The Genesis of Palestinian Issue; Is There Any Way Out?

By Sajid Naeem

We have to face the facts. Men are not born equal; the white and black races are not born with equal capacities: they are born with different capacities which education cannot and will not change.” (Arthur Balfour).

These words were uttered in 1906 by Lord Arther Balfour in a British parliamentary debate. In 1917, the same Lord would be the architect of The Balfour Declaration, which in fact laid the foundation of the Israeli state on the Palestinian land. The words quoted above were not spoken in the Palestinian context. Rather they were directed against the black Africans. But they do tell us volumes about the mentality and mindset of imperialism as a whole and of an individual who is responsible for inflicting a festering wound right in the heart of Middle East. Since October 2023, the world is witnessing one of the most brutal horrifying killings in modern history. So, it is worth delving deep in to the psychology and the mindset that went into making of this horrific inferno on world’s stage. In fact, what is happening today in Palestine is an exact reflection of the same mentality.

The declaration was not a formal announcement as it is generally considered to be. It was a letter written by Balfour to Lord Rothschild, an Anglo Jewish leader of the community. The declaration reads:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 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”.

Though the Israeli state was carved out some 31 years later in 1948, the declaration served as the basis for the future state. The migration of Jews to Palestine, their land purchase in Palestine and even Zionism itself predated the declaration. By 1914, the Jews had purchased 130,000 acres of land in Palestine. Enmass migration took place around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Zionism originated in Russia in 1881 after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Jews were brutally persecuted by his successor Tsar Alexander III after putting the blame of the murder of his father on them. The first Zionist congress was held in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland. In fact, from 1913 to 1917 there were ceaseless efforts on the part of Zionist leaders to win the confidence of the British imperialism and the declaration was the fruit they bore. The wording of the declaration is almost the same as it were presented by the Zionist leaders through lord Rothschild to the British war cabinet. Was the declaration an outcome of the British sympathy for the Jews? Of course not.

Balfour’s views about the Jews were not at all different from those he held about the black Africans. In fact, he was a white supremacist and had no sympathy for the Jews. It was under Balfour’s Premiership that the Alien Act was passed in 1905. The act was first of its kind to put restrictions on immigration to Britian. The main purpose of this act was to restrict the Jews fleeing the pogroms in Russia. In 1919 he wrote an introduction to the book “History of Zionism” where he asserted that Zionism would “mitigate the age long miseries for the western civilization by the presence in its midst of a body which is too long regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to absorb”. These words amply prove that he was not only a supremacist but an anti-samite too. The irony is that this anti-samite is held in high esteem throughout the Zionist movement and even today stands as their undisputed hero. It was no mere coincidence that in 2017 Theresa May and Netanyahu jointly celebrated the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

The creation of a homeland for the Jews was a strategy of Balfour and British imperialism to kill two birds with one stone. First it offered the opportunity to export a complex and unresolvable problem from their own home and neighbourhood to some far-off land. Further, the dismantling of Ottoman empire was very much on the agenda of British imperialism. For this purpose, they were promoting Arab nationalism which needed a check in future so as not to run out of control. Pitted in absolutely hostile surroundings the Jewish homeland was bound to remain reliant on Britain or the other imperialist forces that be and it would serve as a long-lasting watchdog for the Arab world.

As regards his views about the Palestinians, in 1919 Balfour had said that Zionist aspirations were “of far more import than the desires and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit the land”. By advocating the right of self-determination for the Jews, Balfour was trampling over the same right of the Palestinians even of the Palestinian Jews and he was ready to brazen facedly admit that hypocrisy: “The weak point of our position is that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination.” So here was an imperialist recipe to control a people of even lesser breed (the Palestinians) by another people of lesser breed (the Jews) in the name of the principle of self-determination.

The Balfour declaration paved the way for direct British rule after WWI and on September 11th, 1922 the British declared Palestine a mandated territory and the mandate continued until the end of WWII which marked the creation of the State of Israeli. Before proceeding to the mindset of Israeli rulers, let’s see what Winston Churchill had to say about the Palestinians. In 1937, he said, “I do not agree that the dog in the manger has the final right to manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America or the blacks of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a high-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come and taken their place”. These words leave no room for further details to explain the utter shameless racism of the imperialists of the day and the same inhuman ultra racism permeates every page of the history of Zionist Israeli state.

In 1947, the UN, Lenin had rightly called its predecessor the League of Nations “the kitchen of thieves”, formally bifurcated Palestine and allotted 55% of the land to the Zionists. Within a span of a year, they had occupied 76% of the land. In May 1948 the Israeli state was declared and without any hesitation, the new imperialist master, the US, recognized it. Since then, it has been a gruesome tale of human suffering for the people of Palestinian land. Taken as a whole, the Palestinian are a people without land. The Jews might have been a people of lesser breed from the British point of view, but from the Palestinian perspective they are the supremacists. One Israeli PM had once said, “Palestinian do not exist.” Another called them “two legged beasts”. Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir called them “grasshoppers”. And now we have an Israeli PM who is the personified embodiment of all his supremacist predecessors. Not only that, he is the perfect epitome of supremacism and madness combined together. Though this madness has a method to it. After the Hamas’ surprising attack in October last year, not the whole of Palestinian territories but mere Gaza has been the target of Israeli relentless bombing and human suffering as this is the area where Hamas holds sway since 2007. Gaza is a narrow coastal strip on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. From east to north, it is surrounded by Israel. On the south eastern side, it borders with Egypt but this border has been tightly closed since the beginning of the war. Gaza has a total area of 365 kms with a population of well over 2 million. The population density is 5500 persons per square km. It’s not hard to imagine what happens when such a densely populated area is indiscriminately bombed with MK84 American bombs which not only raze a multi storey building to the ground but also can ditch a 10 meter deep crater. The death toll figures of 34,000, though tragic and horrifying, don’t tell the whole story of indescribable human suffering. Around 75,000 injured have been left with no medical facilities. People have to undergo surgeries without anesthesia. Out of the 36 Gazan hospitals, only 10 are partially functional. The rest have been turned to ghost buildings where only death looms. According to a CNN report amputation from handcuff injuries for the detainees have become a routine matter. Deeming the possibility of human mind faltering while imposing ruthless cruelty and killings upon innocent masses, Netanyahu and co. have assigned the task of selecting targets and launching attacks to an AI programme called Lavender. Hence, the massive scale of death and destruction. The supremacists might have imposed emergencies and curfews over a segment of marginalized population in the past. But now we have a new phenomenon. Maybe for the first time in the history of this conflict the Gazans are being forced into a human made famine. They have nowhere to go. They can only wade into the sea and become a fodder for the fish in the Mediterranean. They may be looking to heavens for help, but only bombs rain down to kill them.

This massive tide of reaction, of death and devastation has to subside. Maybe it takes longer than anybody can expect. But no war can go on indefinitely. The question is; Is there any way out of this quagmire of human suffering and bloodshed? If we try to find a solution to the problem within the confines of the capitalist imperialist system, the answer is no. What the imperialist can promise at the most, and promise only, is a two-state solution. The Oslo accord is a bitter reminder of the failure of any such attempt. If the accord failed to promote the limited self-government of the Palestinian under leaders like Yasar Arafat, how can a viable Palestinian state flourish in those very areas? How is this state going to operate independently in the interest of the Palestinian masses when on the one hand its two component parts, the Gaza Strip and West Bank are bifurcated by a large tract of Israeli state and on the other any such state would be surrounded by the reactionary states of Israel, Egypt and Jordan? What rights are the Palestinian going to enjoy when their state won’t even have control over water and electricity?

Can Iran or any other regional power come to the rescue of Palestinian masses by annihilating Israel altogether? The answer again is a big no. This is a many a times tried and tested formulae which has failed to produce the desired results. The 1967 Arab Israel war stands a proof to that. Even the recent Iranian attack has rather strengthened the Zionist state. Any such attack means rallying of most of the imperialist powers around Israel in its defence. All those imperialists who were on the defensive because of unprecedented protests in their own streets against the war, now feel emboldened after the Iranian attack. Biden has urged the US congress to urgently pass an aid bill worth more than 14 billion USD. According to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, Biden has given consent for the much awaited military operation in Rafah for not retaliating the Iranian attack in any meaningful manner. The Iranian attack, it seems evident, was highly calculated and well managed likely through back door diplomatic channels so as not to provoke a full fledged war. Biden has been critical of Israeli policy of Rafah operation. Now the attack has relieved him to issue a license to kill more Palestinians. So, the attack actually means more misery and destruction for the Palestinians.

The only way forward is the class struggle. At first this may seem a far-fetched utopia. But a closer look will bring it to light like a shining star in the black night of capitalist reaction. During this very war there are glorious examples of this phenomenon. If class struggle is a utopia, what name can be given to the Jews’ movement in America “Not in Our Name”? What about the valiant “Stop the Boat” movement of the workers of America, Europe and Australia? What about the suicide of Aaron Bushnell, a young American airman, in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC uttering his last words: “Free Palestine”? Last but not the least, what should we call the passion of an Israeli youth whom Aljazeera quoted as saying in the earlier days of war “the easiest way to commit suicide in Israel these days is to come out with a Palestinian flag. But we do come out as it is needed more than ever.” These movements and voices are a clear manifestation of class struggle. They are the only signs which stand as a proof that humanity in not dead as yet. They maybe discorded and incoherent but they only need to be armed with revolutionary ideas, with an alternative political and economic programme to replace this barbaric and oppressive capitalist world order.

In Palestine and Israel as elsewhere in the world the class struggle is to begin with the people who, contrary to the beliefs of all shades and colours of supremacism, have a firm belief that all human beings are born equal; they are not only born equal, they have an absolutely equal right to life irrespective of their race, colour or creed. For the Palestinians to move forward, they will have to get rid of the likes of Hamas. There is no gainsaying the fact that such forces of dark reaction were conceived, nurtured, brought up, carefully looked after and financed by the imperialists themselves as a bulwark to ward off the danger of left-wing movements during the Cold War. Political Islam was the brainchild of John Foster Dalles, the American secretary of states during the 1950s. After the demise of the USSR, these forces, world over, have only substantiated the so-called Clash of Civilizations, an imperialist theory which provided a pretext for the imperialists to rampage the whole world. They are the supremacists of their own type. If their atrocities and callousness fall short of the Zionist standard, it is only because of their lesser ability and not because of their lesser intent or desire. Even general Palestinians are merely a scape goat for them. According to Ayellet Shani of Haaretz, “I asked Sinwar,” (Yayeh Sinwar, the ruler of Gaza before Israeli attack,) “Is it worth 10,000 Gazans dying?  He said, even 100,000 is worth it.”

Further it is a must to understand that the Palestinian issue is not a religious one as it is generally portrayed to be. The only possible comparison to the present carnage is the enmasse massacre of Palestinians in the Black September of 1970. It was carried through by their co religionist, King Hussain of Jordan. The man who spearheaded this operation was no other than Muhammad Zia Ul Haq, then a Brigadier and later the chief of the Pakistan Army and a brutal military dictator. How many Palestinians were killed, is not certainly known. The figures vary from 2000 to 25000. After the operation, Israeli defence minister is quoted to have sarcastically said, “Jordan’s King Hussein has killed more Palestinians in 11 days than Israel could kill in 20 years”. In the last analysis the Palestinian question is the class question. It is the question of the oppressed versus the oppressor; it is not the question of Islam vs Judaism.

Israeli working class is as much oppressed as it is in any other country. Poverty in general is said to be 14%, the highest among the developed countries. Among the orthodox Jews, it is 39%. Corruption is rampant. Every sort of dissent is brutally crushed. Uncertainty and a looming fear of death has been and is going to hunt every common Israeli. The myth of Iron Dome has been shattered to pieces after the recent Hamas attack. The current war will only exacerbate the miseries of the common Israelis. It is they who are to bear the cost of this war.

Two state solution is a myth. Either the Palestinians and Jews will have to live together in a united Palestine on the basis of new social contract of mutual co-existence or the present and coming generations will continue to be haunted by the same fate of killings, death, destruction and devastation as they have been for the last 76 years. From the Palestinians’ point of view, the Israeli working class and general masses together with the oppressed people of the middle east can make an end to their decade’s old sufferings. Only a socialist transformation can guarantee peace in this troubled land. So long as capitalism persists, its horrors will continue because in the words of the great revolutionary Lenin, capitalism is a “horror without an end”.