The Question of Palestine
By Mubasshir Mushtaq
The siege will last in order to convince us that we must choose an enslavement that does no harm in fullest liberty.
(Late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish)
As Palestinians mark Nakba, the catastrophe, signifying the 61st anniversary of occupation of Palestine by the Jewish state of Israel, a question needs to be asked: Is 61 years of Palestinian suffering akin to the holocaust suffered by Jews? In the above question lies the irony of Israel; a nation carved out by the oppressed has become a nation of oppressors.
Theodore Herzel, a journalist, is the father of modern Zionism who toured the world extensively to propagate the idea of a nation for Jews. He worked hard in a mission to explore the possibility of establishing a state for Jews in Palestine. He promoted Zionism through his writings on the international stage. In June 1896, he met the Abdul Hamed II, 34th Sultan of Ottoman Empire in Istanbul, to convince him that Palestine should be handed over to Zionists. But Sultan refused to cede Palestine to Zionists and said, “If one day the Islamic State falls apart then you can have Palestine for free, but as long as I am alive I would rather have my flesh be cut up than cut out Palestine from the Muslim land.”
In 1898, after meeting with German Kaiser Wilham II, Herzel wrote about Palestine, “a perfect beautiful woman, fulfill all our requirements but married.”
The words of Abdul Hamid II came true when Ottoman Empire crumbled in 1918, nine years after his death. Abdul Hamid was the last Ottoman Sultan to rule with absolute power. Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 is seen by many historians as a turning point in Western Arab relations. According to one of the terms of the agreement, Arabs were promised a “national homeland” through T.E. Lawrence for their support to the British forces against the Ottoman army. British never kept their word. In fact, they negated this promise by issuing Balfour Declaration in 1917 promising “a national home for the Jewish people.” The declaration read, “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.”
The Arabs and Christians of Palestine together disapproved of any such move arguing that it could have serious political consequences.
The seed of Israel as planted by Theodore Herzel was watered by fervent Zionist Winston Churcill, who went on to become Prime Minister of United Kingdom in 1940. The seed took shape of a full-fledged tree on November 29, 1948 when United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish territories. Out of 56 members, 33 voted in favour, 13 against and 10 chose to abstain.
Thus was born the Jewish state of Israel in 1948; 44 years after the death of Theodore Herzel.
The tide of history turned against the Arabs and Muslims once again but Muslims all across the world should not be disheartened. Islamic concept of power can be summed up in three words: rise, fall and renewal. Muslims all across the world are undergoing the second phase of Islamic concept of power. Muslims have ruled Palestine from 630 CE to 1918 with a brief Christian rule lasting only 88 years (1099 to 1187).
With the creation of Israel in 1948, 7 lakh Palestinians became refugees. Dispossessed Palestinians were substituted with Jews who come from different parts of the world carrying knives, guns and explosives against the civilian population. A religious propaganda and allegations based on the myth and the falsification of history and heritage, to form that particular ideological falsehoods peddled by the Zionists provide energy to achieve the necessary human colonial project on the land of Palestine.
In the last 61 years Palestine-Israel conflict, Jewish state has annexed thousands of acres of cultivable land and now it almost holds 78% of Palestine.
It is in this context that Nakba must been seen. Commemorating the anniversary of Nakba, is not merely an occasion to remember those who experienced bleeding, homelessness and fear, killed, burned and jailed throughout the sixty one years, but to raise the voices of millions who refuse to accept the basis on which Israel was created as a state. It is a rejection of the project called a “Jewish state “and a determination for the right of return of the Palestinian people to their homeland.
The tragedy which started with the expulsion of 7 lakh Palestinians now affects the plight of at least 10.5 million Palestinians all across the globe. It is a catastrophe, the largest and the most heinous crime committed against a nation. It is against right and reason, human rights and freedom of people.
When Arabs took the initiative of peace in 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut, they demanded that Israel must go back to June 1967 line of control. There must be an establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem at its capital and right of return of Palestinian refugees as per United Nations Security Council resolution 194. All of this was rejected by Israel.
What more, all these years Israel has secretly continued “Judaization” of Al-Quds (Jerusalem). It is not only Palestinians Muslims who have no access to religious sites but also Palestinians Christians are not allowed to visit their holy shrines.
Everybody knows the role United States has played in Israel-Palestine conflict. Will there be a tilt in President Obama’s administration? Going by the recent news item, one thinks Obama is surely going to change US policy although it may not amount to radical change. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first planned meeting with President Obama has been called off.
Netanyahu was keen to capitalize on his attendance at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington to visit the White House but officials have ruled out any meeting because President will not be “in town.” Experts speculate that Obama would not like to continue the Bush legacy of hosting Israeli prime ministers sometimes with just a phone call’s notice!
Jews have always enjoyed special favour under Muslim rule. When Umar, second caliph of Islam entered Jerusalem on foot, he did an agreement stipulating the rights and obligations of all non-Muslims in the holy land of Palestine. Jews were permitted to return to Palestine for the first time since the 500-year ban enacted by the Romans and maintained by Byzantine rulers. The same tradition was followed by was followed by Harun al-Rashid (786-809) who established the Christian Pilgrims’ Inn in Jerusalem, fulfilling Umar’s pledge to Bishop Sophronious to allow freedom of religion and access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.
Jews have forgotten the humane angle of the Muslim rule. How can a people who have witnessed holocaust in the hands of Adolf Hitler tolerate the same kind of madness being leashed by their own government on hapless Palestinians?