Israel Palestine Conflict - Resist Symbol On Beach
Israel Palestine Conflict - Resist Symbol On Beach

Roots of the Israel-Palestine Conflict – Part 1: The Balfour Declaration And The Pre-Israel Period

A. What Is The Balfour Declaration?

More than 100 years ago, on November 2, 1917, Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, wrote a letter addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Zionist community. The letter was short – just 67 words – but its contents had a seismic effect on Palestine that is still felt to this day.

It committed the British government to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and to facilitating “the achievement of this object”. The letter is known as the Balfour Declaration.

In essence, a European power promised the Zionist movement a country where Palestinian Arab natives made up more than 90 percent of the population.

The Balfour Declaration: Important Facts:

  • Promising a land to a people when another people already lived in that land. This is the absolute core of the Palestine-Israeli issue. The United Kingdom promised a land that already had inhabitants living there.
  • Promising what did not belong to them. Great Britain promised to give land to people … when that land did not even belong to them. It belonged to the Ottoman Empire, which was on the verge of losing the war in 1917.
  • There was no holocaust in World War 1. Yet, the UK promised away land with an already-existing people. The holocaust began 24 years later in 1941, shortly after World War 2 started. Yet, Britain promised the land of Palestine as a nation to the Jewish people. This fact flies agains the argument that the original intent of creating Israel was as a shelter for the holocaust-fleeing Jews.
  • 90% of Palestine was made up of an Arab population in 1917.
  • Less than 10% of the population of Palestine was Jewish at the time of the Balfour Declaration.

B. The Sykes-Picot Accord: The Dagger That Murdered Arab Freedom

World War 1 lasted from 1914 to 1918. That means the Balfour Declaration was declared before the end of the war. Before and up until that time, the notorious UK agent provocateur Lawrence of Arabia lied to the Arabic people by promising them independance on behalf of the UK if the Arabs would help the British fight the Ottoman Turks.

The Arabs implemented their end of the bargain. But the British did not.

Not only did Britain refuse the Arabs independance, they went ten steps further and slapped the Arabs in the face when they secretly divided the Middle East among themselves and France by writing up the infamous Sykes-Picot Accord in 1916.

In 1916, when it was all but clear that the Ottomans would lose the war, Britain and France divided up the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot Agreement. It was drawn up in great secrecy, and the accord marked out which of the two countries would have control over certain areas.

The two colonial powers divided the areas that had previously been ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Zero consideration was given to the indigenous population, their needs, and their history, provoking widespread discontent and creating deep divisions lasting until this day. A common tactic of empire is to draw borders in a way that always leaves disputed land between certain nations to keep them weak and divided. The British & French took this policy to the extreme in the Middle East.

Read more about the Sykes-Picot Accord with this excellent primer on the Sykes-Picot Accord.

C. The British Mandate Of Palestine And Mass Jewish Emigration

And so the Sykes-Picot Accord gave birth to the British Mandate of Palestine, created in 1923 and lasting until the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. A host of other new nations were borne out of this accord which included modern-day Iraq and Jordan, two areas that never had an actual nation before, two regions created purely for the interests of empire.

It must be mentioned, during the mandate period (1923-1948), the British worked night & day with the Zionist establishment to facilitate mass Jewish immigration to Palestine – many of the new residents were fleeing Nazism in Europe – and they also faced protests and strikes. Palestinians were alarmed by their country’s changing demographics and British confiscation of their lands to be handed over to Jewish settlers.

From 1922 to 1935 alone, the Jewish population ballooned from nine percent to 27 percent of the total residents, displacing tens of thousands of native Arab Palestinian tenants from their lands as Zionists bought land from absentee landlords.

With the Nazi seizure of power in Germany between 1933 and 1936, 30,000 to 60,000 European Jews arrived en masse to the shores of Palestine.

D. 1930’s Armed Uprising Of Jewish Settlers and British Soldiers Against Palestinians (native Arabs)

Escalating tensions eventually led to the Arab Revolt, which lasted from 1936 to 1939.
In April 1936, the newly formed Arab National Committee called on Palestinians to launch a general strike, withhold tax payments and boycott Jewish products to protest British colonialism and growing Jewish immigration.

The six-month strike was brutally repressed by the British, who launched a mass arrest campaign and carried out punitive home demolitions, a practice that Israel continues to implement against Palestinians today.

The second phase of the revolt began in late 1937 and was led by the Palestinian peasant resistance movement, which targeted British colonial forces.

British Double-Down on Balfour Declaration Commitment

By the second half of 1939, Britain had massed 30,000 troops in Palestine. Repression was brutal. The British bombed villages by air, killing innocent women and children. Strict curfews were imposed and homes were demolished. The British even carried out widespread administrative detentions and summary killings.

In tandem, the British collaborated with the Jewish settler community, the latter even forming armed terror groups of Jewish fighters named the Special Night Squads.

Within the Yishuv, the pre-state settler community, arms were secretly imported and weapons factories established to expand the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary that later became the core of the Israeli army.

After three years of revolt, over 5,000 Palestinians were killed, 15,000 to 20,000 wounded, and 5,600 imprisoned.

Over 9,000 Palestinians were also put in concentration camps and subjected by the British to violent interrogation, including torture, and deported 200 Palestinian nationalist leaders.

According to Al Jazeera, at least ten percent of the Palestinian male population had been killed, wounded, exiled or imprisoned by the end of the Arab revolt.

E. The Post-Strike Suppression and The Advent Of World War 2

By the end of 1939, Britain and allied Zionist groups started a full-fledged campaign of crushing Palestinians. Villages were destroyed, curfews were imposed, and thousands were killed, injured and put behind bars to pave the ground for the establishment of the Zionist entity. 

Zionist terrorist groups like Haganah, Lehi and Irgun worked under the British-led umbrella organization dubbed “counterinsurgency force”. These groups would turn against the British forces after the start of World War 2, seeing their opportunity to create their state, they became terror groups that aimed to oust the British, and then wipe out the natives, as they tried to do later in the 1948 Nakba.These terrorist groups would then coalesce to form the core of the Israeli military force.

Resolution 181 and the Nakba

In 1947, until the United Nations passed the so-called “Resolution 181” calling for the partition of the state of Palestine, Jews were a non-entity in what eventually became the occupied territories. 

“Resolution 181” was passed by the end of World War II and stated that Palestine be divided into Arab and Jewish entities, allotting 55 percent of the total land to Jews, in breach of international law.

By the end of World War II, the British mandate in Palestine expired. They left and Zionist groups embarked on a violent expedition to expand the occupying, illegitimate entity which resulted in the 1948 Nakba and the establishment of the Zionist state of Israel.

Read about the Nakba, the Israeli-Arab Wars, and more about this phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an upcoming article.

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