Rothschild and Early Jewish Colonization in Palestine (Geographical Perspectives on the Human Past)
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In , it became a conflict between Israel—the settler state that is a product of the Zionist colonization project—and the Palestinian Arab people. Saying that Zionism was and is a colonizing project and Israel is a settler state, a colonist state, is not a matter of value judgment but a plain statement of fact. It is possible to argue—and some do argue—that colonization and the establishment of a settler state are morally acceptable—in general or in this specific case. There are of course many settler states established by colonists from Europe who settled in various parts of the world. Israel is in this sense by no means unique.
But Zionism and Israel are exceptional in several important respects, three of which I will point out in what follows. Colonization there is over and done with. Not so in the present case.
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Present-day Israel is not only a product of the Zionist colonization project but also an instrument for its further extension and expansion. Colonization is ongoing. It continued in —67 in the territory then ruled by Israel, within the Green Line. And soon after the war, colonization continued in the newly Occupied Territories OTs.
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This happened under all governments: Labor-led, Likud-led, and grand coalitions. Look at facts on the ground, for they do not lie. Look at Figure 1. It shows the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank in the years — We can see for ourselves that colonization—planned, conducted, and subsidized by the Israeli government, and given military protection by its army—was relentless. Can you detect any slow-down?
Any change at all? The latter was still alive at the time—he was to die at the end of —and it is fair to assume that Dayan was certain of his approval. Among ourselves [the Zionists] there can be no debate about the integrity of the Land of Israel [i. Palestine], and about our ties and right to the whole of the Land When a Zionist speaks about the integrity of the Land, this can only mean colonization [ hityashvut ] by the Jews of the Land in its entirety.
That is to say: from the viewpoint of Zionism the real touchstone is not confined to [the question as to] whom this or that segment of the Land belongs to politically, nor even to the abstract belief in the integrity of the Land. Rather, the aim and touchstone of Zionism is the actual implementation of colonization by the Jews of all areas of the Land of Israel.
Of course, this does not mean that the expansion of Zionist colonization is unstoppable. What it does mean is that it will be pursued—as a matter of highest priority—so long as the balance of power makes it possible. For this reason, I confine myself in this analysis to discussing the Zionist project, which is the proactive side in the conflict.
For lack of time, I shall say very little about the Palestinian struggle, which was a predictable reaction. It was recognized by the most clear-sighted and openly admitted by the most uninhibited and outspoken Zionists. Compromise between the Palestinian Arabs and us is out of the question at present, and in the foreseeable future. I express this inner conviction of mine so categorically not because of any wish to distress nice people [i.
Every reader has some general idea of the history of the colonization of other countries. There is no such instance. The natives—whether they are civilized or uncivilized—have always put up a stubborn fight against the colonizers—whether they are civilized or uncivilized….
Palestine Jewish Colonization Association
Any native people, whether civilized or savage, view their country as their national home, of which they will be the complete masters. They will never voluntarily accept not only new masters but also new co-owners or partners. This applies also to the Arabs. I flatly reject this view of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are years behind us, spiritually they possess neither our endurance nor our willpower; but apart from this, there are no inherent differences between us. They are as subtle psychologists as we are, and exactly like us have had centuries of training in crafty casuistry [Hebrew: pilpul ].
Whatever we tell them, they can see through us as well as we can see through them. And they have for Palestine the same instinctive love and intrinsic fervor that the Aztecs had for their Mexico or the Sioux for their prairie…. Every people will struggle against colonizers as long as there is a spark of hope of ridding itself of the danger of colonization. This too is what the Palestinian Arabs are doing and will go on doing as long as there is a spark of hope….
Colonization has only one goal; this goal is unacceptable to the Palestinian Arabs. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible…. Even if it were possible which I doubt to obtain the consent of the Arabs of Baghdad and Mecca, as if Palestine were for them some kind of small, insignificant borderland, then Palestine would still remain for the Palestinian Arabs not a borderland, but their only homeland, the centre and basis of their own national existence.
Therefore it would be necessary to carry on colonization against the will of the Palestinian Arabs, which is the same condition that exists now. But agreement with non-Palestinian Arabs is also an unrealizable fantasy. Clearly, this could mean only two things: either money or political assistance or both. But we can offer neither. As for money, it is ludicrous to think we could finance Mesopotamia or Hejaz, when we do not have enough for Palestine….
And political support for Arab nationalism would be totally dishonest. Arab nationalism sets itself the same aims as those set, say, by Italian nationalism before unification and political independence. In plain language, this would mean expulsion of England form Mesopotamia and Egypt, expulsion of France from Syria and then perhaps also from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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For us to support such a movement, even remotely, would be suicide and treachery. We cannot take part in a political intrigue whose aim is to expel England from the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf, and totally annihilate France as a colonial power. We cannot play such a double game; we must not even think about it.
They will crush us—with well-deserved disgrace—before we can make a move in that direction…. Conclusion: we cannot give anything to the Palestinian or other Arabs in exchange for Palestine. Hence their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Our colonization must either be terminated, or proceed in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can therefore continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population—an iron wall which the native population cannot break through.
This is the sum total of our policy towards the Arabs…. What is the Balfour Declaration for? What is the Mandate for? To us they mean that an external power has committed itself to creating such security conditions that the local population, however much it would have wanted to, would be unable to interfere, administratively or physically, with our colonization. Of course, Great Powers are no philanthropists.
Their protection is not given for nothing, but in exchange for services. And from the outset it was clear what these services would be. As a neutral State, we would remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence. The practice of Zionism is replete with walls and ramparts; but they appear even earlier in Zionist discourse: in the beginning was the word.
A necessary consequence of this historic deal has been that it regionalized the conflict.
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Palestine
The clash of the Zionist project and eventually Israel with the indigenous Palestinians was extended into a conflict with the people of the entire region. This is due not only to the national solidarity of Arabs throughout the region with their fellow Arabs in Palestine, but also to the active role of Zionism and Israel as partner of Western exploitation and domination of the Middle East. Palestine was then part of that empire, so Herzl tried to sell his idea to the German Kaiser. But he was rebuffed; the Kaiser passed on the proposed deal.
The Charter of Zionist aspirations was granted in the form of the Balfour Declaration November 2, The Balfour Declaration was part of a package. Another part of the package was the sculpting of Palestine as a separate political entity. In the Ottoman Empire, the southern half of Palestine constituted a special District of Jerusalem, subject directly to the High Porte in Istanbul; the northern half consisted of two districts, which were part of the Province of Beirut.
Now, when the ravenous imperialist powers tore up the carcass of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was one of the limbs grabbed by Britain. In , Britain got the League of Nations to grant it a mandate over Palestine; and the Balfour Declaration was included verbatim in the text of the mandate, together with several detailed provisions for facilitating Zionist colonization.
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It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Palestine, carved out of the Arab East, was purpose-made for Zionist colonization, irrespective of the wishes of its actual inhabitants. Indeed, as the American King—Crane Commission discovered in , these inhabitants had no particular wish for a separate Palestine, but were quite content to be included in Greater Syria. Moreover, this carving out involved considerable trimming. This later became the Kingdom of Jordan.
It existed as a distinct and separate political entity for twenty-five years. Their aims and interests began to diverge. Eventually a serious rift opened up between them, developing after the Second World War into a violent conflict. I cannot go here into the detailed causes of this conflict. Suffice it to say that—among other things—the Great Uprising of the Palestinian Arabs made it clear to Britain that the cost of imposing the terms of the mandate would take too great a toll of its limited power and influence.
But in any case Britain was losing its dominant position in the Middle East; Zionism needed a new imperial patron. In those very years of struggle [between Zionism and British imperialism], there took place a process of a beginning of a new attachment: instead of England—Zion, America—Zion—a process which depended on the fact that the U. From the moment of its establishment in , Israel continued this process of re-attachment. It was seeking a new alliance—protection in exchange for services—with the United States.