Volume 5, No. 12, December 2023
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Aggressive territorial usurpation and expansion of settlements by Israel
The UN adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the ‘Partition Resolution’) on November 29, 1947. The Resolution envisioned that after Great Britain’s Palestine Mandate (acquired after the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in 1917) came to its scheduled end on May 14, 1948, the Palestinian territories would be divided into two separate states: the Jewish and Arab states. Of course this was not some novel idea or achievement for Britain. Just three and a half months earlier they had completed a long term negotiation on a similar yet much larger scale two-nation solution. This was the Partition of their ‘Jewel of the Crown’, colonial India, into the two separate states of Pakistan and India in August 1947. By handing over the Palestine Mandate to the UN ungrudgingly and without any hesitation, Britain was camouflaging and rewriting their own colonial actions and history in the region and minimising any blame for the highly foreseeable tragedy which was to come. For by this time, they were fully aware of the tragic way such partitions play out, and the almost inevitable massive dislocation and death toll.
In response to the long history of European anti-Jewish transgressions, culminating in the German Shoah (Holocaust) of six million Jews, this UN Resolution allocated more than half of Palestine to the Jews, although they were significantly less than half of Palestine’s total population at the time. The sheer human, economic and political cost of what such acquisition of land would mean for the Palestinians was not even on the agenda. The UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was made up of ‘neutral countries’. The Arab leadership refused to engage in this sham process, and so UNSCOP did not meet with any of the Arabs. However, UNSCOP did meet publicly with several Jewish organisations, particularly having several sessions with the Zionist Jewish Agency headed by David Ben-Gurion (later the first Prime Minister of Israel 1948-1953, 1955-1963). Worse, they even met clandestinely with Zionist terrorist militant groups like Irgun and Haganah (literally, the Defence). Among those UNSCOP met was one of the leaders of Irgun, Menachem Begin, who had actually ordered the terrorist attack on the King David Hotel just the year before these negotiations, and was therefore on the British list of wanted terrorists. He was later the sixth Prime Minister of Israel, 1977-1983.
As early as March 1948, immediately following the UN decision on November 29, 1947, the Zionist paramilitary forces of 50,000 well-trained soldiers (note that half of them had served in the British army) started with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, according to ‘Plan Dalet’, as the Israeli ‘New Historians’ have analysed in detail. These New Historians argue that Israel’s founding fathers are far less heroic than they have been made out to be. Further, they heavily challenge the premise and propaganda that the Israeli state’s very foundations are a miraculous victory of a historically beleaguered underdog over centuries. Between November 1947 and mid-May 1948 – still under British Mandate – the Zionist armies expelled 275,000 Palestinians, destroyed villages and committed massacres.
On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate over Palestine expired, and they officially promptly withdrew from Palestine. That same day, the Zionists immediately secured full control of their UN-allocated share of Palestine and proclaimed the State of Israel. However, as a portent of future developments and as the beginning of a long-term trend, they also immediately took over some of the territories allocated to the Arabs by that same UN mandate. This initial violation of the UN foundational mandate set into motion a regular process of Israel’s violation of UN mandates and resolutions over the next 75 years. The next day, therefore, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded.
It is deeply ironic and distressing that the State of Israel, the only country created through a UN mandate, has violated, and continues to violate, almost all the UN laws, resolutions and regimes on any issues dealing with Palestine/Israel. It has violated more UN laws than any other nation. These include illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land, violation of the Geneva Convention, and illegally confiscating Palestinian lands by force, claiming sovereignty over it. These are open violations of the articles of the UN charter and Israel continues to practise ethnic cleansing and its own apartheid system. It practises massive violations of human rights, collectively punishes the Palestinian people by routinely putting the blame of a single act on the whole people. All these malfeasances are of course justified by a biblical reference that that land belongs to them as ordained by God. This then provides them cover. There is no other international regime or system that can allow these violations and the impunity with which Israel conducts them. In all this, the US has unashamedly aided and abetted the State of Israel, and its European allies have willingly followed suit, their mild grunts to the contrary notwithstanding. The stated reason for this highly biased handling is justified through the mantra that Israel is the only ‘democratic’ nation in the sea of Arab (read Muslim) undemocratic Islamist and even terrorist nations.
 Emphasis added.
 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2010 estimated that “14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced during the partition of India, the largest mass migration in human history,” see “Rupture in South Asia”, UNHCR, available at http://www.unhcr.org/3ebf9bab0.pdf. According to Barney Henderson, however, writing on the 70th anniversary of the Independence: “In the days, weeks and months following Partition, 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, fearing discrimination, swapped countries in an upheaval that cost more than a million lives.” (Cf. Barney Henderson: “Indian Independence Day: Everything you need to know about Partition between India and Pakistan 70 years on”, The Telegraph News, August 15, 2017, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/15/indian-independence-day-everything-need-know-partition-india/). It is estimated that the Partition cost between 200,000 to two million lives, depending on the relaying sources, and further, that around 2.23 million went missing, and between 10-15 million people were displaced losing their homes, property, etc. This left an indelible mark on the two countries’ understanding of ‘peaceful co-existence’, which still affects their relations today, as it does in Palestine. See also, Crispin Bates: “The Hidden Story of Partition and Its Legacies”, BBC, March 3, 2011 available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/partition1947_01.shtml; William Dalrymple: “The Great Divide: The Violent Legacy of Indian Partition”, The New Yorker, June 29, 2015, available at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/29/the-great-divide-books-dalrymple; and Sarah Ansari: “A Partition too deep: How events in 1947 shaped Pakistan today”, Herald, August 13, 2017, available at https://herald.dawn.com/news/1153498.
 Namely, Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia.
 Full name: Hā-ʾIrgun Ha-Tzvaʾī Ha-Leūmī b-Ērētz Yiśrāʾel, literally, ‘The National Military Organisation in the Land of Israel’.
 See esp. Ilan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2006). Pappe is a prominent member of the New Historians, a loosely defined group of Israeli historians who challenge the traditional versions of Israeli history, including that of Israel’s role in the 1948 Palestinian exodus and Arab willingness to discuss peace. Most of their scholarship is based on primary source material such as the Israeli government papers that were declassified thirty years after the founding of Israel. Some argue that this is now the mainstream in academia, and that their influence is not confined to intellectual circles, but has even resulted in changes to Israeli school textbooks. This group includes Benny Morris, Ethan Bronner and others.
The New Historians make a radical criticism not just of Israel’s policy, but indeed of the Zionist project itself and of the very legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish nation-state. They argue that the Jewish state was created at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian Arabs, that Palestinians did not flee during the 1948 War but were forcibly expelled and that Israel bears the principal responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict. They view the State of Israel as an immoral phenomenon established on the basis of the destruction of another people, namely the Palestinians. They see the present problems as transcending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and so the solution cannot just be withdrawal from those territories. They deem Zionism as a colonialist, racist and evil phenomenon that stole another people’s land by force and continues to oppress them. See also, Shlomo Avineri: “Post-Zionism Doesn’t Exist” (Haaretz, July 6, 2007); Meyrav Wurmser: “Can Israel Survive Post-Zionism?” (Middle East Quarterly, Volume 6: Number 1, January 1, 1999) and “Made-Up Massacre” (Weekly Standard, October 28, 2016), etc. See particularly Neil Caplan: “The ‘New Historians’”, review of The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 by Ilan Pappe, and Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israel Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War by Benny Morris (Journal of Palestine Studies, Summer, 1995, Vol. 24, No. 4, Summer, 1995, pp. 96-103).
(To be continued)
The writer is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Justice and Christian Community (Emeritus), Director of Islamic Studies (Emeritus), Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, US and the Desmond Tutu Professor of Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation in Africa (Emeritus), University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.