The Green Papers Commentary
 

OZ NEVER DID GIVE NOTHING TO THE TINMAN THAT HE DIDN'T ALREADY HAVE
Separating Myth from Reality re: the origins of both the State of Israel and an Arab State of Palestine

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
TheGreenPapers.com Staff

A few months ago, an otherwise well-meaning friend of mine sent me an e-mail forwarding about the recent crises in Israeli-Palestinian relations in which it was claimed that, among other things, "Palestinians only call themselves 'Palestinian' because they merely want the land currently part of the State of Israel to be solely Arab land; there were, in fact, no such thing as 'Palestinians' until the State of Israel had been proclaimed in May 1948 and the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza thereafter decided, solely for political purposes, to pretend to be a nationality known as 'Palestinian' in order to curry favor with elements of the international community that were innately opposed to the existence of an independent Jewish homeland in Palestine. What the worldwide media, for a variety of reasons- some, if not most, of them rather nefarious, where not solely the product of AntiSemitism- has come to refer to as 'Palestinians' are just plain 'Arabs', pure and simple: there has never ever been such a thing as a 'Palestinian Arab'!" Meanwhile, and quite by coincidence, another e-contact of mine sent me- around the same time- the following via a forwarding which included the following statement: "The State of Israel is not only illegally occupying land that should rightfully belong to the Palestinian people, this so-called State of Israel has no legal basis for even existing in the first place: Israel is solely a creation of the crafty Jewish mind which has survived for more than 50 years by being protected and propped up by a succession of Zionist-dominated governments in Washington, DC"

While the actual rhetoric seen in both the above examples, perhaps, represents the more extreme expressions of their respective core views, the simple, sad fact is that I have so often received, via the e-mail system of TheGreenPapers.com, quite a number of e-mails which tell me that many supporters of Israel truly believe that the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza woke up one morning sometime after the end of the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli War and thought "Hey!... I'VE got a way to mess with Israel's head!!... even though I'm, in reality, no different than any other Arab, I'll call myself a 'Palestinian' and drive the Israelis nuts!!!" while many of those who support the Palestinian cause just as truly believe that Israeli Jews not only should, but even must, be driven back into the Mediterranean whence they came because the State of Israel as a political entity has not a single legal leg to stand on. There is nothing at all I can do, of course, about the sheer hypocrisy- where not outright idiocy, in at least the more extreme statements of such attitudes- of such people as have expressed these opinions-- nor am I at all idealistic (or, for that matter, naive) enough to think that, should I now "call" these people on their apparent lack of education (where there is not also a lack of intelligence) as to the inherent untruthfulness of their respective beliefs, the Dove of Peace- olive branch in beak- will suddenly descend upon the Holy Land, a rainbow will appear in the heavens and the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism and violence in the Middle East will thereupon (Lo! and behold!!) cease and desist forthwith!!!

But what I CAN do, as I have done- and will continue to do- in most of these Commentaries of mine, as well as in my responses to 'vox Populi' and in the other informational/educational pieces/databases I have written/compiled for this website, is to at least attempt (however in vain such attempt might prove to be in this particular case) to put together- for the benefit of all TheGreenPapers.com users who wish to read it (regardless of where they stand on what is herein presented)- my own "true bill" as to what the historical facts re: the modern origins of the State of Israel and a nascent Arab Palestinian state actually are, as opposed to what those on either side of the Arab-Israeli conflict would most like them to be. This seems to me especially important in light of the fact that one of the issues "on the table" (even absent active negotiation between the parties) is whether or not there should be what is being called, in diplomatic circles, a "provisional Palestinian state"; the simple truth is that, less than a week after I am typing this very sentence, we will have reached the 80th Anniversary of the de jure existence of just such a Palestinian state and that, in effect, what is being offered as an incentive to the Palestinians for them to put political pressure on the Palestinian Authority to "change its tune" as regards its own views of the situation is something that has already been offered to Arabs (just as it was offered- and accepted- by Jews) in Palestine of generations long since passed away!

In order to truly and most fully understand the legal (as in "International Law") origins of both the State of Israel and a nascent Arab Palestinian State, one has to also understand the Mandatory System of the ill-fated League of Nations which- however indirectly- gave birth to both of these political entities. This Mandatory System was authorized under Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant which itself was attached as something of a "codicil" to the Versailles Treaty signed after the end of World War I (on 28 June 1919- effective, 10 January 1920) and, although loosely based on the Wilsonian concept of self-determination, it has to be admitted that the language in the League Covenant authorizing this system of League Mandates was to be largely paternalistic in tone where not downright patronizing- though it also has to be realized that the harshest realities of the costs to the so-called "Great Powers" of anti-Imperialism, as opposed to the efficacy of Decolonialization, had not yet fully dawned on those who would create the League:

Article 22 sought to do right by those "peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world" who now lived in either the former provinces (those outside metropolitan Turkey) of the defeated and decaying Empire of the Ottoman Turks or the former colonies of the equally defeated and already defunct German Empire (which, only a mere generation or so earlier, had been founded as Bismarck's so-called "Second Reich") by applying "the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant". The cold, hard fact, however, was that- while the idealists (including, at least to some extent, the American President Woodrow Wilson himself) who sincerely hoped the League of Nations might itself be the beginning of the end of the old Great Power system that had led to the late World War also hoped that any territories wrested from the losers of that war would be able to be governed in a manner somewhat less like the provinces and colonies they once were- the only practical "Mandatories" (that is, the powers that would be entrusted with administering any League Mandates) were, in fact, the victorious among those very Great Powers which, indeed, did not run their own colonies and provinces all that much differently than the Germans or Turks had. Thus, so continued Article 22, "the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it"- this, then, was the basic qualification for just such a "Mandatory on behalf of the League".

Article 22 set up three different groupings of League of Nations Mandates: one group was to be made up of peoples that "have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized... until they are able to stand alone": this first group came to be known as the "Class A" Mandates and, as a practical matter, consisted solely of "communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire"-- including Mesopotamia, Palestine (which originally included the TransJordan) and the Levant (metropolitan Syria, including Lebanon). The next group was to consist of peoples "at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals... and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory": these would make up the so-called "Class B" Mandates and included the former German Central African colonies of German East Africa (Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi), Kamerun and Togoland. The final group of League Mandates would be areas "which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can best be administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral parts of its territory, subject to the safeguards above mentioned [NOTE: that is, safeguards mentioned in relation to the "B" mandates- REB~A] in the interests of the indigenous population"-- these would be the "Class C" Mandates and would include the former German colonies of Southwest Africa, Nauru, Western Samoa, German New Guinea and nearby islands and the so-called "South Sea Islands" in the mid-Pacific.

Put in their simplest, most basic form: under such definitions, "A" Mandates were potential Nation-States which would, in the minds of those forming the League of Nations, sooner or later become independent; "B" Mandates might- sooner rather than later- become autonomous and self-governing, if not- however far in the future- later outright independent (but in no way as soon as the "A" Mandates would become independent!); "C" Mandates, or so it was thought, would never- at least not for the foreseeable future- be at all autonomous, let alone independent. In a sense, if we think of the independent Nation-State as the "adults" of the world community, "A" Mandates were seen as being among that community's adolescents (along with self-governing, autonomous dependent areas such as the Dominions of the British Empire), "B" Mandates were considered among the pre-teens (say, much like those colonies that had what the British would call "responsible government") and the "C" Mandates were treated as mere infants or, at best, toddlers (along the lines of colonies under direct rule by the "home government").

The only direct oversight by the League of its Mandates and their Mandatories specifically mentioned in Article 22 was as follows: "The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council" [NOTE: much as the United Nations of today has a Security Council of the 5 Permanent Members and membership of additional nations on a rotating basis- as well as a General Assembly of all UN Member-States, the League of Nations had a Council made up of "the Principal Allied and Associated Powers" (originally intended to be the British Empire [as an Empire, even though its self-governing Dominions were to be given separate memberships per se in the League], France, Italy, Japan and the United States) along with rotating additional members not in the elite group- as well as an Assembly consisting of all League Member-States.] Very early on, however, problems emerged relating to how to go about appointing Mandatories and then having the Council draft the terms of each Mandate as seemed to be required by Article 22.

The solution was to establish that "title" to a Mandate on behalf of its Mandatory could only be conferred by the League of Nations as an entity in and of itself (since the Mandates were to be administered, as Article 22 of the League Covenant itself declaimed, "on behalf of the League"): therefore, on 5 August 1920, it was agreed that the Principal Powers (minus the United States- the only Principal Power that, in the end, would not join the League of Nations) would merely nominate the Mandatories (and, as a result, almost all of their nominees were, as might have been predicted, themselves: Britain became the Mandatory of Mesopotamia and Palestine, as well as Tanganyika and parts of Kamerun and Togoland, along with SouthWest Africa [turned over to the British Dominion of South Africa], Western Samoa [turned over to the British Dominion of New Zealand], German New Guinea [turned over to the British Dominion of Australia] and Nauru [which would be run as a consortium of the British Empire with its two Pacific Dominions]; France became the Mandatory of the Levant and remaining portions of Kamerun and Togoland; Japan became the Mandatory of the South Sea Islands; Belgium (in lieu of Italy, perhaps- the Belgian Congo being right next door) was the only non-Principal Power to receive a Mandate: this being the relatively tiny Ruanda-Urundi), subject to approval by the Council as a whole. But the concept of the terms of each Mandate being "explicitly defined in each case by the Council" was more honored in the breach: in practice, the now-four Principal Powers would themselves draft the terms for each "class" of Mandate and the full Council would then merely endorse those terms (the Assembly of all League Member-States was not to act as a body at all on any of these terms, even though Article 22 left open the possibility of "the Members of the League" [implying the League Assembly] "previously agree[ing]" to such terms without Council involvement!).

While the League so wrestled with just how to properly apply Article 22 of its Covenant, those Powers that had already militarily occupied the territories they pretty much already knew would be theirs to administer as Mandatories (if only because they were, in fact, so occupying them) were well on their way to establishing de facto Mandate government therein and what would become the British-administered League of Nations Mandate of Palestine was certainly no exception! Under Ottoman Turkish rule, the governance of what would become modern Palestine had changed little since Roman rule of the same region more than a millenium and a half earlier; one might even argue that the divisions of the Holy Land engendered by such governance went back even further!!:

Roman Judaea, including the heartland of the one-time biblical Southern Kingdom of Judah- that which became the Byzantine "Palaestina Prima"- was, up through World War I, the sanjak (that is, a district- an area with little or no autonomy- of the Turkish Empire) of al-Quds (the Arabic name for Jerusalem, actually a shortened version of the full name 'al-Quds esh Sharif'); Samaria and the Galilee, so familiar to the Roman world and themselves the heartland of the biblical Northern Kingdom of Israel- later the Byzantine "Palaestina Secunda", was the southern portion of the vilayet (a province- with at least limited autonomy- within the Turkish Empire) of Beirut; and what the Romans knew as "Arabia Petraea"- primarily the TransJordan- was, by now, the southern portion of the vilayet of Syria. Not all that long after having successfully taken Jerusalem from the Turks and a German contingent in December 1917, the British set up a provisional administration- known as the "Occupied Enemy Territory Administration" or "OETA"- to govern what had been the Turkish sanjak of which Jerusalem had been the capital; by September 1918, by which time the forces of the Central Powers had been completely driven out of Palestine by the British and their Arab allies, this governmental system had been reconstituted: now there was an OETA South, an OETA North and OETA East corresponding to the Ottoman civil divisions or portions thereof in the order they were delineated earlier in this very paragraph (Jerusalem, southern Beirut and southern Syria): before long, there would be a new OETA North (the northern portions of the vilayets of Beirut and Syria plus the vilayet of the Lebanon [Lebanon, under Turkish rule, had not included Beirut proper and its immediate environs]) and the older OETA North would now become OETA West. All of this took place, of course, before anyone even knew there would ever be such a thing as the League of Nations, let alone its system of Mandates!

Not long after the Armistice of 11 November 1918 had finally ended the carnage of what was known at the time as "the Great War", France took possession of the newer OETA North (which now became known as the Levant) while the British retained what was now OETAs East, South and West (which became known as Palestine- originally including the TransJordan): thus, when the Mandatories were about to be appointed under the auspices of the infant League, there was really no practical alternative to granting the Levant to France as Mandatory of that particular "A" Mandate and leaving Palestine proper, along with its TransJordan appendage, to Britain as one of its two "A" Mandates (the other being the former Turkish region of Mesopotamia). On 1 July 1920, the first British High Commissioner for the Mandate of Palestine was installed and, on that date, a new political entity- that is, a Nation-State in modern terms and understanding- formally known as "Palestine", therefore, came into de facto existence.

But this new Nation-State of Palestine was not yet de jure. The League Council continued to wrestle with the actual terms of each class of Mandates- approving those for the "C" class as early as 17 December 1920 but not formally endorsing those for the "B" Mandates until 17 July 1922. The "A" Mandates- including Palestine- were tentatively approved a week later but this group of Mandates were destined to be the last to have the terms for their governance (except for that regarding Mesopotamia, as will soon be seen) fully and formally endorsed by the Council, on 29 September 1923 : in the meantime, the British government had already been utilizing the new Mandatory System for its own purposes in attempting to handle the dicey questions it now faced when confronting its one-time Arab allies in the new Middle East.

The Hashemite (a family claiming direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad) Sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali, had already- during the late war- been proclaimed King of the Arabs but had- by war's end- only effectively become King of the Hejaz (al-Hijaz had been a vilayet under Turkish rule-- it consisted of the western [Red Sea] coast of what is now Sa'udi Arabia); unfortunately for the Hashemites, the Wahabist Sultan of Najd, Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa'ud (who already ruled the interior of Arabia, had already seized the eastern [Persian Gulf] coast Turkish vilayet of al-Hasa and would, in a little over a decade, have subjugated the Hejaz and, eventually, would then give his patronymic to the entire country), also claimed to be King of the Arabs. The British hoped to pacify the emerging Arab nationalism (in part fueled by Hussein having been so hailed as "King of the Arabs" in the first place) by making Hussein's sons [Abdullah, Faisal and Ali] the rulers of the new Arab states which, as "A" Mandates of the League, were- by the very language of Article 22 of the League Covenant- to be already considered as "provisionally independent".

Faisal ibn Hussein had already been proclaimed King of Syria as early as March 1920 (he had himself proclaimed a Syrian state with himself as Emir in the wake of Turkish withdrawal from their vilayet of the same name even before the 1918 Armistice) but the British and French made it abundantly clear that they and not some self-proclaimed Arab sheikh were going to be the ones making the proclamations of Hashemite kingship in this brave, new post-Great War world and they did not at all go along with Faisal's plans. The following July, French troops entered Damascus and Faisal was dethroned: the British were now left to find a place for him among the Arab world newly freed of Turkish suzerainty.

In the meantime, the British had another even more dicey problem to deal with, however, for they had already- in November 1917, before Jerusalem had even been liberated- put forth the famous "Balfour Declaration" committing the British government to "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people"; the provisional terms for the British Mandate in Palestine which had been adopted on 24 July 1922 (pending the formal endorsement of the Council more than a year later, as noted above) had incorporated this goal, albeit "clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". Needless to say (though I'll say it anyway), the Arabs of nascent Palestine (again, at the time still technically including the TransJordan) were not at all pleased, let alone the least bit reassured by this provision among the terms of the Mandate, even after Winston Churchill- at the time Colonial Secretary under Prime Minister David Lloyd George- delivered a strong rebuke to the leaders of the Zionist movement in Britain (who were, at the time, claiming that the terms of the Mandate clearly meant that Palestine was to be "as Jewish as England [NOTE: clearly used here as a colloquialism for the whole of Great Britain- including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland- REB~A] is English"-- this statement being viewed by the Lloyd George Ministry as potentially dangerous because the Arabs might see [or, if only for their own propaganda purposes, merely claim to have seen] "England" as only meaning England proper as a constituent part of the United Kingdom-- in other words, that- while the Zionists might, indeed, have meant that Jews would be merely one of the more important peoples within Palestine the way the English were one of the more important peoples within "England" [again, meaning Britain as a whole], the Arabs could- and would- clearly read this as a call for a Palestine without Arabs) to the effect that the Zionist expectation that Palestine would be largely Jewish was "impracticable" and, further, that the British government had not "at any time contemplated... the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine".

But Britain was already, by the time of Churchill's statement of policy, searching for immediate, though temporary, solutions (since no solution immediately to hand was going to at all solve the problem of Arab-Jewish relations in and re: Palestine in the long term). Their first attempt was to begin to separate TransJordan (which had been specifically exempted from the terms of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in the first place) from the main body of Palestine proper and place a Hashemite son of King Hussein of the Hejaz on its throne, if only as a mere Emir: at first, this Emir of TransJordan was to be Faisal, the recently deposed King of Syria but, come April 1921, it was- instead- to be his elder brother, Abdullah ibn Hussein (who had been raising an army in his father's kingdom of the Hejaz with which he intended to attack the French in Syria who had deposed his brother-- the emirate over TransJordan was a peace gesture made to stop Abdullah's proposed military expedition); in May 1923, the TransJordan was formally- under terms of an agreement approved by the League Council the month before- separated from Palestine proper and then, in February 1928, the TransJordan was officially recognized as an autonomous protectorate of the British Empire. As things were to ultimately turn out, the TransJordan was to be the only successful Hashemite monarchy in the long run (for Abdullah's great-grandson, also named Abdullah, is the current King of Jordan). The British hope (vain, as it turned out) was that- with an Arab ruler on its throne- the TransJordan might become the Arab homeland if, in fact, all of Palestine should become "as Jewish as England is English" in the sense most feared by the Arabs themselves.

The creation of an Emirate of the TransJordan in early 1921 still left the new Emir's brother Faisal- deposed in Syria and now rebuffed in the TransJordan- without a throne of his own: the British solution to this particular dilemma was to have Faisal proclaimed the ruler of Mesopotamia, which was- at the same time- given its Arabic name of Iraq. Iraq- after August 1921, therefore, an autonomous Kingdom under such British auspices- was, thus, kept out of the consideration of terms for the other "A" Mandates by the League Council: Britain negotiated its own treaty of alliance with Iraq on 10 October 1922 without all that much League supervision and then had this treaty accepted by the League Council as fulfilling the requirements of an "A" Mandate on 27 September 1924. (Just to complete the story, Iraq was to be granted complete independence and its own membership in the League of Nations on 3 October 1932: in fact, it was destined to be one of only two Arab Nation-States- the other being Egypt in 1937- to ever join the League.)

In the midst of all of these Great Power machinations I have just described, however, is the simple, basic fact that "Palestine"- as a modern Nation-State- came into de facto existence as of 1 July 1920 and into de jure existence as of 24 July 1922 (confirmed by the League of Nations on 29 September 1923): EVERYone who lived, was born in or emigrated to this political entity called "Palestine" after these dates (take yer pick!) was, by definition, a "Palestinian". If one lived in modern post-1920/1922 Palestine and were a Jew, one was a "Palestinian Jew"; if one was born in modern Palestine to an Arab family, one was a "Palestinian Arab". The idea that the concept of the "Palestinian Arab" was solely an invention of one side in the political strife of the post-1948 Middle East is simply ludicrous! As will soon be seen, neither is the concept of the "Palestinian Jew" who would soon become an "Israeli"-- but you can't have it both ways!!: if "Palestinian Arabs" are a made-up ethnicity/nationality- as many hard-core right-wing Israelis and their supporters elsewhere in the world (including here in the United States) so often claim, then the State of Israel itself has no legal claim to de jure existence under International Law because there were then also no "Palestinian Jews" around to create such a Jewish state within de jure Palestine in 1948!! Of COURSE, Israel has an inherent right to such de jure existence (as will soon be seen in this very piece)!!! But, in that actual case, there IS also such a thing as a "Palestinian Arab"... and, more to the point, there has been since the early 1920's!!!!

The League of Nations, along with its Mandatory System, was to be a major casualty of World War II- though the League limped on until April 1946 when its Assembly met one last time in pro forma session to officially turn over many of its organs to its successor, the United Nations, which had already formally come into being some six months earlier. The United Nations had, as an inherent part of its Charter, its own version of the old Mandatory System- now called the Trusteeship System- and the UN's idea of Trust Territories was, at least in theory, somewhat more enlightened in its approach than the old League-based concept of Mandates had ever been.

The Trusteeship System per se was laid down in Chapter XII (consisting of Articles 75 through 85) of the United Nations Charter. The purposes of Trusteeship - among other things- was "to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the Trust Territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned..." [Art. 76(b), UN Charter] and "to encourage respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion..." [Art. 76(c), UN Charter]. In additon, under Article 73 of the Charter (part of Chapter XI of that document, dealing with non-self governing territories in general), it was stated that "Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost... the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories" including the development of "self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement" [this last quotation from Art. 73(b), UN Charter]; obviously, the provisions of Article 73 also applied to any Trust Territories assigned to their Trustees under Chapter XII of the Charter and these provisions, taken together, were a far cry from the older League idea that there were countries [the old "C" Mandates] that might not even ever achieve any measure of self-government!

Article 77 defined which territories were to become Trust Territories: "territories now held under Mandate" [Art.77(a)], "territories which may be detached from enemy states as a result of the Second World War" [Art.77(b)] and "territories voluntarily placed under the system by states responsible for their administration" [Art.77(c)]. In practice, all the "B" and "C" League of Nations Mandates became Trust Territories under UN auspices and their one-time Mandatories under the defunct League of Nations became their Trustees- with the exception of Southwest Africa (which South Africa refused to turn over to Trusteeship [mostly because South Africa would not- given its administration of that Mandate as "an integral part of its territory" due to the territory's "geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory" (to quote from Article 22 of the League Covenant)- willingly fulfill the requirements of Chapter XII (as well as Article 73) of the UN Charter]) and the old Japanese Mandate of the South Sea Islands which was turned over to the United States as Trustee of a new Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under the provisions of Article 77(b), Japan having been a World War II "enemy state" from the United Nations' point of view.

But the old "A" League Mandates were quite another matter: already- under Article 22 of the League Covenant- "provisionally independent" when they were originally designated Mandates, the primarily Arab lands of the Middle East once under Ottoman Turkish rule were- at the end of World War II- certainly in no position to be relegated to the mere status of UN Trust Territories! Iraq, as already noted above, had already become independent well before the war; Syria and Lebanon became independent of France's Mandate over these "Levant States" during the war itself and the TransJordan (soon to be known as just plain "Jordan") was about to be granted its full independence with the Hashemite Abdullah ibn Hussein being raised in royal status from Emir to King. Only Palestine proper, among the old "A" Mandates, was to be lacking a final disposition after the TransJordan became fully independent in the Spring of 1946- primarily because of the political strife between its Arab and Jewish populations and the inherent contradictions between a rather pro-Arab British foreign policy and the promises of the Balfour Declaration to a Jewish people which had, by this time, only so recently gone through the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe.

The rest of the story is fairly well known but does bear at least some repeating here in order for me to finish making the main point of this piece: there was a debate over whether to make Palestine a UN Trust Territory, to constitute it as a federal state (along the lines of what has been done rather recently with Bosnia-Herzegovina, I suppose!) or to partition it between Arab and Jewish states, this debate becoming not only a matter for UN disposition because Palestine had been a League Mandate but also because the Mandatory (Great Britain) failed to broker an agreement between Arabs and Jews in a conference held in London in January 1947 and, thus, Britain was now forced to move the question in the UN itself on 2 April 1947. The United Nations, in the end, opted for partition of Palestine in its Resolution 181/II, adopted by the General Assembly on 29 November 1947 by a vote of 33 to 14 with 10 abstentions. With that, Palestine- already, as I pointed out earlier in this piece, a de jure Nation-State since the early 1920s (as a "provisionally independent" "A" League Mandate)- became de jure divided into an Arab Palestine and a Jewish Palestine upon Great Britain formally reliquishing its Mandate, which Britain agreed to do as of 14 May 1948.

On the day the Mandate expired (again, 14 May 1948), Jewish Palestine legally came into existence within the borders set for it as a result of UN Resolution 181/II; the recognized leaders of this new Jewish state, on that very date, proclaimed it to be "the State of Israel" and- at that moment- everyone who was, up until that time, a "Palestinian Jew" within the new Jewish state was now an "Israeli Jew" (likewise, any "Palestinian Arab" who was to be henceforth considered a citizen of this new State of Israel was, from now on, an "Israeli Arab"!)... so, to all those who claim that Israel has no right to exist, I say that the historical facts speak for themselves: for there is a clear line between the de jure and provisionally independent Palestine of 1920/1922 and a Jewish Palestine become Israel of 1948 and beyond! By very definition, the State of Israel IS- indeed- de jure and not merely de facto!!

But what of the "Palestinian Arabs" of a projected Arab Palestine? Did they suddenly all disappear on or after 14 May 1948?? Hardly! Again, the rest of the story: yes, it is true that the majority of Palestinian Arabs had rejected the partition plan effected by UN Resolution 181/II and, yes- probably because of a misguided, yet overwhelming, belief in the sheer strength of numbers, most of the Palestinian Arabs pinned their hopes of preventing the emergence of a Jewish state in Palestine on successful military intervention by surrounding Arab states against the new State of Israel, such intervention (which turned out to be quite lacking in success) beginning the day after the British Mandate had expired and the State of Israel had been proclaimed. Yet we have to look at what happened as a result of the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948-49 in order to understand the true fate of Arab Palestine:

The fact is that, besides the Arab nations intervening in Palestine failing to quash the new Jewish state, Israel itself only ended up expanding its borders granted it via UN Resolution 181/II via conquest as a result of the 1948-49 war to include a part of Palestine as a whole! Armistices were negotiated between Israel and its Arab neighbors (these- of course- being Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) during the course of the first half of 1949, resulting in the so-called "Armistice Line" (the original de facto border of the State of Israel after the conclusion of the First Arab-Israeli War); it is clear, from the perusal of any contemporaneous map of the region, that Israel did not include all of what had been the one-time Mandate of Palestine and that, therefore, the de jure nation-state of Arab Palestine did not at all cease to exist as a result of the 1948-49 war. Instead, as a consequence of the 1949 Armistices, what we now call the "Gaza Strip" was placed under (contemplated as temporary) Egyptian administration and what we now call the "West Bank" was placed under (again contemplated as temporary) Jordanian administration.

It is true that, on 7 November 1966, David Ben-Gurion- the very man who had first proclaimed the Palestinian Jewish state as "Israel" back on 14 May 1948- declared that, as far as Israel was concerned, the Armistice Lines of 1949 were no longer valid and that, therefore, "Israel cannot recognize the former status quo" but, just as the Palestinian Arabs and their allies within the greater Arab world could not- back in 1948-49, as well as since- unilaterally undermine the de jure status of Israel itself, Israel could not- likewise- unilaterally undermine the de jure status of an Arab Palestine held in some kind of Egyptian/Jordanian "limbo" as a result of the Armistices of 1949! The so-called "Six-Day War" (the Third Arab-Israeli War, the second having been a part of the so-called "Suez Crisis" of 1956) of June 1967 did nothing at all to change the de jure status of Arab Palestine as a potential Nation-State: while the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were, in fact, among the areas occupied by Israel in the course of that conflict, they were not formally annexed in toto by the Jewish state!! And, while it has been the policy of Israel to intervene militarily in these areas that remain- as they have been since 1949- "Arab Palestine in limbo" in response to acts of terrorism against Israel and its citizens and such military intervention has, indeed, ofttimes "tightened the screws" of Israeli occupation of said Arab Palestine, it has never been the firm policy of the State of Israel to annex the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a whole (despite the claims of Israel as regards the so-called "Old City" of Jerusalem and certain other portions of so-called "East Jerusalem")!!!

A Palestinian Nation-State, therefore, already exists- as it has existed since 1920/1922 and this fact makes any "offer" of a Palestinian State to the Palestinian Arab people (if only as a negotiating point) by either Israel itself or by the United States as a broker of Middle East peace rather unrealistic at best and downright silly at worst: for why should the Palestinians now accept, as a peace offering with conditions (conditions such as "democratically elect someone as your leader of whom we can approve"), that which they have already had for generations? Having set up Palestine as a de jure Nation-State in the first place some 80 years ago and then partitioning it between Arab and Jew more than half a century ago (a partitioning upon which the legal existence of Israel depends as much as does the hoped-for nationhood of the Palestinians themselves!), the international community has already given Arab Palestine its statehood, just as it has also given Israel its statehood!!

The irony, as well as the tragedy, of the situation in the Middle East is that the Israelis and the Palestinians are- as they have been for eight decades now, ever since the Mandate of Palestine was first authorized by the League on 24 July 1922- in an odd, one might dare say symbiotic, relationship despite the anomosity that so often flares up between the two peoples. The existence of Israel under International Law is a product of the very same history that already legalizes a Palestinian state (whatever Israel or the United States might think of such legality): thus, you cannot have Israel without an Arab Palestine; likewise, you cannot have an Arab Palestine without Israel. Arab Palestine is one of the- if not the- most secular and westernized countries within the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular (it is primarily for this reason that the Sa'udis so openly proffer money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers-- not to at all help the cause of Palestinian nationhood to succeed, mind you, but, rather, to assure that a fully independent State of Palestine ultimately fails! Why? Because Arab Palestine- along with Iraq- are two countries in the Arab world that have the necessary political, economic and, most importantly, cultural infrastructure to, perhaps, eventually become successful Arab democracies and the last thing the absolutist Wahabist regime that now governs Sa'udi Arabia wants to see is a successful Arab democracy!!) and, thus, Arab Palestine is, despite its historical strife with Israel, nevertheless very heavily influenced by Israel (do you really think that the participation of Israeli Arabs in Israeli democratic and parliamentary politics is not at all witnessed- as well as fully understood- by their "cousins", the Palestinians?). It is, therefore, rather sad- if not outright disheartening- to see many Palestinians claim that Israel has no right to exist at the same time that many pro-Israel Jews and Christians equally claim that the term "Palestinian" is a nationality/ethnicity made up out of whole cloth! What makes it all sadder still is that Israelis and Palestinians alike are being maimed and killed in the midst- where not in the name- of such abject hypocrisy!!

 


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