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Year 2006 No. 81, October 10, 2006 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

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Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

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Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

(Continued from WDIE September 12, 2006)

By the end of World War I, the British government had already entered into a firm alliance with the representatives of international Zionism. The 1917 Balfour Declaration by the British government was essentially a joint declaration drafted both by members of the government and the Zionist Organisation in London. The US government was also consulted before this Declaration committing Britain to establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine was issued, and it was formally approved by the other big powers the following year. The Declaration broke the agreements that Britain had made with representatives of the Arab peoples during World War I and ignored the rights of the Palestinian people, at that time 92% of the population of Palestine and the owners of 97% of its land. What is more, at the time it was issued Britain had no legal authority over Palestine and claimed to be fighting during the World War I for the rights of nations to self-determination.

            By 1918, however, Britain had occupied Palestine and other parts of the Middle East by military means and immediately facilitated the entry of a Zionist Commission into Palestine, which encouraged settler immigration and acted as if it were government in waiting. The so-called “peace treaties” concluded by the victorious powers at the end of the war established both the League of Nations and the system of mandates, by which the major colonial powers were given “trusteeship” over those colonial territories formerly held by the powers that had been defeated during the war.

            The Zionists, heavily supported by the British government, also took part in the post-war conference in Paris that led to the division of Arab territory between Britain and France, and once again demanded Palestine as a “Jewish national home”. Britain subsequently gained formal control of Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq and France control of Syria and Lebanon. The only Arab representative at the Paris conference, Faisal, son of Sherif Hussain of Mecca, was entirely dependent on the British government. He advocated trusteeship over Palestine, although he had no authority to speak for the people of Palestine, and was rewarded with a new title, King of Transjordan

             The mandates system and the League of Nations recognised the right to self-determination in words but also maintained that certain territories required “tutelage” before being granted political independence. It was also required that the wishes of the people should be taken into account. But in 1919, when Palestinian and other Arab representatives demanded independence for Palestine and other parts of the region and strongly opposed the plans of the Zionists, their demands were ignored. The British government fully recognised the hypocrisy of this policy and Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, simply argued that in Palestine, Zionism was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”. Subsequently the Balfour Declaration formed the legal basis for the British Mandate and was approved by the League of Nations. The Zionist Organisation was also recognised as the body that would work with the British government to encourage Jewish settlers and establish in Palestine a “Jewish national home”.

            Zionism had become not only the official policy of the British government but with its support also the policy of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the UN.

(to be continued)

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