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Until Return - Issue 2

Historical Memory: 90 years of Nakba-The Balfour Declaration

Four hundred years of Ottoman rule have dried men’s eyes with rage - Sami Hadawi

The dimensions of the tragedy that has been unfolding ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917, were foreseen in Palestine almost immediately. In fact the declaration was declared
 Nakba.  The Arab peoples were on the verge of eliminating 400 years of Ottoman rule as World War I drew to a close, but Britain as an imperial power was determined to prevent any victory for the forces of national liberation in the region. They joined with France, which was equally determined to prevent Syrian Independence and conspired to divide the Syrian and Palestinian provinces of the dying Ottoman Empire. The outrageous feature of all this, even at the time, was that the territory of Palestine was not yet under British control. This took place even before the Treaty of Versailles (the peace treaty that carved up  the world to make it safe for European imperialism), the out come of which was the League of Nations. Under this League of Nations, strongly supported by France the US and Italy, the system of mandates was proposed. Officially the Arab peoples of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine would be denied permission to manage their own affairs, but the big foreign powers would undertake this ‘responsibility’ until they thought the Arabs were ‘ready’. Thus, the mandates were an attempt to disguise another tool of the European colonial system.

These arrangements were opposed from the outset. Palestinians knew the calamitous implications of the mandates.  In Syria (which included Lebanon), the Arab resistance took the form of straightforward anti-colonial struggle against France. In Palestine, the same anti-colonial struggle against British rule was  taking place. Palestinians opposed Zionist immigration into Palestine as part and parcel of resisting British colonial rule. As long as the Balfour  Declaration retained ‘legitimacy’ as an official document, the British  government could somehow dismiss and smear the Palestinian National Liberation struggle as mere opposition to Zionist immigration. Furthermore, the international Zionist movement could conceal their racist anti-Arab program from the rest of the world by posing as an anti-colonial force in Palestine! They even had the temerity to call it their “Jewish liberation struggle’, a drum they continue to beat until this day, when it becomes necessary to do so. From that time, this process divided the various social and political trends among Palestinian Arabs, according to the degree to which any of these forces were prepared to accommodate or resist the imposed Zionist presence. This remains a pressure point that is exploited by the Zionists and their US and other allies at the expense of Palestinian unity.

It is a fact that the Zionists are responsible for uprooting three fourths of a million Palestinians in 1947-48. It has been a massively devastating 60 years since then. It is only after 90 years that we can look back and see what wasn’t clear to Western observers when Lord Balfour, then British foreign secretary, delivered a letter to Baron de Rothschild giving him what was not his to give - Palestine  for a “Jewish National Home” : The Europeans and the US were beginning the process of taking over where the Ottomans had left off. And the ‘rage that has dried men’s eyes’ in the days when there were 600,000 Palestinians is now shared among 10 million plus the legions of their supporters.

Until Return!

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