Britain’s phantoms of the past in Palestine By Ramzy Baroud
It would be intellectually dishonest to reflect on the British House of Commons’ vote of October 13, on a Palestinian state without digging deeper into history. Regardless of the meaning of the non-binding motion, the parliamentary action cannot be brushed off as just another would-be country to recognize Palestine, as was the Swedish government’s decision on October 3.
Unlike Sweden, and most of the 130-plus countries to effectively recognize Palestine, Britain is a party in the Middle East’s most protracted conflict. In fact, if it were not for Britain, there would be no conflict, or even Israel, of which to speak. It is within this context that the British vote matters, and greatly so.
As I listened to the heated debate by British MPs that preceded
the historic vote of 272 in favor and 12 against, phantoms of historic significance occupied my mind.
When my father was born in historic Palestine in 1936, he found himself in a world politically dominated by Britain. Born and raised in the now long-destroyed Palestinian village of Beit Daras – which, like the rest of historic Palestine has now become part of “Israel proper” – he, along with his family – were entrapped between two anomalies that greatly scarred the otherwise peaceful landscape of Palestine countryside. A Jewish colony called Tabiyya, along with a heavily fortified British police compound that was largely aimed at safeguarding the interests of the colony, subjugated Beit Daras.
The residents of the village, still unaware of the plan to dispossess them from their homeland, grew wary of the dual treachery with time. But by 1947-48, it was too late. The British-coordinated withdrawal from Palestine was aimed at creating space for a Jewish state, today’s Israel. The Palestinians, for 66 years and counting, suffered from more than homelessness and dispossession, but also a military occupation and countless massacres, ending with the most recent Israeli war on Gaza. In what Israel calls Operation Protective Edge, nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and five-fold more were wounded. Yet, Palestinians continue to resist, with greater ferocity than ever.
Because of this, and the fact that the British government remains a member of the ever-shrinking club of Israel’s staunch supporters, the vote in the British parliament greatly matters. “Symbolic” and non-binding, it still matters. It matters because the Israeli arsenal is rife with British armaments. Because the British government, despite strong protestation of its people, still behaves towards Israel as if the latter were a law-abiding state with a flawless human-rights records. It matters despite the dubious language of the motion, linking the recognition of Palestine alongside Israel, to “securing a negotiated two-state solution”.
But there can be no two states in a land that is already inhabited by two nations, who, despite the grossness of the occupation, are in fact interconnected geographically, demographically and in other ways as well. Israel has created irreversible realities in Palestine, and the respected MPs of the British parliament should know this.
The votes were motivated by different rationale and reasons. Some voted “yes” because they have been long-time supporters of Palestinians, others are simply fed up with Israel’s behavior. But if the vote largely reflected an attempt at breathing more life in the obsolete “two-state solution” to a conflict created by the British themselves, then, the terrible British legacy in Palestine which has lasted for nearly a century will continue unabated.
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Britain's phantoms of the past in Palestine