Contextualising the Gaza Massacre
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
November 10, 2023

Contextualising the Gaza Massacre

In my last column I noted that we were being fed the Israeli narrative by the mainstream media. The narrative started with the Hamas attack on October 7, as if there was nothing before. What we are witnessing today is however, just another phase in a conflict that started in 1948 when the state of Israel was declared, displacing Palestinians from lands they held for generations.

With protests against Israel’s barbarity intensifying in many parts of the globe, we are now seeing a greater effort by mainstream media to introduce other voices, pointing to other realities. But beyond this, what happened in the past two weeks was sheer savagery and barbarity by Israel that took a heavy toll on young, innocent children. President Biden was quick to veto a call for a cease fire in the Security Council.

It is true that one had to condemn Hamas’ attack on Israel, but the story doesn’t end there because this was an outburst against Israel’s continued prosecution and persecution of Palestinians. With others doing little to hold Israel accountable, Hamas’ strike served to bring the attention of the world to the cries and plight of the Palestinians. It was good to see so many Jews protesting against the brutality of Israel, for Israel has always tried to stifle critics by raising the cry of antisemitism.

Zionism started as a movement for the development of a Jewish homeland. Conferences were held in Switzerland in 1897 and 1898. The leaders of that movement had searched for sponsors for their homeland project and had even approached the Ottoman Empire of which Palestine was a part. Eventually they found an ally in Arthur James Balfour, the British secretary of state for foreign affairs. He bought into it and on November 2, 1917 issued a statement on behalf of the British cabinet giving support to the call for a Jewish homeland. The statement read: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” (my underlining- note no reference to the political rights of the Palestinians). Once this was made known to the Arabs and Palestinians, they rejected it. The Arabs constituted then 94 % of the population and Jews about 6 %. The majority of the Jews in Palestine itself then lived alongside Muslims and Christians and were culturally similar, some of them even speaking the Arabic or Turkish language. They regarded themselves as part of the community. Some had even taken Ottoman nationality and learnt Arabic and the Turkish language.

During World War 1, the British captured Jerusalem in November 1917 and by 1918, the rest of the area. Following the war, the League of Nations that had been set up by the allies gave the British a mandate to administer Palestine, with the Jewish agency tacitly becoming a partner to the mandatory government. By the beginning of the war, over 40, 000 Jews had moved to Palestine. Riots, strikes, general unrest by the Palestinian population, realising that their land was being taken over followed, with the Britain helping to suppress the resistance.

Palestine up to the end of the Second World War was still largely a Palestinian state. Independent Arab states like Egypt were emerging but the decision to settle the fate of Palestine was put in the hands of the United Nations General Assembly which under Resolution 181 of 1947 decided on dividing Palestine into a large Jewish state and a smaller Arab one. Interestingly Britain abstained from the vote that created the large Jewish state, believing that their best interests then lay in siding with some of the newly independent Arab states. The state of Israel was proclaimed on May 15, 1948. Even before the date of proclamation, Palestine’s poorly armed forces were destroyed by the Zionists. Many of their cities were decimated with over 300,000 inhabitants fleeing. Later, with the defeat of Arab armies that had come to their assistance, some 400,000 more Palestinians had either fled or were expelled to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza. They were not allowed to return home; their homes and villages having been destroyed. In fact, they were forced to assume the identities of the States to which they were sent. Many of those who remained in Israel were forced out.

The struggle continued with many wars being fought, including the three-day 1967 war, followed by others. The US was the main defender of Israel supplying it with money and weapons, receiving up to today, the largest share of their grants. The US Congress debates another large grant to a country accused of genocidal attacks on native Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. A number of wars had been fought and a series of efforts made to settle the impasse with Israel getting overwhelming support from its big brother. There has been much rhetoric about a two or one state solution, which makes little sense now. The Palestinians and their backers have to take some of the blame for their disunity at critical times and their various efforts to rely on the good graces of the US. The present crisis is just one among many over the years. We can only hope that international protests continue, and more countries show their disgust by recalling ambassadors or breaking off diplomatic support to Israel. The US has it in its power to settle the matter but its overwhelming support for Israel says it all.

  • Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian