Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Palestine

What is Palestine and who are the Palestinians? I see so many horseshit arguments essentially claiming the people who call themselves Palestinians have no claims to land in the Middle East.

The idea of 1,000 year ancestral lands is hyperbole at best but doesn't really enter into the picture. What occurred in the 19th century is irrelevant as well. What matters is what has occurred starting with the Mandate for Palestine in 1922 which is the first internationally recognized legal document associated with the area known as Palestine. What is Palestine? It is the area defined by the British and ratified by both the League of Nations and the United Nations. Who are the Palestinians? They are the descendants of some of the Arab population of Palestine in 1948 that fled the fighting. The name "Palestinian" didn't really come into widespread use until the 1960s. The Mandate for Palestine incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British government declared support for a Jewish homeland. The preamble of the Mandate states "Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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." Note the "it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" part. Based upon 1914 Ottoman statistics there were approximately 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews in the areas of the Ottoman empire that made up the League of Nations definition of Palestine (there was no political subdivision called Palestine in the Ottoman Empire). The formation of a Jewish homeland was formalized in Article 2. Article 25 gave the Mandatory, Britain, with the approval of the league, the right to define the actual area covered by the Mandate which they did in the Trans-Jordan Memorandum in September of 1922. The memorandum excluded Trans-Jordan from articles 2, 4, 6, 7, 11 13, 14, 22, 23, and parts of the Preamble. The exclusion included all the articles of the Mandate concerning a Jewish National Home. The memorandum was also approved by the league so Jordan is not, and never was, intended to be the Palestinian homeland. It is important to remember that Britain, in the 1920s, was still operating according to its own imperial ideas and for its own perceived benefit. The League of Nations was little more than a toothless rubber stamp for those ideas. If Russia or the United States (or Germany for that matter) had been members of the league in 1922 perhaps things would have been different but neither of them were. From 1922 to the 1940s there was on again off again Jewish migration to the Palestine area where they bought and developed the land to everyone in the region's economic benefit. There was also what amounted to a three way pissing contest, sometimes violent, between Jews, Arabs and the British. Article 14 of the Mandate laid the following responsibility upon the British "A special commission shall be appointed by the Mandatory to study, define and determine the rights and claims in connection with the Holy Places and the rights and claims relating to the different religious communities in Palestine." This was something the British never got around to doing. Finally in 1948 Britain dumped the whole mess into the hands of the United Nations. At that time there were 1,180,000 Muslim Arabs, 143,000 Christian Arabs and 630,000 Jews in the area known as Palestine. The United Nations came up with a horse defined by committee and partitioned the area into an Arab controlled portion, a Jewish controlled portion and an international zone comprising Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Arabs rejected the partition and the shooting started shortly after the UN passed the partition resolution and hasn't stopped since. It's a mess. It's an absolute mess. I'm not sure what makes sense but technically, based upon the UN partition plan, the people who call themselves Palestinians may well be entitled to a homeland. On the other hand, also based upon the UN partition plan, the Jews are entitled to a homeland. Both are entitled to live in peace. The sooner the two parties recognize these realities the sooner things can start moving toward a permanent solution.

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