Friday, November 11, 2011

Guilty as Hell

Screwing Arab Palestine is a proud, near century-old British tradition. And Foreign Secretary William Hague's decision to abstain from voting on the Palestinian Authority's bid for recognition in the UN Security Council is merely the latest footnote in the sordid history of this perversion:

"Britain will abstain from the United Nations vote on the Palestinian bid for statehood, Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament Wednesday. For the quest for full recognition to be adopted by the Security Council, the Palestinians need at least 9 'yes' votes and must avoid a veto by any of the permanent council members: United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. The US already has announced it will veto the resolution." (Hague: UK to abstain on UN Palestinian vote, Gregory Katz, AP, 9/11/11)

The unspeakable practice, of course, began with Foreign Secretary (1916-19) Arthur James Balfour who lent his name to the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain proclaimed its plan to throw Palestine to the Zionist wolves. In fact, Hague's predecessor made absolutely no bones about it, as we know from the following memorandum addressed to his cabinet colleague Lord Curzon on 11 August 1919:

"The contradiction between the letters of the [League of Nations] Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country... The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right. What I have never been able to understand is how it can be harmonised with the declaration [Anglo-French of November 1918], the Covenant, or the instructions to the [America's King-Crane] Commission of Enquiry. I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs, but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine it is not now an 'independent nation', nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever deference should be paid to the views of those living there, the Powers in their selection of a mandatory do not propose, as I understand the matter, to consult them. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate." (Quoted in Palestine Papers: 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict, Doreen Ingrams, 1972/2009, p 73)

That Hague and his forbears are collectively responsible for one of today's longest-running Crimes Against Humanity will be obvious to all but the most inveterate historical amnesiacs. If anything, the following 1968 indictment of Britain's paramount role in this crime, by British historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), is way too restrained:

"The story [of the Palestinian people] is a tragedy, and the essence of this tragedy is that about 1,500,000 Palestinian Arabs have now become refugees as a result of the intervention of foreign powers in their country's affairs. The might of these foreign powers has been irresistable, and the evicted Palestinian Arabs have been forcibly deprived of their country, their homes, and their property without having been allowed to have a voice in the determination of their own destiny.

"Though the facts are public, there is widespead ignorance of them in the Western World and, above all, in the United States, the Western country which has had, and is still having, the greatest say in deciding Palestine's fate. The United States has the greatest say, but the United Kingdom bears the heaviest load of responsibility. The Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 was the winning card in a sordid contest between the two sets of belligerents in the First World War for winning the support of the Jews in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and - most important of all - in the United States.

"In promising to give the Jews 'a national home' in Palestine, the British Government was, I believe, using deliberately ambiguous language. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I declare this belief of mine with feelings of shame and contrition, but I do believe that this is the truth. Throughout the First World War and after it, the Government of the United Kingdom was playing a double game. Perhaps a lawyer might be able to plead plausibly that there was no inconsistency between the respective pledges that Britain gave to the Arabs and to the Zionists, or between the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the text of the mandate taken by Britain for the administration of Palestine and the classification of this mandate in the 'A' class - a class in which the mandatory power was committed to giving the people of the mandated territory their independence at the earliest date at which they would be capable of standing on their own feet. Whatever the casuists might say, laymen - Arabs or Jews - would, I think, naturally infer, bona fide, from the British Government's various statements and acts that it had made two committments that were incompatible with each other.

"At the same time when the mandate was drafted, offered, and accepted, the Arab Palestinians amounted to more than 90% of the population of the country. The mandate for Palestine was an 'A' mandate, and, as I interpret the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, Palestine had not been excepted by the British Government from the area in which they had pledged themselves to King Hussein to recognize and support Arab independence. The Palestinian Arabs could therefore reasonably assume that Britain was pledged to prepare Palestine for becoming an independent Arab state. On the other side, the Zionists naturally saw, in the British promise of a 'national home' in Palestine, the entering wedge for the insertion into Palestine of the Jewish state of Israel which was in fact inserted there in 1948.

"To my mind, the most damaging point in the charge-sheet against my country is that Britain was in control of Palestine for 30 years - 1918-1948 - and that during those fateful 3 decades she never made up her mind, or at any rate never declared, what her policy about the future of Palestine was. All through those 30 years, Britain lived from hand to mouth, admitting into Palestine, year by year, a quota of Jewish immigrants that varied according to the strength of the respective pressures of the Arabs and Jews at the time. These immigrants could not have come in if they had not been shielded by a British chevaux-de-frise. If Palestine had remained under Ottoman Turkish rule, or if it had become an independent Arab state in 1918, Jewish immigrants would never have been admitted into Palestine in large enough numbers to enable them to overwhelm the Palestinian Arabs in this Arab people's own country. The reason why the state of Israel exists today and why today 1,500,000 Palestinian Arabs are refugees is that, for 30 years, Jewish immigration was imposed on the Palestinian Arabs by British military power until the immigrants were sufficiently numerous and sufficiently well-armed to be able to fend for themselves with tanks and planes of their own. The tragedy in Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the World, because it is an injustice that is a menace to the World's peace. Britain's guilt is not diminished by the humiliating fact that she is now impotent to redress the wrong that she has done." (From Toynbee's Foreward to The Palestine Diary (1970) by Robert John & Sami Hadawi)

My God, if ever a nation needed to get down on its knees and beg forgiveness from the Palestinian people - both past and present - it's surely Little Britain. Hague's latest manoeuvre in the Security Council shows just how far Little Britain is from this most necessary act of repentance.

(See also my 19/1/10 post It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.)

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