Palestine: 76 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession

-(largely consisting of an article written in 1999 entitled ‘Palestine: fifty years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession’, an historical overview of the conflict in Palestine since 1947, by Dr. Ismail Zayid).

The standard Zionist position is that they showed up in Palestine in the late 19th century to reclaim their ancestral homeland. Jews bought land and started building up the Jewish community there. They were met with increasingly violent opposition from the Palestinian Arabs, presumably stemming from the Arabs’ inherent anti-Semitism (the vast majority of the population of Palestine had been Arab since the 7th century AD; the Hebrews were expelled by the Romans in the 2nd century AD – in fact the extended kingdoms of David & Solomon endured for only 73 years and Jewish rule in the region only lasted 414 years from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000BC to the wiping out of Judah in 586BC). The Zionists were then forced to defend themselves and, in one form or another, this same situation continues up to today.

The problem with this explanation of a process of accommodating the settlement of Jews is that it is simply not true, as the documentary evidence will show. What really happened was that the Zionist movement, from the beginning, looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the indigenous Arab population so that Israel could be a wholly Jewish state, or as much as was possible. Land bought by the Jewish National Fund was held in the name of the Jewish people and could never be sold or even leased back to the Arabs (a situation which continues to the present).

On the 29th November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed its Resolution No. 181, recommending the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state, in 56% of the land; an Arab state in 42% of the land; and an International Zone in Jerusalem. At the time, the Jews, a larger proportion of them recent or illegal immigrants, constituted one-third of the population of Palestine and owned 5.6% of its land. In the area that was apportioned to the Jewish state, half of the population was Arab (Muslims and Christians) and half was Jewish. Subsequently, fighting erupted between Arabs and Jews and by the end of the fighting in really 1949, Israel had occupied 78% of Palestine and approximately 750,000 Palestinians were driven out or fled in terror from their homes. The population of Gaza are largely descendents of this mass of refugees.

(Ref: ‘Palestine: fifty years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession’ by Dr. Ismail Zayid).

In short, Zionism was based on a faulty, colonialist world view that the rights of the indigenous inhabitants did not matter. The Arab’s opposition to Zionism was not based on anti-Semitism, but rather on a totally reasonable fear of the dispossession of their people.
(Source: Jews for Justice in the Middle East – ‘the Palestine-Israel Conflict’).

Palestine: fifty years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession by Dr. Ismail Zayid

This essay provides an overview of the conflict. It was originally given as a lecture at the Conference on Palestine, Vancouver, 23rd May 1999. It is now 76 years since the partition of Palestine. (please note the last paragraphs of this article in particular)

The Palestine-Israel conflict is frequently described as a very complex one. I want to submit to you that the problem is fundamentally a very simple one which was summed up, in the words of a simple Palestinian farmer in Jericho – quoted by the late Frank Epp, then President of Conrad Grebel College of the University of Waterloo – who told him: “Our problem is very simple. A foreigner came and took our land, our farms and our homes, and kicked us out. We have in mind to return. It may take a hundred years, but we will return.”

This, in a nutshell, is the Palestine problem and the essence of this conflict. A country, Palestine, has been dismantled, its people uprooted from their homeland and replaced by an alien people gathered from all corners of the globe and a new state, Israel, created, in its place. This tragedy, and the ensuing conflict that brought about repeated wars in the Middle East is a direct outcome of the introduction of political Zionism into the Middle East.

Inevitably, some history is relevant here. It was the second of November 1917 when Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued his infamous declaration in the form of a letter written to Lord Rothchild. It read: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

It is interesting to note that the four-letter word “Arab” occurs not once in this document. To refer to the Arabs who constituted, at the time, 92% of the population of Palestine and owned 98% of its land, as the non-Jewish communities is not merely preposterous but deliberately fraudulent. I do not need to tell you that this letter has no shred of legality, as Palestine did not belong to Balfour to assume such acts of generosity. Dr. Arnold Toynbee described the British role, in issuing this document, accurately: “We were taking it upon ourselves to give away something that was not ours to give. We were promising rights of some kind in the Palestinian Arabs’ country to a third party.”

Similarly, the well-known Jewish writer, Arthur Koestler, summed it up aptly when he described the Balfour Declaration as a document in which “one nation promised a second the country of a third”.

On the 29th November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed its Resolution No.181, recommending the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state, in 56% of the land; an Arab state in 42% of the land; and an International Zone in Jerusalem. At the time, the Jews, a larger proportion of them recent or illegal immigrants, constituted one-third of the population of Palestine and owned 5.6% of its land. In the area that was apportioned to the Jewish state, half of the population was Arab (Muslims and Christians) and half was Jewish.

It is interesting to note that times have not changed since 1947 when the United States got the General Assembly to delay a vote “to gain time to bring, by coercion, certain Latin American, Asian and African countries into line with its own views.” Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles stated: “By direct order of the White House, every form of pressure, direct and indirect, was used to make sure that the necessary majority would be gained.

Subsequently, fighting erupted between Arabs and Jews and by the end of the fighting in really 1949, Israel had occupied 78% of Palestine and approximately 750,000 Palestinians were driven out or fled in terror from their homes.

The genesis of this exodus emanates from the inherent concept of the Zionist ideology of creating a pure Jewish state in Palestine, free of Arabs. The current powerful political agenda that exists in Israel today, as the policy of “transfer of Palestinians” from Israel and the occupied territories, is not a new one. Theodor Herzl wrote in his diaries in 1897, on the occasion of the First World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, where he presented his plans to create a Jewish state in Palestine, that:

We shall try to spirit the penniless (Arab) population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly” (from R. Patai, ed, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Vol. I).

Ben-Gurion, in a speech to the 20th Zionist Congress plenum in Zurich on the 7th August 1937, stated:

Transfer of (Arab) inhabitants happened in the past, in the Jerzeel Valley, in the Sharon (I.e. the Coastal Plain) and in other places. We know of the Jewish National Fund’s actions in this regard. Now the transfer will have to be carried out on a different scale altogether. In many parts of the country new Jewish settlement will not be possible unless there is transfer of the Arab peasantry. The transfer of the population is what makes possible a comprehensive (Jewish) settlement plan. Thankfully, the Arab people have large, empty areas (outside Palestine). Jewish power in the country, which is continuously growing, will also increase our possibilities to carry out the transfer on a large scale. You must remember that this method contains an important humane and Zionist idea, to shift parts of a people (I.e. the Palestine Arabs) to their own country and to settle empty lands [in Syria, Transjordan and Iraq]“. (Benny Morris, “Looking Back: a personal assessment of the Zionist Experience”, Tikkun. 13:40-49, 1998).

Here we go again! Expelling people from their homeland, we are now told, is a “humane Zionist idea”. Professor Israel Shahak said it all:

You cannot have humane Zionism; it is a contradiction in terms. In the completion of its policy of “ethnic cleansing” in 1948, Israel proceeded, in an attempt to destroy the Palestinian national existence, by a policy of destruction of property and expropriation of Arab land. A systemic process brought about the total destruction of 378 Palestinian towns and villages.

In a letter to his son, Amos, Ben-Gurion confided that when the Jewish state comes into being, “we will expel the Arabs and take their places“. And while visiting the newly-conquered Nazareth in July 1948, Ben-Gurion exclaimed: “Why are there so many Arabs left here? Why didn’t you expel them?

American Vice President nominee (and former governor of New York) Nelson Rockefeller (1908 – 1979) adjusts his glasses during his senate confirmation hearing,

Joseph Weitz, who was the Jewish Agency chief representative, reported in the 29th September 1967 issue of `Davar’, organ of the Histadrut, that he and other Zionist leaders concluded, in 1940, that there was “no room for both peoples together in this country“. The achievement of Zionist objectives, he realised, required “a Palestine, or at least Western Palestine (west of the Jordan River) without Arabs“. He wrote that it was necessary “to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries. To transfer all of them and only after such transfer would the country be able to absorb millions of our brethren“. This, in essence, is the foundation for the policy of “ethnic cleansing” that the Zionist forces adopted in 1948 to remove, by massacre, and by psychological warfare, virtually the entire Arab population in the area of the Palestinian territory that they conquered by military means, 78% of Palestine.

The massacre on the 9th April 1948 of the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, where 250 men, women and children were butchered and massacred in cold blood by Irgun Zwei Leumi terrorist gang, with the approval of the Jerusalem commander of the official Zionist forces; the Haganah, David Shaltiel, as recently documented by Yitzhak Levi, a veteran Israeli intelligence officer, was instrumental in this expulsion. Ironically, the village of Deir Yassin had made a peace agreement with their Jewish neighbours of Givat Shaul. This massacre was not unique and numerous similar massacres were carried out by Zionist forces and Israeli forces during that war. A recent article in the Tel Aviv newspaper, Hair, of the 6th May 1992, by Guy Erlich, documents evidence collected by the American Jewish journalist Dan Kortzman, author of Genesis 1948, and the history researcher Ariyeh Yitzhaki, of at least twenty large massacres of Arabs and about a hundred more massacres committed by Israeli forces. Yitzhaki states: “For many Israelis it was easy to cling to the false claim that the Arabs left the country because that was what their leaders ordered. That is a total lie. The fundamental cause for the flight of the Arabs was their fear of Israelis’ violence, and that fear had a basis in reality“.

History researcher Uri Milstein, celebrated in Israel as the dispeller of myths, confirms Yitzhaki’s evaluation regarding the volume of the massacres and even goes further:

If Yitzhaki claims that there were murders in almost every village, then I say that up to the inception of Israel every event of fighting ended in a massacre of Arabs. There were massacres of Arabs in all of Israel’s wars, but I have no doubt that the War of Independence was the dirtiest.

In the village of Duweima, an Arab village near Hebron, occupied without a battle by Battalion 89 of the 8th Brigade, some 80-100 civilians were murdered in cold blood by the occupiers. Later, more civilians were murdered. In the village of Safsaf:

Fifty-two men were tied with a rope. Lowered into a pit and shot. Ten were killed. Women begged for mercy. Three cases of rape. A 14 year-old raped and four others killed“.

The policy of massacre was complemented by a campaign of psychological warfare, initiating terror to force the Palestinians to flee. Leo Heiman, Israeli Army Reserve officer who fought in 1948, wrote in Marine Corp Gazette in June 1964: “As uncontrolled panic spread through all arab quarters, the Israelis brought up jeeps with loudspeakers which broadcast recorded `horror sounds’. These included shrieks, wails and anguished moans of Arab women, the wail of sirens and the clang of fire alarm bells, interrupted by a sepulchral voice calling out in Arabic: “Save your souls all ye faithful: the Jews are using poison gas and atomic weapons. Run for your lives in the name of Allah“.

More subtle methods of psychological warfare were used by Yigal Allon, the Commander of the Palmach, an elite Haganah force, who later became Israeli Foreign Minister. He wrote in Ha Sepher Ha Palmach in 1948: I gathered all of the Jewish mukhtars (headmen), who have contact with Arabs in different villages, and asked them to whisper in the ears of some Arabs that a great Jewish reinforcement has arrived in Galilee and that it is going to burn all of the villages of Huleh. They should suggest to these Arabs, as their friends, to escape while there is still time. The rumour spread in all the areas of the Huleh. The tactic reached its goal completely.

When the Arabs failed to flee, as required, a combination of terror and physical expulsion was used, as in the case of the cities of Lydda and Ramleh, which were occupied in July 10th, 1948. Yitzhak Rabin, recorded in his memoirs, published in the New York Times (23rd October 1999):

While the fighting was still in progress, we had to grapple with the problem dealing with the fate of the civilian population, numbering 50,000. We walked outside, Ben Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question: ‘What is to be done with the population?’ B.G. waved his hand in a gesture which said, ‘Drive them out!’.”

One of the Israeli war crimes is relevant here. After the surrender of Lydda, a group of Palestinian men took refuge in the small Dahmash Mosque. The commander of the Palmach’s Third Battalion, Moshe Kalman, gave an order to fire several missiles at the mosque. The force that attacked the mosque was surprised at the lack of resistance. It found the remains of the Arab fighters stuck to the mosque walls. A group of 20 to 50 of the city’s residents were then brought to clean the mosque and to bury the remains. When they finished their work, they were also shot, and thrown into the graves they themselves had dug. The American Jewish journalist Dan Kortzman learned of the event from Moshe Kalman while working on his book, Genesis 1948, described the War of Independence.

Rabin and his officers proceeded to drive these 50-60,000 civilians away from their homes in terror, with low-flying airplanes over their heads shooting the occasional person and forcing them to run. The sight of the terror-stricken men, women and children fleeing in horror in the midday sun of the hot summer, having run approximately 25km to the village of Beit Nuba, where I saw them with my own eyes, is a sight not to be forgotten . In refernce to this scene and countering the Zionist propaganda, that the Palestinians left their homes voluntarily and in response to broadcasts by their leaders.

It is perhaps relevant to note that this piece of Zionist propaganda was first demolished by Dr. Erskine Childers who examined the American and British monitoring records of all Middle East broadcasts throughout 1948. He reported in the Spectator 1961: “There was not a single order or appeal or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948. There is repeated monitored record of Arab appeals even flat orders, to civilians of Palestine to stay put.”

The historical record clearly demonstrates that the Palestine refugee problem was created in response to a clear Zionist policy of cleansing the land of Palestine From its own people. Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, described this process with a great deal of satisfaction as the “miraculous clearing of the land“. However, the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden, stated in a report to the UN: “It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.

Count Bernadette paid heavily for stating this obvious principle and was assassinated by the Stern terrorist gang, on direct orders of Yitzhak Shamir, on the 17th September 1948 in Jerusalem. The United Nations General Assembly proceeded, however, to resolve on December 11th, 1948, in its resolution No.194:

Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date and those wishing not to return should be compensated for their property.

The implementation of this resolution, together with Resolution 181 of the 29th November 1947, were reaffirmed and were made conditions for the admittance of Israel to the UN membership in Resolution No. 273 of the 11th May 1949.

Despite this and despite repeated UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions demanding the implementation of Resolution No. 194 for the return of the refugees, Israel continues to defy this international will and in essence, it can be argued that its membership in the United Nations is illegitimate, in view of its refusal to comply with the conditions that were imposed upon it. Not only that, Israel proceeded in 1967, after the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to expel over 300,000 more Palestinian refugees from their homes or refugee camps. Many of them were in essence expelled a second time. Security Council Resolution No. 237 of the 14th June 1967, called upon the government of Israel to facilitate the return of these refugees, and similar UN General Assembly Resolutions to that effect remain unimplemented.

It is clear, for anybody, who has witnessed the history of that area to see that the Palestinians remain determined to return to their homeland and their struggle continues despite repeated massacres and an orchestrated policy of genocide denying them their national existence. Their sacrifices have been documented and continue, despite the Israeli policy of state terrorism and continuing bombardment of their refugee camps in Lebanon and the oppressive practices that are employed against them under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the late Dr. Frank Epp, described the tragedy of the Palestinian people in these terms: “Rarely has a people suffered so much injustice so passively for so long, waiting for the powers that be to redress the inflicted wrong.

Similarly, it was the distinguished philosopher, Lord Bertrand Russell who stated, addressing an international conference in 1970, the following: “The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was `given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masses from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.

The Land Question

In the completion of its policy of “ethnic cleansing” in 1948, Israel proceeded, in an attempt to destroy the Palestinian national existence, by a policy of destruction of property and expropriation of Arab land. A systemic process brought about the total destruction of 378 Palestinian towns and villages.

In 1948, the total Jewish holdings, leased and owned, were less than 6% of the total land area of Palestine. To enlarge this, one of the most shocking acts of plunder in modern history took place. A series of so-called laws were quickly promulgated to expropriate the millions of acres and thousands of farms and stores and hundreds of whole towns and villages that belonged to the expelled Arab refugees. These laws included the Emergency Defence Regulations, the Abandoned Areas Ordinance (1949), the Emergency Articles of Exploitation of Uncultivated Lands (1947-1949), the Absentee Property Law (1950) and the Land Acquisition Law (1953). This act of plunder was not confined to the property of the refugees who had been thrown out of the country but was extended to the Arabs who remained on their land. Under one regulation, any area could be closed by the authorities for security reasons and its Arabs barred from it. It would be declared “abandoned” or “uncultivated”. Under another law it would be handed over to others, usually Jews, to cultivate. Many Arab citizens who had never moved from the part of Palestine that became Israel happened to be away from their lands and homes for a certain period during the process of Israeli occupation, annexation, and population transfer. They were barred from their villages upon their return, thereby becoming absentees, and their property was seized. These Arabs earned the Orwellian title of “absent present”. Where else but in the Zionist dictionary would you find such an entity?!

Moshe Keren, a Jewish writer, described the laws as “Wholesale robbery with a legal coating”. In this way the Israeli authorities confiscated the entire movable and immovable property of the 750,000 evicted refugees, and more than one million dunums of land belonging to Arabs who had remained in Israel after 1948, was seized.

The expropriated Arab land was passed to Keren Kaymeth, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the laws of which prevent leasing the land to Arabs or use of Arab labour. These are clearly racist laws. Uri Avnery told the Knesset: “If we are going to expel Arab cultivators from the land that was formally theirs, & was handed over to the Jews, we would be acting in accordance with the verse which says: `Hast thou killed and also inherited’ “.

These were only a few of the methods and laws that were used or legislated to expropriate the land of the Arabs, who remained in Israel, and to discriminate against them.

The 1967 Occupation

Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and expropriation continued in the territories occupied in its war of aggression in 1967, including the West Bank and Gaza. In part, this was achieved by the total destruction of a number of villages and towns in the West Bank, including my own village, Beit Nuba. Together with the neighbouring villages of Imwas (the biblical village of Emmaus) and Yalu, Beit Nuba was systematically dynamited, bulldozed and erased from the surface of the earth, on 9-10th June 1967, a war crime committed on the direct orders of Yitzhak Rabin, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army at the time, and later the Prime Minister of Israel, and ironically a Nobel Peace Laureate. To the shame of every Canadian, the infamy called Canada Park, paid by Canadian tax-deductible dollars, stands today on the ruins of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba.

Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defence in June 1967, is quoted by General Arieh Bar-On, Dayan’s Military-Secertary, of declaring in a meeting of the General Command, in September 1967, that: “at the beginning of the war and during the war we carried out operations to destroy villages, for Zionist purposes in which I fully share”. General Bar-On states in his recently published book, in Hebrew, Personal Signature – Moshe Dayan in the Six-Day War and After: “Encouraging the emigration of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria (sic – The West Bank) was indeed the policy of the entire system, which was under his (Dayan’s) dominion. Over 300,000 Palestinians were made refugees by the end of June 1967, and some for the second time. This was as a result of direct “encouragement” and planned policy by Israel.

Despite Security Council Resolution No. 237 of June 14th 1967, ordering the return of the 1967 Palestinian refugees to their homes, Israel refused to comply.

Israeli policies in the Occupied territories continue in defiance of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and Repeated UN Security Council Resolutions. These policies include the demolition of Palestinian homes and expropriation of property. Over 70% of the land area of the West Bank has been expropriated since 1967, for the creation of illegal Jewish settlements. Apart from the destruction of entire villages, thousands of homes have been demolished, as acts of collective punishment or for lack of building permits. Such permits are regularly denied to Palestinians to build on their own land.

In the Gaza Strip alone, 40% of this tiny area [was] expropriated to illegally accommodate 5000 Jewish settlers. The remaining 60% [had accommodated] approximately one million people, making it an area with the heaviest population density in the world. The vast majority of these people are refugees expelled from their homes in Palestine in 1948.

In a systematic process of economic deprivation, over 230,000 olive and orchard trees in the 1967 occupied territories have been uprooted and bulldozed. This is ironic, considering that the Zionist colonists came to Palestine with the myth that they were “to make the desert bloom”.

In reference to this lie and the Zionist slogan of Israel Zang will of 1906, “Palestine is a land without a people for a people without a land”, it may be relevant to quote other Jewish Zionists.

In truth from Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha’am, the Russian Jewish writer and philosopher, wrote: “We abroad have a way of thinking that Palestine today is almost desert, an uncultivated wilderness – but this is not infact the case. It is difficult to find any uncultivated land anywhere in the country.

The behaviour of Jewish settlers toward the Arabs disturbed him. They had not learned from experience as a minority within a wider population, but reacted with the cruelty of slaves who had suddenly become kings, treating their neighbours with contempt. The Arabs, he wrote, understood very well what Zionist intentions were in the country and “if the time should come when the lives of our people in Palestine should develop to the extent that, to a smaller or greater degree, they usurp the place of the local population, the latter will not yield easily. We have to treat the local population with love and respect, justly and rightly. And what do our brethren in the land of Israel do? Exactly the opposite! Slaves they were in the country of exile, and suddenly they find themselves in a boundless and anarchic freedom, as is always the case with a slave that has become king; and they behave toward the Arabs with hostility and cruelty.”

Ethics were at the heart and soul of Ahad ha’am’s brand of nationalism, and to the end of his life, he denounced any compromise with political expediency. In 1913, protesting against a Jewish boycott of Arab labour, he wrote to a friend:

“..I can’t put up with the idea that our brethren are morally capable of behaving in such a way to humans of another people, and unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: `if this is so now, what will our relations to the others be like if, at the end of time, we shall really achieve power in Eretz Israel? And if this be the Messiah, I do not wish to see his coming.

We see today Ahad Ha’am’s prophetic statement completely fulfilled.

The process of land expropriation and the creation of illegal settlements, while Palestinian homes are bulldozed and their trees uprooted, continue after the charade that is called “The Middle East Peace Process” and the “Oslo Agreements”, a process that has legitimised the occupation and undermined the international order and our people’s will.

Speaking of peace, it is interesting to note that Ben-Gurion gave Arab leaders more credit than they deserve when he stated in 1956: “I don’t understand your optimism. Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. (Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in The Jewish Paradox, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978, p.99).

Another observation that is relevant here is the continuing reference to the need for Israeli security and the accusations of terrorism directed by Israel and western media and politicians, at Palestinians, who are evidently expected to shower bouquets of flowers at Israelis who have expelled them from their towns and villages and continue to bulldoze their homes, uproot their trees and murder, incarcerate and torture their men, women and children. Interestingly, Canadian General ELM Burns, Chief of Staff of United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), did not expect that. He wrote in his book `Between Arab and Israeli’, 1962: “It seemed to me to be symptomatic of certain blindness to the human reactions of others that so many Israelis professed not to understand why the Arabs who had been driven from their lands should continue to hate and try to injure those who had driven them out“. (Lt. Gen. E.L.M. Burns, Chief of Staff of UNTSO, Between Arab and Israeli, p.162).

Commenting about the Western hypocrisy Noam Chomsky said that Israeli Labour Party policy adapted itself to Western hypocrisy, as Israeli former Cabinet Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, described their policy conducted “so that the West can pretend it does not understand.


The fate of Jerusalem is a major issue to determine the future course of peace or conflict in the Middle East. Jerusalem has been a Palestinian city throughout history, despite periods of occupation by invading alien forces. The same UN Resolution No.181, of the 29th November 1947, that allowed the creation of Israel, stipulated that Jerusalem be an international entity (corpus separatum). Of the 41villages surrounding West Jerusalem, 37 were destroyed by Israel in 1948. More than 80,000 Palestinians were driven out from West Jerusalem in 1948. The annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, by Israel, is illegal and in violation of international law and in defiance of Security Council resolutions. However, Israel continues its policy of ethnic cleansing and expropriation in Jerusalem since 1967.

Israel destroyed the entire Magharba quarter, a historic Islamic religious site, to create a Jewish plaza, in front of the Western Wall. The Israeli government expanded the Jerusalem municipality to ten times its original size and annexed it.

Israel has, since 1967, systematically carried out a policy of Judaization of Jerusalem. 85% of the land annexed has been expropriated to create Jewish settlements and homes for Jews only, surrounding and suffocating Arab East Jerusalem.

Arab residents of East Jerusalem are treated as foreigners with special identity cards, as “permanent residents” in Jerusalem. These cards are confiscated from Jerusalemites, if they are forced to work or live outside Jerusalem, even though they and their ancestors have lived in the city for thousands of years. Yet, Jews from New York or Toronto can move into Jerusalem at will.

Since September 1993, and the Oslo charade, a strict closure has been imposed on Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank, to whom Jerusalem is an economic, medical, cultural, educational and religious centre. Muslims and Christians are denied access to their religious worship places. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and injured; over 500 families have had their homes demolished; over 1000 people have had their rights to live in Jerusalem, the city of their birth, taken away, while Jews from Moscow or New York can move into Jerusalem, when they choose. Thousands have been arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Land continues to be expropriated to create Jewish colonies in Palestinian land and thousands of people have found themselves homeless, destitute and hopeless. Students are denied access to their university and the sick are unable to reach hospitals for treatment.

This is what the Oslo charade has brought about. Illegal occupation has been legitimised, the Palestinian Authority has become a sub-contractor to do Israel’s dirty work in the few scattered “Bantustans” that are nominally under Arafat’s control, but besieged by Israel’s troops. In essence, the Oslo agreement is another Nakba (catastrophe) that the Palestinian negotiators have inflicted upon their people and have put back the Palestinian struggle for self-determination by another generation, at least.

Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Israeli government has adopted a policy of systematic and deliberate discrimination against the city’s

Palestinian population in all matters relating to expropriation of land, planning and building.

This is the principle finding of a report just published in Israel by B’Tselem, the Israeli Human Rights Organisation. It goes on to conclude that “this policy is a clear violation of international law and the fundamental principles of democracy, with grave consequences as regards human rights”.

It is true that the Palestinian people have endured so much wrong and injustice but I assure you that the Palestinian people’s tenacity is unyielding. Our people are willing to struggle and sacrifice; you cannot defeat a people with this tenacity, when a child turns his little hand into a fist, with a stone, that defies the oppressor. The oppressed people of South Africa were able to teach F.W. De Klerk a lesson that had made Mr. De Klerk declare that the book on Apartheid is closed. I am afraid the book on the Zionist ideology is not yet closed but I can assure you that Zionism, like Apartheid, is running against the natural course of history and I am optimistic that right will overcome wrong. I am also optimistic because there are Jewish voices who are speaking out. The late great Jewish journalist, I.F. Stone, wrote a few years ago: “How can we talk of human rights and ignore them for the Palestinians? How can Israel talk of Jewish rights to a homeland and deny one to the Palestinians?

Similarly, Professor Israel Shahak, a holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Israeli League for Civil and Human Rights, said: “The majority of the Israeli public are shutting their eyes to the simple human cry of the Palestinian.” He warned his people “not to allow the experience of the German people between the two world wars to befall them”. He went on to state that he is saying this: “so that no one can say as the German people did, ‘I did not know ‘. And like Albert Speer, I am trying to act before it is too late“.

Wreaking Havoc

The editor of the Jewish religious newspaper ‘Ner’ wrote in January 1961: “Only an international revolution can have the power to heal our people of their murderous sickness of causeless hatred. How great was our responsibility to those miserable wronged Arab refugees, in whose towns we have settled Jews who were brought from afar; whose now sow and harvest; and in whose cities that we robbed, we put up houses of education, charity and prayer, while we babble and rave about our being the `People of the Book and the Light of the Nations’ “.

This is the kind of authentic Jewish voice that I am happy to say gives me hope that in time, there will be more people like I.F. Stone, Israel Shahak, Felicia Langer and other great Jewish men and women of conscience. For, if the other voice, the voice which has come to dominate Israel and Zionist thinking, arrogant with power which thinks only of territorial expansion and practiced discrimination and terror, the voice of Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu, if that voice should continue to speak for Israel, then Israel will bring, I am afraid, tragedy on herself and the Palestinians and very likely on the rest of the world.

The tragedy of the Jewish people in the crimes they committed, and continue to commit, against the Palestinian people, are highlighted in that accurate statement made by the renowned British historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee, who wrote in his great work on history ‘The History of the World’:

In A.D. 1948, the Jews knew from personal experience what they were doing; and it was their supreme tragedy that the lesson learned by them from their encounter with the Nazi gentiles should have been not to eschew but to imitate some of the evil deeds that the Nazis had committed against the Jews“.

The Old Testament prophets were incredibly prophetic in foretelling what would happen if the Jews turned aside from what they knew to be the truth of justice. Let me end by quoting to you some verses from the prophet Micah, who might have been writing for today when he gave this warning:

Here this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the House of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. Therefore because of you, Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins“.

There is still time to prevent that prophecy from coming true in our own day. But there may not be very much time.

The Palestinian people are calling for a modicum of justice, for without this, I am afraid, there will be no peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.

Dr. Ismail Zayid was born and grew up in Beit Nuba, Palestine, went to school in Jerusalem, received his medical education at the University of London, and emigrated to Canada in 1972. He is the author of two books, ‘Palestine: A Stolen Heritage’ and ‘Zionism: The Myth and the Reality’, and is founding president of the Canada Palestine Association. In the late 1990s, he retired from his position as professor of Pathology and Head of Anatomical Pathology in the faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University of Halifax. His website is:


Here to Stay
A timeline of Palestine

Taken from the “Dossier on Palestine”
Published by ‘Shunpiking’, Nova Scotia’s Discovery Magazine
Vol.7, No.43 – October 28th 2002
©2002 New Media Publications

This timeline seeks to bring to the fore the most important events related to the question of Palestine in both a regional and international context. Imperialism was and remains the main obstacle to the aspirations for freedom and independence. While it is the people who make history, they do so under conditions not of their choosing but given to them from the past. In the conditions of the Ottoman Empire, a feudal system decaying amidst the rise of monopoly capitalism, this past was complex. The purpose of this chronological map is to explore these underlying, long term forces shaping Palestine and Israel. The editors think this especially important in the light of the anti-historical consciousness spread by media reportage and its anti-Arab bias.

Historical Palestine

Today’s Palestinians are the descendants of the Amorites, Canaanites, Jebusites, Philistines and other tribes who have lived in this land since history began.

Professor Maxime Rodinson, a Jewish professor of history at the Sorbonne

University in Paris states: “The Arab population of Palestine was native in all senses of the word and their roots in Palestine can be traced back at least forty centuries”. (‘Israel and the Arabs’, New York; Penguin, 1968).

Throughout history, the people of Palestine have resisted every foreign invader, including the Hebrew tribes (1000 BCE), the Assyrians (722 BCE), the Babylonians (586 BCE), the Persians (538 BCE), the Greeks (332 BCE), the Romans (64 BCE), the Persians under Khosru II (614), the Muslims (638), the Crusaders (1099 – defeated and expelled in 1187 by Saladin), the Ottoman Turks (1517), and the British (1917).

Jerusalem was built by the Amorites around 2000 BCE and known initially as Urusalem, after the Amorite prince Salem. In subsequent periods and times, special significance was attached to particular sites there by the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. These include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other well-known sites at Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth associated with the life of Christ, the Western or “Wailing Wall” (the last remnant of the Jewish temple first destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Wars in 70 and finally destroyed by order of Roman Emperor Hadrian in 138), the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock built in 688 by Umayyad Caliph Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan, etc.

For historical reasons Islam came to predominate, but followers of all three religions have always been found among the Palestinians, and the people never allowed themselves to be divided on the basis of religion. What always defined the Palestinian was not any particular religious adherence or practice, but rather the long-term continuous attachment to the land, their motherland and society. Many quotes can be cited showing that Palestinians, comprised mainly of Muslims and Christians and Jews, were brothers in terms of nationality, language and interest.

Addressing the Anglo-American Commission on Palestine in 1946, Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organisation and first President of the future State of Israel, acknowledged that Islamic society did not victimise the Jew: “I would not like to do any injustice. The Muslim world has treated the Jews with considerable tolerance. The Ottoman Empire (of which the Arabs were a large part) received the Jews with open arms when they were driven out of Spain and Europe, and the Jews should never forget that”.

1890s – 1948: Political Zionism, Arab nationalism

Demanding a Jewish state in Palestine, Political Zionism emerges, inextricably bound up with European imperialism, Theodor Herzl, its father, courts various patrons. He negotiates with representatives of Tsarist Russia, Germany, Britain, Italy and the Ottoman Empire. Zionism becomes adopted by the great powers for their own ends. Inevitably, ever-greater Palestinian organisation, resistance and nationality assert themselves in response as well as to the strangulation of Ottoman rule. This forms part of an overall Arabic revival – including concern for language and culture, history, democracy, popular education and women, as well as a revival of Islam.

The Palestinian upsurge demonstrates that the modern Palestinian resistance, as epitomised by the PLO (and now Hamas), did not emerge out of nowhere, but was rather an extension of a national movement that appeared in embryonic form toward the end of the Ottoman era. It showed an awareness of the dangers posed by the self-serving interests of Russia, Britain, France and Germany in the Middle East in using the Zionist movement against Palestine for their own ends.

In the 1880s, the population of Palestine was about 500,000. This includes 47,000 of Jewish origin, some indigenous, the rest religious immigrants. There were over 1,000 Palestinian villages with many flourishing towns in a semi-feudal agrarian society with extensive irrigation. The citrus orchards (the farmed Jaffa orange), olive groves and grains were known around the world as was the soap manufactured from pure olive oil in such cities as Nablus and Jaffa. The livelihood of its inhabitants was based mainly on land, the greatest portion of which being owned by a small number of wealthy and influential families and local leaders. Peasants constituted the largest portion of the population.

Suez, Rothchild, Shell and Balfour:

The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and by the early 1880s, Rothchild banking interests, based since the 17th century in Germany, France and Britain, had acquired effective control of the Suez Canal. Starting in 1882 they also began sponsoring Jewish colonisation schemes in Palestine. This was launched at the very moment Britain occupied Egypt (including Cairo and the Nile as far as the Sudan) – banishing the Egyptian nationalist leader Arabi Pasha to Ceylon after suppressing the rebellion he led against the British in Alexandria – to secure their control of the canal. British concern to control such a vital link to its empire in India is seen in the rise of English shipping tonnage through its locks almost 10 times between 1870 and 1880, from 309,560 to 3,040,800 tons. A large and growing portion of this traffic was oil being brought in tankers from the Dutch East Indies, by Shell Oil, controlled by the Samuel brothers from a prominent London Jewish banking family.

The essential role of oil for contemporary industry meant Shell, the Colonial Office and the Rothshilds acquired a stanglehold over both the sustainability and even the possibility of industrial development across a wide swath of Europe as well as in Asia and (for the future) in India and Africa as well.


1841: The social cohesiveness and stability of Palestine – the 20,000 Jews of Jerusalem are wholly integrated and accepted in Palestinian society – leads Lord Palmerston, Foreign Secretary, when Britain convinced the Ottoman Empire to allow them to establish a consulate in Jerusalem, to propose the founding of a European Jewish settler colony – similar to the British plantations in Ireland – to “preserve the larger interests of the British Empire”.

1882: Lord Roth child initiates Jewish plantations

1886: A group of peasants, pushed into a corner by the loss of their land, attack Zionist colonists at Al-Khdirah and Petah Tikvah. This resistance broadens to include shopkeepers and artisans, mainly Christian.

1891: Jewish Colonization Association (JAC) forms. It begins operations in Palestine in 1896.

1896: Theodore Herzl sets forth a plan for inducing the Ottoman Empire to grant Palestine to the Zionists: “Supposing his Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could, in return, undertake to regulate the finances of Turkey. We should there form an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism”. (emphasis added). Such despicable views – typifying the Zionist and Israeli outlook about Palestinians to the present – express the racism integral within colonialism and imperialism.

1897: 1st Zionist Congress, organised by Herzl in opposition to the chief rabbis of many West European Jewish communities, launches the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) and adopts the “Basle Programme” for settling Jews in Palestine.

A Jewish conference in Montreal passes the following resolution: “We strongly disapprove of every initiative aimed at the creation of a Jewish state. Attempts of this kind clearly show a false concept of Israel’s mission. We assert the goal of Judaism is neither political, nor national but spiritual and that its purpose is to promote peace, justice and love among men”.

Resistance against Zionist immigration and land expropriation for the purpose of agricultural settlement in Palestine increases dramatically, especially amongst farmers. Albert Antebi, JAC representative in Jerusalem, observes (1899) that the programme has adversely affected relations between Palestinians and Jewish immigrants. Herzl sends letter to the Palestinian Mayor of Jerusalem hinting that, if Zionists are not welcomed in Palestine, they will go elsewhere.

Imperial interests

1990: WZO founds the Jewish National Fund to acquire land in Palestine which can neither be worked by, nor subsequently sold to non-Jews – its mission to date.

Many petitions in which Palestinians express strong opposition to Zionist expropriation of land, including Jerusalem. JCA’s Antebi observes (1902) that “the ill will of the local population coincides with the creation of Zionism”.

1902: Herzl argues before a Royal Commission:
Support of Zionism would not only spare the British Government the distasteful necessity of imposing immigration restrictions against growing numbers of Eastern Jews, but would also serve British imperial interests.

The first international exploitation of oil in the ME after British discovery at Masjid-I-Sulayman, Persia: the Anglo-Persian oil company is established. Britain controls Persia except for the mountainous north (which came under Russian domination, in accordance with a 1907 agreement between Britain and Russia). Tsarist Russia seeks to use Jewish immigration to Ottoman regions to incite trouble so as to intervene, and Britain to use Zionist immigration to Palestine to split Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

1903: 1st Palestinian women’s organisation founded in Acre; wave of Zionist immigration.

1905: The 7th WZO Congress is terrified that the Palestinian people are organising a political movement for national independence from the Ottoman Empire – a threat to Turkish rule and Zionist designs. It rejects the East Africa scheme for Jewish colonies, and makes overtures to Imperial Germany for a Jewish state under the auspices of the Ottomans.

By WW1, a parallel track of collaboration with British Imperial interests dominates. Weizmann argues in 1914 that such a state would “form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal”.

1907: First kibbutz, based on exclusively Jewish labour, established.

1909: Tel Aviv is founded north of Jaffa as the first all-Jewish centre.

1914-18 – A war for global redivision

World War 1, waged by the capitalists of all countries – Germany, Britain, Russia..etc – for resources, transportation routes and markets. It redivided the world, and further subjugated the weak nations. The belligerent governments promised “peace without annexation”, then carved up these nations by secret predatory treaties. It is the first ‘total war’ and some 12 million people die for the sake of profit. Throughout the 20th century, war became the main means of the big powers for settling economic, political and social conflicts, unleashed on an unprecendented scale on every continent.

1915: Hussein-McMahon Agreement – In return for support of the Arab Congress for the rest of WW1, Britain promises Arab peoples complete independence.

1916: (16 Jun) Arab revolt against Ottoman rule. (9 May): Britain promises France part of ME.

1917: (2 Nov) The Balfour Declaration: Lord Balfour, British foreign secretary, states British policy regarding a Jewish “national home” in Palestine in a letter to Lord Rothchild:
“His Majesty’s Government views 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 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 two British moves of 1916 and 1917 contradict its clear and specific written promises to the Arabs. Balfour later supplies the rationale: In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country ….The four great powers have taken up the Zionist cause. And Zionism, be it just or false, good or bad, is rooted in long-standing traditions, in present needs, and in future hopes that are far more important than the desires or the frustrations of the 700,000 Arabs who live on this ancient land today.
NOTE: The Balfour Declaration – issued days before the imminent Bolshevik Revolution (7 Nov 1917) – also targeted the sympathy of East European Jews for Bolshevism. Soviet success under Lenin and Stalin in handling problems over nationality, language and the Jewish question without fragmenting or descending into internal civil war won widespread admiration and grudging respect. In 1934 the Soviet Union announced the creation of an autonomous region in Birobidzhan on the shores of the Amur River on the boundary with Manchuria. The notorious anti-semitism of Tsarist Russia for 600 years, including the Black Hundreds (pogrom squads), was solved. Yiddish was the official language, culture flourished, e.g. books and periodicals were published in the millions of copies. It was explicitly intended as a homeland for Jews from throughout the Soviet Union and, after WW2, they offered to extend this opening to all Jews in Eastern Europe. The international Zionist movement vigorously boycotted and refused to publicise it. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, it opposed official language status for Yiddish to keep a cordon sanitaire around the then-socialist USSR and Birobidzhan. With the shift in policy from the time of Khrushchev to Gorbachev, however, these problems reappeared. These leaders replaced a policy that had been based on self-determination with the old tsarist policies of Russification and the incitement of Russian chauvinism and the Soviet Union degenerated. Ultimately it became the biggest supplier of manpower for Israeli colonisation of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. By December 1990, immigration of Soviet Jews at 187,000 reached its highest number for one year since the establishment of Israel. ************************************************************************

(30 Oct): Ottoman surrenders to allies in WW1.
(Nov): Muslim-Christian Association forms in Jaffa (and another soon after Jerusalem); both rapidly spread throughout Palestine by 1920.

1919 – Paris Peace Conference

Jan: Versailles. Mandates Britain to govern Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq on the basis that the Ottoman territories should be brought under this system. Large-scale immigration Versailles

27 Jan – 10 Feb: 1st Palestine Congress convenes in Jerusalem. It considers Palestine to be part of Syria, sends two memoranda to Versailles, rejecting the Balfour Declaration and demanding Arab independence under Faysal. Assembly convenes seven times between 1919 and 1928.
(June-July): Henry King and Charles Crane, US members of International Commission of Inquiry, recommend to Allies limited Jewish immigration and giving up the idea of a distinct “Jewish commonwealth”.
At Jerusalem, however, and in all other places in Palestine, the programme of independence was affirmed”. For “a national home for the Jewish people” is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conference, with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists “looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase”.
The report’s existence is not disclosed until 1922, and not published until 1947.

1902: (Apr) British arbitrarily remove Musa Kazim al-Husseini, the mayor of Jerusalem for opposing their pro-Zionist policies.
(25 Apr):San Remo Peace Conference of Allied Powers endorses French and British “Mandates” over the Levant. Britain will take Palestine, Transjordan and Mesopotamia (renamed Iraq, created out of the Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul). Syria and Lebanon are given to France, plus a 25% share in the proceeds of Iraqi oil. This initiates a process of balkanisation, communalism and sectarianism: multi-national “countries” carved out of territories without regard to history, culture or the peoples’ wishes – a process whose repercussions still reverberate. The mandate system protects European interests. It enjoins Britain to implement the Balfour Declaration, under a civil power that will “facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage close settlement by Jews on the land”.

Far from being some semi-autonomous body under the League of Nations, the mandate is under the direct power of the British Colonial Office.

(May): Britain prevents the convening of the second Palestinian Congress

(Jul): British civil administration in Palestine. The first Zionist underground terrorist organisation, the Haganah, is formed in Tiberias.

13-19 Dec: 3rd Palestinian National Congress, Haifa, composed of Muslim-Christian Association delegates; it stresses autonomy of Palestinian Arabs in Palestine as a distinct political entity and elects executive committee that steers Palestinian political movement until 1935.

1921 – Government demanded

Palestine comes under British administration as Irish and Indian patriots score telling blows against British military occupation in Belfast and Dublin as well as the Punjab region. In all three countries Britain deepens its “divide and rule” policy through partition, inciting religious divisions and forming puppet
agencies along communal lines.

May: Political protests break out in Haifa protesting Zionist mass immigration.
29 May – 4 June: In response, 4th PNC convenes in Jerusalem, sends Muslim-Christian delegation to London, demanding a national government in Palestine under a Parliament democratically elected by Muslim, Christian and Jewish residents. The Zionists reject secular democracy in favour of communally-based representation. Britain rejects both.

May: Britain establishes the Supreme Muslim Council and appoints Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini as head.

1922 – The British Mandate begins

World Zionist Organisation forms the Jewish Agency to regulate the relationship of Jewish immigrants to Palestine to the outside world; the WZO’s Jewish National Fund moves to Jerusalem to oversee the buying up of Palestinian lands.
1 Jul: Second Palestinian delegation to London announces rejection of Balfour Declaration to Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill and demands national independence. The Churchill Memorandum is issued instead, excluding Jordan from the scope of the Balfour Declaration

24 Jul: The League of Nations grants full authority to Britain, explicitly denying Palestinian rights to self-determination. It governs Palestine as a colonial dictatorship, eg. the High Commissioner bans literature that would “jeopardise public tranquility” or aim at creating a “state of panic and despair”. In practice, it clamps down on views critical of British authority. This begins Palestinian political self-expression directly against the Mandate.

The first British census of Palestine shows a population of 757,182, with 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish and 9.6% Christian.

1923: (29 Sep) British mandate officially begins. From 1924-28, 4th wave of Zionist immigrants (67000) arrives (50% of whom are from Poland). This increases the Jewish percentage of the total population to 16% (with land ownership up to 4.2% 1928)

1924: Al_Nahda Women’s Association forms in Ramallah.

1925: Establishment of Palestinian Workers’ Society as a moderate trade union movement

(March): The 70-year old Lord Balfour, at the invitation of the WZO, is brought to Egypt, Palestine and Syria as an organised provocation. Balfour is met by demonstrations and general strikes which shook streets and capitals. In Cairo, British troops attack a joint rally of Egyptian and Palestinian students at the train station “with unusual brutality”, while the British Minister of War deploys “an armoured cavalry regiment from Egypt to Palestine to quell any disturbances”. One protest sent to Al Ahram newspaper in Cairo decried the “freedom and liberty you may have destroyed with your reprehensible declaration”, adding that Balfour’s arrival “will only augment the Palestinians’ devotion to their country”.

1927: British strike oil at Kirkuk, Iraq, largest find in the world

1928: The Red Line Agreement gives the Iraq Petroleum Company oil-drilling rights in every part of the Ottoman Empire (except Iran and Kuwait). It excludes the Standard Oil Company (US).
Nov: First provocation by a few Zionist leaders to change “status quo” at Wailing Wall, also a Muslim holy site. People are outraged at this attack, but this is manipulated for communal purposes by the Mufti of Jerusalem for fear of losing any credibility.

1929: (28-29 Aug) Palestinian indignation against the colonisation of their land breaks out into protests. Uprising in several towns in reaction to militant Zionist provocations at the Wailing Wall. High death total among both Arabs and Jews.
The crackdown by British troops imported from Egypt is bloody, directed at the Palestinians.
A stock-market crash was followed by the Great Depression. By the end of the decade, 100,000 Jewish immigrants have reached Palestine (the influx peaked in 1924-1926 but later declined).


Shaw Commission of Inquiry attributes 1929 disturbances to Palestinian fears of Jewish immigration “not only as a menace to their livelihood but as a possible overlord of the future”.
Oct: Lord Passfield, Colonial Secretary, issues a White Paper, an investigation of the “immediate causes” of the riots, stating that Jewish immigration and land purchases should stop due to lack of available land. The White Paper condemns unrestricted Jewish immigration as disruptive and detrimental to the interests of the population as a whole. Nevertheless, following strong Zionist protests labour PM Ramsey MacDonald sends Chaim Weizman a ‘Black Letter’ a few months later (13/2/31), nullifying the clauses of the White Paper.

1932: Beginnings of international oil exploitation in the Persian Gulf.
(Jan): Nationalist Arab Youth meet in Jaffa.
(2 Aug): Formation of Independence (Istiqlal) Party as first regularly constituted Palestinian political party.


The Nazis come to power, and Jewish persecution becomes German state policy, and Jewish immigration to Palestine rises after Canada, the US and Germany’s neighbours refuse entry. Some 232,000 emigrants arrive during the 1930s and, by 1939, they number more than 445,000, i.e. 30% of the total population as opposed to 10% in 1919. Land purchases make very slow headway so, by 1931, the Zionists evict and drive out 20,000 peasant families by means of terror.
The British promote the destabilisation of the indigenous economy. The Mandate grants a privileged status to Jewish capital, awarding it 90% of concessions. While foreign (mainly British) capital is decisive, the Zionists nestle under their umbrella, gaining control of local economic infrastructure (road projects, Dead Sea minerals, electricity, the strategic ports, etc.). By 1935, they control 872 of a total of 1,212 industrial firms in Palestine. The British exempt Zionist industrial firms in Palestine. The British exempt Zionist industrial imports from taxes. They pass discriminatory work laws against the Palestinian work-force, resulting in large scale unemployment and a substandard existence for those able to find work.
(Oct): Arab Executive Committee calls for general strike to protest British pro-Zionist policies.

1934: (4 Nov) National Defence Party (al-Hizb al-Difa’a al-Watani) forms in Jerusalem
1935: (27 March): The Palestine Arab Party (al-Hizb al-Arabi al-Filastini) forms in Jerusalem.
(23 June): Announcement of The Reform Party (al-Hizb al-Islah) in Jenin.
(5 Oct): The National Bloc (al-Kutlah al-Wataniyah) forms in Nablus.
Oct: Haganah dissidents form the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organisation): Jabotinsky named Commander-in-Chief
Nov: Sheikh Izz Eddin al-Qassam leads the first Palestinian unit resisting British policies and dies in a battle with its forces near Jenin.

1936-39 – The Great Arab Revolt

Arab Women’s Organisation forms in Jenin.
Apr: The Irgun terror gang reorganises and calls for the start of raids against Palestinians. It begins killing civilians at random on 7 April.

A new union of Palestinian political parties is formed – The Arab Higher Committee, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Haj Amin Husseini.
16-18 Apr: Revolts all over Palestine, largest confrontations in Jaffa.
(20-30 Apr): National Committees established in all Palestinian towns and large villages. Great rebellion begins. On 7 May, a conference of all national committees attended by 150 delegates, representing all sectors of the population, calls a 6-month political strike (no taxation without representation), demanding a national government and suppression of Zionist immigration.

The British respond by providing professional military training, officers and arms to Zionist gangs, legalising collective punishment (home demolitions) and state terrorism (human shields), destroying large parts of the port city of Jaffa (leaving 6,000 people homeless), deporting leaders of the Seychelles, and imposing a state of emergency under martial law (Defence Regulations) that remains in force after the state of emergency is lifted. (The Defence Regulations become the administrative regulations and justification for Israel after 1967 in the Occupied Territories – 30 years later).

1937: (7 Jul) The Palestine Royal Commission, led by Lord Peel, finds that the underlying causes of the disturbances are the Palestinians’ desire for national independence. The just demands of the Palestinians are denied and it proceeds from the communal approach that there was no hope of any cooperative national entity comprised of Arabs and Jews, and that both sides could not live in peace together in one state. It thus recommends partition, converting Palestine into a religious or Jewish State aside an Arab State incorporated into Transjordan, and placing Jerusalem and Bethlehem under the Mandate. The Jews, who at the time owned only 5.6% of Palestine, were to be given 35% of the country, from which Peel suggested that the Palestinian inhabitants could be expelled. 225,000 Arabs would be transferred out of the 20% of the country it earmarks for Jewish sovereignty (and the handful of Jews, some 1,250 living in the Arab areas be transferred to the Jewish state). A “clean and final” solution of the Palestine problem necessitated transfer, the commission ruled.

The Arab Higher Committee rejects the Peel Report (7/37) and calls for independence of whole Palestine with protection for the rights of all regardless of religious affiliation and background as well as the British interests.

The British replace Governors with an army general, proscribe the ATC and all Palestinian politician organisations (10/37), and form military courts (11/37) to smash the revolution. Sadhij Nassar (wife of the editor-publisher of Al-Karmel) is the first owman arrested (23/2/39) under Emergency Regulations, and held for 18 months. – Britain ultimately sends 20,000 troops to quell the revolt. The Palestinians capture several cities, shaking British “democratic” rule. In 1938, the Mandate imprisons 5,000; 2,000 receive long prison terms; another 148 are hanged; and over 5,000 homes are demolished.
– The MacDonald White Paper of the British Govt (17/5/39) disclaims any intention to create a Jewish state, places restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase and envisages an independent state in Palestine within ten years. It prepares for the outbreak of German attack in Europe by attempting to rebuild bridges to the Arab and Palestinian leadership. It is rejected by the Zionists, whose terrorist groups launch a bloody campaign against the British and the Palestinians with the aim of paving the way for the establishment of the Zionist state by driving both of them out of Palestine. There is broad support for Palestinian national aims, but the combined pressure of the British and Zionist armed movement prevail over the movement’s limitations including internal factionalism and readiness to compromise with the British. During the Mandate (1922-1947) some 50,000 Palestinians are killed and thousands more interned in prisons and detention camps, including hundreds of local political leaders. The deportation and internment of Palestinian leaders by British colonialism arrested the people’s ability to resist the armed assault of the Zionists, with catastrophic results in 1947-48.
– National historiography of the Palestinian cause emerges. Eissa Al-Safari’s Arab Palestine from the Mandate to Zionism, published in 1938, is the first work to establish clearly that the Palestinian cause is the product of two factors: the imposition of the British Mandate and the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration. He concludes that the most important consequence of the revolt is the expansion of the Palestinian cause from a local to a universal Arab issue.
– The failure of the Palestinian uprising from 1936 to 1939 is inevitable, argues Abdel Wahab Al-Kiali in Modern History of Palestine (1970). The author cites several reasons. Firstly, the balance of forces are heavily in favour of the Zionists as a result of the fragmentation of the Arabs and the subordination of Arab governments to colonial powers. Secondly, the Palestinian leadrship is narrow-minded and lacking in foresight and ambition. Thirdly, there is an absence of revolutionary vision and mass organisation as a result of the underdevelopment of both the leadership and society. Finally, international circumstances between the two world wars are not propitious for national liberation movements.

The war against fascism

Appeased by Britain, France and the US, fascist powers initiated WWII. The cost to humanity was great: 50 million killed, another 35 million crippled including over 25 million in the Soviet Union; six million people of Jewish origin die from Nazi genocide, and five million others are also exterminated in the death camps. Major political Zionists were exposed for collaborating with Nazis (see p. 63) or opposing partisan warfare. Middle East territory was also embroiled. The British especially coveted the colonies, markets etc of Germany, Italy and Vichy France. With its British alliance as springboard, the US sought to carve out its own sphere of influence, in which there would still be no role for a Palestinian state – and assisting this was the Zionists’ declaration of war on the Mandate.

1939 – Another promise

17 May: British White Paper – To settle outstanding issues of the revolt as war clouds gather, Britain formally restricts Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the next five years and again promise to extend the Palestinians self-government. It rejects the creation of either a Jewish or Arab state but envisions an independent state with a secular government to be established in 1949.

1 Sep: WWII – Nazi Germany invades Poland.

Thieves fall out

1940 (Feb) The Mandate issues land transfer regulations. In the largest zone, land can only be bought and sold amongst Palestinian Arabs. With Palestinian rebellion, the Royal Commission’s report and the 1939 White Paper combining to obstruct their aim of establishing a Jewish state, the Zionists step up illegal Jewish immigration, terrorism and their US ties.
1942 (May) The Biltmore Program, adopted by the Jewish Agency, aims to create a Jewish state in Palestine through unlimited immigration and transfer of the Muslim and Christian population to neighbouring Arab countries.
1944 (Apr) “The executive of Britain’s Labour Party published its platform for a postwar settlement. It included full-throated endorsement of the transfer of the Arabs out of Palestine and the expansion of the mandatory borders to facilitate the absorption of large waves of Jewish immigrants.” (B. Morris) It also abandons support for Welsh and Scottish self-determination.
– Many Arab states achieve formal political independence, profiting from the inter-imperialist contradictions, the decline of Britain and France, and their dissensions. Iraq rebels against the British (5/41), Vichy France abandons Lebanon and Syria (11/43), and the Conference of Alexandria lays the foundations for the League of Arab States – Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia, Transjordania and Yemen (9/44).

Post War – Dynamic expansion, dispossession and oppression

The defeat of fascism galvanised anti-colonial and socialist struggles on the world scale. Aspirations for peace, a world governed by law, and recognition of inalienable human rights led to formation of the United Nations. The United States supplanted the European powers as the principal imperialist state. With its 6th Fleet, it became a dominant force in the Middle East in the 1950s. It was prime mover of the creation of a State of Israel. It also emerged as main prop of anti-democratic regimes such as the Pahlevi dynasty in Iran, and orchestrated the overthrow of nationalist regimes. Following the policy of ‘divide and rule’, it set one state against another. The rapidity of the British collapse caught the Palestinian and Arab leadership unprepared. At the start of the century, The British Empire stood at its height. Its control of the Suez Canal facilitated penetration of all areas lying between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean coastline of the African continent down to Cape Town (South Africa), as well as all regions between the Persian Gulf and the Indian subcontinent. In the end, neither its extent nor its wealth could prevent the sun from setting on its empire, nor contain the struggles for self-determination among the so many peoples enslaved by its yoke. During WWI and especially after, as the national revolt of the peoples of the subcontinent further challenged the Raj, the security of Britain’s control of the Suez Canal became critical, linking the fates of India and Palestine. In 1947, Britain abandoned the Mandate, but not as a result of ‘fatigue’, let alone the ‘brilliant’ terror tactics of the Zionist gangs, or from any attack of conscience. They were desperate. Everything was to be mustered to prevent the national struggle in the subcontinent from decisively expelling them. Formed through terror, war and foreign intervention, Israel was a proxy for Western interests. It provoked bloody conflicts with and among Arab states. One war after another enabled it to occupy Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese territories – Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza Strip. Dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people and dynamic expansion were its main characteristics from the outset.
On 21 May 1948 – a week after proclaiming a state-without borders – David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minster stated: “The Achilles heel of the Arab coalition is the Lebanon. Muslim supremacy in this country is artificial and can easily be overthrown …“(The Armed Prophet, 1954, p.139)
He said that same year: “The present map of Palestine was drawn by the British Mandate. The Jewish people have another map which our youth and adults should strive to fulfil – from the Nile to the Euphrates.” In 1954 he wrote (in Rebirth and Destiny of Israel): “To maintain the status quo will not do. We have to set up a dynamic state bent on expansion.”
In 1969, Gen. Moshe Dayan, Defence Minister, reiterated: “Our fathers have reached the frontiers which were recognised in the partisan plan. Our generation reached the frontiers of 1949. Now the Six-Day Generation has managed to reach Suez, Jordan and the Golan Heights. This is not the end….” (London Times, 25/6/1969).
To date, despite innumerable UN Resolutions of condemnation, Israel continues this merciless policy of aggression, checked only by the stubborn resistance of the Palestinians.

a landrights campaign for Britain

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