If the United States, Britain, Australia and other Western countries are interested in putting an end to violence, bloodshed and destabilisation in the Middle East, it is time they started to deal seriously with the root cause of the conflict they have created and in which they remain culpable, especially with its vibrations spreading around the world and affecting everyone in the global community today.
The conflict did not start with Hamas’s military operation on 7 October 2023.
Without going back to the history of Zionism and its colonialist nature, I would like to start from the point when Britain colluded with the Zionists and promised to help them establish their colonialist project in Palestine via the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in return for the Zionists’ offer to serve British colonial interests in the Arab world, as well as the opportunity to get rid of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.1 At the time, the number of Palestinian Jews did not exceed 20,117, out of 548,854 citizens,2 or 3.66 per cent of the population. They owned 2 per cent of the land.3
Britain occupied Palestine following the First World War. It appointed British Zionist Herbert Samuel as Governor-General of Palestine; opened the gates of Palestine to massive European Zionist settlement; provided settlers with public land and permitted them to run their own segregated communities across the educational, political, social and economic fields and to establish, in 1920, a terrorist organisation—the Haganah—providing its mobile strike forces, the Palmach, with arms and training.4 Other terrorist organisations, the Irgun and the Stern Gang, were also established.
In 1947, as a result of illegal Jewish immigration, the percentage of Jewish settlers jumped to nearly one-third of the population, owning about 6 per cent of the land. Britain decided to end its mandate in Palestine and asked the United Nations to find a solution to the problem it had created there.
Following intense lobbying, bribes and intimidation by the Zionists, thirty-three countries voted for the partition of Palestine into two states, giving the newly arrived European Jewish colonialists 56.47 per cent of the best Palestinian agricultural land and cities and the two-thirds of the population made up of Indigenous citizens, who owned 94 per cent of the land, just 42 per cent of their own country, and placing the city of Jerusalem under international trusteeship.
The Palestinians rejected this unjust and illegal partition, saying that the United Nations could not partition any country against the wishes of the majority of its people, and called on the British to withdraw, for Palestine to be independent, and for all of its population—Muslims, Christians and Jews— to live equally under the protection of law in a democratic system. The Zionists, on the other hand, accepted the partition because it gave them, for the first time, the legitimacy they were looking. But even that did not satisfy them.
The three Zionist terrorist organisations launched a military operation called Plan Dalet with two objectives: to seize the largest possible part of Palestine outside the boundaries of the partition and to ethnically cleanse as many Palestinians as possible from those areas in order to make the Palestinian majority a minority in their homeland and the newly arrived Jewish minority a majority.
Through terror and tens of massacres, they were able to ethnically cleanse between 800,000 and 900,000 Palestinians from their houses and homeland, stripping them of everything they owned except the clothes on their backs. Over 70 per cent of the Palestinian people were expelled, and 78 per cent of Palestine occupied, in addition to West Jerusalem, which represents 85 per cent of the city, violating UN Partition Resolution 181. ‘Legitimacy’, granted by ‘facts of the ground’—a mantra that would become a favourite of the Israeli state—was established with complete contempt for the United Nations, its members and charter, and international law. The colonial logic of might is right was established for the next seventy-five years.
On 14 May 1948, the Zionist Organisation announced the establishment of the state of Israel over 78 per cent of Palestine. It shut the borders and prevented the ethnically cleansed refugees—and those who were outside of Palestine on business or study—from returning home. My mother and I were not allowed to return to our home in Haifa. We found ourselves among 800,000 to 900,000 refugees.5 Thus, Al Nakba (the Catastrophe) and the Palestine question were born.
In 2016, the Israeli musician Jonathan Ofir summed up the war crimes committed by the Zionist gangs operating in this period in an open letter to Israelis, saying,
When you sum up the systematic mass executions, the many gang-rape cases, the crushing of children’s skulls with sticks, the ripping out of foetuses from their mothers’ wombs—all, and many more, perpetrated by ‘us’, the ‘good guys’, the ‘cultured elite’—often in situations which presented no danger, just out of pure gratuitous sadism and hate for the ‘Arabs’ – then you may begin to realise that Israel is not in a war of survival, a war of elite and advanced culture in a ‘bad neighbourhood’ of backward Arab sub-culture.
Let me put it out there, clearly and directly: We have been acting like animals, with barbarism of a degree which indeed could be, and should be, and has been, compared to those whom we love to hate – the Nazis – whose cruelty is supposed to exonerate ours. As Golda Meir told MK Shulamit Aloni, ‘After the Holocaust, Jews are allowed to do anything’.’ NO. Damn well not. We’ve used this excuse, with those words or others, together with a systematic cover-up of our own cruelties since the start. And because we have largely succumbed to our own propaganda in this, we have failed to perceive the historical trace, which, if followed honestly, will show us that we are essentially AT THE SAME PLACE as before – still subjugating, still massacring, still torturing. This is not a chain of events forced upon us as an inevitable consequence of trying to ‘survive’. This is nonetheless a predictable outcome of our inherent state-religion—which is not Judaism, as many mistakenly think – but rather Zionism.6
On 11 December 1948, the United Nations passed Resolution 194, calling on Israel to permit the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and pay them compensation.7 Australia, the United States and Britain supported the resolution. Israel refused to comply.
When Israel applied to become a member of the United Nations, the United Nations refused its membership, demanding that it first withdraw from the territories it occupied beyond Partition Resolution 181 and allow the return of the refugees as per UN Resolution 194. When the manoeuvres of the Zionist officials failed to change the UN position, Israel pledged to implement the two resolutions and to abide by the charter and decisions of the UN body. Accordingly, its membership was approved, on 11 May 1949, on condition that it comply with the two resolutions. But as soon as it became a member, it refused again to comply. Israel’s membership of the United Nations is therefore illegal, and should be thrown out, just as the South African apartheid regime was.
On 28 May 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was established, and on 1 January 1965 the military wing of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fateh, launched the armed struggle against Israel for the restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and, foremost, the rights of the refugees to return to their homeland in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
The PLO made two proposals to solve the Palestine question and achieve a just peace: the first, in 1968, was for the establishment of one democratic non-sectarian state where all would be treated equally under the law, the second, in 1988, was a historic, huge and painful compromise of accepting a two-state solution along with the return of the refugees to the cities and villages from which they had been expelled. Both were rejected by Israel. It has never proposed a peaceful solution; rather, it has continued with its colonial project of expansion, building Jewish-only colonies as part of establishing ‘greater Israel’, comprising all of historical Palestine plus parts of Arab neighbouring states.
The failure of Israel’s repression of the 1987 Intifada forced it to start secret talks with the PLO in Oslo, which resulted in the Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo Accords, and mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, signed on the White House lawns on 13 September 1993.
The agreement set time guidelines for negotiations on the outstanding issues of the establishment of a Palestinian interim self-government in the West Bank and Gaza for a transitional period of five years, during which time Israel would transfer authority from the Israeli military government and its Civil Administration to the Palestinians and complete its withdrawal from the Palestinian territories it had occupied since 1967, in accordance with Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
As was to become clear, however, Israel did not sign the Oslo Accords in good faith to achieve a just peace, but rather to deceive the PLO and the international community by giving a false impression that it intended to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people and withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories in order to stop the Intifada, win more time to solidify its occupation, build and expand its colonies and enhance its standing internationally to obtain the recognition of countries that did not recognise it.
Instead of withdrawing and working on building confidence with the Palestinian people, Israel punished them. It stepped up the confiscation of lands and building of Jewish settlements; it engaged in the collective punishment, oppression and suppression of the Palestinian people, limiting their freedom of movement and disconnecting their communities. It separated Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza from each other, and cities in the West Bank from each other. It installed hundreds of military checkpoints and built the racist wall inside the Occupied Territories. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the number of Jewish settlements and their population in the West Bank and Jerusalem has more than tripled.
As part of the deception and shuffling of cards following the assassination of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by extremist Jews, the Israeli government made a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which represents about 1.4 per cent of Palestine, in order to rid itself of over 2.3 million Palestinians and the big problem Gaza was causing the occupying forces. As well, it would give the impression of withdrawing from the Occupied Territories, allowing it to swallow up and consolidate its control of the West Bank and Jerusalem. It moved its settlers from Gaza to colonies in the West Bank instead of back into Israel, imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip and continued its policies of separate enclaves, killing, repression, racial discrimination and collective punishment, which culminated in Ariel Sharon’s assassination by poisoning of President Arafat.
On 18 July 2018, the Israeli parliament passed the Jewish Nation-State Law,8 declaring that all of historical Palestine, from the river to the sea and beyond, belonged to all Jews around the world wherever they are, and that they alone had the right to self-determination, with Jerusalem named ‘eternal capital of Israel’. Thus they officially declared Jews first-class citizens and Muslims and Christians second-class. This law came in addition to sixty-five other racist laws against Muslims and Christians, as documented by the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah.
The more Palestinians compromise, the more demands Israeli leaders make. Remember, they demanded the PLO recognise Israel’s right to exist; now, they demand the PLO recognise ‘Israel’ as a ‘Jewish state’ for Jews alone, under the latest racist Nation-State Law, which does not refer to the state of Israel but to ‘the Land of Israel’—which is all historical Palestine—without even defining where ‘the Land of Israel’s’ borders are. Benjamin Netanyahu presented a map during his speech at the United Nations a few weeks ago indicating that all of historical Palestine is Israel!
Israel’s expansion, gross violations, rejection of all Palestinian and Arab peace initiatives and refusal to shoulder responsibility for the Nakba proves beyond doubt that Israel does not seek peace, equality, recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people and coexistence with them, and does not recognise the two-state solution. Peace for the Zionists means surrendering to their colonial project.
By dividing the Occupied Territories into enclaves, by the expansion of settlements, by the gross violations of Palestinian people’s rights and the rejection of all Palestinian and Arab peace initiatives, Israel’s aim is to swallow historical Palestine from the river to the sea, to weaken and dominate the Palestinians and to force them to either accept subservience or to leave.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich recently denied the existence of a Palestinian people, called for the town of Huwara to be ‘erased’ and told the Palestinians, ‘You are here by mistake—because Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and throw you out in 1948’. In an essay in 2017, he gave the Palestinians three choices: to accept second-class citizenship status; if they did not accept that, to leave; and if they dared resist being second-class citizens or leaving, to be branded terrorists and killed by the Israeli army.
The question of Palestinian refugees, as pointed out, is at the heart of the Palestine question. Their right to return to the cities and villages from which they were expelled is an inalienable legal right, not subject to negotiation or referendum. It cannot be distorted or manipulated; nor can the refugees be forced to relinquish it. It is a right, not a favour from Israel.
The conflict with Israel is a conflict of rights, not a border conflict. It is a red line drawn in the blood, suffering and pain of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Arab people. It is a constant, unwavering aim that the Palestinians rally and hold on to, and the motive for their armed revolution in 1965 before Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. No Palestinian or Arab can bypass and betray this sacred right that more than seven million refugees hold, with the support of millions of free people around the world. It is a right guaranteed to them by international law, human rights conventions and relevant United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 194, which is the international answer to this issue and is accepted by the refugees. As is well known, without a solution acceptable to the refugees themselves, the issue will not be solved, the conflict will continue and there will be no peace or security even if a hundred so-called peace agreements are signed.
The international community has applied the right of return in other refugee situations, such as Bosnia, Guatemala and East Timor. US president Bill Clinton said, ‘our thoughts also turn to the over one million Kosovars who are unable to go home because of the policies of the regime in Belgrade. Today, we reaffirm our resolve to persevere until they, too, can return—with security and self-government’.9 And on another occasion, addressing the Kosovo refugees, he said, ‘I want to thank Chancellor Schroeder and the people of Germany for providing a place for you to be and for their support for our united action to reverse what was happened in Kosovo, so that you can go home again and be safe and free’. Regarding the East Timorese, Clinton said, ‘The Indonesian government and military… must allow the East Timorese who have been pushed from their homes to return safely’.10
Achieving a just and lasting peace: A one-state solution
Unlike the Zionists, by ‘solving the Palestine question’, we do not mean inflicting a tragedy on anyone and creating a new problem, as they did by claiming to solve the Jewish question. We differentiate between Zionism and Judaism, and do not want to expel Jews back to wherever they came from. Generations born in Palestine are not guilty of what their colonial parents did, and we recognise that Palestine is for them their homeland, as it is ours. Therefore, our struggle is to liberate our homeland from Zionist colonialism and achieve our human and national rights to live in our homeland—all our homeland, from the river to the sea—with dignity, freedom, democracy and equality.
From this standpoint, the only viable solution that achieves security—a just and lasting peace for all in which both sides come out winners, a peace that solves all outstanding and difficult issues, and fulfils the wishes and aspirations of both Palestinians and Jews, whether for the right of return, Jerusalem as the capital for both sides or freedom of movement and residency—is a solution based on coexistence and the equality of all citizens, regardless of religion and ethnicity, in one democratic state.
The one democratic state solution is one of three options that could be be determined by the people through an internationally supervised ballot: a single democratic state for all; a federation comprising two states; or a confederation between two independent countries, Palestine and Israel, not based on the 1967 borders but in accordance with UN Partition Resolution 181, which established the internationally recognised boundaries for both states. Palestinian leader and jurist Ahmad al-Shukeiri said in his book Palestine in the Year 2000, ‘The area of the five thousand square kilometres of Palestinian land located between the 1947 partition lines and the June 1967 lines, was not included in any resolution in favour of Israel. On the contrary, it belongs to the Arab state that the United Nations allocated to the Arabs of Palestine in the partition resolution of 1947’.11
The one-state, federation, or confederation would have open borders, guaranteeing freedom of movement and residence between their components. It would share a united Jerusalem as its capital. East Jerusalem would be the capital of Palestine, with its parliament located there, and West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel, its parliament located there. Refugees would be given their right to return and compensation. Settlements would be able to remain where they are after compensating the owners of the land on which they were built, and opening them to all citizens regardless of their religion. Equality and security would be guaranteed to all citizens by a law prohibiting all forms of racism. This solution would resolve all intractable issues and major obstacles, justly fulfilling what both sides might properly demand.
In his 1992 book Grasping the Nettle of Peace, Khaled al-Hassan suggested a confederation solution based on the Swiss model. He wrote, ‘wherever we use the term “confederation on the Swiss model”, we mean: (a) free movement of individuals; (b) free internal trade, one economy and external trade, and one currency; (c) free residency; and (b) unrestricted ownership of property, but restricted voting according to the canton or constituency to which the individual belongs. The same applies to registration of births and deaths’.12 At the time of its publication in 1992, I gave a copy of the book to Australia’s foreign minister Gareth Evans, which led to some correspondence between him and Al-Hassan through me.
Britain, the United States, Australia, the United Nations and the countries that voted for the partition of Palestine and created Israel must bear their historical and moral responsibility for the Nakba, the immense suffering of the Palestinian people, the war crimes committed by the Zionists as a result of their decision, and their failure to provide Palestinians with any protection when they were being massacred and ethnically cleansed.
They must compel Israel to implement Resolutions 194 and 181 and allow the refugees their right to return to their homeland and to compensation, which are the minimum requirements for a just peace to prevail in the Middle East.
If the Zionists believe they can defeat the Palestinians and succeed in their colonial project in Palestine, they are deluding themselves. They have not drawn lessons from human history, or from Palestinian history, which includes thousands of years of fighting several invasions before theirs. Five wars; hundreds of acts of aggression costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people—killed, wounded and disabled—and the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars; dozens of massacres; persecution, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing; these have all failed to bring about a solution through force or to exhaust the Palestinian people. How could Jews who object to anti-Semitism turn a blind eye to the racial discrimination practised by Zionists in their name against Christian and Muslim Palestinians?
The time has come for Jews in Israel and around the world to choose between the security and peace of a shared state and the ghetto of the Zionist colonial project that commits crimes against humanity in their name. It is time for them to liberate themselves from Zionism and reach out so that they might walk hand in hand with the Palestinians against a common enemy.
1 Nevill Barbour, Nisi Dominus, The Institute for Palestinian Studies, Beirut, 1969, pp.49-50.
2 Justin McCarthy, The population of Palestine, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990, p. 10.
3 Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest”, Scorpion Publishing Ltd., England, 1990, p.50
4 Walid Khalidi, “The Fall of Haifa Revisited”, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. XXXVII, no.3 (Spring 2008), p.31.
5 Janet l. Abu-Lughod, Transformation of Palestine, Northwestern University Press, USA, 1987, pp. 139-163; Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, One World Publications, Oxford, 2006, op.cit., p.45.
6 Jonathan Ofir, “To my fellow Israelis: We can stop this”, Mondoweiss, 8.2.2016.
7See United Nations Resolutions on Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Vol. I, Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington, DC, 1975, pp.15-17; and Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Special Statistical Bulletin on the 67th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, 12 May 2015; and Walid Khalidi, All That Remains, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut, 1992
8 Factsheet: Israel’s “Jewish Nation-State Law” and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Al-Haq, 23 January 2019.
9 Bill Clinton, The White House, Statement by the President, 2.5.1999.
10 Bill Clinton, remarks by the US President at the CEO Summit Breakfast, APEC, Auckland, 12.9.1999.
11 Ahmad al-Shukeiri, Palestine in the year 2000 (in Arabic), Third Centre, Amman, 1990, p.51.
12 Khaled al-Hassan, Grasping the Nettle of Peace: A Senior Palestinian Figure Speaks Out, Saqi Books, London, 1992, p.49.
Jeff Halper, Jun 2021
Is the solution a two-state solution…or should we be looking for a process of decolonisation?