Students for Palestine - University of Southampton

Pre-1948

The beginnings Ottoman, Palestine and British duplicity –

Palestine was a part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire until 1918 when that empire fell at the end of the First World War Just prior to this, in 1916, the British Government had made a secret agreement with France (the Sykes-Picot Agreement) to share the Ottoman Empire between the two countries, part of Britain’s share being Palestine. At the same time, Britain promised the largely Arab population of Palestine self-government within 10 years, while, in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, it supported the creation of a national home for the Jews. Britain had two mutually incompatible plans for the same land. The population of Palestine at that time was about 800,000:

730,000 Palestinian Arabs (650,000 Muslim; 80,000 Christian); and 60,000 Jews.

 

The Zionist project: racism and ethnic cleansing –

The European Zionist enterprise had its roots in the 19th century; it was partly a religious and partly a militaristic and nationalist movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Thus there were two peoples who claimed the same land: the Palestinians who have lived there for centuries and the Zionists who claimed that God had given the land to them and

that they needed it as a refuge from anti-Semitism. Moreover, the Zionist ambition was to achieve a purely Jewish state in which Arab citizens would not be welcome — a policy we now identify as racism. The Zionist leadership knew that the land was already populated and realised that the Palestinians were not about to give their land away voluntarily. The policy was therefore to seize the land by force and drive out or kill the indigenous population — a policy we now call ethnic cleansing.

 

Colonial rule under the British Mandate –

From 1918 to 1948 Britain held a mandate, first from the League of Nations and then from the United Nations, to govern Palestine as a British colony. During this time the country developed considerably in comparison with the surrounding countries; educational and medical services were established; roads, railways and mail services were greatly improved. There was an active agricultural economy which, by 1935, was exporting 65% of its produce and was relatively prosperous. At first, Britain’s declared aim was to create an integrated Arab /Jewish society but at the same time it supported the Zionist plan to create an exclusively Jewish state and it tolerated large-scale Jewish immigration. This created intense resentment in the Arab population. Eventually, but inevitably, resentment erupted in violence between the Arab majority population and the Jewish minority population.

When severe violence erupted in 1936 it was brutally repressed by the British, who by this time had concluded that its stated objective of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs was unattainable and that partition was unavoidable. In 1939 Britain confirmed its withdrawal from the Balfour Declaration. The Jews reacted with ferocious violence, now against the British as well as the Palestinians.

 

The Unilateral Declaration of the State of Israel –

The UN partition plan was accepted by the Zionists (though only as a temporary tactical

measure) but was rejected outright by the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab countries. The plan itself was illegal because the inhabitants of the land concerned had not been consulted: had they been, the plan would certainly have been rejected. From March 1948 the Zionists put a carefully prepared plan into effect (Plan D), the purpose of which was to seize all the military hardware and installations left by the British, to use force to remove as many Palestinians as possible, to destroy their villages and to take over the main towns. This was a war directed specifically against civilians and therefore was both immoral and illegal.

Extract from the Plan D:” “These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble), and especially those population centres that are difficult to control permanently; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.”

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