As the world marks the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People, we spoke to Ali Abunimah (Electronic Intifada), Prof. William Robinson, and BDS advocate Valerie Carmel about the past, present and future of colonialism and resistance in Palestine.
Following the devastating years of the Second World War, colonialism stood on the precipice of total collapse. Tattered and torn by years of dreadful conflict that shattered entire cities and claimed the lives of millions, the once-great powers of Europe were suffering a new form of humiliation. From the British Raj to Indochina, Madagascar to Indonesia, a terrifying trend had developed.
Colonial subjects across the world, sensing fracture and fatigue among their once-virile masters, finally acted to liberate themselves. Once seen as docile and compliant, the natives began to strike terror into those who arrogantly took up the “White Man’s Burden” of colonial robbery and plunder. Colonized people across the globe relied on their resourcefulness, organizing prowess, guerilla strategies and mass heroism in a campaign against their foreign overseers, seizing back land across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Great Britain, although a member of the victorious Allies, was barely healing from its wartime defeats in Europe and Asia before it, too, realized that its empire was no longer viable. In 1947, it was forced to simply let go of land it had once ruled in India and Palestine.
Since the end of the First World War in 1917, Palestine had been under the British Empire’s Mandate. Populated by Muslims, Christians and Jews, Palestine was seized from the Ottoman Empire by the British, whose army worked in tandem with local Muslim and Arab tribes to sweep the Levant clear of Ottoman Rule. After the Turks were driven out, the Arabs who were promised self-determination were instead stabbed in the back. Their land was divided, with little regard for religious or ethnic communities, by the British and French through the Sykes-Picot agreement.
The British transformed their wealthy Arab collaborators in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq into kings for the purpose of assisting their rule. Palestine, however, was subject to a different plan.
The Balfour Declaration: Britain’s Colonial Pledge to Zionism
In November 1917, the British issued a 67-word public statement promising that Mandatory Palestine would eventually become the future “national home for the Jewish people” – in spite of the fact that Jews were then a small minority in the region.
The infamous colonial promise contained in the Balfour Declaration gave a massive boost to an ideological current among secular European Jews known as Zionism, an ideology that promoted the idea of mass Jewish migration to Palestine. Their goal was to build a new “homeland” where European Jews facing violence and discrimination in their respective countries could migrate and forge a new national identity. As Zionist leader and Israeli state founder David Ben Gurion said, the new homeland would be a “bastion of the West in the (Arab) Middle East,” a colony for European settlement and control.
“There were always Jews in Palestine; this was never the issue, it was never an issue of religion,” Ali Abunimah told teleSUR. Abunimah is a leading advocate of the Palestinian cause and co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. His family was driven from Palestine during the violent 1948 events that led to the creation of Israel.
“The Zionist movement was a European-backed colonial movement whose goal was not to coexist with the Palestinian people, but to take their land and to expel them and replace them.”
The Liquidation of Mandatory Palestine and the Israeli Colony’s Violent Birth
Soon, thousands of settlers arrived in Palestine to build villages and farms, while organizing paramilitary groups for the purpose of protecting the newly founded communities. Before long, the armed brigades assumed a violently Anti-Arab racist character, as well as a zealous sense of discipline and highly militarized internal structures. The paramilitary Zionist groups began attacking neighboring Arab communities, as well as British authorities.
Following the genocidal anti-Jewish crimes of Hitler’s Third Reich, the so-called “international community” – newly assembled as the United Nations and dominated by the imperialist powers on the Security Council – decided the time had come to make the British promise final, and grant the survivors of the Holocaust the right to officially create their Jewish nation within the land of Palestine. On November 29, 1947, the U.N. voted to create separate, independent Arab and Jewish states.
“That resolution marked an international blessing for the destruction of Palestine and the expulsion of the Palestinian people,” Abunimah said. “These colonial powers didn’t care at all about the rights of Indigenous people, including Palestinians, yet they used a right they didn’t have to partition the country and give more than half of it away to a minority of newly arrived European settlers, which was the Zionist movement.”
Following the Partition, paramilitary brigades such as Irgun, Haganah and Lehi immediately launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing across Palestine. An expansionist wave of violence known to Arabs as the Nakba (“Catastrophe”) consumed as many as 600 Palestinian villages and drove more than 700,000 Palestinians from their ancestral lands. Seventy years after the plan, more than 6 million people from the Palestinian diaspora still cannot visit the ancestral homeland of their parents and grandparents.
After the Nakba and eventual founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the paramilitaries were reorganized into the “Israeli Defense Forces,” which defines their mission as defending “the existence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of the state of Israel.”