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76 8 THE BETRAYAL OF PALESTINIANS We must expel Arabs and take their places. —David Ben Gurion This is my homeland; no one can kick me out. —Yasser Arafat We will have to face the reality that Israel is neither innocent, nor redemptive . And that in its creation, and expansion; we as Jews, have caused what we historically have suffered; a refugee population in Diaspora. —Martin Buber Several epoch-making events happened in the Middle East within a brief period in the twentieth century.After seven years of exploration, the first major oil discovery was made in Iran in 1908, and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was incorporated a year later.1 It was the beginning of an oil bonanza, principally for Britain and the United States. During the same period turbine engines powered by oil began to replace coal-fired technology in a race to make imperial navies and road transportation more efficient.2 The change would have major consequences. In May 1916, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire inWorldWar I, the British and French governments concluded a secret agreement to carve up their spheres of influence. Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France negotiated what came to be known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Imperial Russia had a minor role in the exercise, acquiescing with Britain and France.3 The agreement Imperial Designs_13448.indd 76 3/12/13 2:44 PM THE BETRAYAL OF PALESTINIANS   77 stipulated that Britain and France “shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit” in areas designated to them. It led to the division ofTurkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine under French and British administration.The Arabs were shocked when the agreement was exposed by the Bolsheviks in 1917; they realized that two European powers had planned to divide the fertile crescent into colonies.4 In the same year the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, made a policy statement in a letter to Baron Walter Rothschild, a leader of Britain’s Jewish community. The Balfour Declaration said, “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.”5 The British cabinet approved the Balfour Declaration not merely because politicians such as David Lloyd George,Winston Churchill, and Arthur Balfour were ideologically of a Zionist bent.They also recognized that the Zionist project would serve as “a tool with which to cloak and to further imperial ambitions.”6 In part the aim was to limit Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to theWest, but in addition, “Western states found that Zionism could bring greater political advantages.” The minutes of a meeting between Balfour and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in 1919 were instructive of the thinking in London and Washington. Brandeis said that “as an American he was confronted with the disposition of a vast number of Jews, particularly Russian Jews pouring into the United States year by year.” And he came to the conviction that “Zionism was the answer.” In agreement, Balfour responded, “Of course, these are the reasons that make you and me such ardent Zionists.” The 1917 Balfour Declaration was an act of war, a calculated masterstroke with a number of objectives. It was designed to get international Jewry onside and encourage U.S. entry into World War I.At the same time, the Zionist project would counter support in Western Europe for Russian Bolsheviks, who had destroyed the czarist monarchy in a series of revolutions in the same year. Further, Great Britain could gain “Palestine as the strategic northern flank of the Suez canal —the gateway to India.”7 All this even though in 1917 Palestine was not under British control, but still part of the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain had neither the title of Palestine nor any claim over the territory.A century later the Balfour Declaration remained central to the main conflict in the Middle East, giving rise to many disputes. Imperial Designs_13448.indd 77 3/12/13 2:44 PM 78   IMPERIAL DESIGNS Scholars have described the Balfour Declaration as ambiguous.8 Actually,it was far from vague.Saying...


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