Tuesday, July 1, 2014

100 Years of a Shockingly Bad Idea

In 1929, 67 Jews were massacred by an Arab mob in the Palestinian city of Hebron.

To determine why, the British government of the day appointed a commission of inquiry known as the Shaw Commission.

Its report, issued in 1930, concluded that:

"There can be no doubt that racial animosity on the part of the Arabs, consequent upon the disappointment of their political and national aspirations and fear for their economic future, was the fundamental cause of the outbreak of August last."

Now, 85 years later, the bodies of 3 Jewish settler youths have just been found in shallow graves, presumably murdered by Arabs from Hebron or thereabouts.

Were the Shaw Commission around today to determine why, they may well have concluded, in addition to the above, that:  

There can be no doubt that racial animosity on the part of the Arabs, consequent upon their despair at the unrelenting Zionist colonization of their land, severe and extensive restrictions on their movements, the Israeli authorities' systematic failure to enforce law and order on violent settlers attacking them, their suffering at the hands of Israel's security forces, and fear for their very existence, is the fundamental cause of last month's murders.*

The inevitable Israeli hammering of the Gaza Strip, already underway following several weeks of Israeli murder and mayhem (known officially as 'Operation Brother's Keeper': 6 Palestinians dead, 120 wounded) against defenceless Palestinian communities in the West Bank, will, of course, be routinely portrayed, by our terminally myopic corporate media, simply as retaliation for the murders of the Israeli youths.

Any objective probe into the murders, however, whether it be the work of a revived Shaw Commission or that of a contemporary scholar tracing the violence back to its historical, near 100-year-old roots, will know where to place the blame. And guess what? It won't be with the Palestinians - any of them.

Here, for example, is the noted historian of World War I, Margaret MacMillan, author of The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, and Paris 1919, speaking recently on what is arguably the war's worst, and most enduring, legacy:

"The British had issued something during the First World War called the Balfour Declaration, and it was in the form of a letter to Lord Rothschild, a leading British Jew who supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland. And what the letter said was the British government looks with favour on the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. And then it said something about 'due consideration being given of course to the wishes of the existing population.' The existing population, Arabs, who were both Muslim and Christian, was about 90% of the population or more, and so there really was a contradiction inherent here. A Jewish homeland was being established in a country where there was already a majority, a big majority, of non-Jewish people. Even at the time, there were people who said, 'Look, this going to cause trouble, because the existing inhabitants of Palestine are not going to particularly like a new entity with... Jewish settlers coming in from around the world. They're not going to like that new entity growing within their society, and there is going to be trouble.' And that indeed was absolutely right. And the Balfour Declaration, and the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was the beginning of a long and complicated struggle between Jews and Arabs..." (The Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Rear Vision, Radio National, 29/6/14)

[*To adapt the findings of the 2007 report of The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Where Silence Reigns: Israel's Separation Policy & Forced Eviction of Palestinians from the Center of Hebron.]

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