|Volume 53 Number 30, November 4, 2023
The Road to Nowhere by Ismail Shammout 1930-2006. He was expelled from Lydda in 1948.
The plight of the refugees is depicted in many of his most famous paintings. (Displaced Palestinians)
November 2 marks the 106th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 letter sent by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to a prominent British Zionist leader promising land in Palestine for foreign settlement.
This criminal act of the British Empire to "give" the land of another people usurped during the First World War for colonial settlement created the conditions for countless atrocities against the Palestinians, as well as the subsequent proclamation of a Zionist state and the ongoing genocide and seizure of Palestinian land.
In considering the crime Britain committed, it is important to keep in mind the aims of the British Empire at the time and its geopolitical strategy. British Prime Minister Lloyd George and his Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill informed the head of the Zionist Federation, Chaim Weizmann, in 1921 "that by the Declaration they had always meant an eventual state". To ensure the Zionist minority had the upper hand on behalf of British interests, Lloyd George told Churchill, "You mustn't give representative government to Palestine." Researcher Nu'man Abd al-Wahid noted: "The newly European Jewish settlers were to be the Praetorian Guard of Egypt and specifically of the Suez Canal. As such, in the words of Winston Churchill, European Jews would then 'be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire' rather than 'unassimilated sojourners in every land.'"
The Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organisation that existed from 1920 to 1948 in the British Mandate of Palestine to suppress the Palestinians, would go on to become the core of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). It was said to be founded on the basis of self-defence, because the British could not be relied on to ensure the security of the Jewish population. In practice, it was part of the Zionist apparatus in Palestine, co-operating with the British when it served Zionist aims. While it began as an underground organisation, it expanded to encompass nearly all the youth and adults in the settlements, as well as several thousand members from each of the cities.
During 1936-1939, while Palestinians rose up to reject the British Mandate, the Haganah developed from a militia into a military body. The British administration did not officially recognise the organisation, but in practice the British Security Forces co-operated with it by establishing civilian militia as part of putting down the Arab Revolt.
The Haganah functioned not only in Palestine, it had branches in other parts of the world, including the United States, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, and Morocco. It carried out arms deals to bring in weapons from the United States, Western Europe, and Czechoslovakia, and carried out its own arms production.
In the spring of 1947, future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion began to direct the general policy of the Haganah. Following the Nakba, in which Zionist Israel was founded by the dispossession of the Palestinian people, on May 26, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel decided to transform the Haganah into the regular army of the State, to be called "Zeva Haganah Le-Yisrael" - the Israel Defence Forces. The catastrophe of the Arab Palestinian people in 1948 continues at the hands of Israel, using the same old policies and laws established by the British such as land confiscation laws, home demolitions, 'administrative' detention, deportations, violent repression, and the continuation of the expulsion of about 7.9 million Palestinians who are denied their basic national and human rights, especially their right of return and to live normally in their homeland. It is actively aided and abetted by the United States, Britain and other big powers of old Europe. This catastrophe of the Palestinian people could not continue without the support of Israel by the United States, Britain and other countries.
We condemn the infamous act known as the Balfour Declaration and the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.
1."The Empire's Balfour Declaration and the Suez Canal," Nu'man Abd al-Wahi, Churchill's Karma, December 20, 2012.