Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Very Shadow of a Shadow of a Shade

Next time you hear Julia Gillard or any other Western politician droning on about a two-state solution to the Palestine problem, it's worth casting your mind back to the very first two-state proposal for Palestine, that of Britain's 1937 Peel Commission, which proposed dividing the restive territory,  25 - 75%, into a Jewish and an Arab state. (It was of course vehemently rejected by the Palestinian Arab leadership - after all it was their country - and more cautiously by the Zionist leadership, who have only ever paid lip service to the idea of lines on a map.)

The stark fact these days, taking the much trumpeted two-state solution seriously for the moment, is that  the Palestinians can expect far less than what the Zionist immigrants of the 1920s and 30s were offered by the Peel partition plan. The question arises, therefore, as to why any self-respecting Palestinian today should take the notion of a Palestinian micro-state seriously.

The following description of what a Jewish micro-state in Palestine may have looked like in 1937, had it ever come into being, was recorded by former Palestine policeman and author Douglas V Duff in his 1938 travel memoir, Poor Knight's Saddle. On a visit there in 1937, he asked the Deputy High Priest of the Samaritans in Nablus the following question:

"'Eminence... will you be good enough to say what you think of this scheme of dividing Palestine between Briton, Jew and Arab.'"

The following conversation (with Duff referring  to himself as "the Scribe") ensued:

"'Do you wish for my opinion as a priest, or as a man who knows Palestine,' he demanded with a twinkle in his deep-set eyes. 'If you want me to speak as a priest, I must refuse, for my people must be considered when we speak as the mouthpiece of Israel.'

"Then as an intelligent man who knows all that there is to be known of this vexed matter,' said the Scribe.

"Well, speaking as an ordinary man, voicing my own personal opinion, I doubt whether this scheme will be very attractive to the Zionist Jews. Why should it? They are being asked to give up the very substantial things which they have won during the past few years, and to exchange for them the very shadow of a shade.

"'This State that is offered them will be sovereign only in name. It will have no rights except on paper. The British will always be there, behind the scenes, with Treaty rights to use their roads, their railways, and the air above their fields. They will have the right to maintain garrisons within the boundaries of the Jewish State. There will be islands of British land in the very middle of the State, at Nazareth and along the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The State will be cut across by the Jaffa-Jerusalem corridor. They are not to have Jerusalem, not even the New City which is entirely theirs, and, to add to the difficulties,, there is to be a free, sovereign and independent Arab City, Jaffa, right on the doorstep of Tel Aviv, their biggest city. I say, honestly, that the Zionists will be mad if they agree to accept so foolish a suggestion. They are not mad, Effendi, they are very capable, honest men, firm in their belief that they are merely the trustees for the generation that will come after them. No, this crazy proposal of your legislators will never do, it cannot be accepted." (pp 117-118)

Uncannily familiar, isn't it?

Now if, as His Eminence averred, the Zionists would have been crazy to accept such a crazy proposal, how much crazier would Mahmoud Abbas's mob be to accept the even crazier proposal - the very shadow of a shadow of a shade if you will - now being dangled before them?

Roll on the one-state solution.

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