67 years of tragedy and hope for Palestinians

67 years of tragedy and hope for Palestinians
Since the UN decided on the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, it is the Palestinians who have suffered with expulsion, exile and continued oppression. 67 years on, tragedy is turning to hope.
5 min read
30 Nov, 2014
Following the establishment of Israel in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled [Charles Hewitt-Picture Post-Getty]

On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed the infamous partition Resolution 181 recommending the division of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
The date was to be designated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, though it to prove anything but as the partition day set in train a series of catastrophic events for the Palestinians.

The resolution to split Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states was passed by a majority of 33 votes, many of these countries extorted by coercion and threats those weaker states that were dependent on the US. The disgraceful story of how Zionist lobbying and US arm-twisting were used to force a vote in favour of the resolution must rank high amongst the most ignoble in history.

That Palestinians and Arabs rejected the partition plan should have been no surprise to anyone. It would never have been possible to persuade them that an Arab country should be divided between a colonial settler community and the indigenous population in a ratio of 56 to 44 per cent in favour of the settlers. The manifest injustice of such a proposal should have stopped it in its tracks if not at once, then soon afterwards. Yet the opposite has been the case.

The events that followed Resolution 181 are well known: the State of Israel was established and 750,000 Palestinians, three quarters of the indigenous population, were expelled. Their villages destroyed as they became exiles and refugees without the right to return to their homeland implemented or respected.   

The worst times

Each year "Palestine Day" seems to mark a further deterioration in Palestinian fortunes. 67 years after Resolution 181 was passed, the Palestinian situation is the worst it has ever been. The remnants of Palestine - East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, 20 per cent of the original country - are all under Israeli rule and each is struggling to survive. East Jerusalem is ringed by Israeli settlements and its Old City and Arab quarters are everywhere infiltrated by Jewish settlers; Arab Jerusalemites are increasingly squeezed between creeping Israeli colonisation and economic hardship.

All this has recently been aggravated following repeated incursions into the Aqsa mosque by Jewish religious fanatics, rumoured to be demanding that it be partitioned between them and Muslim worshippers. Despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assurances to King Abdullah of Jordan, the official custodian of Jerusalem’s holy places, that it wouldn’t happen, no Palestinian believes him.

Today East Jerusalem is a sad sight, its Arab character increasingly subsumed by the efforts of Israeli colonisers to erase it and substitute it for their own. The plight of the West Bank is no better. Israel controls 60 per cent of the land and the remaining 40 per cent, supposedly under Palestinians control, is segmented by Israeli roads, checkpoints and settlements. Every year these grow in number and size, topping nearly every hill and encroaching on Palestinian towns and villages to the point where they have acquired a spurious authenticity as if they had always been part of the landscape. 550,000 settlers now live in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the process of colonisation is continuing. In October Israel announced the seizure of a further 1000 acres of Palestinian land for settlement expansion near Bethlehem. International disapproval of this decision has done nothing to reverse it.

     Today East Jerusalem is a sad sight, its Arab character increasingly subsumed by the efforts of Israeli colonisers to erase it and substitute it for their own.

Gaza remains under siege and the wreckage of last July’s Israeli assault that caused over 2000 deaths, the destruction of 50,000 homes as well as a quarter of Gaza’s infrastructure is still there, uncleared and unrepaired. With the Rafah border in the south of Gaza closed by the Egyptian authorities, the hermetic seal of this impoverished strip of land is complete. No worse fate for a defenceless people can be imagined.

The right to return

Neither has anything changed for the 7 million Palestinians in exile who remain dispersed across the world. The cohesive Palestinian community that existed before 1948 is now shattered and fragmented, and the trend towards further estrangement and division can only grow if nothing is done to change it. This looks unlikely the longer Israel is left to sink its roots deeper into Palestine, making the damage done to the Palestinians by Israel’s creation that Resolution 181 did so much to assist, even harder to reverse. Israeli racism, present from the founding of the state, becomes more apparent every year, as the latest bill on Israel’s designation of itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people currently before the Israeli parliament, attests.

And yet, in spite of this grim picture, 29 November 2014 could herald the start of a new era for Palestinians. After 66 years of Israeli occupation and impunity, the tide might be turning at last. The latest war on Gaza led to a global outpouring of sympathy for the Palestinians and a parallel Israeli isolation. A BBC Gallup poll in Europe ranked Israel just above N. Korea in negative views. Nine European states now recognise Palestinian statehood, including Sweden, Britain and Spain, and more will doubtless follow. The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is growing rapidly, and the EU has proposed a ban on dealings with Israeli settlements, including their products. Even the US, Israel’s only friend, has shown disapproval of its policies. Unprecedented riots have erupted amongst Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem which, if continued, will be difficult for Israel to contain.

With this confluence of events favourable to the Palestinians, could the writing for Israel be finally on the wall? And could this 29 November no longer commemorate a past tragedy for the Palestinians but a true celebration of their future?

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.