From Balfour to Lions' Den: A contribution to defining Palestinian Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba began exactly 105 years ago with the release of a letter from then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to the leader of the Zionist movement in what became infamously called the Balfour Declaration.
As someone who grew up and was raised in the city of Yafa after the occupation of eastern Palestine in the 1967 war - known as the Naksa - in the house of his late grandfather (the eminent educator and theologian Professor Adib Sa’adeh Al-Khoury 1893-1947) and under the auspices of a great educational figure such as my grandmother, known as Madame Khoury, who's slogan "I'd rather die in my house in Yafa than become a refugee" became a mantra that engraved in our minds the effect of belonging to the land, and as someone who listened and read the successive enthusiastic political articles of his late father, the political writer Naim Youssef Machool, about the Nakba, the land, agriculture and steadfastness, as well as the articles, plays, interviews, and lectures of his mother, writer and novelist Antoinette Adib al-Khoury, I thought that based on this extensive personal experience, I should support and base my argument, listed below, on my journalistic observations from the 80s and 90s in Palestine in particular and on two decades of academic research on the Palestinian issue in Britain in particular, and present a contribution to an expanded project whose main idea I will briefly list below.
We say that it is widely accepted that the Nakba of the Palestinians took place chronologically under the British mandate between the partition plan and UN Resolution of 29/11/1947 and the 1949 armistice with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, although there was no agreement within the framework of an armistice or the like with the Palestinian people; whether those who were expelled from it or those who remained in their homeland.
Accordingly, the struggle involving the Palestinian people remains open: Zionist domination of Palestine and Palestinian resistance against the occupation.
This article, part of which was presented at the University of Freiburg in Germany in 2011 and the Bandung Conference in 2015 and 2022, argues that although the most catastrophic period of the Palestinian Nakba (lit. Catastrophe) reached its peak between 1947 and 1949, the Nakba in these two years was neither the beginning nor the end of the Palestinian people's catastrophe.
This article argues that the Nakba of the Palestinian people began exactly 105 years ago with the release of a letter from then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to the leader of the Zionist movement Baron Lionel Walter Rothchild in what became infamously known as the "Balfour Declaration" issued on 2/11/1917, which followed the occupation of Palestine by Britain that was involved in WWI, especially the occupation of Al-Quds by General Allenby in December 1917.
It also argues that the Nakba includes everything that has happened since then until now, but certainly, this catastrophe reached its calamitous peak between 1947 and 1949 - which witnessed the forced expulsion of half of the Palestinian people from their homeland and the destruction of the majority of Palestine’s cultural, commercial, political and social structure - and is continuing deliberately according to a master-plan that has not stopped and will not stop until achieving liberation and independence.
Apart from emotional slogans, it has long been argued and established that the project to invent the Zionist entity (in Palestine) was and still is based on a long-term joint program between the Zionist movement and some colonial powers, primarily Britain and the US. In addition, this article argues and warns that an attempt to implement a new chapter of the Nakba of the Palestinian people is very possible, including the expulsion of additional Palestinians from West and East Palestine because the goal is to seize Palestine (the geography) as a whole and the Palestinian people are seen as a demographic obstacle that must be eliminated to achieve this goal.
Since the peak of the Nakba between 1947 and 1949, Palestinians, whom I defined as "Nakba Survivors" - meaning those who were able to remain in their homeland and who were intended to be loggers and waterers, as per the Israeli occupation administration, for the ruling Zionist class and its Jewish Arab servants who were brought in from the Arab countries to colonize Palestine - consisted a “Security Problem” and a “Fifth Column” not only in Al-Jaleel (Galilee), Al-Muthallath (the Triangle Area where the Kafr Qassim massacre was perpetrated in October 1956), and Al-Naqab, but also in the Palestinian coastal cities, such as Akka in the north and Yafa in the south.
When the late historian Dr. Constantin Zureik published his book The Meaning of the Nakba in 1948, a few months after the Catastrophe and the peak of the Nakba, his description of the Catastrophe that befell the Palestinian people was accurate - due to what he witnessed personally and through his professional academic tools - being coupled with a resounding catastrophic psychological trauma.
However, examining what has happened to the Palestinian people, during the past 105 years, requires us to revisit this definition and present a new definition or at least an updated definition of the Nakba that has prevailed so far. What happened since 1917 onwards shows the numerous and ongoing chapters of the Nakba of the Palestinian people since the Balfour Declaration till now, including the decision to partition Palestine in 1947 and the occupation of the second part of Palestine in 1967, the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987, the Oslo Accords and their offshoots between 1993 and 1994 and the second Palestinian Intifada that began in Al-Quds in 2000, as well as the killing of the leading official Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat in 2004, the repeated wars on the Gaza Strip (2008-2022), and the ongoing aggression against the occupied West Bank and Al-Quds, in addition to a set of racist laws against the Palestinian people in western Palestine, specifically the so-called “National Law” of 2018 (having killed 13 of its own Arab-Palestinian citizens) which renders the regime into Apartheid, the continuous killing of the Palestinian people in occupied East Palestine and the arrest of more than a million Palestinian since the Naksa, including women, children and elderly, the expanding Jewish colonies that hasn't stopped and the confiscation of lands, the so-called "Deal of the Century" and Netanyahu and Trump’s "Annexation Scheme" (which was planned to be a decision and a media event in July 2020), which I called in a previous article the “third armed robbery," and the economic and “military” occupation siege on the Gaza Strip by air, sea and land,
On December 16, 2016, exactly on the 99th anniversary of the issuance of the Balfour Letter, we launched the "Palestine 100 Initiative" to re-engage with the beginning of this Catastrophe. We were determined to renew encouragement to open the Balfour file since the beginning of the Palestinian people’s Nakba in 1917 and held a publicity evening in London, the capital of the British Empire that issued the Balfour Letter to the Zionist movement. As part of holding Britain to its historical, legal, and moral responsibilities, we demanded three types of steps to be taken: apology, compensation, and correction.
The project that has been implemented since Balfour until now, and specifically since the release of this “promise”, which is a decisive, unjust, criminal and political step that has turned the power structure/equation in favour of the Zionist movement at the expense of the Palestinian people to the extent that the struggle to liberate Palestine, after more than a century, is still costly and with a continuous upward curve. The Palestinian people pay the price daily with their blood, sacrifices and torment in all parts of the world.
The decision taken by the British Empire at that time (we see that several colonial powers began to apologize, compensate, etc.) must be resisted:
1) with cultural/educational ideas and media messages
2) by political lobbying
3) through the judicial system in the UK and elsewhere if need be.
While we appreciate every effort that might be made to persuade the British government to apologize, which we doubt will happen in the foreseeable future based on the behaviour of British officlas, in these frameworks, we believe that reducing any of these steps would be either naive, incomplete or a deceptive act.