The British Legacy in Palestine

In the last couple of weeks, Israel has bombed Palestine. It has leveled hospitals, relief organizations, and government buildings, and prevented the delivery of international aid to the country whose two million people are now without food, water, homes, and safety. The state of Israel has resumed its blockade, denying electricity, water, and food resources to the besieged Gaza Strip. There are several causes for the recent violence: police violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the al-Shaykh Jarah evictions and patrols of Jewish paramilitaries in the occupied region, and the entry of the Israeli Defense Force into the al-Aqsa Mosque — one of the most sacred places to Islam. One of these is the root cause of the violence: the illegal eviction and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from the West Bank.

The al-Shaykh Jarah neighborhood in East Jerusalem is a Palestinian Arab community under Israeli occupation. Its police force, justice system, and administration is controlled by the state of Israel. Israeli law applies here; according to their laws, any Jew who can prove a claim to the land before the partition of Palestine in 1948 can apply for the title to the property. This is not a new issue. In fact, it gets to the situation before 1948, under the rule of the British Empire.

As with many other countries, the British administration of Palestine was a rough one. During the First World War, Jews in Britain successfully lobbied the government, resulting in the Balfour Declaration. In exchange for Jewish support in the war effort, the Empire would establish a Jewish homeland in Israel, land that had recently come under British occupation during an invasion of their enemies. The 1917 Balfour Declaration was the first step in the founding of the Israeli State. Previously, few Jews lived in Palestine. Pro-Israeli sources even note that the proportion of Jewish population the year after was only roughly 8%. The Jewish people established their communities in direct conflict with the Arab population that lived there. According to another source, Jewish organizations began expropriations under the British administration in Palestine:

To help new Jewish immigrants establish themselves in Palestine, groups such as the Jewish National Fund bought up large tracts of land, often from absentee Arab landlords — a practice that it had begun earlier in the century — for Jewish settlement, evicting existing Arab tenant farmers from the land.

Under the Mandate of Palestine (the British government), the same source concludes that “Between 1922 and 1947, an estimated 100,000–150,000 Palestinians — nearly one-tenth of the Palestinian Arab population — were expelled, denationalized or forced to leave their homes.” The Jewish population had a permanent role in the administration of Palestine, while the Arabs held less than 50% of the seats in the governing committees. The eviction of Arab farmers from their land in Palestine has been going on since the establishment of the Mandate of Palestine in 1919, and the government ignored because the Mandate was committed to the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. Written into its mandate was the following:

An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.

This organization was known as the Zionist Organization. It was successful in its operations, largely due to support from the British. For this reason, we can trace the Israeli evictions of today to the period before Israel even existed — we might even say that they are an outgrowth of British imperialism. Britain’s imperial legacy is the primary cause for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The state of Israel is continuing the same genocidal practices originated under British rule in the Mandate of Palestine. The Partition of Palestine in 1948 led to the depopulation hundreds of Palestinian Arab communities, mass atrocities committed by the Israeli government and its branches, and the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The Partition was the direct result of British rule.

The state of affairs today reflects genocidal acts by British governance in Israel, genocidal acts perpetuated historically and currently by the Israeli state. The British actions during the period from 1919 to 1948 have shaped the current conflict, and in fact, are likely responsible for the current conflict. Israeli imperialism is a continuation of British imperialism. What is the conclusion here? The Palestinian struggle for liberation and independence is an anti-imperialist movement. Israel is an imperialist country like any other, and must be condemned as one. All radical organizations in the United States must denounce our aiding and abetting of the genocidal Israeli state and stand in solidarity with the anti-imperialist struggle of Palestine, regardless of whether our country wishes to recognize it or not. Long live Palestine! Success to the movement for the liberation of the Arab people!

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