Washington, DC | www.adc.org | May 15th, 2017 – Today, marks the 69th anniversary of the expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland, the Nakba or Catastrophe, at the hands of Zionist paramilitaries. Over 400 Arab villages were depopulated and either razed or handed over to Jewish settlers, and over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees. From orange groves to libraries, Palestinian property was expropriated by the new state of Israel.
The tragic event was midwifed by the erstwhile British Empire. Later this November, the Palestinian people will mark another sad anniversary: A century since British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour penned a historic letter offering the blessing of His Majesty’s Government to the European Zionist movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. While Zionism, and Jewish colonial-settlers in Palestine, predate the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, the backing of the preeminent power of the day would forever alter the course of history.
The League of Nations Palestine Mandate awarded to Britain after WWI, however, explicitly stipulated that the sovereign power must establish representative government, but it would soon emerge that the British thought little of their obligation to respect Palestinian rights. In 1935, faced with growing Palestinian frustration, British colonial officers finally offered to establish a representative parliament, but this effort was obstructed by the pro-Zionist sympathies of the British House of Common, whose members believed that any expression of Palestinian self-determination would stand in the way of Zionism’s goal of a Jewish state in Palestine. As the eminent Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi has observed, the state that today boasts about its ostensibly status as the “only democracy in the Middle East” was only able to emerge through the denial of the democratic rights of the native Palestinian people.
And, so it was to be, that the Palestinians were to be continually ignored and subdued in the name of Zionism and the passions it stirred in the hearts of its Western patrons. “Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad,” Balfour wrote, “is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” Moreover, his Declaration – which oddly but revealingly referred to Arabs, the vast majority in Palestine, as the “non-Jewish communities,” as if they were an adjunct to newly arrived Jewish immigrants – spoke of the “civil and religious rights” but never the political rights of the unnamed Palestinians.
Such a conspicuous disregard for the rights of one people because of an ideological (and, at times, religious) commitment to Zionism continues to reflect much of the world’s approach to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and unceasing denial of Palestinian rights.
While Palestinians around the world remember the Nakba, Palestinian prisoners are on a hunger strike protesting their treatment by Israel, which systemically abuses jailed Palestinians, subjects many to periods of potentially indefinite “administrative detention” without charge, and coerces them to sign “confessions” that enables Israel’s military courts to score a 99% conviction rate. While many world leaders never tire of lecturing Palestinians to adopt peaceful measures of resistance, those same leaders are noticeable silent about the treatment of Palestinian prisoners and their form of peaceful struggle.
On this day, more than any other perhaps, Palestinians might be reminded about how little lofty words emanating from diplomats and foreign leaderships are worth. The Palestinians were promised self-determination only to see the Mandate end in the loss of their country, and the last several decades of a U.S.-brokered “peace process” has bequeathed more illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands and a more entrenched military occupation. The Palestinian people, however, have never relied on the good graces of foreign powers. Today, joined by solidarity activists around the world, Palestinian civil society seeks renewed hope in the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to hold Israeli accountable to international law and end a half-century of occupation.
The international community still has a role to play, primarily the United States, and an obligation to the Palestinian people to finally secure their just rights. ADC will continue to advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people to freedom, justice, equality and self-determination.
- The international community must hold Israel accountable for ongoing human rights violations and crimes committed against the Palestinian People, including forcible transfer, colonization and apartheid
- The US Government and the International Community particularly the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to uphold and fulfill their obligations and responsibilities to provide humanitarian aid and assistance as well as protection to the Palestinian People
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign:
You can also support Palestinian rights by participating in the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Click here to learn more about the BDS Campaign.