Local Time

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Palestine Documents From Basle to Oslo

From Basle to Oslo

The Jews invaded Palestine in 1220 BC. Except the periods of Prophet-Kings, Dawud (David) (d.961 BC) and Sulayman (Solomon) (d. 922 BC), they led a precarious existence, sandwiched between more powerful neighbours like the Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians and Romans. Their continuous intrigues, revolts and contacts with rival world powers (reminiscent of their current role) attracted retribution by their rulers and neighbours. The Chaldean emperor, Nebuchadnezzar took the extreme step of destroying Jerusalem in 587 BC and dispersing the Jews. They returned slowly and consolidated around Jerusalem. Roman general Titus (emperor 78-81 CE) partly destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE after a five-year-long Jewish rebellion. The Roman emperor Hadrian totally destroyed it in 135 CE after the Barcochba revolt. He renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and built a Roman pagan temple on the site of the Jewish Temple of Solomon.
The Jews were forbidden to live in or around Jerusalem, a law that continued till the Arab conquest in 639 CE, when according to Jewish sources (e.g., United Jewish Encyclopaedia, New York: 1948) they were immediately allowed to enter the city (although not to settle in Jerusalem according to the terms of surrender asked for by the people of Aelia and granted by the Caliph cUmar) [see my work on the ancient history of Palestine: Tarikh Filastain al-Qadim (Beirut 1973)]. The Jews, however, were allowed to live in other parts of Palestine. But there was no significant Jewish presence in Palestine all these years until the zionist movement emerged in the late 19th century. There was always a small Jewish community in Palestine and Jews from all over the world used to come on pilgrimage, while some aged Jews came to die there. Palestine remained a Muslim land ever since its conquest by the Arabs, with a brief interlude during the Crusades, from 1099 (when Muslims and Jews of the city were butchered) till its liberation by Salahuddin on 20 October 1187. Salahuddin at once allowed the Jews to settle in Jerusalem. His personal physician, Musa ibn Maimun (Maimonides), was such a great Jewish jurist and philosopher that the Jews say about him, 'from Moses to Moses, there is no one like Moses.'

During the Middle Ages, as the religious fervour of the Crusades caught up with the Europeans and brought death and persecution for the Jews in Europe, many Jews came to live in the sprawling Ottoman Empire. They usually chose prosperous commercial centres instead of Palestine. The first Jewish settlement in Palestine was established only in 1868 when some German Jews came to settle there with the consent of Sultan cAbd al-cAziz.
The flow of Jews to Palestine continued as a result of persecution as well as fears of assimilation into the European society, until 1885 when Sultan cAbd al-Hamid II (r. 1876 _ 1909), while allowing them to settle freely anywhere else in the sprawling Ottomon empire, expressly prohibited their settlement in Palestine. Jewish visitors and pilgrims were issued 'red passports' on arrival and had to leave Palestine within three months. European Jews started to build planned settlements in Palestine in the early 1880s. Baron Edmond de Rothschild supported settlement in Palestine, while Baron de Hirsch supported it in Argentina which too was a favourite for the proposed Jewish homeland.
During the second half of the 19th century some Jewish intellectuals, influenced by the 'nationalist' fever in Europe, came up with the idea of a 'Jewish' nation-State although the Jews did not form a majority anywhere in the world. Theodore Herzl (1860-1904), an Austrian Jewish journalist, articulated the idea in his book, Der Juden Staat (The Jewish State), published in 1895. The term 'zionism' itself was coined in 1893 by Dr Nathan Bimbauni.
Herzl devoted the rest of his life struggling to secure a piece of land for his state. In addition to Palestine, many locations were explored for this purpose, from Wadi al-cArish (Sinai), Cyprus, Argentina, Cyrenaica (al-Barqa in Libya) to Uganda. Herzl himself passionately argued in favour of Uganda which was offered by the British to the Jews to settle.
The zionists did not accept other options as they realised that only Palestine, with the sentimental attraction of Jerusalem, stood a good chance of attracting enough Jews to establish a viable State. Jewish settlements in Argentina, however, went on for many decades until Palestine was finally offered to the Jews by the British on a platter.
The zionists held their first congress in August 1897 at Basle, Switzerland, to mobilise popular support for a Jewish nation-State. During this conference Herzl announced that a Jewish state will emerge within 10 to 50 years.
Herzl spent many years, with the help of Jewish financiers, trying to buy Palestine from Sultan cAbd al-Hamid. Failing in that, he proposed to be given a 'charter of land-settlement' in Palestine in return for financial payments to the Ottoman State, paying off Turkish foreign debts and establishing a modern university in Istanbul. The Sultan told Jewish emissaries in 1901 that the Jews were free to settle anywhere else in the Ottoman State but, as Herzl recorded in his Diaries, he would prefer his body to be dissected than to give away a part of the Muslims' trust. This firm stand was partially responsible for the downfall of Sultan cAbd al-Hamid and later of the Ottoman State, since without its dismemberment the Jewish dream of acquiring Palestine could not be fulfilled. At the same time, Jewish elements in Turkey, particularly the Dunmeh, who professed Islam while retaining their old Jewish faith in secret, set out to dethrone Sultan cAbd al-Hamid, seen as an obstacle in their efforts to secure Palestine. This group, in an unholy alliance with westernised political figures and disgruntled minorities, succeeded when the so-called 'Young Turks' seized power in 1908. Corosso Effendi, one of the Young Turks and a Jew, was one of the three persons who broke the news of dethroning to Sultan cAbd al-Hamid. Corosso later led the Turkish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919! The Young Turks at once revoked the Sultan's orders not to allow Jewish pilgrims to stay in Palestine for more than three months, and opened it to Jewish settlement.
The zionists were in contact with European powers, particularly Britain, to secure help to acquire Palestine. The First World War provided them with a good opportunity to extract favourable promises in return for providing financial help and espionage services to the Allied Powers. Thus on 2 November 1917, with no right whatsoever over Palestine, which was yet to be occupied, the British government through foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, promised the zionists 'the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people... it being clearly understood that nothing will be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.' Soon other European powers, like France and Italy, issued similar statements. The US followed suit a few years later.
The British had already entered into two other conflicting agreements during the war about the land they were yet to occupy. With France (and Tsarist Russia) they concluded the 'Sykes-Picot' agreement signed on 16 May 1916 to dismember and divide between themselves the Arab provinces of the Ottoman State. According to this agreement, Palestine was to have 'an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Sharif of Mecca.' Earlier the British Viceroy in Egypt, Henry McMahon, had entered into an agreement with the Sharif of Makkah, Husain, to recognise and support 'Arab independence,' in the Syrian provinces of the Ottoman Empire in return for his declaration of war on Turkey. The Caliphate was to be returned to its rightful place: the Sharif was to be installed as the Arab Caliph and 'the King of the Arabs.'
To the Arabs, 'Palestine' was a part of Syria and used to be called 'South Syria.' The Sharifs revolt greatly facilitated the Allied war effort and crippled the Turkish army in the eastern theatre.
Soon after the October 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks discovered a copy of the 'Sykes-Picot' agreement in the Tsarist archives and promptly gave a copy to the Turks who, in turn, informed Husain, the Sharif of Makkah. The naive Sharif turned to the British to ascertain the authenticity of the document. The British promptly denied the agreement as a figment of Bolshevik imagination.
Sykes-Picot was put into action shortly after the war, with the arrival of a Jew, Herbert Samuel, as the British High Commissioner for Palestine, to initiate the judaization process even before the League of Nations' mandate was awarded to Britain. The French took over Syria including the Lebanon, sacked the short-lived government of Faisal in Damascus and drove him unceremoniously out of Syria. To date the Middle East endures under the Sykes-Picot boundaries.

The British forces entered Jerusalem on 9 December 1917. General Allenby took a stroll in the old city and declared, 'Today the Crusades have come to an end.' (Similarly his French counterpart in Syria, General Gauraud, upon taking Damascus from Faisal in July 1920 went straight to the tomb of Salahuddin, placed his boot on his grave and said: 'Look Saladin, we are back!).
The British government secured for itself the so-called 'mandate' of the League of Nations to implement the Balfour Declaration in Palestine. The country was subjected to waves of unlimited Jewish immigration. From 58,000 Jews in 1919, their numbers swelled to 608,000 in 1946. The number of exclusive Jewish settlements during the same period rose from 71 to 373. Britains commitment to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine was announced to the countrys overwhelming Arab majority only after more than two years of having occupied their country, i.e., on 20 February 1920.
While the Arabs of Palestine resisted the occupation and the judaization of their country from the very beginning, the British and Jews found some local collaborators to ease their task. Palestinian leaders met in 'general congresses' and elected their 'executive committees' to resist the perils facing their people and country. Delegations were sent to London and Arab and Islamic capitals in order to mobilize support. Popular and violent uprisings from time to time burst out demonstrating popular unrest and frustration. Following are some of the landmarks of Arab-Palestinian resistance during the pre-1936 years:
4-5 April 1920: 251 injured and 9 (4 Arabs, 5 Jews) killed at Jerusalem.
Yafa disturbances, 1-7 May 1921 (against Jewish immigration): 47 Jews killed, 147 injured; 48 Arabs killed (mainly by police and army firing), 73 injured.
2 November 1921: 5 Jews and 3 Arabs killed, 36 injured in Yafa (Jaffa) after Jews clashed with an Arab demonstration against the Balfour Declaration.
'AI-Buraq Uprising,' 17-29 August 1929: anti-Jewish Arab attacks all over Palestine which were triggered by Jewish attempts to occupy parts of al-Aqsa Mosque's Western Wall (which the Jews call 'the Wailing Wall'). 133 Jews killed and 339 injured; 116 Arabs killed and 232 injured, mostly by police and army bullets.
Country-wide Strike, October 1933, against the Jewish immigration and the British rule: 24 Arabs killed, 204 injured by police firing. During 1933-35 alone Arab workers staged 46 strikes in Palestinian towns against the Judaization programme.
These efforts during the early years of the British occupation were directed mostly against the Jews, instead of the British who had been able to fool the Arabs until then and secure for themselves the role of an 'arbitrator' to balance between the two 'warring' parties!
cIzz al-Din al-Qassam, a Syrian calim who had studied at al-Azhar, was the first to call and carry out armed struggle against the British (instead of the Jews) for being 'the actual evil' in Palestine, who had introduced the policy of the Jewish homeland and then coined the term of 'equality of obligation' in order to continue to rule the country.
Shaykh al-Qassam was martyred in an unequal battle with the British. 600 policemen besieged 12 mujahids including the Shaykh and nine other culama, on 19 November 1935 on a tip-off by an informer. They refused to surrender. In a six-hour battle, the Shaykh and two of his colleagues were martyred, two were arrested and the rest were able to evade the siege but were later arrested and imprisoned for long terms.
It was the members of the Shaykh's movement who ignited the Great Revolt of 1936 by attacking certain targets on the night of April 13 that year. As the ground was ready, a general strike was announced all over the country which quickly turned into a full-fledged revolt. Volunteers came from a number of Arab countries, particularly from Syria and Trans-Jordan, to take part in the armed rebellion. The British rushed troops from Egypt, Cyprus and Malta. Fierce battles were fought all over the country. As the rebellion spread and became uncontrollable by force, the British sought the help of their allies, King Ibn Sacud of Arabia, King Ghazi of Iraq and Emir cAbdallah of Trans-Jordan. These Arab rulers exerted extreme pressure, coupled with threats, and issued simultaneous and identical appeals to the Arabs of Palestine on 10 October 1936 to call off the rebellion and 'rely on the good intentions of our friend Great Britain,' who has declared that she will do justice.' Thus the revolt was halted. The Palestinian Arabs were ruthlessly crush and disarmed. They could never regain the initiative after 1936.
The Royal Peel Commission, formed to investigate the revolt, believed that about 1,000 Arabs were killed during the rebellion, mostly during fighting. The Commission was boycotted by the Arabs of Palestine because, as the Commission left London for Palestine on 5 November, the Colonial Secretary announced that there would be no suspension on Jewish immigration during the course of the Commission's inquiry. Arab rulers' pressures led the Palestinian leadership, the Arab Higher Committee, to change its position and agree to appear before the Commission.
With an official announcement that the British Government had accepted it, the Peel Commission published its report on 7 July 1937. It proposed for the first time the idea of partitioning Palestine into three parts: one for a Jewish State, another one for an Arab State, and a third part, with strategic and religious areas including Jerusalem, to remain under British control. As the Commission gave the Jews the best lands of Palestine in much greater proportion than their actual numbers or ownership of land, the Jews accepted the plan while the Arabs rejected it and demanded total independence for the whole of Palestine.
On 17 July 1937 the British tried to arrest al-Haj Amin al-Husaini, who had led the Great Revolt. He took refuge in the Haram of al-Aqsa and later escaped to Lebanon on 14 October where from he helped in directing the next phase of the rebellion.
In their attempt to prevent further revolt, the British went ahead to crush Arab opposition, arresting and banishing leaders and outlawing the Arab committees that had led and coordinated the rebellion. Al-Haj Amin was stripped of his position as the head of the Supreme Islamic Council and of the Awqaf Committee of Palestine. Many of the prominent leaders were banished to the Seychelles on 1 October 1937.
The Rebellion erupted again on the night of 14-15 October 1937. Now the British allowed Jewish terrorist gangs and armed them to take part in fighting the popular revolt. Despite sharp reprisals, arrests, collective fines and harassment of the villagers, within months the rebels gained the upper hand. They were fighting both the British forces and the armed Jewish gangs. The rebellion reached its climax during the summer of 1938. It was directed by Palestinian leaders who had taken refuge in Syria and Lebanon with almost total popular support on the ground. By August the rebels were in virtual control of a number of cities as more British troops continued to flow in from British colonies like Egypt, Malta and Cyprus.
With the Nazi threat looming large over Europe, the British government now resolved to take even harsher measures to crush the rebellion. With more British troops, supported by Jewish armed gangs, the British started to re-occupy the country and disarm it. This was coupled with a new policy ruling out the Peel Commission recommendations and inviting representatives of Palestinian Arabs and Jews, as well as Arab states, to London for a 'Round Table Conference' to arrive at an acceptable solution. The resulting 'Round Table Conference' (February 1939), in which prime minister Neville Chamberlain talked to the Arabs in the morning and to the Jews in the afternoon, led the British to partially accept the Arab demands of independence, but it was to be under British protection in which the Jewish minority was to be safeguarded by constitutional guarantees. Another conference was to be convened in autumn to lay down the constitution.
The Jews rejected this outcome because it would effectively prevent the emergence of their independent state. From now on Jewish terrorism went ahead to achieve what Jewish diplomacy had failed to. Bombs started to explode all over Palestine. The British went ahead and published the 'White Paper' of 1939, declaring 'unequivocally' that it was not their policy that Palestine be allowed to become a Jewish State. Similarly an Arab State was also ruled out.
The White Paper declared that what HMG desired to see 'ultimately' was 'an independent Palestinian State in which the two peoples of Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority in government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secured... The object of HMG is the establishment within ten years of an independent Palestinian State in such treaty relations with UK as will provide satisfaction for all commercial and strategic interests of both countries.' Restrictions on sales of lands to Jews and on Jewish immigration, as well as gradual introduction of self-government, were also announced. A minority of the Arabs accepted the White Paper, while the Jews totally rejected it and went about to sabotaging it with US support.
As the Second World War approached, Britain had crushed the Arab rebellion and killed or arrested or driven away most of its leaders. While the Arabs of Palestine were disarmed and immobilized by British military force and Arab rulers' political pressures, the Jews intensified their struggle to dislodge Britain and establish their own state in Palestine. With earlier British permission and encouragement, the zionists had become an armed force to reckon with. By 1946, according to the joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry's report on Palestine, the zionist forces consisted of a full-time strike force of 2,000 (the Palmach), with a reserve of 4,000; a field army of 16,000 trained in military operations and an auxiliary force of 40,000 part-time fighters, drawn from settlers. The zionists also had at the time 21 aircraft as well as many tanks and armoured cars. The zionists had greatly benefited by joining the Allies' armies during the Second World War. The Haganah, the 'official' armed wing of the Jewish Agency, which in May 1948 was transformed into the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), existed with tacit British approval and understanding. The Arabs, on the other hand, were hanged after summary trial if found in the possession of unlicensed fire-arms.
As the zionists unleashed terror against the British in Palestine, they, with strong support in the US, succeeded in mobilising political pressure on the American and Russian governments to secure enough votes (33 to 13 with 10 abstentions) at the UN General Assembly [amid strong misgivings about the power of the UN to partition countries] to recommend the partition of Palestine on 29 November 1947, giving the Jews; who constituted a third of the population, around 60 percent of the land including the most fertile areas, leaving the smaller and poorer proportion of the country to the Arab majority. The Arabs constituted a majority even in the areas earmarked for the Jews!
The zionists now turned their terror on the Arabs of Palestine with a view to drive out as many of them as possible from the Jewish State in what is termed these days as 'ethnic cleansing.' The record of Jewish terror is so great that a whole book is needed to do justice to the subject. This organised programme of terror, codenamed 'Operation Dalet,' was unleashed on 1 April 1948 against the unarmed Palestinian population while the British were still ruling the country. In this operation 14 selected Palestinian villages and towns, such as Deir Yasin, were carefully targeted and attacked to inflict maximum terror, with mass killings, rape and parading captured Arab women naked in Jewish areas, in order to force the maximum number of Arab inhabitants to flee.

In secret understanding with the Jews and the US, the British withdrew from Palestine on 14 May 1948, without, for the first and only time in their colonial history, transferring power to any administration. (The officially declared date for British withdrawal was 1 August 1948!). The Jews simultaneously declared the emergence of Israel while the Arabs of Palestine remained stunned by the events. They had not recovered from the defeat and disarming of 1936-1939 and most of their leaders were exiled or on the run outside Palestine. The US recognized the Jewish State within minutes of its declaration. Russia followed suit shortly after.
A civil war erupted in Palestine as a result of the Jewish terrorist activity attempting to establish their state in all possible areas of Palestine. The UN General Assembly met on 14 May 1948, the last day of the British mandate, and adopted Resolution 186-S2, which in effect annulled the earlier partition recommendation' and appointed a 'UN mediator' to virtually run the country and try to reach a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian Question.
This UN mediator was Count Folke Bernadotte, President of the Swedish Red Cross, who was appointed on 20 May 1948. He chalked out a new partition plan which was to give the Arab majority a greater share of the country. This was unacceptable to the Jews. He was assassinated in Jerusalem in broad daylight on 17 September 1948 by the Stern Gang, a Jewish terrorist outfit, then led by Yitshak Shamir who later became a top Mossad functionary and rose to the position of prime minister like fellow terrorist Menachem Begin who belonged to a similar clandestine organisation, the Irgun Gang). Contingents of Arab soldiers were sent in half-heartedly to 'rescue' Palestine and its defenceless Arab population. In effect, they went in to facilitate the emergence of the Jewish State by executing the Partition Plan and preventing a popular Arab uprising.
The supreme command of the Arab armies was placed on the shoulders of King cAbdallah of Jordan who himself wanted to annex the Arab part of Palestine to his emirate. The commander of his army was a British officer, General John Bagot Glubb, popularly known as 'Glubb Pasha' who became the commander-in-chief of the Arab armies fighting in Palestine! Glubb and cAbdallah ensured that the Arab armies never entered the areas allocated to the Jews, while the Jews were free to conquer Arab areas.
During this fighting the Jews managed to take control of 6,250 sq. miles. By the time of the 1949 armistice, the Jewish area had swelled to 8,000 sq. miles. 70 percent of the Arabs in the area under Jewish control had fled from their homes, villages and towns. In addition to Western [or New] Jerusalem which had an Arab majority taking into account the Arab localities and villages in the area, the Jews also took total control of 12 predominantly Arab cities (Yafa [Jaffa], Haifa, Akka, Safad, al-Ludd (Lydda), Ramlah, Tabariyah, Bisan, Majdal, Ain Karem, Bir-Sab' (Beersheba) and Shafa 'Amr), in addition to 625 Arab villages out of which 492 villages were bulldozed in order to erase history. New Jewish settlements were built on their sites. 480 mosques were destroyed and 14 mosques converted to factories or clubs and 400 Muslim cemeteries cleared and converted to farms and the like. Perhaps to remind the world of Jewish terror and lunacy, a mental asylum was built on the site of Deir Yasin, an Arab village which saw the worst massacre during the Jewish terrorist activity in 1948!
In 1949 the number of the Palestinian refugees, as a result of the Jewish unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) and the subsequent civil war was 960,000, scattered in Ghazzah, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. According to UNRWA, it had reached 1,280,880 in 1965, and was estimated at three million in the late 1980s. According to an UNRWA report of June 1996, there were 3,417,688 Palestinian refugees registered with it. There are many more who are not registered with the UNRWA or living in places and countries where the UNRWA does not operate.
According to estimates of the Higher Arab Committee of Palestine, a total of 100,000 Palestinian Arabs were killed by the Israelis between 1948-1967 and 3000 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Ghazzah from 1967 to 1997. They also destroyed approximately 2500 Palestinian houses in the occupied territories during the same period (1967-97).
In May 1949, Israel was accepted as a member of the UN (dominated by Israel's western allies) on pledging that it will allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, and will enforce the UN resolutions. Far from honouring this solemn undertaking, the zionist government enacted the 'Law of the Absentees' in 1950 which allowed the Jews to take control of the properties left behind by the Arab refugees. The value of these properties was estimated at the time at Stg 2,000 million, yielding an annual income of 47.5 million. At the same time another legislation, the 'Law of Return,' allowed Jews from all over the world an automatic right to 'return' to Israel while the Palestinians were forcibly prevented from returning to their own homes from refugee camps across the Israeli borders.

While the Jews declared their state at once as the British retreated on 14 May 1948, the Palestinian Arabs procrastinated in confusion. It was only in September 1948 that a meeting was organised at Ghazzah by al-Haj Amin al-Husaini which led to the formation of 'The Arab Government of All Palestine' headed by Ahmad Hilmi Pasha. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon recognised this government.
Emir cAbdallah of Jordan had other plans. He had captured a part of the West Bank earmarked for the Arab state. Instead of handing it over to the Palestinian government in Ghazzah he manoeuvred to annex those parts to his emirate which the British had awarded him in April 1921 redeeming, in part, the Sharif-McMahon accord. He organised 'the Arab Palestinian Congress' at Ariha (Jericho) in October 1948. Attended by his supporters, traders and the elements of the Palestinian Hizb al-Difa (Defence Party of the Nashashibis), which had collaborated with the British, the congress decided to 'request' union with Jordan. This 'request' was quickly granted and ratified by the Jordanian parliament on 13 December 1948. As a result, the emirate became a 'kingdom' and Emir cAbdallah a king. Arab countries condemned this development and Jordan's membership in the Arab League was frozen.
cAbdallah was assassinated by a Palestinian youth on 30 July 1951 in the courtyard of al-Aqsa Mosque. Soon all was forgiven (as happens quite often in Arab politics) and Jordan was welcomed back into the Arab League in September 1952. The Palestinian government at Ghazzah (Gaza) collapsed as the Egyptian government drove it away, expelled Palestinian leaders like al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini from Ghazzah, and placed the Gaza Strip under military administration. This arrangement continued until June 1967 when Ghazzah was occupied by the Israelis.
Having facilitated Jewish control over 77 percent of Palestine, and gobbling the rest, the Arab regimes now turned Palestine into a sacred cow. Every crime was committed, every discordant voice silenced and every human right violated in the name of working for the liberation of Palestine.
The Palestinians, tired of waiting for the Arab regimes to liberate their homeland for them, decided to take the matters into their own hands. Thus the first Palestinian National Council (PNC) met in Jerusalem in 1964 and led to the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), headed by Ahmad al-Shuqairi, a Palestinian who had been the Saudi envoy at the UN.
The PLO, recognized by the Arab League, worked within the official Arab framework. At about the same time a clandestine guerrilla organisation, the Palestinian Liberation Movement (Fateh) was established by a group led by Yasser Arafat. Fateh started the guerrilla struggle against the zionists at the dawn of the first day of 1965.
The Jewish State, on the other hand, continued to enlarge its boundaries through its terror tactics. Observers on Israeli-Arab armistice lines registered 43,000 violations from the Jewish side while none took place from the Arab side during 1948-1967. In October 1956, with active British and French help and participation, in what is now known as the 'Tripartite Aggression,' Israel occupied Ghazzah and the Sinai Peninsula. The US Administration, for its own strategic reasons, forced Israel and its allies to bite the dust and withdraw.
The Jordanians lost the West Bank, including the Arab Jerusalem, the Egyptians lost Ghazzah and the Syrians the Golan Heights during the Israeli 'pre-emptive' aggression of June 1967, this time round with full US backing. Now even the remaining 23 percent of Palestine was lost. It is this remaining 23 percent, and not the original 43 percent for the proposed Arab State, that Arafat is eager to 'regain.' (The territory given to Arafat under the Oslo Accords represents only two percent of the total area of Palestine.) Jerusalem was formally 'annexed' and pronounced the 'eternal' capital of the temporary State of Israel at the end of 1980. Golan was 'annexed' a year later.

The 1967 defeat badly damaged the prestige of the Arab regimes. This led Arafat, then the spokesman of Fateh, to take over as chairman of the PLO at the end of 1967. A number of heroic operations against Israel, including the battle of al-Karamah in March 1968, gained great popularity in the Arab world and beyond and helped heal the wounded Arab and Muslim pride. The Palestinian leaders lost their heads. Soon their negative practices allowed King Husain to drive them out of Jordan in what was later termed as 'Black September' (1970).
The armed Palestinians now moved into Lebanon, without learning any lessons from their Jordanian experience. The Lebanese army tried and failed to oust them. Their harsh and unjust treatment of the population alienated them even from the Muslims of Lebanon who had welcomed them with open arms. In 1974 the Arab Summit recognised the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian armed presence was mainly responsible for the eruption of the Lebanese civil war in April 1975 but the Palestinians refused to take sides and left the Lebanese Muslims alone to bear the brunt of the Phalangist-Maronite onslaught. The PLO committed itself only after many months of the civil war. But as the Lebanese Muslims and the PLO were about to emerge victorious, the Syrians intervened on the Maronite side in June 1976. The Maronites, with Syrian backing, committed the massacres of Tal al-Zactar, Jisr al-Basha and other Palestinian camps in and around Beirut. The Syrians subdued the PLO but could not crush it. Their idea was to make it subservient to Damascus.
In 1978 Anwar Sadat concluded the first unilateral peace treaty with Israel at Camp David. It provided for Palestinian autonomy on lines that were more or less similar to those provided for in the Oslo Accords, but Begin reneged on this part of the treaty as soon as he reached Tel Aviv but Sadat did not have the courage to call Begins bluff and cancel the accord.
The PLO had refused to join the process while the Syrians had left at an early stage when they realised that they will not regain the occupied Golan Heights. The PLO joined the rejectionist front championed by Saddam Husain and Hafez al-Asad. Sadat was termed as a 'traitor and boycotted.
During 1979-1982 Israel evacuated from Sinai in accordance with the Camp David accords, which stipulate that most of the peninsula will remain demilitarised. The Camp David accords neutralised Egypt and allowed Israel to invade Lebanon in 1978 and 1981. These mini-wars were followed in the summer of 1982 by a major Israeli onslaught on Lebanon to crush the Palestinian resistance (in order to finish off the Palestinian issue forever) and to impose the dream of zionist supremacy over the Middle East.
The onslaught against Lebanon was planned in Washington and had full American support throughout the long summer of the Beirut siege when hundreds of thousands of civilians were bombarded and starved in order to flush out PLO fighters. Arabs watched in utter disbelief, anger and inaction as an Arab capital remained besieged by Israeli tanks for three months. This led to the emergence of the Hizbullah in south Lebanon and the Tawhid Movement in Tripoli, north Lebanon. Just like the Iraqi army in Palestine back in 1948, Syria was a mere spectator during the 1982 Israeli onslaught, although it kept a huge army in Lebanon on the pretext of protecting the Palestinians and the Lebanese against Israeli aggression _ a spectacle similar to that of the Iraqi army in Palestine in 1948 when they did not participate in the fighting on the pretext of having no orders. Maaku awaamir (we have no orders) entered Arab history as a telling phrase to illustrate official apathy towards burning problems.
Shortly before the Beirut invasion, the then Israeli defence minister, Ariel Sharon, had defined Israel's area of influence to extend from Zaire in the heart of Africa to Pakistan on the periphery of the Middle East! The original Israeli plan was to Balkanise the Middle East into small satellite statelets dependent on Tel Aviv. Popular resistance by the Muslims of Lebanon, with no backing by the Lebanese or other Arab governments, frustrated these grand plans and forced the zionists and their western allies, the US, France and Britain who had hurried with their mighty naval fleets, to retreat without preconditions for the first time in recent history.
Israel showed its real face when, through its Phalangist cronies, it supervised and arranged the massacres of thousands of helpless Palestinian civilians in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in September 1982. This occurred just after the evacuation of the PLO fighters, which was carried out only after receiving written American guarantees, delivered personally to Yasser Arafat by President Reagan's special envoy, Philip Habib, for the safety of Palestinian refugees in Beirut. Years later Arafat waved that paper to King Husain to emphasise that he has no faith in American guarantees.
After Beirut, the PLO lost its independence, prestige and bargaining power. Its offices, activists and fighters were scattered around the Arab world while its headquarters were shifted to a Tunis suburb under the watchful eyes of the Tunisian security and intelligence people.

In the meantime the Arab regimes had moved closer to Camp David. King Fahd's proposals which could not be passed at the Faas (Fez) summit in 1981, were easily passed in September 1982 after the PLO was uprooted from its Lebanese strongholds. The Faas Plan was the first collective Arab indication of readiness to make peace with Israel within the 1948 boundaries or rather within the pre-June 1967 borders which were greatly expanded during 1948-49.
The PLO military defeat and Arafat's shielding of the commanders who had fled from South Lebanon during the Israeli onslaught, led to the first serious schism within Fateh and PLO ranks in 1983. After departure from Beirut, Arafat moved closer to the Camp David camp. He tried his luck (and failed) in 1986 with King Husain to arrive at an arrangement that would be acceptable to Israel and the US to start negotiations about the future of the West Bank. Israel, on the other hand, had lost all interest in peace with its weak neighbours. It clearly preferred territory to any fragile peace.
Then an unexpected event exploded in the West Bank and Ghazzah on 9 December 1987. It was the Intifadah, uprising, of a people tired of the Israeli occupation and humiliation. Their continuous sacrifice and defiance captured the attention of the whole world. The PLO quickly capitalised and adopted an event it had contributed little to or even hoped would ever occur. It was the accepted wisdom until then that Palestine will be liberated from outside. King Husain, by renouncing Jordan's administrative and legal links with the West Bank in July 1988, further gave a boost to the PLO.
In a total reversal of policy, just as the Intifadah was starting to hurt the occupiers, the 19th PNC meeting at Algiers on 15 November 1988 said goodbye to 77 percent of Palestine hoping to get the remaining 23 percent in return. The PNC, the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, was attended by 338 delegates out of its total strength of 450 members. 186 West Bank and Ghazzah members were not allowed by Israel to attend. As a result of Syrian hostility and threats, only 27 out of 73 members based in Syria ventured to come. The new policy was approved by 253 votes to 46, with 10 abstentions.
The PNC was held with a single-point agenda: 'to declare the Palestinian state in the occupied territories.' In doing so it accepted all UN resolutions about Palestine, including the hitherto rejected 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973 which are the corner-stones of the Camp David 'peace' process and justify Israeli expansionism. Both of them concern only 'territories' [without the definite article] occupied in June 1967 and dismiss the Palestinian problem as that of 'refugees.' These two resolutions confirm the right of all states in the region (i.e., including Israel) to live in peace 'within secure and recognised boundaries,' and ignore the earlier UN resolutions calling for 'self-determination' for the Palestinians. The PNC also explicitly renounced 'terrorism of every kind,' and asked for the West Bank and Ghazzah to be placed under UN supervision for a limited period 'to achieve peace and security for all.' East, or Arab, Jerusalem, 'annexed' by Israel, was to be the capital of the new hypothetical state. Announcing the decision. Yasser Arafat said that the new state will be governed by a democratic, parliamentary system based on freedom of opinion, multiple parties, freedom of worship and equality between men and women. 15 November was declared an cid (a day of celebration and rejoice) for all Palestinians.
The new 'State' was to be based at the Arab League HQ in Tunis. PLO offices abroad were to become 'embassies' of the new metaphysical State. The PLO was to continue as a separate identity, although both were to be led by Yasser Arafat. This duality was to ensure that the PLO could come to the fore should the new policy fail to take off! The natural consequence of declaring a 'State,' a provisional movement-in-exile, was deferred. The PLO executive council was to function as a 'temporary government.'
By accepting the UN partition plan, in other words the 'two-state solution' of the Palestinian problem, the PLO gave away its last 'card' without securing recognition from Israel or the US in return. Arafat paid in advance a very high price for something he was never sure to achieve. Since both Israel and the US were opposed to any independent Palestinian state, Arafat was ready to revive the 'Jordan option,' i.e., a confederation-style government with Jordan. This was agreed between Husain, Mubarak and Arafat during their Aqabah meeting in October 1987.
The evolution from 'revolution' to 'statehood' meant entering the framework of contemporary international law which strictly restricted PLO's movements and options. The euphoric PLO leadership pinned its hopes on two things: the moral force of its cause and the perpetuation of the Intifadah. Moral force alone has settled nothing in recent memory.
In early 1989 the US resumed its dialogue with the PLO at Tunis after Arafat's explicit acceptance of UN Resolution 242 and renunciation of 'terrorism.' The road was open to Oslo via Madrid. Arafat's betting on the wrong horse during the Gulf War only delayed the matter. Saddam Husain's folly in Kuwait in 1990 led to the collapse of the Rejectionist Front and forced the Palestinians to forgo the areas occupied in 1948-49 leaving out about 5 million Palestinians refugees forever and accepting a truncated West Bank and Ghazzah in which too they will not enjoy full sovereignty but will only remain an appendage to Israel as a careful study of the Oslo Accords will show. They will have to live amid Israeli settlements, both civilian and military under the straightjacket of tight Israeli control in which the Jewish State will retain the veto power on everything in the Palestinian entity. With this outcome the Palestinian Question remains as unsettled today as ever. This is why many Palestinians reject the current peace process because it does not offer them freedom and sovereignty even in the remaining 23 percent of their homeland.


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