There is a Palestinian people


Ever since Britain issued the 1917 Balfour Declaration, extending the government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and pledging to facilitate this project, the indigenous people of that country have been ignored, attacked, subjected to severe repression and demonised. The declaration referred to them as “non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, whose civil and religious rights should not be prejudiced by this endeavour. The British occupiers of Palestine had no intention of considering seriously Palestinian rights. Palestinians were invisible.

The Zionist drive to take over Palestine was predicated on the false premise that it is a “land without a people for a people [the Jews] without a land”. However, Theodor Herzl, regarded as the founding father of Israel, was well aware that the land belonged to Palestinians. In 1895, he wrote in his diary of expropriating “gently” the private property of the natives, cited as “the poor”, and spiriting them across the border.

When the UN General Assembly adopted its resolution to partition Palestine in November 1947, the proposed “Jewish state” was awarded 55 per cent of the country and the “Arab state” 45 per cent, although the “Arabs” accounted for two-thirds of the country’s inhabitants. During Israel’s war of establishment, 750,000 of 1.3 million “Arabs” became refugees, and subsequently were referred to as “Arab refugees” by Israelis and their allies.

As “Arabs” is not differentiated from the people of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the countries bordering Palestine, Palestinians could, it was argued, easily be absorbed by them. This did not happen. Only Jordan granted citizenship to most Palestinians settled in the Kingdom — those in Lebanon and Syria, the other two main countries of refuge, did not. Palestinian refugees were, and continue to be, stateless, while the 150,000 who remained in areas seized and appropriated by Israel were dubbed “Israeli Arabs” and were given Israeli citizenship, but placed under martial law until 1967.


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