Today marks 70 years since the massacre at Deir Yassin. The latest repression in Gaza is a reminder that the spirit of this massacre lives on in Israel. In 1948, as today, massacres to push and keep Palestinians off of the land were dictated by core Israeli policies. It is past time to confront the Western part in this tragedy.
Category Archives: History
On the 70th anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre Jamal Najjab interviews historian Matthew Hogan on the events that transpired on April 9, 1948 and their lasting legacy today.
Israeli leaders were not only contemplating ethnic cleansing, but also Genocide, according to declassified governmental minutes from 1967. Labor politicians were obsessed with the fear that the 1.4 million Palestinians in the territories they had seized would overwhelm the state’s Jewish majority one day. And these liberal Zionists encouraged the settlements, too.
Olive branches, a huge Palestinian flag, a large cardboard drawing of Lord Arthur Balfour, and Theresa May cartoons were some of the creative props displayed during the 15,000-strong ‘Justice Now: Make it Right for Palestine’ march and rally in London to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
The Balfour Declaration was a wartime play by the British government to win international Jewry to its side. This meant the Russian masses in the U.S., and banker Jacob Schiff, who were against American entry into the war. The British may have exaggerated Jewish power, but Zionists lobbied successfully for the declaration by citing such power, marking the entry of the Israel lobby on the world stage.
As the hundred year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration takes way, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as various other Palestinian politicians are calling on the United Kingdom to not only apologize to the Palestinian people for the “suffering” caused by the declaration, but to also recognize Palestine as a state. Meanwhile, the UK is planning quite the opposite, as Israeli Prime Minister heads to a state dinner organized by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to celebrate the centennial.
Mohammad Arafat writes, “‘Once we heard about the declaration, we knew the future of Palestine and the Palestinians was in danger,’ Um Abed so softy I could barely hear her. She couldn’t say more without crying.”
It is time that British Government declare that Israel has never lived up to the revered Balfour Declaration and rescind it once and for all. For if Great Britain believes in human rights and democracy, it will demand that Israel recognize the right of Palestinian refugees and their offspring to return home and to live as equal citizens under a representative government.
Rana Askoul writes to British Prime Minister Teresa May: “I hear you will be celebrating the centenary of the Balfour declaration with ‘pride’. I hear you also said that you will be conscious of the sensitivities that some people have about the Balfour declaration and that there is more work to be done. Pride, sensitivities, some people, more work. In my mind, I picture you standing in front of my paternal grandmother, as she walked on her journey out of Palestine to Lebanon in 1948, clutching my father as a baby to her chest. I see you uttering these words to her. Pride, sensitivities, some people, more work. It seems Ms. May, you also have not the slightest clue as to how we Palestinians can move on. It seems Ms. May that you too, like your predecessors have chosen the easier wrong, over the harder right. It seems Ms. May, that you too need a lesson as to why we need to apologize when we have done wrong.”
Britain fulfilled its promise to the Zionists in full, but broke even its feeble commitment to the Palestinians to protect their civil and religious rights. An apology from Britain is long overdue, as are efforts to repair the damage it initiated 100 years ago.
The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, on November 2, is turning out to be an important occasion for Palestinians to register their sense of betrayal by Britain for colonial-era promises that still govern the lives of so many people in Israel and Palestine, and to call on Britain to make the declaration “right” by assuring Palestinians’ rights at last.
Sixty-seven words. That is the full extent of the Balfour Declaration, and yet few documents have had as devastating an impact as this historical document. Still, Nada Elia writes that the cursory nature of its wording indicates a twentieth-century awareness that the dispossession of the Palestinian people was already considered anachronistic when the declaration was written 100 years ago.
Former BBC Middle East Correspondent Tim Llewellyn says Great Britain is a nation split between government and governed when it comes to Israel and Palestine: “If the British Conservative Government of Teresa May represented the views of the people of Britain rather than the preferences of the state of Israel on the disastrous outcome for the Palestinian Arabs of the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, she would not be planning to celebrate this 100th anniversary with Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister. This will happen at a cosy London dinner party at the home of Lord Rothschild, heir to the recipient of that infamous letter from Arthur J. Balfour, Britain’s then Foreign Secretary.”
At a British Labour Party gathering, Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest applause came when he said the oppression of Palestinians must end. No wonder he snubbed an invitation from the Jewish Leadership Council to commemorate the Balfour Declaration at 100. And no wonder a UK diplomat says Balfour’s promise to non-Jewish communities has gone unfulfilled. Balfour anniversary is dividing British opinion on Israel.
The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration has set the stage for some long overdue historical truth-telling. On November 11 in Cambridge, MA, two dozen speakers will examine how the Zionist project was implemented in historic Palestine, and consider its long-term consequences for Palestinians, world Jewry, the United States, the United Nations and international law during the all-day conference: ‘Balfour’s Legacy: Confronting the Consequences.’
Dan Freeman-Maloy writes, “The worsening crisis in Palestine reflects more than a local record of colonial crimes, severe as these have been. Responsibility for it is global. Arundhati Roy was right to describe the Palestine tragedy as one of “imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world.” It is also a product of a history of racism and empire that extended across most of the West. On this centennial of the Balfour Declaration, reflection on this shared culpability should serve as a reminder of the responsibility for the political action that comes with it.”
The American Jewish Historical Society in New York was set to host a discussion later this month of the Balfour Declaration by civil rights lawyer Robert Herbst, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, and Palestinian lawyer Jonathan Kuttab. Then the event came under attack from far-right pro-Israel supporters and the history organization folded, canceling the discussion as well as a play reading on the US relationship to Israel.
British Jews condemn the Balfour Declaration ahead of the 100th anniversary and call for a British reckoning with its consequences. “What came out of Balfour is something that Jews should be ashamed of,” says Antony Lerman. “This is for me a tragedy,” says Jacqueline Rose. “I have nothing to celebrate,” says Avi Shlaim.
The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is nearly upon us and its 67 words of apparent British imperial generosity towards the Jewish people are already taking on sacred status. Robert Cohen writes, “For the sake of future Jewish generations, not to mention historians of the 20th century, it would be a good idea to put a stop to this manufacturing of holiness, this muddling of religion and nationalism. It’s only adding to the mountain of historical and political deceit that blocks the road to a place of justice and peace.”
At NYU, Rashid Khalidi says four Arab countries have been destroyed and ISIS would cut the throats of a quarter of the Syrian population, so he can’t blame Arabs for worrying about other issues more than Palestine. The historian also says that Palestinians faced a unique colonial problem because Zionism had 3 sources of support, international legitimacy at a time of decolonization, British backing, and a “river” of money from international Zionist movement.
The commemoration of the Six-Day War that resulted in the fifty-year occupation is a solemn moment to reflect on the magnitude of the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the multitude of daily indignities of life under occupation, and the relentless violence of Israel’s military against a defenseless imprisoned people. But to some liberal Zionists, like Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg, the focus only seems to be about how “the occupation” hurts Israel.
Memoirs by American Jews reveal that the 1967 war revolutionized Jewish life: even leftwingers like Joel Kovel were initially swept up in the fear for Israel and excitement over its victory, but those fears helped produce the most powerful force in American Jewish life since: the neoconservatives who, inflamed by memories of the Holocaust, vowed to support Israel in the face of an indifferent world.
Khalid Saifi was only ten years old when the 1967 war happened. Much of his memories come in bits and pieces, but some moments will stick with him for the rest of his life. Khalid’s father, a refugee who fled from al-Walaja village in 1948, refused to flee yet again, however Khalid’s mother was adamant she get her two youngest children, Khalid and his little sister, out of harm’s way. “My mother decided to stay longer at the crossroads with me and my little sister, so we stood there in the middle of the intersection and watched my two sisters and their husbands walking away in opposite directions for a long while,” Khalid remembers. “My mother stood there watching them. I remember that image so clearly — her standing there watching my sisters walk and walk off into the distance.”
The Six Day War, 50 years ago, was a walkover, Norman Finkelstein relates. It lasted closer to six minutes than six days. But it had a stunning effect on American Jewish identity. Jews went from nebbishes to martial heroes.
Norman Finkelstein shows that Israel’s leaders provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and the nation was not fighting for its survival.