almanack, 1940, at p.954, is relevant:

"The area of Palestine west of the Jordan is about 10,400 square miles, with a population estimated (Dec 31, 1938) at 1,435,000 of whom 900,000 are Moslems (including 67,000 nomad Beduins, who are mostly to be found in the Beersheba district), 411,000 Jews, 112,000 Christians, and 12,000 members of other faiths. Since Sep. 1, 1920, about 306,000 Jewish immigrants have been recorded as having entered Palestine. In 1938, 15,263 persons were admitted, either as immigrants or as travellers who subsequently were allowed to register as immigrants, and of these 12,868 were Jews. The Jewish immigrants came principally from German and Austria (52 per cent), Poland (25 per cent), Roumania (4 per cent), Czecho-Slovakia (3 per cent) and Yemen and Aden (2½ per cent). Immigrants who were neither Jews nor Arabs numbered 1,872, of whom 1,312 came from Great Britain."

[These figures suggest that in 1923, at the commencement of the Mandate, the proportion of Jews to Arabs was approx 1:9 .....]

Whitaker's Almanack, 2000 treats the whole of Palestine under the heading Israel, with the area and population of Israel proper given as 8,130 sq. miles, population 6,100,000 (1999 estimate): roughly 82 per cent Jewish, 14 per cent Arab Moslems, 2.5 per cent Christian of which 90 per cent are Arab, and 2 per cent Druze, and "Since independence Israel has had a policy of granting an immigration visa to every Jew who expresses a desire to settle in Israel. Between 1948 and 1992, 2.3 million immigrants have entered Israel from over 100 different countries."

Under Palestinian Autonomous Areas it states:

"AREA - The total area of 2,406 sq. miles. The area which is fully autonomous is 159 sq. miles, of which the Gaza Strip is 136 sq. miles and the Jericho enclave 23 sq. miles.
POPULATION - 2,920,454 (1998 Census), of whom 210,209 live in East Jerusalem. In addition there are 141,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and 4,000 in the Gaza strip who remain under Israeli administration and jurisdiction."

This takes little account of the Arab Palestinians either expelled or fled from occupied Palestine, about whom UNRWA web-site; gives the following summary:

"The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides education, health, and relief and social services to 3.9 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The official web site for UNRWA is prepared and maintained by the Public Information Office, UNRWA Headquarters, Gaza
."

Conclusion

Considering the history of the last 50-odd years it no longer seems surprising that the Palestinians refused to agree to the UN partition settlement of 1948 even though, with hindsight, we can now see that it might well have left them in a position far less onerous and oppressive than the present, but the main conclusions must be:

1. No solution to the problem can possibly come from using military force again a substantially unarmed population.

and
2. Any solution must involve a stable secure homeland for the Palestinian Arabs - either in a properly independent state with defensible borders within some very substantial portion of Palestine - or in a mutually shared, secular state for the whole country in which Jews and Arabs can live as equals.

with two important corollaries:
1. That a major responsibility for the Middle East conflict derives from the actions of Britain (up to 1948, and through its continuing support of the USA [*see added note below]), and on the United States of America for its utilisation and military support of Israel as a client state.

2. No solution is possible while these two Governments see individual Arab actions as terrorism and military incursions of Israel into Arab Palestinian areas as "defensive". In fact the major terrorist actions are those conducted by the Israeli military.

Note added 15th April But this does not take account of Britain's collusion with France and Israel in the attack on Egypt in 1956 - which, to the surprise of Britain and France, was (partially) aborted on the intervention of the USA.

© E. C. "Paddy") Apling, 14th April, 2002.

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