|Year 2009 No. 37, June 1, 2009||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBBOOKS||SUBSCRIBE|
Part 5 of "Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention"
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The British government made a promise to support the Palestinian peoples right to self-determination during World War 1. However, at the same time it committed itself, in the infamous Balfour Declaration, to "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". In 1917, Britain occupied Palestine, which had formerly been part of the Ottoman empire. In 1922, Palestine was handed to Britain as a mandated territory by the League of Nations. Mandated territories were supposed to be guided to independence by a supervisory power that had as its primary consideration the wishes of the population of such territories. During the next 25 years however, successive British governments fully supported the aims of the Zionist movement, and encouraged thousands of Jewish settlers to migrate to Palestine. The continual denial of the rights of the Palestinians led to a major rebellion in 1936, which was ruthlessly suppressed by the British government.
The government-appointed Peel Commission in 1937 recommended that Palestine should be partitioned. However, this solution was rejected both by the Palestinians, whose uprising continued until 1939 and who demanded independence for all of Palestine, and also by the Zionists who calculated that with the arrival of even more Jewish settlers they would be in a stronger position to demand even more territory for a future Jewish state. As a consequence of these rejections, the British government then published its 1939 White Paper that stated: "HMG therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State." Rather it declared its intention was "the establishment within ten years of an independent Palestinian state", and one in which "Arabs and Jews share in government".
However, the British governments attempt to repudiate its previous support for Zionism did not alter the nature of the problem in Palestine even during World War Two. Zionist terrorism against both the British administration and the Palestinian people increased and culminated in the attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. The Palestine problem was further exacerbated by the intervention of the US government, which encouraged a massive increase in Jewish migration and the establishing of a "Jewish national home" and opposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Having created a major problem in the region, increasingly exacerbated by continued but clandestine Jewish migration and Zionist terrorist organisations, and unable to meet neither the demands of the Palestinians nor those of the Jewish settlers, who by 1947 comprised 30% of the population, Attlees Labour government then sought to relinquish its mandate and presented the problem to the newly formed UN.
At the UN, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq immediately proposed that Palestine should be declared independent, since it was the only mandated territory in the Middle East not to have this status, but this proposal was defeated. The UN General Assembly appointed a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to investigate and suggest solutions to the problem of Palestine. A proposal from the Soviet Union and Poland that the Committee should also submit proposals on the question of establishing "the independent democratic state of Palestine" was rejected but UNSCOP was authorised to consider the issue of Jewish refuges from Europe. From the outset, the UN refused to consider the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. As a consequence, when UNSCOP subsequently conducted its investigations in Palestine and Europe, Palestinian representatives refused to co-operate with it. Nevertheless, it concluded that Britains mandate should be terminated and independence declared. However, it suggested two proposals regarding independence. The proposal of the majority of UNSCOP members, despite Palestinian objections, was for partition, and the creation of two independent states but with a unified economy. The minority proposal was for a federated state. It was also recognised by UNSCOP that further Jewish immigration into Palestine should be restricted. However, the policy of the British administration in Palestine, which was to restrict Jewish migration, only exacerbated the situation in the wake of the atrocities carried out against Europes Jewish population by the Nazis and their allies. A climate existed in which the UN was forced to take action in relation to the demands and needs of Jewish refugees from Europe, as well as in relation to the rights of the Palestinians.
In September 1947, the UN General Assembly constituted itself as an Ad Hoc Committee and began deliberating on the future of Palestine. The United States favoured partition. The Arab states and the representatives of the Palestinians rejected the partition proposal out of hand, and reiterated their position that the majority population must be granted the right to independence. The British government stated that it would implement any plan as long as there was agreement by "both Arabs and Jews". If there was no such agreement, the government announced that some other authority would have to implement it. However, at the same time it announced its intention to withdraw its forces as soon as possible. Since there was no likelihood of any such agreement, the governments declared intention could only exacerbate the existing problem, which it and previous British governments had created.
In November 1947, the UN General Assembly discussed and voted the on two proposals. Although some states still argued that the UN had no authority to make any decision about a mandated territory it was agreed despite strong opposition and many abstentions that the proposal to partition Palestine should be put to a full vote of the General Assembly. The representative of the British government lamented the fact that no consensus had been reached. It refused to allow British troops to implement a decision that had not been agreed by both the Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine.
In the vote on partition on November 29, there were 33 votes in favour and 13 against with 10 abstentions. All the Arab states and those states with predominantly Muslim population voted against partition, as did Cuba, Greece and India. Britain, which abstained in the voting, was to withdraw by August 1948 and a Jewish and Arab state would become independent by October 1948. Palestine was to be divided into eight parts three to be allocated to the new Jewish state, and three to the Palestinians. Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN initially for 10 years. There was to be an economic union between the two states but about half of the population of the Jewish state were Palestinian Arabs. Violence in Palestine, from the Jewish settlers increased and Britain announced it would evacuate its troops and administration in May 1948, i.e. before any UN forces could be introduced.
This created a situation in which both the Zionists and the Arab states threatened to intervene. It was during this period of instability and uncertainty that the massacre at Deir Yassin occurred in April 1948 and Palestinian refugees estimated at over 700,000 began to flee from those areas allocated to the new Jewish state and other areas of Palestine. In this climate, there were calls from the US and others to stop the process of partition and declare a UN trusteeship over Palestine but Israel declared its independence on May 11 the day before British withdrawal. Even before this date, forces from Arab states had entered Palestine and Zionist forces had entered not only the designated territory of the Jewish state but also other areas of Palestine too including Jerusalem. Effectively a state of war existed in Palestine and the UN was forced to send in a mediator, who was subsequently assassinated by the Zionists, and to conduct peace negotiations. Such was the birth of the Zionist state of Israel.
The Fire Brigades Union and other unions, including USDAW, the PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) and the UCU (University and College Union), at their conferences during May and April have passed motions condemning Israel and calling for action to support the Palestinian resistance. We reproduce the FBU resolution below:
14 May 2009
COMPOSITE RESOLUTION A
Despite international condemnation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the continued disregard of UN resolutions and rulings from the International Court of Justice, which includes the building of more settlements within the 1967 Borders, Conference believes that Israel has consistently failed to uphold its duties under international law.
Conference supports the statement, made in December 2008 by Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, when supporting the EU Parliament suspension of the vote on the upgrade of the EU/Israeli relations, that "It's time for the Israeli Government to stop considering itself above the law and start respecting it, beginning by freezing all settlement-building activities and ending its siege on the Gaza Strip".
Conference therefore calls on the Executive Council to support and promote throughout the Trade Union and Labour Movement a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, disinvest from Israeli institutions and for sanctions to be taken against Israel, similar to those sanctions imposed by the international movement against apartheid in South Africa, until such time as Israel ends its occupation of Palestine and its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Students from across Britain met on Saturday, May 2, to discuss solidarity with Palestine in the aftermath of Israels military onslaught and continuing blockade against Gaza.
The day school, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, brought together representatives of the recent student occupations in support of Palestine, with Muslim representatives including Federation of Student Islamic Societies and the British Muslim Initiative; Ken Livingstone; Jeremy Corbyn MP; the Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza led by George Galloway and Jews for Justice for Palestine. The meeting highlighted the contrast between the refusal of the National Union of Students National Executive to support any of the mass demonstrations against Israels attack on Gaza and the revulsion of the great majority of students at the slaughter of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
The day school was an important step in bringing together student activists to plan future campaigning activities in support of the Palestinians, and helping organise opposition to the NUS' leadership blocking action in support of Palestinians. The unity between Jewish and Muslim groups also showed that students are no longer prepared to put up with support for the Palestinians being labelled as anti-Semitic. Discussion focused on the need to campaign for Israel to lift the blockade which it continues to impose upon the people of Gaza, for those responsible for war crimes to be brought to justice and for Israel to stop flouting United Nations resolutions and international law requiring respect for the rights of the Palestinian people.
Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: "The activism of young people and students in support of the Palestinian people has been inspirational we look forward to working with students to ensure that their exemplary activism and achievements on campus and as part of the demonstrations this year are central to the Palestine solidarity movement."
Ken Livingstone said: "Students' participation in demonstrations, occupations and other campaigns shows that the majority of students were appalled by Israels killing of over 1400 Palestinians, and the humanitarian crisis created by its ongoing blockade. Unfortunately the leaders of NUS have shown how out of step with students' views they are - refusing to issue even a word of criticism of Israel's actions, and continuing to block discussion about Palestine in NUS."
George Galloway MP, from the Viva Palestina Convoy sent a statement of support to the Conference: "We have returned from that epic journey with an even greater determination to fight to free Palestine and I know that we will be uniting with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign over many important initiatives in the forthcoming weeks and months to bring whatever support and solidarity we can create."
Bryony Shanks, Student Officer for Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: "The recent wave of student occupations and other activities in support of the Palestinian people shows that students have an important role in the movement for justice for Palestine. PSC congratulates students who have won commitment from their universities to provide practical support, including scholarships, academic materials, and fundraising days, for the people of Gaza. These achievements are just the beginning in building a mass campaign to win justice for the Palestinian people."
Richard Kuper, Chair, Jews for Justice For Palestine said: "Student occupations over the issue of Palestine have shown the strength of feeling against Israels war on Gaza and the shock and horror it invoked among so many people in Britain and elsewhere. We welcome the new energy which has been released as people organise to put the question of Palestinian human, social, economic and political rights squarely on the agenda and express our solidarity and support to those involved in these actions."
Oussama Mesoui, Head of Campaigns, Federation of Student Islamic Societies said: "The campaign for justice for a free Palestine must go on. It is an ongoing battle to educate the British public on the facts concerning the Israeli occupation. We must continue, in unity, to educate, to advocate and to lobby."
Kitty Webster, from the University of East London student occupation said: "Following the overwhelming success of our occupation in solidarity with Palestinians, we will continue to fight for justice for Palestinians. Recent events mark a turning point in the struggle to win peace for Palestine."
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Occupations on campus
Since Israel's invasion of Gaza, students at more than thirty universities have occupied buildings as part of a campaign to encourage their universities to show support for the Palestinian people. At many universities, students have succeeded in winning commitment from their universities to provide scholarships for Palestinian students, send academic resources to Gaza and divest in the arms companies which provided weapons to Israel.
PSC issued the following message of support to Newcastle University's occupation:
On behalf of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, congratulations on beginning your occupation. We wish you success in winning the demands you have issued to your university. Your actions, along with those of other students who have organised occupations and other campaigns, have greatly helped raise awareness of the situation in Palestine in the student movement.
If there is anything we can do to support your campaign, please let us know.
This is a list of some of the universities who have organised occupations in recent weeks, along with a link to their blogs and websites recording their experiences:
Newcastle University: http://www.newcastleoccupation.blogspot.com/
St Andrews: http://standrewsunioccupation.wordpress.com/
University of Arts London: http://ualpalestinesolidaritynetwork.blogspot.com/
University of East London: http://ueloccupation.blogspot.com/
Byam Shaw: http://byamshawpeoplesuniversity.blogspot.com/
University of the West of England: http://uweoccupation.blogspot.com/
University of East Anglia: http://ueaoccupation.blogspot.com/
Sheffield Hallam: http://shuoccupation.blogspot.com/
Queen Mary University of London: http://www.queenmaryoccupation.blogspot.com/
London School of Economics: http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com
King's College London: http://kcloccupation.blogspot.com
Manchester Met: http://mmuoccupation.blogspot.com/
Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign, May 29, 2009
On May 21, members of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign (NUGSC) met with members of senior management for the second time since ending their occupation of the Fine Art building in solidarity with Palestinian people (in March 2009). This second meeting has secured the NUGSCs demands on a number of issues. Senior management have made significant concessions, provided helpful advice and support and agreed that such actions in support of Palestine on behalf of the University would not have happened without the NUGSCs decision to take direct action. Registrar John Hogan said during the meeting that Newcastles action on the Palestine issue would have come nowhere near to where it is now had it not been for the occupation. Although not condoning the NUGSCs actions, senior management have expressed the Universitys general support for our aims and motivations.
The most significant developments now are as follows:
- Newcastle University has issued a public statement in solidarity with the people of Gaza. It reads "(Newcastle University) supports the call made by Universities UK for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza. The statement is not as strong as the NUGSC had hoped, but the fact that it exists is a starting point for ongoing relations between senior management and the campaign group and a significant achievement of the occupation. Newcastle Universitys website also expresses admiration for the occupation being well organized and entirely peaceful.
- Newcastle University has agreed to fund a trip to Palestine, providing both the Universities aims and educational objectives as well as the NUGSCs political motivations are taken into account. Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement Paul Younger is personally to contact his colleagues in the West Bank to help organise the trip to the occupied territories to assess how best Newcastle University can help academic institutions in Palestine (including sending aid, or providing a scholarship programme) and how the NUGSC can best support students there. Senior management is prepared to meet with the NUGSC regularly in the new academic year to make plans. The NUGSC will now try to get in touch with students in Gaza, the West Bank and also Israel to make links with groups opposed to the occupation and express solidarity.
- Newcastle University has completely removed the barriers to political activism that were part of the reason that the NUGSCs occupation was necessary. There is now no time limit on giving notice for political activism (previously 10 days notice was required) within the law or organizing meetings Registrar John Hogan conceded in the meeting with the NUGSC that 'it is your campus as much as mine after all'. John Hogan also expressed that offence alone was not a legitimate condition for denying the right to political expression on campus. The NUGSC see this as one of the major achievements of the occupation so far and one that goes far beyond the Gaza Solidarity Campaign alone.
- The campaign for arms trade disinvestment continues, with support of key members of senior management. The NUGSC is compiling a dossier of evidence and ethical guidelines on disinvestment from the arms trade and the reasons Newcastle University should adopt an ethical investment policy which does not support arms companies. Senior management, especially Paul Younger (Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement) is very supportive of the campaign and the University has promised to facilitate negotiations between representatives of the NUGSC and the Universities Executive Board which will be necessary for the campaign to progress to the Finance Committee. Senior management is currently looking at the costs and procedure involved to ethically screen existing investments. The NUGSC have collected over 450 signatures on campus against the Universitys arms trade investments the campaign goes under the name of NUCAAT (Newcastle University Campaign Against Arms Trade).
Newcastle University students occupied the Fine Art Building on campus at 3:30pm on 10th March in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the other student occupations nation-wide. The occupation was entirely peaceful and well organised. Despite the NUGSC allowing two lectures to go ahead in the occupied space (and expressing the want for education to continue as normal) and University proceeded to cancel lectures in the Fine Art building, which disrupted education considerably. The NUGSC left the occupation after 28 hours when promised meaningful negotiations with Senior Management on the following demands:
- Newcastle University to issue a public statement expressing concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and supporting call to an end of the Israeli military occupation.
- Newcastle University disinvest from the Arms Trade and adopts an ethical investment policy.
- Newcastle University supports the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaigns coming projects of a) collecting computers, software, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) and b) the visit of a student delegation from Newcastle University to IUG to establish their needs, c) the ensuing student projects to follow up on those needs, d) developing an ethical investment and trade policy with respect to Israel, and e) publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committees appeal for aid.
- Newcastle University supports new and ongoing academic collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link University of Newcastle Students and IUG students.
-Newcastle University reviews the rules and regulations that make political activism in a variety of channels difficult. This includes leafleting, flyers, posters, and meetings.
The NUGSC uses Facebook and a blog www.newcastleoccupation.blogspot.com to contact supporters and organise meetings etc. The NUGSC tries to meet every two weeks on campus to plan future activities and discuss the ongoing campaign. The NUGSC has also hosted two speaker meetings on campus, including one with Tamar Katz, a young Israeli refusenik who has been jailed for refusing to serve with the Israeli military (IDF).
If you have queries regarding this press release, or would like to speak to a member of the NUGSC please contact us:
To contact senior management:
John Hogan, University Registrar - email@example.com
Paul Younger, Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement - P.L.Younger@newcastle.ac.uk
Chris Brink Vice Chancellor - firstname.lastname@example.org
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