About Israel

(19/5/15) | PressTV

(6/9/13) | VoltaireNet. This article, by Laurent Guyénot, first on 2 May 2013, covers critically important historical events which commenced with John F. Kennedy's Presidency (1961-1963) and ended with the 6 Day War of 1967. On 8 June 1967, the fourth day of the Six Day War, even though the United States was an ally of Israel, Israeli warplanes bombed the intelligence ship, the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean Sea and began strafing sailors in the water in an attempt to ensure that there were no survivors. The clear intention was to blame the sinking of the USS Liberty on Egypt and use that as a pretext for the United States to join Israel in its war against Egypt and other Arab nations.

The Jewish Pendulum

[article still being drafted]

Palestine's ancient origins

Neighbours Israel and Palestine share long overlapping convoluted histories dating back to the ancient Canaanites, Egyptians, Hittites and Hebrews. Successive wars and empires saw control and power in the region change many times and also the territorial divisions by the conquerors. Might has ruled and been the recurring theme shaping the borders, not unlike other places of human occupation world over.

The Palestinian people are an Arabic-speaking ethnic group of mainly Muslim faith, which have been found to be closely related to Jews and represent modern "descendants of a core population that lived in this Asia Minor area since prehistoric times. The first widespread use of "Palestinian" as an endonym to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people by the local Arabic-speaking population of Palestine began prior to the outbreak of World War I, and the first demand for national independence was issued by the Syrian-Palestinian Congress on 21 September 1921.

Jewish history of persecution

Jewish history is ancient, emanating from the nearby Fertile Crescent and Canaan and a legacy of migration throughout what was once Asia Minor including Palestine. Since the Roman Empire, Jews have been persecuted, enslaved or forced to flee tyranny. Jews became scattered throughout the Roman Empire which included now Europe, becoming a homeless 'diaspora' (a displaced population sharing a common identity) connected by creed.

From the 16th Century until World War 1, the Ottoman Turks of Asia Minor ruled Palestine.

Out of Europe's French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the new wealth of the Industrial Revolution and the colonialism that it fed, by the 19th Century nationalism was sweeping Europe and saw the emergence of 'new imperialism' driven mainly by Britain, France and Germany. "The period is distinguished by an unprecedented pursuit of what has been termed "empire for empire's sake," aggressive competition for overseas territorial acquisitions and the emergence in some colonizing countries of doctrines of racial superiority which purported to explain the unfitness of backward peoples for self-government."

In this nationalistic fervour, Jews, being distinguishable from European cultures (notably by religion, customs, appearance, and work ethic) were not seen as part of the nationalistic ideals and so continued to be outcast. In the face of continuing persecution, the Jewish diaspora increasingly sought a homeland and became more galvanised as an ethnic group.

In 1894, Jewish persecution in Europe culminated in the Dreyfus Affair, in which a French Jewish army captain was falsely convicted of spying for Germany. It became an inciteful anti-Jewish incident where many chanted "Death to the Jews!" This was symptomatic of the growing anti-Jewish sentiment across Europe which saw the emergence of Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist and Jew. At this time Herzl grew to believe that anti-Semitism could not be defeated or cured, only avoided, and that the only way to avoid it was the establishment of a Jewish state, the tenet for political Zionism.

In Der Judenstaat, Herzl wrote:
“The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level. The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America."

Jewish desire for a homeland

In 1897 the first Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland deciding to establish a national home for Jews in Palestine. Argentina was another proposition, but in 1906 a subsequent Zionist congress returned to the idea that a Jewish homeland should be in Palestine. By 1914 with the outbreak of World War I, Jews in Palestine had steadily increased from 12,000 in 1845 to 85,000.

During the course of World War I (The Great War) commencing in 1915, with the Ottoman Turks of Asia Minor ruling Palestine and it sided with the German central powers. Since this alliance threatened Britain's communications with India via the Suez Canal, besides other strategic interests of the allies, Britain promised the Arabs the independence of Arab lands under Ottoman rule in return for Arab support against Turkey.

In an controversial exchange of letters between British High Commissioner Henry McMahon and Arabian Shareef Husein ibn Ali of Mecca (known as the ), the Arabs were assured that their assistance would be rewarded by an Arab empire encompassing the entire span between Egypt and Persia, but according to the British version, only west of "Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo" since the British considered the area "to be purely Arab". The Arabs had a different account of the verbal early honourary promises made by McMahon that included Palestine.

Later during the Great War in November 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration to a British Zionist leader from the foreign secretary Arthur J. Balfour promising him the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
With the help of the Arab Revolt against the Turks, the British defeated the Ottoman forces in the region in 1917-18. Lord Balfour stated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 that the Allies were committed to Zionism and had no intention of honoring their promises to the Arabs.

Eighty-five years later, in a 2002 interview with The New Statesman, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one."

After WWI, under the 'Palestine Mandate', Britain occupied and administered the Palestine region, which was formalised by the League of Nations in June 1922, continuing until 1948.

Palestine during the next twenty five years came under direct British rule in order to give effect to the Balfour Declaration with the aim of establishing Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people. The mandate was effectively a self-imposed sovereignty by the British over the conquered territory of Palestine. The mandate was a legal and administrative instrument supposed to be achieved without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

The area of the Mandate was originally 118,000 km2. In 1921, Britain took the 91,000 km2 east of the Jordan River, and created Trans-Jordan (later the Arab country of Jordan) as a new Arab protectorate. In 1923, Britain ceded the Golan Heights (another 1,176 km2 of the Palestine Mandate) to the French Mandate of Syria. The total remaining area of the Mandate for Palestine, after these land deductions, was just under 26,000 km2. The balance of the Mandate, the inhabited part of Palestine, and only the part west of the Jordan, was just 14,000 km2.

Racial violence between Palestinians and Jews grew and culminated with the 1920-21 Arab riots as a consequence of the wave of Jewish immigration and the problematic British administration. Following the ongoing racial tension and an investigation into the riots, the British Government issued an official manifesto, referred to as the White Paper of 1922.
The White Paper stated that Britain stood by the principles of the Balfour Declaration to facilitate a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but did not support a separate nation as a Jewish National Home, only a continuation of the community within the larger Palestine region.
The White Paper stated:
"it is contemplated that the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status."

This made British rule of Palestine contradictory and unworkable. Then in July 1922 the British partitioned the area of the Palestine Mandate by excluding the area east of the Jordan River from Jewish settlement. That land, 76% of the original Palestine Mandate land, was renamed Transjordan and was given to the Emir Abdullah to rule.
The 'Arab uprising' of 1936-1939 was followed by the 1939 White Paper that imposed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine. A limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944 and it effectively reversed teh principle of the Balfour Declaration.

During World War II, the persecution of the Jews by Nazi Germany was unprecedented in the Holocaust involving the genocide of approximately six million European Jews under a programme of systematic state-sponsored extermination. Many Jews desperately fled Europe during the war and went to the United States. Many also went to Palestine, despite the British immigration limits there. By 1945 Britain was still limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine.

Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry

After WWII, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was set up jointly between Britain and the United States to review the policy on Jewish immigration to Palestine, especially in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust, and to consider the future government of Palestine.

The Committee recommended the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe into Palestine. It also recommended that Palestine remain a mandated territory, that facilities be put in place to ensure Jewish migration and that the 1940 Land Act which banned Jews from purchasing land in 95% of Palestine be rescinded.

It recommended the following principles :

I. That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine.

II. That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state.

III. That the form of government ultimately to be established, shall, under international guarantees, fully protect and preserve the interests in the Holy Land of Christendom and of the Moslem and Jewish faiths.

Thus Palestine must ultimately become a state which guards the rights and interests of Moslems, Jews and Christians alike; and accords to the inhabitants, as a whole, the fullest measure of self-government, consistent with the three paramount principles set forth above.

The effect of the Committee’s findings was that the US refused to recognise most of its findings except for supporting the 100,000 refugee intake, which threatened to provoke an Arab uprising. A compromise was reached and from October 1946 1,500 Jews were allowed into Palestine every month.

1947 UN Partition of Palestine

In 1947 Britain decided to transfer the Palestine problem it had created to the United Nations. On 29th November that year, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was adopted. The resolution recommended the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the partition of the territory into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area being under special international protection, administered by the United Nations.

The resolution also contained a plan for an economic union between the proposed states, and a plan for the protection of religious and minority rights. The resolution sought to address the conflicting objectives and claims to the Mandate territory of two competing nationalist movements, Zionism (Jewish nationalism) and Arab nationalism, as well as to resolve the plight of Jews displaced as a result of the Holocaust.

The resolution called for the withdrawal of British forces and termination of the Mandate by 1 August 1948, and establishment of the new independent states by 1 October 1948. A transitional period under United Nations auspices was to begin with the adoption of the resolution, and lasting until the establishment of the two states.

The proposed plan was accepted by the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine, through the Jewish Agency. However, the plan was rejected by leaders of the Arab community.

The passing of the UN resolution marked the start of the 1948 civil war in Palestine.

With no plan for a smooth transition of authority to a new administration, Britain announced its intention to unilaterally withdraw from Palestine by 15 May 1948. During their withdrawal, the British refused to hand over territory or authority to any successor. On the day before Britain was to complete its withdrawal, (i.e. 14 May 1948) the Jewish community in Palestine published a Declaration of Independence as the State of Israel, and five Arab armies crossed into the former Mandate as the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

And so we have the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continuing to today, sixty odd years and three generations later.

Two views on the Gaza conflict

First View I have hesitated to use the word 'genocide' to date because I think often the rhetoric can get very inflated in discussion of this conflict. Inflated rhetoric muddies the waters and prevents clear thinking. (That doesn't mean we shouldn't use words that express our emotions, but these need to be meaningful. Mistaken and over-use of emotive rhetoric devalues the currency of language. Then we don't have words for realities which do exist. People stop listening when the language has lost meaning. And 'genocide' is problematic because of the wide gap in ordinary usage and its meaning in international law. The condition of the people of Gaza is utterly dreadful as the ">article below shows, far worse than for those in Lebanon, bad though that is. So what other word adequately describes what is now going on in Gaza? The approaching genocide in Gaza Palestinians forced to scavenge for food on rubbish dumps By Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem Published: 09 September 2006 The Israeli military and economic siege of Gaza has led to a collapsein Palestinian living conditions and many people only survive bylooking for scraps of food in rubbish dumps, say international aid agencies. "The pressure and tactics have not resulted in a desire forcompromise," Karen Abuzayd, the head of the UN Relief and WorksAgency is said to have warned. "But rather they have created massdespair, anger and a sense of hopelessness and abandonment." Israel closed the entry and exit points into the Gaza Strip, home to1.5 million Palestinians, on 25 June and has conducted frequent raidsand bombings that have killed 262 people and wounded 1,200. Thecrisis in Gaza has been largely ignored by the rest of the world,which has been absorbed by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. "Women in Gaza tell me they are eating only one meal a day, breadwith tomatoes or cheap vegetables," said Kirstie Campbell of the UN'sWorld Food Programme, which is feeding 235,000 people. She added thatin June, since when the crisis has worsened, some 70 per cent ofpeople in Gaza could not meet their family's food needs. "People areraiding garbage dumps," she said. Not only do Palestinians in Gaza get little to eat but what food theyhave is eaten cold because of the lack of electricity and money topay for fuel. The Gaza power plant was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in June. In one month alone 4 per cent of Gaza's agriculturalland was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers. The total closure imposed by Israel, supplemented by deadly raids, has led to the collapse of the Gazan economy. The 35,000 fishermen cannot fish because Israeli gunboats will fire on them if they go more than a few hundred yards from the shore. At the same time the international boycott of the Hamas government means that there is no foreign aid to pay Palestinian government employees. The government used to have a monthly budget of $180-200m, half of which went to pay 165,000 public sector workers. But it now has only $25m a month. Aid agencies are frustrated by their inability to persuade the worldthat the humanitarian crisis is far worse in Gaza than it is inLebanon. The WFP says: "In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarianfood aid needs have been essentially met, the growing number of poorin Gaza are living on the bare minimum." It is possible for foreign journalists to visit Gaza but it is alaborious process passing through the main Israeli checkpoint at Erezand then walking down a long concrete tunnel. The kidnapping of twoFox television employees by criminals - though they were laterreleased - has also dissuaded several TV companies from covering thecrisis. The total closure imposed by Israel dates from the seizure of CplGilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on 25 June. Between then andthe end of August, Israeli security forces killed 226 Palestinians,54 of them minors, in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli humanrights organisation B'Tselem. Of these it says that 114 were taking no part in any hostilities. The quickest way to alleviate the crisis would be for Israel to allowthe Rafah crossing into Egypt to reopen, according to the mayor ofGaza City. But any restoration of the economy would require thereopening of the other crossing points at Erez and Karni. * Israel lifted its sea blockade of Lebanon yesterday after aninterim maritime task force led by an Italian admiral deployed offthe Lebanese coast, the commander of UN peacekeepers said. Second View The "Gaza Genocide" article brings a new dimension to your forum, one perhaps not welcomed by all. I am a Jew, of the proud rather than self-hating variety, having said that I have over the years been abused for being a leftie, opposing war, especially in Iraq and being concerned with human rights issues. I try hard to view the middle east with as much objectivity as possible, I only wish there were more adherents of Islam with whom I could discuss ideas. It seems always the Jews/Israeli's who monopolise soul-searching. Like other readers, I have not visited Gaza (except briefly 40 years ago as a civilian) and therefore I read other peoples biased perspectives. The article you disseminated was composed by a professional Arabist, but ignoring stupid words like "genocide" suggesting the wish to exterminate perhaps half a million people? Many of the facts concerning the suffering of Gazans were correct, they are indeed suffering and the poor are likely to be hungry. In London in the 1960's I used to listen to Moscow English language radio, the news was often similar to the BBC, just some words and inferences altered. The article is of the same kind. Israel has cracked down hard on Gaza and the suffering and loss of life is undeniable, but please allow me a couple of paragraphs of perspective. Since 1948 the Egyptians, who have either controlled or bordered their brethren, have absolutely refused citizenship or even afforded Gazans entry or travel permits So the simplest solution has gone. Since Israels (unilateral and overdue) withdrawal from the area ther have been tunnels for armaments, terrorist incursions and regular shelling of Israel. Presumably these acts have been orchestrated by the same "criminal elements" who regularly kidnap westerners, and of course are not connected with the Palestinian Government. Years ago, before the intafada was organised, most Gazans had a rising standard of living, the majority worked in Israel at high rates of pay. Their exclusion is a direct result of the majority of terrorist murderers in Israel coming in from the Gaza with the workforce. The cutting of aid to Gaza from Europe and the US is directly resulting from the Government refusing to recognise Israel's existence, I seemed to miss that point in the genocide hysteria, perhaps I mistakenly thought that the Arabs wanted to exterminate Israel. The Israeli attacks on Gaza are a direct result of cross border raids, kidnapping and shelling of Israel's towns. I detest war and condemn all parties to conflicts, but before rattling on about genocide, remember the causes of the problem. I call upon those who disagree with me to offer a solution, as long as it recognises all parties right to exist ... I am sad to note that whilst Israels record is far from perfect, each recent withdrawal has resulted in further attacks in defiance of all commonsense The only successful peace has been with Egypt and Jordan, where strong Governments signed a peace treaty and have upheld it, so why no genocidal attacks there? To this simple soul the only end to suffering will be when a government in Gaza takes control,is able to halt terrorist activities and recognises borders. Then the Israelis will clear out and the West will resume aid. Whether self hating or just hatemongering, there can be no less productive human action.