From Betrayal to Expulsion and Quest for Return
Salman Abu Sitta
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.
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