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In my day dreams, I often imagine sitting among the audience in a huge court-room, watching Balfour in the dock, hearing a recital of a long list of charges against him. Indeed for almost a century, eighty-eight years to be exact, Palestine and beyond have been the scene of 5 major wars and hundreds of air, land and sea raids. It had witnessed destruction of its towns and villages, untold suffering by 6 million Palestinian refugees, at least half a million killed or injured, many millions outside Palestine dispersed in war years in Sinai, Suez Canal, Golan and Lebanon. All this is topped by the longest and most brutal occupation in the world today.
Above all, Balfour has the dubious distinction of being the first to set the policy for what became the biggest planned ethnic cleansing operation in modern history.
How else can you describe Balfour’s Legacy? Of course, there have been many instances in history, particularly European, when foreign settlers descended upon a far away territory, killed or enslaved its hapless inhabitants. But never before, as in Palestine, a carefully considered policy was established and approved, even by the so-called League of Nations, to implant new people in another territory and replace the rightful inhabitants of the Holy Land.
The great British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, said 35 years ago,
The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‘given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless… It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate?
This ethnic cleansing policy was implemented relentlessly for about 30 years, the total life of British occupation of Palestine and the British Mandate. Thereafter, it was followed openly through Israeli occupation of all of Palestine.
This then is neither an accident of war, nor the excess of a racist 19th century Europe. It was a deliberate plan to destroy a nation and its people and replace them with foreign European immigrants.
Balfour was fully aware of this outcome. When challenged in November 1918 about the injustice of his declaration, he said:
For in Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-old tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder impact than the desires and prejudices [not the rights] of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land.
On another occasion he described these Arabs as,
“wholly barbarous, undeveloped and unorganized black tribes”.
In saying so, Balfour learnt well the teachings of his tutor and friend, Haim Weizmann. Here in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh, you will find a letter from Weizmann to Balfour telling him on 30 May 1918 that,
The Arab is treacherous… superficially clever, worships one thing only: power and success… dishonest, uneducated, greedy, inefficient, shifty…
These racist remarks are the stuff which made people like Balfour and Weizmann.
Balfour himself is not free from a hint of anti-Semitic feelings, not only towards the Arabs, but towards the Jews too. He wrote in the Introduction to Sokolov’s History of Zionism,
[It is] a serious endeavor to mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst… of an alien and hostile Body [i.e. Jews], [it is] unable to expel or absorb.
Those who wished to get rid of European Jews found a solution. They conspired to plant them in Palestine and make the Palestinians pay dearly for this case of double anti-Semitism.
George Bush: take notice, Palestinians are ahead of you. 88 years before your fancy campaign the Palestinians sent petitions and delegations since 1917 and thereafter demanding democracy and people’s presentation.
Here is what Weizmann told Balfour about democracy in his letter,
The brutal numbers operate against us, for there are five Arabs to one Jew [a lie. True 9:1]… This system does not take account of the fact there is a fundamental qualitative difference between Arab and Jew.
This is the same Weizmann who went round meeting Arab leaders preaching co-existence and bountiful goods coming out of Jewish industry and wealth, if only they were allowed in Palestine. He told them,
… not a hair on the Arabs’ heads will be touched… never it is our objective to turn anyone out of his property…
Churchill, the Colonial Secretary, told the Zionist first High Commissioner to Palestine, Herbert Samuel, when the latter reported the Palestinian agitation for freedom and democracy,
Tell them what you like… but never mention the word: presentation or representative council…
Churchill told a Palestinian delegation in Jerusalem in 1921 when they asked for democratic institutions,
Step by step we shall develop representative institutions leading to full self-government but our children’s children will have passed away before that is accomplished…
Ironically Sharon is carrying on with the same false mission today. He says he is trying hard to build a democratic Palestinian state, presumably behind the Apartheid wall and within the Palestinian concentration camps he created in the West Bank.
On this bed of racism and cynical disregard for human values, was the British policy based, as initiated by Balfour and followed thereafter by others. Not much has changed today, only lip service by politicians here and there. Palestinians, the victims of this policy, are asked to accept this as their fate. They will never do that. Here is why.
A Brief Review
Slide-1: Land Ownership and Population composition in 1917
This is Palestine as Allenby found it in 1917, at the same month Balfour issued his infamous letter.
The Jews were only 9% of the population. Their land ownership was only 1.7% of Palestine.
When Balfour declaration became known and the British Mandate appointed a Zionist as High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920, the Palestinian population agitated and revolted against the intrusion of foreign immigrants.
But it is within the tenure of Herbert Samuel (1920-1925) that the foundation for the state of Israel was established.
During Samuel’s tenure, a pseudo government in the name of the Jewish Agency was established. Hebrew language was introduced as one of three official languages. Ministries nuclei were formed: Rutenberg for power, Mekorot for water, Histadrut for labour. Separate Jewish education and banking systems were authorized. Most importantly a new Jewish army, with the innocent name of ‘settlement watchmen’ was trained and armed. Over 100 ordinances were hurriedly promulgated to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian land by Jewish immigrants. It was a virtual take over of Palestine.
Slide-2: Land Ownership and Population in early 1940's
The Palestinians revolted in 1921, 1929, but the biggest revolt was in 1936-1939. The last was triggered off by a massive Jewish immigration from Europe in the mid 1930’s. By 1939, Jewish immigrants increased 8 times from 1917, the year of British occupation of Palestine. In 1939 they constituted 30% of the total population (445,000 out of a total of 1,501,000).
It is in this period, just before WWII, that the British Mandate government physically destroyed the fabric of the Palestinian society, and made it an easy prey for the Israeli conquest of Palestine that was to come in 1948. It dissolved all Palestinian political parties. Its leaders were either imprisoned or have fled the country. New British army reinforcements were brought in. RAF showered bombs on villages. Collective punishment was applied. Houses were demolished. Provisions were destroyed. Able-bodied men were rounded up and put in cages. Summary trials led to quick execution. Possession of a simple pistol led to death sentence and possession of a knife led to life imprisonment. The Palestinian society was utterly devastated. All the while, the Zionists were watching the British do their bidding while they were building their army to 20,000 soldiers, soon to increase 5 times. The scene for al Nakba was set. The Zionists were ready to bounce.
During WWII, Palestine was quiet. Britain retracted some of its hostile policies towards the Arabs. The Jews strongly objected. In Biltmore conference, they planned to take over all of Palestine.
Slide-3: Land Ownership and Population in 1946's
In 1946 the situation was like this. The Jewish immigrants acquired 5.3% of Palestine area. The Jewish immigrants were still 30% of the population at a total of 600,000 Jewish immigrants.
Then Britain dumped Palestine into the lap of the UN, the successor to the League of Nations.
The ‘Sacred Trust of Civilization’ which was handed over to Britain, according to Article-22 of the League of Nations Covenant, to assist Palestinians to obtain their freedom and self-government, was translated by Balfour and his successors into transforming Palestinian Palestine to a Jewish-dominated Israel with the Palestinian national majority shattered and defenseless.
Britain betrayed the very Mandate clauses which it drafted. Contrary to Clause 10 of the Mandate, it did not “safeguard the interest of the community”. It decimated Palestinian society by brutal military action. Land laws were promulgated which were against the interests of the community. In the last 6 months of the Mandate the British did not interfere to protect civilians when Israeli terrorists committed massacres in Palestinian villages. Dayr Yassin was within 2 miles from the High Commissioner’s office. His chief of Police said “it is not my business”.
Two hundred and fifty villages were depopulated by Zionist forces while the British were looking on. That is half of the total refugees today. Under the Mandate, the British were obliged to protect them.
Contrary to Clause-5 of the Mandate, the integrity of Palestine territory was not respected. It was devoured by the wolves, the Israeli wolf chief among them.
Contrary to the practice in other Mandates, as in Cyprus for example, the Palestinians were not handed over their government offices, their infrastructure, their cultural and religious places, their records of health, education and land registry. There was nothing of the customary colonial decorum of handing over the trust held by Palestine’s British warden. They slipped at night, unceremoniously, leaving the civilian population to fend for themselves.
By default, frequently by design and occasionally by corrupt practices, the British abandoned, or handed over, the property of the Palestinian people to the Zionists: a complete infrastructure they needed to build an instant state: 1m700 public buildings, 497 police and post offices, hospitals and schools, 3,000 km first class roads, 1,000 km railway lines, 41 railway stations, 2 ports, 31 airfields and 37 stacked military camps.
Balfour issued the birth certificate for Israel and the death certificate for Palestine. Samuel created the laws for it and imported immigrants to be the new citizens for the state. The British Mandate saw the young baby to adulthood and supplied it with all the necessary physical infrastructure.
Slide-4: Partition Plan of 1947
The ‘Palestine Question’ was put before the UN in order to give a legal fig-leaf to this insidious dismembership of Palestine by the international i.e. Western community at the UN, exactly as Balfour sought European blessings in the League of Nations for his declaration 30 years ago. Hence, partition of Palestine was put to vote in the UN.
The proposed Partition by the UN was a farce, a thinly-disguised plan to give respectability to the Jewish take over of Palestine. Jewish immigrants who controlled 5% of Palestine were allocated 54% of the country. Half of the population in this would-be Jewish state were Palestinians who suddenly found themselves under the sovereignty of foreign immigrants.
The consequences were predictable. The Palestinians were not ready to give up over half of their country. Ben Gurion knew this. He set his Plan Dalet in motion. Over 65,000 trained Zionist soldiers, later increased to 120,000, moved to conquer Palestine.
Here you shall see an animated sequence of al Nakba in steps of 15 days from March 1948, the onset of Plan Dalet to April 1949 when Jordan signed the Armistice Agreement.
The blue is the Jewish land during the Mandate. The red is the occupied Palestinian land. The flashing yellow is the incidence of massacres. At bottom, you see three columns: the rising count of depopulated villages, the expelled refugees and the occupied land.
The main observation is that, until 15 May 1948, while Palestine was under the British Mandate, half the total refugees were expelled and 41 massacres were committed.
On that date Israel was declared on 13% of Palestine.
At the end of the Mandate, Arab regular forces came to rescue what was left of Palestine but failed.
Israel broke 2 Truces and occupied southern and northern Palestine and established a bridge heading to Jerusalem contrary to the Partition Plan.
After signing Armistice Agreement with Egypt, Israel occupied all Negev and reached the Gulf of Aqaba. The Zionists conquered 78% of Palestine and called it Israel.
Slide-5: Partition Plan of 1947
Thus life was snuffed out of 675 towns and villages. 85% of the Palestinians in the part of Palestine that became Israel became refugees.
They went into exile in 602 locations in the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Slide-6: Al Nakba 1948
Thus Palestine, which was promised free self-government by the British and by the League of Nations was reduced to this. Balfour, bear witness.
Slide-7: Occupied Land and Population in 2005
Israel’s appetite for colonial expansion was not satisfied. In 1967 and after, Israel occupied 100% of all Palestine, parts of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Palestinians were besieged in isolated cantons, treated like concentration camps.
Sharon envisaged a few Palestinian cantons whose land, air, water, economy, entry and exit he controls. He has no problem calling it a Palestinian state.
Slides 8-11: The Progression of Artheid Wall: (4 slides)
Slide-8: Areas allocated for Palestinians
Slide-9: Completed Apartheid Wall
Slide-10: Apartheid Wall under construction
Slide-11: Projected Apartheid Wall
To make sure the cantons are Palestinian ghettos, he invented and built the Apartheid wall. This image shows what was accomplished till a year ago.
Slide-12: The Proximity of the Refugees to Their Homes
Sharon plans to encircle all Palestinian towns and dissect Jerusalem. In July 2004 the International Court of Justice gave an Advisory Opinion that the Apartheid Wall is illegal and that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are Occupied Palestinian Territory.
If Sharon built this wall to separate Israel in the west from Palestinians, why then he plans to extend the wall on the east side?
Slide-13 A, B: Eighty percent of Israeli Jews live in 14% of Israel
The more sinister motive of course is to siphon off the West Bank aquifer and leave the Palestinians thirsty.
Slide-14: Ninety percent of Village Sites are still Vacant
90% of the western aquifer is siphoned-off by Israel. The small northern aquifer is to be shared. The negligible eastern aquifer is to be left to the Palestinians.
This is the Odyssey of Balfour’s original sin. But we cannot just blame Balfour himself for every evil. His legacy, his policy, his colonial mentality still pervades halls of power in America and Europe.
There is only one way to atone for these sins, to alleviate the endless suffering. It is to restore rights and apply justice.
Slide-15:Phases of Repatriation
We know that the Right of Return has been enshrined in international law, supported by the international community over 130 times.
But Zionist myths and fabrications are still being propagated. They say the return is not feasible, not possible. Even if it were, that is no reason to deny justice. But these claims are entirely false.
Slide-16: The Return to the Northern District
97% of the refugees are within a hundred kilometers from their homes.
50% of the refugees are within 40km from their homes, a mere bus ride. Many can see their homes.
Slide-17: The Existing and the Returning Population can Live together
Another myth: there is no room for returning refugees. Wrong. The truth is 80% of the Israeli Jews live in 14% of Israel. The rest is refugee land inhabited by the Kibbutz and the army. It seems Israel finds room only for one million Russians, equal in number to all refugees in Gaza and Lebanon.
Slide-18: The Return to the Southern District
Another myth: villages are built over. Wrong. 90% of the villages sites are vacant. The built-over areas are around Tel Aviv, Haifa and West Jerusalem.
Slide-19: The Existing and the Returning Population can Live together
They tell us we must maintain Israel’s Jewish character. There is no moral or legal obligation for the Palestinians to remain in exile in order for Israel to import immigrants. But what is the meaning of the Jewish character… (Four aspects).
Slide-20: The Return to the Central Region
Thus there is no moral, legal, physical or geographical reason why the refugees cannot return home. Here is a plan in seven phases.
In the northern district, there is no problem. All village sites are vacant with very few exceptions.
The demographic picture confirms that town by town.
The southern district is even easier. The number of rural Jews in the southern district is less than a single refugee camp in Gaza. The area of this district is 40 times the size of Gaza Strip. True half of it is desert but with the billions of dollars Israel receive, it could revive the fertile part.
The towns can easily accommodate population.
The central region has somewhat more difficult problems, especially around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but they can be solved as in similar cases in Bosnia and Kosova under the UN supervision.
Thus Return is not only just, it is inevitable.
This presentation before you reveals, I hope, several facts:
First, starting with Balfour, continuing on today with Sharon, the Palestinians have been subjected to the largest, longest ethnic cleansing operation in modern history. It has come about through an unholy alliance between Western colonialism and anachronistic racist Zionist ideology. This evil must be reversed. It is a shame for all of us today to condone it or do nothing to eliminate it.
Second, the universal rise in the awareness of upholding human rights the world over and the efficiency of electronic communications created a genuine people’s voice, parallel to, sometimes better than, elected parliaments. This voice is increasingly gaining importance in making political decisions. Witness the great show of people’s voice against racism in Durban, against pollution in Seattle and against the war in Iraq and for the support of Palestinians in many cities in Europe. Here in Britain, the voice of the people transcended the political turn-speak and became a force to be reckoned with.
Third, refugees have returned home in Kosova, Bosnia, East Timor, Ruwanda, Guatemala, Abkhazia, Afghanistan and Iraq. They returned everywhere on the strength of international law, enforced by the Security Council and at times by Nato soldiers. Everywhere except in Palestine. Why? Because US supports Israel unconditionally in every field–politically, economically, militarily, even to the detriment of US interests.
Fourth, the international law is solidly behind Palestinian rights. The international consensus, barring the rogue states, is solidly behind them. So are the Treaty-Based Human Rights Committees. So are practically all human rights groups in the world. But there is an anomaly. Compare the extent and strength of people’s support for the Palestinian rights with the strength and persistence of Western governments’ to support Israel and to undermine Palestinian rights. Tolerating Israel’s policies today means that no Western politician has learnt anything from Balfour’s shameful legacy.
Last but not the least, in spite of 88 years of continuous struggle, the Palestinians did not surrender or give up their rights. They never will.
It behooves every man and woman in the world with a free conscience to support them.
For peace has only one road leading to it. That is justice. Let us follow that road.