Skip to main content

'Colonial project': Palestinian conflict result of imperial policies in 20th century first half

By Saurav Sarkar* 

Israeli flags are flying over all government buildings in the United Kingdom currently, but this isn’t the first time the former imperial hegemon has put its weight behind Zionism. In 1917, the British government issued the infamous Balfour Declaration.
This brief document – 67 words – was a turning point in modern Palestinian history. It committed Great Britain to establishing a “national home” for Jewish people in Palestine. (The initial language promised a “Jewish state,” but was changed later.) The Balfour Declaration contained language that was meant to safeguard Palestinians, but we have seen how that has played out in the ensuing century.
From World War I to 1948, the British ruled Palestine, the bulk of that time under a mandate issued by the League of Nations. The population of Jewish settlers in Palestine increased over these decades – particularly the 1930s – as the British government fostered their immigration. In 1922, only 11 percent of the population in the region was Jewish. By 1931, the figure was up to about 17 percent. By 1939, it was almost 30 percent.
At that point, the British government sought to limit any further expansion of the Jewish population in order to ensure stability in the region. But by then, it was too late—the facts on the ground had changed. What had been a region that was almost 90 percent Palestinian had become a contested land between two demographically numerous groups.
Moreover, the British had confiscated land from Palestinians to hand it over to Jewish people and engaged in violent repression of incipient Palestinian nationalism. And in the 1930s, a British government commission recommended that Palestine be partitioned, laying the groundwork for the failed “two-state solution.”
In other words, this conflict is the product of specific imperial policies that were practiced in the first half of the 20th century to foster a colonial project. The “Jewish question” -- Europe’s longstanding inability to adequately address its own antisemitism -- was made into Palestinians’ Zionist problem by the British Empire.
One of the key features of British rule was to play different groups against each other. One of the key methods adopted by them over the course of centuries and a global collection of provinces was to study the social history of their subjects to manage the politics and play different groups against each other.
The support for Jewish migration to Palestine triggered resentment and mobilization by Indigenous Palestinians, eventually leading to the Great Revolt of 1936-1939. The revolt, which included a general strike and peasant uprising, was violently repressed by the British government in collaboration with Zionist paramilitaries.
However, after the revolt, the British began to limit further Jewish immigration to the region, turning against the group they had supported in order to protect their imperial interests. This led to violent attacks by Zionists in Palestine.
In region after region, the British used strategies of divide and rule to pit one people against another
Palestine is not alone in this fate. In region after region, the British used strategies of “divide and rule” to pit one people against another for the benefit of the empire. In British India, they pushed the Hindu-Muslim divide, sometimes favoring one population, sometimes the other. In Cyprus, they pitted the Greeks against the Turks. In Sri Lanka, it was the Tamils against the Sinhalese. In Ireland, it was the Catholics against the Protestants. The list goes on.
In all of these places, the supposedly “ancient” politics of intergroup conflict have persisted beyond when the sun set on the British Empire. There have been territorial divides based on ethnicity and/or religion. British India became India and Pakistan. Pakistan was then further subdivided into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ireland was split up into the Republic of Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland. Cyprus is divided in two, and its legal status is still unresolved.
In Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lanka, a 30-year civil war waged to establish a Tamil state, which ended in 2009 in a similar fashion to what we are witnessing in Gaza today. And in 1948, Palestine was formally partitioned, establishing a Zionist state and what was meant to be a Palestinian one, with the blessing of the former British rulers who oversaw the beginning of the Nakba.
Each of these places has been marked with violent conflict based on “ancient” hatreds that can be traced to the last one or two centuries. It is this commonality that firmly establishes that the British Empire policies are the root cause of the violence in these regions; there are simply too many instances of these conflicts being traced back to the empire to imagine a coincidence.
While the proximate causes of Israeli apartheid, occupation, and genocide clearly lie squarely at the feet of Israel and its chief sponsor the United States, the United Kingdom has a special responsibility to make right its historical sins in Palestine – and everywhere else. A minimal first step would be to work to stop the current genocide instead of waving an Israeli flag. But this – let alone reparations – does not seem to be on the table.

*Freelance movement writer, editor, and activist living in Long Island, New York, has  lived in New York City, New Delhi, London and Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @sauravthewriter and at sauravsarkar.com. Source: Globetrotter

Comments

bhavikraja1001@gmail.com said…
Very illuminating article. The rulers are bent upon removing historical sense from the present generation. But history is the mirror of mankind.

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).