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  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: The UN Committee on the Admission of New Members, comprising representatives of the fifteen serving members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), considered the Palestinian application at a number of meetings between 28 September and 8 November, the date it completed its final report. In addition to the five permanent members (the U.S., France, Great Britain, Russia, and China), the rotating members during this period were Bosnia, Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, and South Africa. The report was formally accepted by the UNSC on 11 November.
  • Political Geography: Britain, Africa, China, New York, Bosnia, Middle East, India, France, Brazil, Colombia, Palestine, Germany, United Nations, Nigeria, Portugal
  • Author: William Mathew
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: Rejecting deterministic views of the 1917 Balfour Declaration as an expression of the inevitable work of history returning Jews to their ancient homeland, this article argues that Britain's fateful endorsement of the idea of a national home for Jews in Palestine was, in fact, the result of a combination of fortuity and contingency related primarily to World War I and the concerns and personalities of the British politicians involved. The article highlights the historic improbability of the Declaration and its implementation in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, noting the regression it represented at a time when British imperial policy aspired to more flexible accommodations with colonial populations. FOR MANY ZIONISTS in the early twentieth century, the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine through the British government's Balfour Declaration of 1917 and its League of Nations Mandate of 1922 represented, momentously, the now-imminent return of a diasporic people, comparative aliens in gentile societies, to their ancient home in the Levant. The mystic Zionist, Abraham Isaac Kook, saw it all as an expression of divine purpose, a great restorative sweep of God-driven history. Such ideas were rooted, albeit with a political twist, in the ancient Jewish sense of a “sacred” history and a related metaphysic of material events. There was an even grander reclamation: a “return to history” (ha-shiva la-historia) itself. Until that point, lacking territoriality and incoherent as a nation, the Jews had been, in David Ben-Gurion's words at the time of the Balfour Declaration, “extricated from world history.” Now, through the official agency of the British, they were poised for a dramatic reentry. REGRESSION To the disinterested historian, however, what commands attention is not some working through of ineluctable religious or secular historical forces but rather the sheer short-term contingency, much of it war related, of the enabling factors underlying both the Declaration and Britain's Mandate over Palestine in which it was ultimately incorporated. If there was any great movement of events, it was more a regression than an advance, involving as it did the establishment of a European settler community in an already well-peopled and well-charted territory. Britain's sponsorship of the Zionist project stood in contradiction to the “Wilsonian” spirit of the times, in which self-determination for formerly imperialized societies had been, notionally at least, a significant concern in post–World War I political dispositions. The British were remarkably explicit in their denial of democratic rights to the Palestinian Arabs. The author of the Declaration, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, insisted, in an oft-quoted remark, that the aspirations of Zionists were “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land,” and that Arab claims to Palestine were “infinitely weaker than those of the Jews.” These views were consistent with the Declaration's promise of protection for the “civil and religious,” but not “political,” rights of the so-called “non-Jewish” population of Palestine. Lord Alfred Milner, one of the drafters of the Declaration, suggested that history and tradition of “the most sacred character” made it “impossible . . . to leave it to the Arab majority . . . to decide what shall be the future of Palestine.” The prime minister, David Lloyd George, was more succinct: “You mustn't give responsible government to Palestine.” Nor could the indigenous population do much by way of effective complaint: Sir Ronald Storrs, successively military governor of Jerusalem and civil governor of Jerusalem and Judea between 1917 and 1926, observed that the Palestinian Arabs, in making pleas for political justice, had “about as much chance as had the Dervishes before Kitchener's machine guns at Omdurman.” There was, of course, a widespread failure on the part of European colonial powers to deliver self-determination to their subordinate societies: It took a second world war to bring that about. But there was a distinct sense in British imperial policy that aspired to more flexible accommodations with colonial populations—notably in India, Ireland, and Egypt. Winston Churchill as colonial secretary had, despite his own vigorous Zionism, a clear sense of the inflammatory inconsistency involved, declaring in 1922 that the problem with the idea of a Jewish homeland was “that it conflicted with our regular policy of consulting the wishes of the people in mandate territories and giving them a representative institution as soon as they were fitted for it.” Another friend of Zionism, Sir Mark Sykes, insisted in 1918: “If Arab nationality be recognised in Syria and Mesopotamia as a matter of justice it will be equally necessary to devise some form of control or administration for Palestine” that recognizes “the various religious and racial nationalities in the country . . . according equal privileges to all such nationalities.” The regression, however, was implemented, and proved to be of the greatest historical significance, with bloody consequences for the near-century ahead. The clear implication was that the Jewish national home in Palestine, inserted in newly conquered British territory, could survive only through radical moderation of its colonialist instincts and an historic compromise with the Arab majority; or, alternatively, by iron-fisted attempts to impose unmoderated Jewish political will. The second approach—the one that came to govern events—was well articulated by the “revisionist” Zionists, most notably by the Odessa-born Vladimir Jabotinsky. As Avi Shlaim indicates, Jabotinsky did not subscribe to the common, tendentious illusion that “backward” Arabs would welcome “modernizing” Jews into their midst. Conflict was bound to ensue, he maintained, and it was incumbent upon the arriving settlers to prepare psychologically and militarily for the battles to come. “Any native people,” Jabotinsky wrote in 1923, “views their country as their national home, of which they are complete masters. They will not voluntarily allow, not even a new master, but even a new partner. And so it is for the Arabs. . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or a Sioux looked upon the prairie.” The analogies were not happy ones.
  • Political Geography: Britain, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Dan Freeman-Maloy
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: The participation of thousands of overseas volunteers (the Mahal) in Zionist military operations conducted throughout the 1948 war has received insufficient critical attention. Mainly English-speaking World War II veterans recruited by the Zionist movement in the West for their expertise in such needed specializations as artillery, armored warfare, and aerial combat, the Mahal's importance to the military effort far exceeded their numbers. Situating their involvement within the broader historical context of Western support for the Zionist project, this article examines their role within the Haganah and Israel Defense Forces (particularly in aerial and armored units) in operations involving the violent depopulation of Palestinian communities. IN 1948, thousands of overseas volunteers traveled to Palestine to take part in Zionist military operations. While various accounts of their participation are available, the record of those Zionist combatants formally designated as Mahal (from the Hebrew Mitnadvay Hutz La'aretz, “volunteers from abroad”) has been distorted in deference to conventional Zionist historiography. The Mahal recruits are generally depicted as “forgotten heroes,” as historian David Bercuson describes them in The Secret Army. Providing the foreword to a study published amidst Israel's jubilee celebrations in 1998, Binyamin Netanyahu praises the “contribution to the struggle for liberation” made by Mahal fighters. “For them,” the authors of the study explain, “justice lay entirely on the side of the Jews”. The various memoirs written by volunteer combatants themselves likewise emphasize heroics in the service of a just cause. Yitzhak Rabin summarizes the standard narrative in his forward to one such volume: “The contribution of this small band of men and women is a glorious chapter in the story of Israel's struggle for freedom.” Estimates vary regarding the number of Mahal personnel interspersed throughout the Zionist forces. An initial Israeli census produced an estimate of 2,400, a figure now roundly considered low. Bercuson asserts that there were “more than 5,000 foreign volunteers who served with the Israeli forces”; Benny Morris cites an estimate of “more than 4,000.” A short study published by Israel's Ministry of Education in 2007 puts the figure at approximately 3,500. In any event, with total Israeli troop levels nearing 100,000 by the end of 1948, the significance of Mahal combatants did not lie in their numbers. “Mahal's special contribution,” in the words of David Ben-Gurion, “was qualitative.” Mostly English-speaking veterans of World War II, Mahal recruits devoted specialized skills to the Zionist military effort. Their expertise in modern military organization, artillery, armored warfare, naval, and aerial combat crucially facilitated the development (and early application) of Israeli military power. This “glorious chapter,” as Rabin calls it, has gradually been written into the “heroic version” of Israel's establishment. The role of foreign recruits in the political and demographic transformation of Palestine effected in 1948 merits a more critical recounting. What is recorded in the annals of Zionist historiography as Israel's War of Independence was experienced by Palestinians, some 750,000 of whom were displaced from their homes in the process, as colonial conquest. Widespread ethnic cleansing was among its principal features—a painful reality made more so by the denials, disinformation, and even celebrations that have surrounded it since. The present article reexamines the record of Mahal recruits in this light. THE POLICY OF COERCION AND ITS INTERNATIONAL UNDERPINNINGS From its establishment in 1897, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) pursued its ambitions concerning Palestine through organizational activity in Europe and North America and a strategic orientation toward the paramount imperial powers of the time. This approach succeeded in spectacular fashion during World War I when the Zionist movement secured British sponsorship for the creation of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine—a sponsorship given force by Britain's occupation of Palestine during the war and incorporated into its subsequent rule over Palestine under a Mandate approved by the League of Nations. With the growth of the prestate Jewish settlement (the Yishuv) during the period of British Mandatory rule (1922–1948), the center of Zionist decision making gradually shifted from Europe to Palestine. The WZO presidency of Chaim Weizmann, anchored in London, was overtaken by the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, based primarily “in the field.” But militarily as otherwise, the strength of the Yishuv remained heavily dependent upon international support. Funds from Western affiliates of the WZO—notably, the United Palestine Appeal (UPA), which channeled North American funds to Palestine through the Keren Hayesod (Foundation Fund)—were allocated according to the priorities of the Zionist Executive, including building military capacity. In matters of formal politics and diplomacy, the WZO operated in post-World War I Palestine as the Jewish Agency, which enjoyed formal juridical standing within the British Mandatory regime. Its military arm, the Haganah, though formally illegal, in practice also received important (albeit uneven) support from British authorities. This was most significant during the Palestinian Arab rebellion of 1936–1939, when sections of the Haganah were equipped and trained by the British to help put down the uprising within the framework of “Special Night Squads” and the Supernumerary Police force. Their experience bolstered the Haganah's capacities and contributed to shaping its military doctrine, particularly its preference for night-time assaults on Arab villages. By the late 1930s, as Nur Masalha has shown, leading Zionist decision makers were engaged in frank internal discussions regarding the prospect of forcibly expelling (or “transferring”) Palestinians to clear the way for a Jewish state. The fate of statist Zionism and its quest for a Jewish demographic majority would thus rest on coercive power. In a June 1938 discussion of transfer with the Jewish Agency Executive, Ben-Gurion emphasized that although the Zionist movement should seek Arab acquiescence, it “must enforce order and security and it will do this not by moralizing and preaching 'sermons on the mount' but by machine guns, which we will need.” “For Ben-Gurion,” writes biographer Shabtai Teveth, “the Yishuv's relationship with the Arabs of Palestine was now a military and not a political question.”
  • Political Geography: Britain, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Ghada Karmi
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: This essay examines the one-state alternative to the commonly accepted two-state solution, which has been the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process since 1993. It reviews the prospects for success of the two-state solution and sets out the arguments for and against such a settlement. The history and interpretation of the one-state alternative, whether binational or secular democratic, are explored, and the future chances of its success assessed. The author finds that to date no "road map" exists for how to implement the one-state solution, without which it is likely to remain an idealistic dream. THIS ARTICLE IS WRITTEN against the background of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that began in Washington on 2 September 2010. The object of the talks, as of the peace process launched in 1993, is the termination of the conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state “alongside” Israel, that is, the two-state solution. However, changes on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1993 threaten to make such a solution unlikely, if not impossible. The Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has so advanced as to make questionable the logistical possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state on the territory that remains. Yet there is an extraordinary reluctance on the part of most politicians concerned with the conflict to look the facts in the face and draw the obvious conclusion: A two-state solution that complies even with minimalist Palestinian requirements cannot emerge from the existing situation. Rather like Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the emperor's new clothes, none of them is willing to see the naked truth. As the feasibility of the two-state solution recedes, the debate has turned to the one-state alternative, often as an undesirable outcome of last resort failing implementation of the preferred option. Both sides have used it as a threat against those standing in the way of the two-state solution. Israel's former prime minister Ehud Olmert, for example, told Ha'Aretz on 30 November 2007 that if the two-state solution collapsed, leading to a South African-style struggle for equal rights, Israel would be “finished.” And former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurai' declared in 2004 that if the two-state solution became impossible, Palestinians would have to aim for one state. Whatever the motivation, the idea of a unitary state has attracted renewed interest. In fact, the idea of sharing the land between Arabs and Jews is older than that of the two-state solution, which is a recent notion in Palestinian history that emerged in response to a series of defeats for the Palestinian national movement. Though never totally absent from the debate about a solution, the unitary state has increasingly become part of mainstream political discourse. A number of one-state groups have come into being, half a dozen conferences have been held, and a growing literature on the topic has appeared. Given the reality on the ground in what remains of Palestine, the uncertainty of success for peace negotiations aimed at two states, and the precariousness of the political situation, it would be irresponsible not to seriously examine the one-state alternative. THE EVOLUTION OF THE TWO-STATE IDEA The two-state solution has become something of a mantra for all those involved in the peace process. But the proposition that it is the ultimate solution, to the point of obviating the need to consider others, is neither true nor consonant with elementary notions of justice. Not only does it divide the Palestinians' historic homeland into grossly unequal parts, made possible by coercion and force of arms, it also forecloses any meaningful return for the refugees driven out. The idea that it could reasonably settle a conflict whose very basis is dispossession and injustice without addressing those issues is, to say the least, unrealistic. The two-state solution is in fact a recent position for Palestinians, who always rejected the idea of partition as a device used by Britain and later the UN and Western states for accommodating Zionist ambitions in the country. Today's Western support for a two-state solution springs fundamentally from the same motives. The Zionists first proposed partition to the Mandate authorities as far back as 1928, when the Jewish population of the country was 20 percent. In 1937 the Peel Commission, set up by the British Government to find a solution for the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Mandate Palestine, recommended that the country be divided into Jewish and Arab states. In 1947, the partition of Palestine was enshrined in UN General Assembly resolution 18, which was passed thanks to overwhelming U.S. pressure and against strong Arab opposition. The Palestinians at the time saw partition as an outrageous assault on the integrity of their country and an undeserved gift to a newly arrived immigrant Jewish minority imposed on them. This remained the Palestinian position after 1948, when the aim of the newly formed PLO in 1964 was “the recovery of the usurped homeland in its entirety,” as the preamble to the 1964 Palestine National Charter phrased it. It was the 1967 war, which spectacularly demonstrated Israel's superior military power, (not to mention its staunch Western support), that forced a change in the Palestinian position. The question of partition returned implicitly to the national agenda in 1974, precipitated by the peace negotiations that followed the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, offering hope of a comprehensive settlement and a role for the PLO. At its twelfth meeting, the Palestine National Council (PNC) formally resolved to set up a “national, independent and fighting authority on every part of Palestinian land to be liberated” from Israeli occupation. Although there was no mention of a Palestinian state as such, the resolution paved the way for new thinking about the future. This was reflected in the next PNC meeting in 1977, which called for “an independent national state” on the land with no reference to its total liberation. By 1981, the PNC had welcomed a Russian proposal for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the idea of a two-state solution was gaining ground.
  • Political Geography: Britain, Washington, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Bedross Der Matossian
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: For the Armenians of Palestine, the three decades of the Mandate were probably the most momentous in their fifteen hundred-year presence in the country. The period witnessed the community's profound transformation under the double impacts of Britain's Palestine policy and waves of destitute Armenian refugees fleeing the massacres in Anatolia. The article presents, against the background of late Ottoman rule, a comprehensive overview of the community, including the complexities and role of the religious hierarchy, the initially difficult encounter between the indigenous Armenians and the new refugee majority, their politics and associations, and their remarkable economic recovery. By the early 1940s, the Armenian community was at the peak of its success, only to be dealt a mortal blow by the 1948 war, from which it never recovered.
  • Topic: Religion, War
  • Political Geography: Britain, Palestine, Armenia