Israel and Palestine- the never ending struggle!
Seventy two years ago when the state of Israel was established as a homeland for Jews, resulting in the expulsion of over 500,000 Palestinians who constituted a majority of the residents of Palestine, the world sat back and witnessed
the development of an Apartheid state and the persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people who had inhabited that area for thousands of years. Palestine had been an Arab country that was controlled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516, with a brief eight year period by Egypt, until the First World War when it became a mandate of Britain in 1923 following confirmation by the League of Nations. The plight of the Palestinian people has never seriously been told by the Western Press which was usually on the side of Israel. The recent struggles in May appear to be shifting public opinion as witnessed the large protests in countries in Europe and in the US. Some people attribute the apparent shift in public opinion in the US to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement which is finding common cause with the Palestinians. But, perhaps more significant is the growth of digital communication that has given the Palestinians in the Middle East a mechanism to tell the story of their oppression.
The US has been the biggest supporter of Israel. In 2019, it provided Israel with some $ 3 billion in military aid and also over $8 billion in loan guarantees. When the Biden administration had been called on to demand a cease fire, he was at first content to simply say that he hoped violent clashes would end soon. He always prefaced what he had to say by stating that Israel had a right to defend itself. The US on two occasions vetoed a UN statement condemning violence on Palestine. Fortunately, he has a progressive wing within the Democratic Party that had been demanding action, and he eventually worked with Egypt and succeeded in getting a Cease Fire. But what caused the recent upsurge in violence?
Let us remember too that the Palestinians had been fighting for their rights for a long time, and had been standing behind UN resolutions that have called on Israel to give up territories it occupied since the 1967 war and which it continues with the establishment of additional illegal settlements. The impending decision by the Israeli Supreme Court, which in true apartheid fashion was expected to uphold a decision of the Lower Court to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem and have them replaced by Jewish settlers, led to Palestinian protests on May 6. On the following day police raided the al Aqsa Mosque, among the most sacred sites in Islam, firing rubber bullets during evening prayers in the closing days of the holy month of Ramadan. Hamas, despite being dubbed a terrorist organisation, claims to be fighting for all Palestinians, and issued an appeal to Israel to withdraw its forces from the mosque. It was following this, that they began to fire rockets into Israel. Up to 2016 Arabs were 60 percent of the population of East Jerusalem, and Jews, 30 percent.
Israel remains defiant, and continues to establish illegal settlements in areas occupied by Palestinians. So when Biden glibly talks about Israel’s right to defend itself, he is only telling a small part of the story. Why doesn’t he call on them to accept the many UN resolutions that they have ignored? As they did in Africa, the world’s major powers think they have the right to divide up territories and distribute them as they wish. Many of us are sympathetic to Israel because we associate the establishment of the state with the Holocaust. But this is not so. The decision to find a home for the Jews in Palestine came with the Balfour declaration of 1917 when the British Foreign Secretary, Balfour, following discussions with Zionist leaders without consulting the people of Palestine, made a commitment to find a home for the Jews there. This became a reality in 1948 when Britain gave up its mandate of Palestine. The Arabs as was to be expected, refused to accept that. What followed arose from that decision and, with US support, Israel set about expanding the territory given to them in 1948 and have been colonising and brutalising the Palestinian people since then. As part of the resettlement following the recent confrontation, Biden has pledged aid to help to rebuild Gaza, but this is nonsensical, because without settling the broader issues, Israel will continue its brutal attacks, and Gaza will be destroyed again. The Palestinians, without the military strength and support to match Israel’s fire power, will however fight on!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian