West News Wire: The British government decided to leave Palestine at the beginning of February 1947, ending their nearly 30-year rule there. 

Following the Second World War, Britain had an economic crisis that led to the election of a Labour government, which was eager to reduce the size of the empire and prioritise the needs of the inhabitants of the British Isles. Since both the native Palestinians and the Zionist settlers were now fighting against the British mandate and demanding its abolition, Palestine proved to be a burden rather than a benefit. 

The die was cast in a cabinet meeting on 1 February 1947 and the fate of Palestine was entrusted to the UN an inexperienced international organisation back then, already affected by the onset of the cold war between the US and the USSR. 

Nonetheless, the two superpowers consented, exceptionally, to allow other member states to offer a solution to what was called “the Palestine question”, without their interference. 

The discussion about Palestine’s future was transferred to the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), made up of member states. This enraged the Palestinians and member states of the Arab League, as they expected post-mandatory Palestine to be treated in the same way any other mandatory state in the region namely, allowing the people themselves to democratically determine their political future. 

No one in the Arab world would have approved of letting European settlers in North Africa decide the fate of the newly sovereign nations. The Palestinians also rejected the notion that the settler Zionist movement, which was largely made up of settlers who had only arrived two years before the UN Palestine Refugee Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1949, would have any influence on the future of their country. 

The UN General Assembly resolution 181 passed on November 29, 1947, but the Palestinians boycotted UNSCOP and, as they feared, the committee advocated creating a Jewish state on roughly half of their homeland. 

The Zionist leadership accepted the partition of Palestine (welcoming the principle of a Jewish state), but had no intention of adhering to it in practice, seeing as half of the population would still be Palestinian, and the space allotted only half of the country coveted by the Zionist movement. 

Historians have already uncovered enough declassified archival data, primarily from Israel, over the course of more than 30 years to reveal the Zionist plan from November 1947 through the end of 1948. In my writing, I referred to the Zionist agenda of the time as a masterplan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. 

The suitability of using this phrase to describe the events the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba was only highlighted by the passage of time, the exposure of more information, and the expanding and important Palestinian oral history projects. 

In recent years, academics studying the history of Palestine have revived an ancient understanding of Zionism as a settler colonial movement. This would make it crystal clear why the Zionist leadership could never have consented to Palestine being divided. 

Like any other settler colonial movement, it was a movement of Europeans who were outcasts in that continent, and had to make a new life for themselves elsewhere, usually in places already inhabited by other people. 

Such movements became characterised by the necessity to exterminate indigenous people, which, for example, resulted in the genocide of the Native Americans in North America. 

Since its origin, the Zionist movement and ideology have placed a strong emphasis on obtaining as much of the new territory with the fewest native inhabitants as possible. British authority prevented any large land grabs (by 1948, the Zionists owned less than 6% of Palestine’s total land area). But indigenous farmers were ethnically cleansed on the land that Zionists purchased with the blessing of the British government, primarily through purchases from the Palestinian elite and absentee landlords living outside of Palestine. 

The Zionist leadership began planning for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in February 1947 and early operations took place already a year later under the noses of the British mandatory authorities. 

The Zionist leadership needed to rush through its ethnic cleansing operations against the Palestinians in February 1948, starting with the forceful eviction of three villages on the coast between Jaffa and Haifa. The US and other members of the UN had already begun to doubt the wisdom of a partition plan and searched for alternative solutions. The US State Department proposed a five-year international trusteeship over Palestine in order to give additional time for further negotiations. 

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Therefore, even before the mandate’s official expiration, which was set for May 15, 1948, the Zionist leadership took the first step in establishing the facts on the ground. That meant exterminating Palestinians from the UN-designated Jewish state’s territory and annexing as many Palestinian towns as possible. 

The paramilitary Zionist organisations were militarily superior to the Palestinians. Arab volunteers showed there, but they were unable to do much to protect the Palestinians from ethnic cleansing. The Arab nations didn’t send troops into Palestine until May 15th. 

It is not merely a matter of chronology that the Palestinians were virtually defenceless between 29 November 1947, when the UN partition resolution was adopted, and 15 May 1948, when the mandate ended and units from nearby Arab governments arrived to try to save the Palestinians. It decisively refutes the idea that Palestinians became refugees because the Arab world attacked Palestine and ordered them to leave, which is still widely believed around the world. This is the fundamental argument made in Israeli propaganda regarding the conflict.  

According to this story, the Palestinians might not have experienced exile and refugee status if the Arab world had decided against attacking Israel.  

Nearly a quarter of a million Palestinians were already refugees before 15 May 1948 and a reluctant Arab world sent its armies to try and save the others. 

Almost all Palestinians living in Haifa and Jaffa were forcefully removed from their homes and the towns of Bisan, Safad and Acre were completely depopulated. The villages around them suffered a similar fate. In the area around the western slopes of the Jerusalem mountains, tens of villages were ethnically cleansed, and at times, as unfolded in Deir Yassin on 9 April 1948, the expulsions were accompanied by massacres. 

Another region, which came to be known as the Gaza Strip, was similarly uninhabited by Israel. It was a man-made rectangle of land that Israel made in order to serve as a sizable holding place for the hundreds of thousands of refugees it drove from the southern regions of Palestine and gave Egypt the right to keep it as a military stronghold. 

Israel attempted to wipe off any traces of the culture, life, and society it completely destroyed in Palestine within nine months of its independence in 1948 by building settlements (sometimes using a Hebrew variant of the Arabic name; for example, Saffuriya became Tzipori and Lubya became Lavi) or planting parks on the rubble of Palestinian communities. 

Hundreds of villages were destroyed, its towns were de-Arabized, and half of Palestine’s population was forced to flee.  

A nation, as well as the lives and dreams of its citizens, were all devastated by the Nakba. Through refugees, the vast human capital that Palestinian society had amassed was invested in other Arab nations, fostering their cultural, educational, and economic advancement.  

The world was sending Israel a message that the well-known ethnic cleansing of Palestine was permissible as restitution for the Holocaust and the centuries-long antisemitism that had plagued Europe. 

Israel therefore kept up its ethnic cleansing after 1967, when once more additional occupied space brought it more “undesired” people. This time the ethnic cleansing was incremental, and goes on until today.  

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are still there, showing incredible resilience and resistance alongside the ongoing Nakba, there is an ongoing intifada and, as long Israel does not account for what it had done and is doing, the colonisation will continue, as will the anti-colonialist struggle against it. 

The only possible way of rectifying past evils is by respecting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and the establishment of one state all over historical Palestine based on the principles of democracy, equality and social justice. 

This must be built through a process of restitutive justice which compensates the people for their loss of land, careers and life by the new state and with the help of the world. 


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