Series on the Palestinian ‘catastrophe’ of 1948 that led to dispossession and conflict that still endures.
“The Nakba did not begin in 1948. Its origins lie over two centuries ago….”
So begins this four-part series on the ‘nakba’, meaning the ‘catastrophe’, about the history of the Palestinian exodus that led to the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel.
This sweeping history starts back in 1799 with Napoleon’s attempted advance into Palestine to check British expansion and his appeal to the Jews of the world to reclaim their land in league with France.
The narrative moves through the 19th century and into the 20th century with the British Mandate in Palestine and comes right up to date in the 21st century and the ongoing ‘nakba’ on the ground.
Arab, Israeli and Western intellectuals, historians and eye-witnesses provide the central narrative which is accompanied by archive material and documents, many only recently released for the first time.
Editor’s note: Since first running on Al Jazeera Arabic in 2008, this series has won Arab and international awards and has been well received at festivals throughout the world.
For Palestinians, 1948 marks the ‘Nakba’ or the ‘catastrophe’, when hundreds of thousands were forced out of their homes.
But for Israelis, the same year marks the creation of their own state.
This series attempts to present an understanding of the events of the past that are still shaping the present.
This story starts in 1799, outside the walls of Acre in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, when an army under Napoleon Bonaparte besieged the city. It was all part of a campaign to defeat the Ottomans and establish a French presence in the region.
In search of allies, Napoleon issued a letter offering Palestine as a homeland to the Jews under French protection. He called on the Jews to ‘rise up’ against what he called their oppressors.
Napoleon’s appeal was widely publicised. But he was ultimately defeated. In Acre today, the only memory of him is a statue atop a hill overlooking the city.
Yet Napoleon’s project for a Jewish homeland in the region under a colonial protectorate did not die, 40 years later, the plan was revived but by the British.
On 19 April 1936, the Palestinians launched a national strike to protest against mass Jewish immigration and what they saw as Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement.
The British responded with force. During the six months of the strike, over 190 Palestinians were killed and more than 800 wounded.
Wary of popular revolt, Arab leaders advised the Palestinians to end the strike.
Palestinian leaders bowed to pressure from the Arab heads of state and agreed to meet the British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord Peel.
In its report of July 1937, the Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine. Its report drew the frontiers of a Jewish state in one-third of Palestine, and an Arab state in the remaining two-thirds, to be merged with Transjordan.
A corridor of land from Jerusalem to Jaffa would remain under British mandate. The Commission also recommended transferring where necessary Palestinians from the lands allocated to the new Jewish state.
The Commission’s proposals were widely published and provoked heated debate.
As the Palestinian revolt continued, Britain’s response hardened. Between 1936 and 1937, the British killed over 1,000 Palestinians; 37 British military police and 69 Jews also died.
Few Palestinians, if any, could have imagined they were to become victims of what would later be called ‘ethnic cleansing’.
After 30 years of British rule, the question of Palestine was referred to the United Nations, which had become the forum for conflict.
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly met to devise a plan for the partition of Palestine. UN Resolution 181 divided Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as an internationalised city.
The Jewish state was granted 56 percent of the land; the city of Jaffa was included as an enclave of the Arab state; and the land known today as the Gaza Strip was split from its surrounding agricultural regions.
But making the proposed Arab state all but proved impractical in the eyes of many Palestinians.
When the draft resolution was presented for voting, Arab newspapers ran a ‘name and shame’ list of the countries that voted for the UN partition plan, and Arab protesters took to the streets.
Following the partition resolution, Britain announced it would end its mandate in Palestine on 14 May 1948.
In early 1948, Jewish paramilitary forces began to seize more land in Palestine. By the end of July, more than 400,000 Palestinians had been forced to flee their homes, and their plight as refugees had just begun.
In May of that year, Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte had been appointed as the UN Mediator in Palestine. His mission was to seek a peaceful settlement.
The Count surveyed devastated Palestinian villages and visited refugee camps in both Palestine and Jordan. The scale of the humanitarian disaster became apparent, as he witnessed cramp living conditions, long queues for basic food and scarce medical aid.
Count Bernadotte was no stranger to human disaster; with the Red Cross he had rescued over 30,000 prisoners of war from Nazi concentration camps. Now he advocated the Palestinian’s right to return to their homes.
In a report dated 16 September 1948, he wrote:
“It would be an offence against the principles of elementary justice if these innocent victims were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.”
The Count’s first proposal argued for fixed boundaries through negotiation, an economic union between both states, and the return of Palestinian refugees – the proposal was turned down.
On 17 September, the day following his UN report, Count Bernadotte’s motorcade was ambushed in Jerusalem. He was shot at point blank range by members of the Jewish Stern gang.
The historic struggle for Palestine is characterised as the claims and counter-claims of Arabs and Jews, but one factor that is often overlooked behind the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe’ of 1948, is the part played by an old imperial power, Britain.
So, whose interests were best served by the British in Palestine? How did it honour its mandated duty of care? and what were the calculations and miscalculations it made in redrawing the map of Palestine, and reshaping its history?
The 65 years of the Israeli statehood, continue to cause conflict and controversy.
The history is written by the victors, who are the rewriters of history as new information, new documents, and new historians, come to light. It is time to examine how history itself is the battleground for the hearts and minds of new generations today.
To discuss the historic events that led to the Nakba, the birth of Israel, and the making of history, we are joined by Rosemary Hollis, former head of the Middle east programme at the Royal Insitute of International Affairs; James Renton,senior lecturer in History at Edge Hill University and author of The Zionist Masquerade: The birth of the Anglo-Zionist alliance 1914-1918 ; and Avi Shalam, professor of International Relations at Oxford University and author of the Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, The Zionist Movement, and the Partition Of Palestine .
Watch The Discussion Now Link Below:
Mehdi Hasan goes head to head with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami.
The ideology of Zionism, which calls for the establishment of a Jewish state, has dictated Israeli politics for decades.
But is it compatible with a democratic Israel? And can a state exclusively for Jews be a genuine democracy?
Palestinians argue that Zionism has become a byword for racism and colonial expansion.
In this episode, Mehdi Hasan challenges Shlomo Ben Ami , the former Israeli foreign minister and avowed liberal Zionist, on the challenges of Zionism and the failures of the Israeli peace camp.
Also joining the discussion are: Avi Shlaim, a renowned new historian and emeritus professor of international relations at the University of Oxford; Paul Charney, the chairman of the Zionist Federation; and Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Israel’s foreign ministry is preparing to hold the fourth international conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, a gathering that has served as an important focus for efforts to fight Palestine solidarity activism and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns.
Meeting in Jerusalem between 28 and 30 May, the conference is officially hosted by Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister who is currently standing in for Avigdor Lieberman, while the latter’s trial for fraud continues. The Global Forum was established in 2000, with international conferences in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Those coming from around the world to participate in this month’s conference will be attending an “anti-racist” meeting being run by a government guilty of institutional discrimination and apartheid. In fact, Elkin is himself a settler, opposed to a Palestinian state and a supporter of anti-boycott legislation.
It is evident from the conference’s official agenda and “working group mission statements” that this year, as on previous occasions, delegates will have Palestine solidarity activists in their sights.
The 2007 conference ran working groups on “academic and economic boycotts: pre-emptive strategies” as well as “means of response to hostile faculty and student bodies.” In 2009, the conference ran a working group intended to “come up with imaginative, effective and successful solutions to counter this evil [of BDS],” withparticipants coming from a variety of Jewish communal organizations and hasbaragroups. (Hasbara is the Hebrew term for “explaining” but has become synonymous with Israeli propaganda.) Topics discussed included a “five-year plan” involving the implementation of “legislative prohibitions vs. BDS,” taking into account “different legal traditions.”
This year’s gathering is no different, with three working groups of particular interest for anti-apartheid campaigners. The first is “the working group on the guise of delegitimization and anti-Zionism,” whose goal is “to identify… new legal, political, economic and other strategies [that] can be employed to pre-empt and defeat these campaigns” such as “changing the law to sentence boycott activists.”
Aside from a commitment to further “lawfare” strategies — challenging Palestine solidarity campaigns in court — this group also aims to “improve communication and intelligence about the delegitimizers” and “identify offensive steps that can be taken … to help create a more positive image of Israel.”
Another task force of interest is the “working group on law, legislation and enforcement in combating anti-Semitism,” which notes the role of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in the US context, and that “anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses … have not been banned and create a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students.”
A goal for the group is to discuss “the feasibility of implementing the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ working definition of anti-Semitism in university campuses,” and “recommend [its] adoption … within university campuses and law enforcement agencies.” (The EU “definition” — never formally endorsed by the Union — was drawn up by pro-Israel lobbyists and deliberately conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.)
Finally, a third working group is dedicated to “anti-Semitism on campus and education for tolerance and mutual respect.” The preamble talks about college campuses having become “increasingly hostile to Jewish students and scholars,” when in fact, what they are referring to is “Israel [being] increasingly delegitimized and demonized on campus.”
The explanation for this state of affairs includes “the impact of funding, and potential funding, from Gulf states to academic institutions in the West” and, in the case of France and Belgium, “a convergence between brown, green and red ideologies.”
“Prosecutor not victims”
The group explains that hasbara efforts by “most pro-Israel organizations, including diplomatic representatives” have been focused on countering “the negative campaign against Israel with a strategy of positive messaging about Israel, unrelated to the conflict.” This is a reference to the “Brand Israel” project, which aims to distract from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by depicting Israel as liberal and sophisticated.
But “Brand Israel” is deemed to be insufficient. There is a need for “a new effective strategy to confront the demonization of Israel” that “put[s] the focus on Israel’s detractors, rather than on Israel itself,” according to a preparatory document. The group proposes using “the language of human rights” as “prosecutors not as victims.”
Other suggestions include “research … to discern the group or groups that may be funding, directing, influencing and/or manipulating anti-Israel agitation,” and “critical studies of Palestinian society, and other Middle Eastern societies, its politics and culture for developing a new symbolical weapon in this struggle.”
Overall, the tone of these working groups suggests that years of successes for BDS campaigns have increased the desperation of the Israel lobby, boosting support for “offensive” lawfare-based tactics, alongside “positive” hasbara. Ironically, given that the conference is hosted by a settler, delegates forget that colonialism and state-sanctioned racism are what continue to “delegitimize” Israel.
Source: Electronic Intifada
A group of settlers accompanied by Israeli forces entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Wednesday for the second consecutive day, with Muslim worshipers prevented from praying at the holy site, locals said.
Israeli police officers erected several checkpoints at entrances to the Al-Aqsa compound and prevented all Palestinian women, and men under 50, from entering, witnesses said.
Elderly men were only allowed in after they had given their identity cards to Israeli officers.
Israeli forces evacuated all young worshipers who managed to enter the mosque for dawn prayers, allowing only employees of the endowment ministry, who work at the mosque, to remain.
Over 100 settlers then entered the Al-Aqsa compound at 7 a.m., entering through the Moroccan gate accompanied by Israeli forces.
A day earlier, a group of around 40 settlers toured the compound escorted by police officers to commemorate the eve of Jerusalem Day, a controversial national holiday in Israel celebrating the “unification” of the city, or occupation of East Jerusalem.
Israeli politicians, such as Likud’s Moshe Feiglin, have in the past called for Jewish prayers at the compound, and control and access to the holy site is a particularly sensitive religious and political issue.
Earlier this year, PLO official Saeb Erekat slammed an attempt by Feiglin to enter the compound, calling it a “violation of the sanctity of the place as well as a direct provocation against Palestine, the Arab- and Muslim world.”
The Al-Aqsa compound, containing the mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is the third holiest site in Islam and abuts the site where Jews believe the ancient Second Temple stood.
Source: Ma’an News
WORLD renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has faced a barrage of vile abuse today from people furious over his boycott of Israel.
The tirade of criticism came after the highly-respected Cambridge professor joined an academic embargo by refusing to attend a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Professor Hawking was to take part in the Facing Tomorrow annual conference planned to be held in June but pulled out in protest at the treatment of Palestinians.
“Hawking has made an independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there,” the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine said.
Reacting angrily to the Professor’s decision to join the academic boycott, pro-Israeli users voiced their outrage on social media sites.
“The anti-Semite Stephen Hawking can’t even wipe his own a**,” one sick user posted.
“He should die already!,” another said, while one user said Professor Hawking – widely considered one of the most intelligent men in the world today – is “also crippled in the head.”
“Someone should release the hand brake when he’s on a hill,” another vile post read.
Disgusted users condemned the revolting abuse, describing it as a “festival of hate.”
Professor Hawking’s move follows a boycott of Israel by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and by the American members of the Association for Asian American Studies.
In 2009, Professor Hawking had also condemned the three-week onslaught on Gaza, saying the response to firing of rockets from the coastal strip was “plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of [Apartheid] South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue”.
The Israeli Ambassador to London, Daniel Taub, said: “The price that democratic societies all pay is freedom of speech, even for outrageous and objectionable opinions.
“This is why it is so important to encourage intelligent debate and discussion – and why it is such a shame that Professor Hawking will not be able to joining in such open dialogue at the President’s Conference.”