Perceptions of Palestine

6 Aug

It was far from being Britain’s finest hour. Britain controlled large parts of the Middle East from the end of the 1st World War. At the end of the 2nd World War they were given a mandate from the UN to keep peace in the area.  This they singularly failed to do. The problem, as I see it, is that policy was largely dictated by Richard Crosssman MP, who was unable, or unwilling, to differentiate between the local inhabitants of the area, the Palestinians, and the Arabic tribes who inhabited the neighbouring states, such as the Hashemites of Jordan. This was the British attitude at the time. All the Moslems were simplistically lumped together as ‘Arabs’.

To anyone who has visited Jordan, the difference is clear. The Palestinians do not share the same culture as their rulers, the Hashemites. They are primarily farmers and business people. The majority of the population of Jordan is now of Palestinian descent. As descendants of refugees they do not enjoy full political rights, but at least they were given shelter. In many cases their grandparents came across the border landless and without money. They had, in many cases, been dispossessed by the new state of Israel where their land was needed to support new immigrants.

After WWI the Ottoman Empire had disintegrated and there was officially no ‘country’ of Palestine. People still lived there, but they had no political protection. Britain could effectively do as they wished to the populace. After WWII around one hundred thousand Jewish survivors of the extermination camps and other vicious and irrational policies against their people, asked for leave to enter Palestine. It was Crossman who was largely responsible for granting them permission. The problem with that is that the land they settled in was inhabited by other people. To maintain that these peoples had no rights because they had no country is the height of sophistry.

The British Empire was fast disintegrating at the time. The country was exhausted from a lengthy war and effectively bankrupt. It could no longer maintain the control of the colonies. When trouble broke out between the Jewish settlers and the ‘Arabs’ the latter group was protected by the British. Some of the Jewish settlers became terrorists, the Irgun. The blowing up the King David Hotel in 1946 with 91 deaths, mostly British, was their doing. The hotel was the site of the central offices of the British Mandatory authorities of Palestine.

There was no enthusiasm in Britain to be stuck in the middle of such a dispute and they pulled out two years later. The United Nations passed the implementation of the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine in November 1947. On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel, a state independent upon the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine the following day. The armies of the neighbouring Arab states invaded Palestine immediately and were all defeated in a series of brilliant victories by the nascent Israeli state.

No-one is arguing that the state of Israel has no right to exist. What was done was done and the inhabitants have every right to live there, even if they took the land by conquest. I just have huge sympathy for the Palestinians who have been right-royally shafted by just about everyone else who has had any influence in the region. It is about time that they were granted some political status; that their country is recognised and the Israeli economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is ended immediately. Or don’t the Palestinians deserve their own country? The US has to stop vetoing every attempt in the United Nations to recognise these people, and the British should admit that the current and ongoing problems in the region came about largely because of their failure to take care of the people who had lived there for many centuries.


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