From the British Mandate to Oslo: Radication of Israel and liquidation of Palestine

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Balfour promised Jews a home in Palestine, marks the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy. Even though the declaration included preserving the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities, Palestinians didn’t trust the declaration and found a clear betrayal in the British position. Palestinians were, however, not entitled to make decisions, as the ruling Ottoman Empire was in charge and was struggling through its final days of power. Masalha argues, “the Israeli state owes its very existence to the British colonial power in Palestine, despite the tensions that existed in the last decade of the British Mandate between the colonial power and the leadership of the European Yishuv. With the Ottomans being left in control of Palestine after the First World War, it is doubtful that a Jewish state would have come into being.”[1] After the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Palestinians aligned themselves with the pan-Arab national movement that SharifHussein led. The Mandate period proved the British failure to fulfill its promises of independence to the people of Palestine. Walid Khalidi describes the Palestine view of the Mandate as “an Anglo-Zionist condominium and its terms as instruments for implementing the Zionist program; it had been enforced on them by force, and they considered it to be both morally and legally invalid.”[2] The British started their Mandate by dismissing the mayor of Jerusalem, who was opposing the Zionist program. The application of the British Mandate led to the rise of Jewish immigration, namely by the appointment of first Higher Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel, who was a Zionist propagandist. May 1921 saw riots among the Palestinians in protest against Zionist mass immigration. At that time, Palestinians started to organize themselves. Christian-Muslim associations were formed throughout the country. The formation of the associations led to the election of delegates and a call for a national congress, which elected an executive committee. Between January 1919 and August 1922, three congresses were conducted, and they expressed the fear of Zionist political objectives and continued to reject the Balfour Declaration.[3]

At that time, the Jewish population, living mainly in Jerusalem, was a small minority that didn’t exceed one-sixth of the population. The waves of immigration from Europe aroused unrest and fear, accompanied by hate toward the Jewish growth in the area. From 1918 to 1929, according to Walid Khalidi, “some sixty new colonies were established, Zionist landownership rose from 2.04 percent to 4.4 percent in 1929, and the proportion of the Jewish population rose from 9.7 percent. To 17.6 percent during the same period.”[4]

The existing Palestinian leadership was composed primarily of notables from specific families, who have eventually molded the first Arab Palestinian political parties like the Palestine Arab Party, the National Defense Party, and the Independence Party, which formed the first strains of democratic development, out of which remained a manifestation of a continuous debate since the leaders of those organizations came from traditional rivalries inside those families.[5] Dr. Hussein Fakhri Khalidi, the Mayor of Jerusalem in the 1930s, expressed his feelings and awe explicitly about the split and rivalry between the two families (Husseini and Nashashibi) that transgressed the nation’s interest. Often, the rivalry between the two families led each to conspire with the enemy to harm the other.

The fears of Palestinians rose with the August 1929 establishment of the Jewish Agency, which included world-famous Jewish figures in its membership. This first event raised fear in Palestinians’ minds because such an agency would also increase the British influence on the Zionist movement. The other event that constituted a cornerstone in that period was an unprecedented political demonstration held at the Wailing Wall, where militant right-wing secular members of the Zionist Revisionist Party called for a revision of the Mandate to include the forcible colonization of the Transjordan area and Palestine. This resulted in clashes with Palestinians and was proof that Jewish immigration was an innocent affair and expressed a vision of ruling the future.[6] [7] “A consensus was emerging that political and diplomatic efforts were ineffective and only an armed rebellion directed at Britain could yield results.”[8] In December 1935, the British failed to form the local legislative council that they had suggested in the face of the threats from pro-Zionist members who believed that such a council would hinder the development of the Jewish national home. The Palestinians received this as the last proof that the British role was far from fair.[9]

May 1936 saw open rebellion by Palestinians. The five established political parties united to form the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) under the leadership of Haj Amin Al Husseini. In the same month, a conference was summoned and called for civil disobedience and a general strike to protest the British pro-Zionist policies. The rebellion endured for three years.[10] [11]

Jerusalem benefited from the Ottoman Empire’s progress in the Levant, particularly after the Egyptian “occupation” from 1830 to 1840. The challenge that resulted in providing progressive attempts inside the different regions of the empire. Among these, Jerusalem became a central city. Kamel Asaly, in his book Jerusalem in History, describes Jerusalem as “transformed from a relatively minor provincial town into the biggest city of Palestine and the political, cultural center in the country.”[12]

Tariff Khalidi[13] calls the period from 1900 to1948 the beginning of the “second period of intellectual history.” According to Khalidi, the period that proceeded witnessed the first Arab Nahda, or cultural renaissance. He finds this period, within the Mandate promises, as one of stunted intellectual growth. [14] Khalidi believes that the conventional image of Arab culture is still being revised; “from such adjustments of focus one gains an empathetic awareness of the cultural equidistance of all generations from a supposedly ideal pinnacle. The brilliance of decadence is no longer an adequate description of one era’s intellectual contributions compared to another. The Arab past speaks to us in many voices rather than in an alternating sequence of eloquence and triviality, renaissance and decline.”[15]

Oslo in 1994, a result of the Madrid initiative that succeeded some years before, marked the next level of liquifying the Palestinian State and thus, statehood. Accepting 22 % of the land, in a fatal compromise that continued to swallow, cut, merge, annex, and squeeze then fragment into chunks what creates the state of today. 60% of the supposedly sovereign Palestinian area in the future became giant roads that harshly separated the Palestinian cities and villages and neighborhoods, together with the Apartheid wall that enclaved and sliced and then separated lands and people. Checkpoints that became borders. Jerusalem was left to the final negotiation stage, ending up in a full closure and pressure that liquified the space and the breaths. Discrimination, Israelization, oppression, confiscations, demolitions, and settlements in every neighborhood.

The new map that Kushner showed is nothing but a “negative” to the original map created in Oslo.

And as done in 1948 in the wake of the Nakba-catastrophe– the government of Palestine was announced by the Arab League to end up governing in Gaza. Today, the promised ” new Palestine” is a continued scheme of a past that we never learned lessons from its nonstopping miseries.

[1] Masalha, p. 33.

[2] Khalidi, Walid. Before Their Diaspora: Photographic History of the Palestinians: 1876-1948. The Institute for Palestine Studies 1984.p. 85

[3] Ibid, p. 85

[4] Ibid., p. 86

[5] Ka’war, Amal. Daughters of Palestine. SUNY Press 1996, p. 6-7

[6] Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora, p. 86

[7] By 1933, Jewish immigrants numbered 30,000. In 1934, they numbered 42,000, and in 1935 they numbered 61,000. The escalation produced panic and desperation among the Palestinians, which resulted in five political parties from 1932 to 1935.

[8] Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora, p. 87

[9] Ibid., p. 87

[10] Ibid., p. 189

[11] The AHC was dissolved on October 1, 1937, when four of its members were sent into exile in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean (Dr. Hussein Khalidi, Ya’qub al Ghussein, Ahmad Hilmi, and Fuad Saba). Haj Amin al Husseini and others escaped arrest and took refuge in neighboring Arab countries. Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora, p. 269

[12] ‘Asaly, Kamel. Jerusalem in History. Olive Branch Press 1990.p. 233

[13] Tariff Khalidi was an associate professor of history at the American University of Beirut.

[14] Khalidi, Walid. “Palestinian Historiography: 1900-1948”, in Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10 No. 3 1981. University of California Press 1981.p. 59-76

[15] Ibid., p. 59

[16] During Ibrahim Pasha’s time (some of Mohammad Ali Pasha), the Egyptians enforced education from early childhood. During Sultan Abdel Hamid’s time, that progress, which increased toward the end of the nineteenth century, included state-funded elementary schools in villages and secondary schools in cities such as Jerusalem. According to Adel Manna’, girl students remained limited in numbers during that period. At the same time, that was when missionary institutions started and grew to include the establishment of private schools. In Haifa, for instance, six private schools were established, one of which was for females.

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