WDIE Masthead

Year 2007 No. 10, February 27, 2007 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

July 27, 1880: A Date Mr Blair Should Look Up

Additional Reports of the Demonstration against Troops in Iraq and Replacing Trident

Daily On Line Newspaper of the
Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA.
Phone: (Local Rate from outside London 0845 644 1979) 020 7627 0599
Web Site: http://www.rcpbml.org.uk
e-mail: office@rcpbml.org.uk
Subscription Rates (Cheques made payable to RCPB(ML)):
Workers' Weekly Printed Edition:
4 issues - £2.95, 6 months - £18.95 for 26 issues, Yearly - £33.95 (including postage)

Workers' Daily Internet Edition sent by e-mail daily (Text e-mail):
1 issue free, 6 months £5, Yearly £10

Britain and Palestine: A Criminal History of Intervention

Part 4 – (Parts 1, 2 and 3 appeared in WDIE September 12 , October 10 and December 5, 2006, respectively)

The recent Middle East summit involving talks between the US Secretary of State and Israeli and Palestinian leaders has, as expected, not led to any positive steps in regard to Palestine. Indeed the US, Britain and the other big powers have continued to threaten and bully the legitimate Palestinian government and have maintained sanctions directed against it and the Palestinian government.

            The Prime Minister publicly lectured the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, when they met this week, telling him not only what kind of political solution should be established in Palestine but also what kind of government the Palestinians should have to represent them. Blair’s approach shows that the British government has exactly the same approach as in the time of the League of Nations mandate, when Britain was de facto the colonial power in Palestine. History shows that it is Britain and the other big powers that have created the problem in Palestine and that they can never be though of as the honest brokers or peacemakers in the region. Then as now the British government still demands partition and refuses to recognise the rights of the Palestinians.

            The decision of the British government to partition Palestine in the late 1930s was recognition of the failure of the previous approach, which had sought to establish a “Jewish national home” while trampling over the rights of the Palestinian people. The new approach therefore was to continue the Zionist policy in one part of Palestine and therefore deny the national rights of the Palestinian people, while accepting that this people might have some rights to part of their territory. It should be borne in mind that the British government only moved to this approach because of the mass uprising of the Palestinian people during the 1930s.

            It is interesting that the Royal Commission appointed in 1936 to investigate the causes of the Palestinian uprising declared that it was an uprising against a colonial government which denied national independence and attempted to establish a “Jewish national home”. It stated: “The Balfour Declaration and the Mandate under which it was to be implemented involved the denial of national independence at the outset. The subsequent growth of the national home created a practical obstacle, and the only serious one, to the concession later of national independence.” The Royal Commission also added that by encouraging Jewish immigration without the consent of the Palestinian people, Britain, the US and the League of Nations had created an “antagonism” between Jews and Arabs that had not previously existed and which  “might become dangerously aggressive".

            The Royal Commission, reporting in 1937, concluded that the Palestinian people could no longer be suppressed by force and that the Mandate must be brought to an end. However, it also took the view that the “establishment of a single self-governing Palestine will remain just as impracticable as it is now. It is not easy to pursue the dark path of repression without seeing daylight at the end of it.” It upheld that manifestly a problem had been created that meant that neither Jewish settlers nor the Palestinians could rule in Palestine – that the only solution the Commission could see was partition.

            The proposal of the British government to partition Palestine was immediately rejected by the Palestinian people, who continued their struggle for national liberation during the latter years of the 1930s. The Zionists also rejected plans for partition, demanding instead that the Mandate should be extended so as to encourage more Jewish immigration in order to ultimately establish a Jewish state. Even the government’s own further investigations suggested that partition was unworkable. Therefore in 1939 the British government adopted a new strategy which envisaged a power-sharing agreement involving all those inhabiting Palestine.

            In 1939, the government declared that Palestine should not become a Jewish state against the will of the Palestinian people, despite the fact that the Balfour Declaration and subsequent government policy had been committed to establishing a “Jewish national home” in Palestine. The government also declared that it planned to establish within 10 years “an independent Palestine State”, and that it “should be one in which Arabs and Jews share in government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community are safeguarded”. It even declared that Jewish immigration might be halted and that the transfer of land to settlers should be regulated.

            Both the Second World War and reservations expressed in the League of Nations prevented any immediate resolution to the problem of Palestine. Zionist opposition to the new direction of British policy led to the formation of organisations such as the Stern gang and Haganah which carried out terrorist acts and assassinations against both Palestinians and the colonial power. The Zionists, despite continued support from Churchill and the British government, began to look more towards the US for assistance and demanded unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine.

            Following the war, in 1946, an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry reported that a “virtual Jewish non-territorial State” existed in Palestine with its own armed forces. The Committee of Inquiry rejected the idea of early independence for Palestine on the grounds that the situation that had been created in Palestine under British rule "would result in civil strife as might threaten the peace of the world". However, neither the US nor British governments could agree on the future of Palestine, although the US advocated increased Jewish migration and an end of measures to prevent land being transferred to these settlers. The newly created Arab League strongly supported the rights of the Palestinians and proposed a unitary state with full rights for Jewish settlers but demanded that future immigration and land transfers must be decided by the majority of Palestinians.

            The Labour government then washed its hands of the problem successive British governments had created by deciding in 1947 to relinquish its mandatory role and hand over the problem to the newly created United Nations. In the 25 years of British rule, Palestine had been transformed. The Jewish population had increased 725% from 56,000 to 608,000, from less than a tenth to over a third of the population of Palestine. Within a short time, the UN would also propose that the Palestine problem largely created by British governments could only be resolved by partition.

(to be continued)


Article Index

July 27, 1880: A Date Mr Blair Should Look Up

Robert Fisk, February 25, 2007

Out of the frying pan, into the historical fire. If only our leaders read history. In 1915, the British swept up from Basra, believing that the Iraqis would reward them with flowers and love, only to find themselves surrounded at Kut al-Amara, cut down by Turkish shellfire and cholera. Now we are reinforcing NATO in that tomb of the British Army, Afghanistan.

            Hands up any soldiers who know that another of Britain's great military defeats took place in the very sands in which your colleagues are now fighting the Taliban. Yes, the Battle of Maiwand – on 27 July, 1880 – destroyed an entire British brigade, overrun by thousands of armed Afghan tribesmen, some of whom the official enquiry into the disaster would later describe as "Talibs". The Brits had been trying to secure Helmand province. Sound familiar?

            Several times already in Helmand, the British have almost been overwhelmed. This has not been officially admitted, but the Ministry of Defence did make a devious allusion to this last year – it was missed by all the defence correspondents – when it announced that British troops in Helmand had been involved in the heaviest combat fighting "since the Korean War". The Afghans talk of one British unit which last year had to call in air strikes, destroying almost the entire village in which they were holding out. Otherwise, they would have been overrun.

            General Burrows had no close air support on 27 July, 1880, when he found himself confronting up to 15,000 Afghan fighters at Maiwand, but he had large numbers of Egyptian troops with him and a British force in the city of Kandahar. Already, the British had cruelly suppressed a dissident Afghan army – again, sound familiar? – after the British residency had been sacked and its occupants murdered. Britain's reaction at the time was somewhat different from that followed today. Britain's army was run from imperial India where Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, urged his man in Kabul – General Roberts, later Lord Roberts of Kandahar – to crush the uprising with the utmost brutality. "Every Afghan brought to death, I shall regard as one scoundrel the less in a nest of scoundrelism." Roberts embarked on a reign of terror in Kabul, hanging almost a hundred Afghans.

            The commander of the rebellious Afghans was Ayub Khan, whose brother was forced to abdicate as king after the Kabul uprising. When Ayub Khan re-emerged from the deserts of the west – he marched down from that old warlord territory of Herat towards Kandahar – the luckless General Burrows was sent to confront him. Almost a thousand British and Indian troops were to be slaughtered in the coming hours as Ayub Khan's army fired shells from at least 30 artillery pieces and then charged at them across the fields and dried-up river at Maiwand.

            The official British inquiry – it was covered in red cloth and ran to 734 pages – contains many photographs of the landscape over which the battle was fought. The hills and distant mountains, of course, are identical to those that are now videotaped by "embedded" reporters in the British Army.

            Outgunned and outmanoeuvred, the British found themselves facing a ruthless enemy. Colonel Mainwaring of the 30th Bombay Infantry wrote a chilling report for the authorities in Delhi. "The whole of the ground... was covered with swarms of 'ghazis' and banner-men. The 'ghazis' were actually in the ranks of the Grenadiers, pulling the men out and hacking them down with their swords.” The wreckage of the British Army retreated all the way to Kandahar where they were besieged, until rescued by General Roberts himself, whose famous march of 10,000 troops from Kandahar – a distance of 300 miles covered in just 20 days – is now military legend.

            History, it seems, haunts all our adventures in the Middle East. Who would have believed that after the British reached Baghdad in a 1917 invasion, they would face an insurgency which, in speed and ruthlessness, was an almost exact predecessor to the rebellion which the British and Americans would confront from 2003? Lloyd George, then Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons to insist that the British occupation force had to stay in Iraq. Otherwise, he warned, the country would be plunged into civil war. Sound familiar?

            One of the greatest defeats of British forces anywhere in the world had occurred more than four decades before Maiwand, on the Kabul Gorge in 1842, when an entire British army was wiped out by Afghan fighters in the snow. The sole survivor, the famous Doctor Brydon, managed to out-horse two armed Afghans and ride into the British compound in Jalalabad.

            So now the British are to reinforce Afghanistan yet again. Flying by Chinook to Kandahar will not take as long as General Roberts's 20 days. British soldiers are unlikely even to enter Kandahar's central square. But if they do, they might care to look at the few ancient cannon on the main roundabout: all that is left of General Roberts's artillery.

Article Index

Additional Reports of the Demonstration against Troops in Iraq and Replacing Trident

Taken from Mathaba, February 26

Up to 100,000 people marched from London's Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square on February 24, protesting against updating the Trident nuclear weapons system with a new generation of weapons of mass destruction, which will cost £25 billion.

            The speakers who addressed the demonstration in Trafalgar Square pointed out that the lifetime costs of Trident will total £76 billion. £25 billion pays for 120,000 newly qualified nurses every year for the next ten years, or 60,000 newly-qualified teachers every year for the next 20 years. Just one Trident wipes out a city of one million people and Britain has nearly 200 stockpiled. Trident ties Britain to US foreign and military policy and its replacement violates the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

            The speakers also referred to the war and occupation of Iraq which will cost Britain £6 billion by the end of 2007. This would pay the construction costs of more than 50 hospitals. With 650,000 Iraqi dead and thousands fleeing the country every day Iraq is in a state of collapse. Majority opinion in the Britain, the US and Iraq itself wants the troops out as do senior serving and retired military leaders in Britain. Now Bush wants to escalate the war.

            Veteran Labour politician and President of Stop The War Coalition, Tony Benn, told the demonstrators that they represent all political parties in Britain. "We represent the majority of the Americans who voted against the war. We are not protesting – we are demanding that all troops be withdrawn from Iraq, and Afghanistan and that Israel withdraws its soldiers from the Golan Heights. We are the voice of tomorrow, we are a voice that the government and parliament dare not ignore." Benn recalled his numerous speeches in Trafalgar Square which began more than fifty years ago when he opposed the Suez war.

            Annis Malik from the British Muslim Initiative emphasised that as the war goes on, the British government continues to create side streams and maintains that there is a battle at home – but there is no battle at home.

            His views were echoed by Dr Dawood Abdullah the Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain who referred to George Bush's statement that the American people are addicted to oil. But Bush himself is addicted to war: nuclear war, the war of attrition and the so-called war on terror.

            "There is no winner in this war as they cannot win a guerrilla war when the people are against them. If democracy is working why are Iraqis leaving their country in droves? Forty-six percent of the Palestinian people are malnourished as a punishment for practising democracy. Occupation is not liberation and the troops should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan".

            Shaun Jones from the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp called on the demonstrators to support the Block The Builders Campaign which is trying to stop the development of Britain's WMD facility at Aldermaston. She referred to a statement by Mohammed AlBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency in which he said that Britain cannot continue its development of Trident while telling other countries not to develop WMDs.

            Euro MP Gill Evans said that over the past six months calls to scrap Trident have grown louder and louder and today they are deafening. There are already 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world and the British government wants more. The world is already on the brink of a nuclear arms race. "Technology and weapons will never replace international diplomacy and respect for human rights. We call on the government to start a race for peace and nuclear disarmament."

            John Trippet MP, who led the initiative to force a recall of parliament over the latest Lebanese war, condemned the private and secretive relationship between Bush and Blair to launch a war in the Middle East. As a result of the warmongering policies, the British people are now targets. "We have to break the alliance with the US and build a government that reflects the aspirations of the British people."

Article Index

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Daily Internet Edition Index Page