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On the Occasion of the 99th Anniversary of the Mandate

By David Lazarus,

Cape Town

Before the world wide web revolutionised communication in 1989, social media didn’t exist and worldwide news was disseminated through the traditional media channels of press (newspapers, magazines), radio and television plus newsreels in cinemas. Facts and Truth prevailed as there were no readily-available methods and devices to rapidly convey distortions of facts and deliberate misinformation. What was reported was accepted as genuine and honest.

Since then, the freedom to express views and opinions in completely unrestricted language has unleashed a planet-wide tsunami of feelings and attitudes initiating, or responding to, anything that anyone ‘posts’ on the various social media platforms. Inevitably, organisations with specific agendas have been quick to exploit the reach and the ease of the internet to propagate their own objectives.

Conceivably one of the most intensely divisive issues is that of Israel and Palestine which has engaged millions of people across all continents, generating toxic debates, massive protests, violent confrontation, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, death and destruction. This topic has degenerated into a morass of fabricated narratives where Facts have been intentionally convoluted and Truths have been deliberately labelled as lies. These days ‘reality checks’ no longer count because no one knows whom to believe. The world’s media are so busy managing deadlines and competing for their share of the media space that they have neither the time nor the will to conduct comprehensive research on what they receive in media releases or what they hear in propaganda sound bites or read on social media.

During WW2 Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, declared that “the longer a lie is told, the greater the chance of it being believed as the truth”. This is precisely what has happened in respect of Israel and Palestine. Notwithstanding Israel’s natural and legal re-birth as a sovereign country, granted its independence from Britain and its welcome in 1947 by the United Nations into the family of nations, millions of self-righteous second and third generation people around the world do their utmost to delegitimise, demean and demonise the Jewish state. In doing so they reveal their ignorance of history; alternatively, through disinformation, revision and distortion of the Facts, they perpetuate false narratives.

The Jewish people, residing in the Middle East centuries before the birth of Christianity and Islam, were dispersed worldwide after the Romans expelled them from their homes in Galilee, Judea and Samaria, including their capital Jerusalem in 136 C.E. Possibly the most persecuted race in history, hunted down by the Crusaders, killed during the Spanish Inquisition, raped and pillaged by Russian pogroms and industrially exterminated by the German Nazis, the Jews prayed throughout this period to return to their ancient homeland, Palestine. Under the banner of Zionism (Zion equals Jerusalem), their dream of once again managing their own destiny became that much closer when, towards the end of WW1, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which sided with Germany, was defeated by Britain and France. Out of the Middle Eastern territory of the Ottoman Empire, France was mandated to manage Lebanon and Syria whilst Britain was mandated to manage Iraq and Palestine.

At that time (1917) Palestine was bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the west, Egypt and Saudi-Arabia in the south, Saudi-Arabia and Iraq in the east and Syria in the north.

Following lengthy and intense discussions between the British government and Zionist representatives, the British government produced the ‘Balfour Declaration’ promising ‘a Jewish homeland in Palestine’.

In April 1920, the Allies met in San Remo, Italy where they ratified the Balfour Declaration “in recognition of the exclusive national Jewish rights to the Land of Palestine under international law on the strength of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the territory known as Palestine”.

On 24 July 1922 the League of Nations met in London where they finalised the mandates for Palestine and Trans-Jordan. Palestine, now reduced to the area west of the Jordan River, would become the Jewish homeland whilst Trans-Jordan would be an Arab country.

This document was known as the Mandate for Palestine, underwritten by nearly 50 member countries.

Subsequently, the Arabs living in the now-much-smaller Palestine, began years of protests and riots to overturn the British commitment to a Jewish homeland in their midst, culminating in Britain handing over their seemingly insoluble dilemma to the United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations.

On 29 November 1947 the United Nations concluded a partition plan for Palestine (accepted by the Jews, rejected by the Arabs); and on 14 May 1948, one day before Britain officially ended its mandate, the independence of the Jewish State of Israel was declared by David ben Gurion, the country’s first Prime Minister. In his speech ben Gurion made it clear that all inhabitants of the new state would be treated equally, with full rights for every citizen and complete religious freedom for all faiths.

The very next day the fledgling country was attacked by seven neighbouring Arab states. The Arab radio stations exhorted the Arabs in Israel to take shelter in their countries “until the Jews had been pushed into the sea” after which they could return to what would be a Jew-free country. Thousands of Israeli Arabs heeded those calls.

That “War of Independence” (the first of three inflicted by the Arab countries) was won by Israel despite losing its Judea and Samaria provinces to Jordan, including East Jerusalem – the territory now commonly but erroneously referred to as “the west bank”; and the Arabs who chose to flee from Israel, despite ben Gurion encouraging them to stay, became known as ‘Palestinian refugees’. Not one of the Arab states that called on them to flee until they could return, has absorbed them; whilst every one of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been living in those Arab states but were expelled during the war, was fully absorbed into Israel. Most of the Israeli Arabs settled in the “west bank” of the Mandate of Palestine because it had been belligerently occupied by Jordan – and it is this piece of Israeli territory that is today erroneously claimed as ‘Palestine’ with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In 1967 the neighbouring Arab countries launched a second war against Israel. Again they lost. As the Arab countries had never accepted the UN partition plan in 1947, it was never implemented and Israel thus recovered its territory, including Jerusalem, as per the original Mandate of Palestine map comprising Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (with Jordan on the eastern side of the river).

Ultimately it doesn’t matter who says what or who supports whom, history cannot be revised. What happened is chronicled for all to view, read and study. Before making wild statements against Israel, the antagonists should take the time to investigate and discover for themselves what really happened so that they have a true understanding of the situation in the Middle East.

David Lazarus

Cape Town

23 July 2021


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