By Clive Hambidge
“We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinians) never do return … The old will die and the young will forget.” — (Ben Gurion)
Considering the British Mandate of Palestine “carved out of Ottoman Southern Syria” and its favorable view of a Zionist drive for the colonization of historical Palestine, is to seek, somewhere, an honorable historical discourse in a dishonorable colonialist fulcrum.
The British Mandate was to last from 1920 to 1948. The ideological democratization of other Middle Eastern states was to fail then as it does now – fail Palestinians then as it does today.
British Mandate meant British Occupation. The self-declared Zionist State of Israel, which learned the lessons of Colonialism from Britain, was gifted a land for this pernicious ideology. Colonialism which is “always unlawful” under international law is yet practiced by Israel’s machination for a greater Israel:
“A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only a beginning.” — (Ben Gurion)
Facing persecution and worse in 1880s eastern and central Europe, revivalist Zionists recognized that the idea of assimilation was never going to be an option. Instead, they saw a Zionist colonization of Palestine as the political solution.
British Colonialism, Zionism and the inherent racism formed an unholy Troika in the early part of the 20th century. Montagu, only “the second Jew to serve in a British Cabinet” as Secretary of State for India 1917-1922, sent a memo suggesting the British government’s policy was anti-Semitic: “When the Jews are told that Palestine is their national home, every country will immediately desire to get rid of its Jewish citizens … You will find a population in Palestine driving out its present inhabitants, taking all the best in the country.” Accordingly, those Jews “in whatever country he loves” would “[remain] as an unwelcome guest in the country (he) thought he belonged to”. In Montagu’s case, this was Britain.
Not wanted in Britain, Balfour looked to send persecuted Jews to British East Africa, as debated in 1903, to find a searing asylum. Kattan’s forensic book ‘From Coexistence to Conquest’ notes: “It was Balfour, who as Prime Minister, steered the passage of the Aliens Act through Parliament in 1905 that restricted [the] westward movement of Jewish immigration into Britain.”
In 1921, the agonized Jewish exodus from Europe was stemmed by America by the Emergency Quota Act 1921 and the National Origins Act 1924. An “open door” was closed and immigration restricted. This led to “fear of immigrants, xenophobia and racial persecution,” reported the BBC.
Assimilation requires compassionate political will. Neither Great Britain nor America manifested such virtues.
Dissuasion as applied today is a Conservative Party policy to discourage Muslim refugees lawfully seeking asylum – this xenophobic policy encouraging Islamophobia in this case.
Colonialism was seen by a certain British class of the early 20th century as their almost evangelical birth-right, and by the Zionists as their collective destiny. Zionism is always an expropriation movement to be a “secularized and nationalized Judaism, according to Ilan Pappe.
It is no surprise then that the pernicious reality of anti-Semitism was used by both groups to further their own ends of perceived racial superiority, by the Zionists in Palestine and the British, anywhere and everywhere.
As the long nights and days of World War I began (August 1914) the Zionists sensed an opportunity. The Ottoman Empire in decline and retreat, was not the target of Zionist claims for eventual sovereignty in Historical Palestine, but, the eloquent and persistent “scientist” Chaim Weizmann was, seeing Great Britain as embodying a racist exceptionalism. British racist “disdain” for Arabs was only matched by their racist suspicion of Jews.
Britain viewed the Middle East through a rheumy-eyed strategic vision, controlling the Suez Canal, and exerting colonial influence in India and dominance in Egypt.
Arab independence could see the light of a Middle Eastern day by indebting Sharif Hussein ben Ali of the Hashemite family. A letter from Hussein ben Ali on July 14, 1915 to Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, stated in part that he: “prefer[s] the assistance of the Government of Great Britain in consideration of their geographic position and economic interests.”
In October 1916, Hussein ben Ali was “King of the Arabs”. Maybe. But the colonial powers of Great Britain and France were to be kings of the region.
In February 1916 the duplicitous Sykes-Picot Agreement (Asia Minor Agreement) was mapping the bloody zones of blue, red and brown where the Middle East would be “directly controlled” or “influenced” by the British or French. In Palestine the Ottoman Sanjak (district) was to be a:
“brown area [where] there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca.”
The British mandate of 1920 -1948 had begun, as did the beginning of protracted inhumanity (as described by Edward Said) inflicted on Palestinians. The 29th November 1947 partition plan hatched together by the hapless United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was boycotted by the Arab Palestinians opening the door for the Zionists. The Palestinians rightly rejected even the idea of partition. Indeed, history and hindsight have proven that the lethal weapon that was/is Zionist Israel never had any intention on agreeing to an economic union or long-term control by a UN body of the corpus separatum that was to be and till today remains Jerusalem.
A letter sent by President Truman on the 27th February 1948 to Edward Jacobson -an old army buddy and evolving Zionist amanuensis- expresses then what we know now. It reads in part: “Sorry that I did not have a chance to see Dr [Chaim] Weizmann … there was not anything he could say to me that I did not already know anyway … the situation is not solvable as presently set up”. Tragically for the Palestinians, it still is not.
– Clive Hambidge is Human Development Director at Facilitate Global (www.facilitateglobal.org). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com.