Last month, with Israeli artillery destroying buildings in Gaza, one of two tiers of territories where Palestinians were oppressed in the last century, the British government once again. expressed the goodness of his imperial past against those who demand a reckoning of its damages. #BritishEmpire is trending on Twitter even after Gaza is on fire.
These mysteries are connected: the continuing whitening of the history of the British empire ensures that condemnations of Israel’s actions as “settler colonialism” fail to pervade morality in many areas. Far from staining the origins of Israel, the antecedents of the British nation are held to testify. The Balfour Statement of the British government expressing support for the “establishment of Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people” in 1917 mythology as laying the foundation for a Jewish state in the Middle ‘ of the East and therefore provided international legitimacy for the creation of the state of Israel. Knowing about the dubious moral origin and meaning of this declaration can help dispel the underlying myths of the generosity of the British empire and Israel’s good presence in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration was one of many strategic “promises” made by the British during the first world war regarding the territories of the Ottoman Empire, due to its swift destruction by the British in the name of protecting the Indian and oil -filled Gulf. To get on their side the Arab population of the region, they promised the Sharifian rulers of the Hejaz, on the Arabian Peninsula, an independent kingdom that surrounded Palestine as far as Damascus. At the same time, in a secret agreement between the French and Russia to divide the region, they promised to make Palestine an international territory. With Russia’s cessation of war in October 1917, they saw an urgent need to secure Britain’s position in the Middle East with a new promise, this time of the Zionist movement. Thus Palestine became a three -promised land – enough reason to doubt the sanctity of anyone of the promises.
The new pledge was officially written by British foreign secretary, led by Conservative Arthur James Balfour. Known as the “Bloody Balfour” for his suppression of Ireland’s demands for greater independence as general secretary for Ireland, Balfour was a determined imperialist. He was also a new philosopher who doubted reason and was attracted to the occult – and the idea of occult power in some groups. The idea that a pledge by the Zionists would provide security to the Middle East for them emerged partly from his anti-Semitic assumption, shared by other British political influences, that Jews controlled public opinion and finance in the world. Balfour calculated that his propaganda statement would rally American and German Jewish opinion on the Allied cause, while also ending the influx of unwanted Jews from Eastern Europe into Britain.
The declaration is in line with the class of British settler colonialism that has shaped the history of the brutal expulsion of Kenya and other colonies. That the British thought Palestine was something they could promise any group without consulting its population was the empire’s common assumption. The difference here is that Jews rather than British settlers go on “civilization missions” – and act as a loyal presence near the Suez Canal. The declaration stated that Jews were distinctly and culturally superior to the population of native Palestine, just as it showed that Jews were not subject to Europe and had the power of conspiracy.
Not everyone in the British government shares these views. The secretary of state for India, Edwin Montagu, was Jewish and considered the declaration anti-Semitic. “Jews will then be treated as foreigners in every country but Palestine,” he fears. He insisted that his family members did not need a “community of vision” with Jewish families anywhere: “It is no longer true to say that an English Christian and a French Christian are the same. country. ” Montagu feared that the declaration would mean that “Jews should be put in every position they want” in Palestine, and that Muslims and Christians would be made to “make way for Jews”. He has already seen: “If the Jews are told that Palestine is their national abode, every country will immediately want to eliminate its Jewish citizens, and you will find a population of Palestine being evicted. those who live today. “
Montagu had previously made the Montagu Declaration, which promised the Indians more self -government to ensure wilderness loyalty in time of war. Conservatives, especially Balfour, hid this sanction of anti-colonialism, arguing that Indians could not form such a government of their own. That was the kind of imperialist Balfour used to be.
After the war, the British abandoned all war-time promises about the Middle East: They first betrayed French arrangements by allowing Sharifian Prince Faisal to set up a government in Damascus, but after which the French were allowed to push Faisal, in exchange for a free hand of the oil -rich Mosul. Faisal was crowned king of Iraq under British rule – despite promises of Iraqi freedom. Britain directly controlled Palestine (no international territory) – confirming that the Balfour Declaration’s vague promise of a national home had nothing to do with political suppression of Jews. In 1921, Britain also carved the Jordan out of Palestine in no way violating the national home of the Jews. A White Paper in the 1930s that retreated from the very idea of a Jewish national home. A Zionist outcry forced the British government to withdraw the role.
When Hitler came to power, hundreds of thousands of desperate Jews in Europe who found the doors to Britain closed and the US came to Palestine. Increasingly landless and impoverished, the Palestinians revolted in 1936. The British devised a brutal, terrorist, and destructive counter-insurgency strategy developed in Ireland and Iraq, shaping customs. in the Israeli military later.
The British changed the policy in 1937 and 1939, by substituting favoring Jews and Arabs. It was during the time of Palestinian policy advice that Winston Churchill uttered his eugenicist defense of settler colonialism in general in 1937: “I do not admit… that a great mistake was made by the American Red Indians, or by black people in Australia… The fact that a faster race, a higher grade… came and took their place. ”He saw the placement of Jews in Palestine as similar to previous cases , including their genocidal implications.
At this hour, Hitler also sought the genocide of Native Americans as a model for her conception of the Lebensraum and began to use the brutal logic of settler colonialism in Europe itself. Churchill praised Hitler, devoting him a chapter to his 1937 book on the Great Contemporaries. Even if the British now celebrate Churchill for defeating Nazism, they have also not yet explicitly condemned the judge-colonial ideology on which Nazism was founded.
Apologists for British imperialism instead poured their energy into defending Cecil Rhodes, another proponent of settler colonialism, even as a vigilant commission recommended the removal of his statue at Oriel College in Oxford. Rhodes argues: “We are the best race in the world and… the more the world lives the better for man.” His private company killed thousands of Matabele in the establishment of the settler colony in Rhodesia. As prime minister of the Cape Colony, he also built the foundations of apartheid in South Africa – which has often been compared to the current Israeli regime – depriving non -white people of the vote and claiming their land. Even his British counterparts were outraged by his actions.
Just now, after former U.S. senator Rick Santorum claimed on CNN that settlers were making the U.S. “from the left,… not here”, that erased not only the presence of Native cultures and life American but also the memory of the severe violence of the settlers against them, CNN parted ways with him, responding to intense pressure from the public, including the Native American Journalists Association.
Leading British news outlets such as The Times, however, continue to provide many vacancies to apologists for settler colonialism. Last month, the Guardian formally lamented its support for the Balfour Declaration in 1917, writing to its editor: “The Arab population of Palestine… is in the lower stages of civilization.” It is time for a broader, uncertain condemnation of its false promise and the settler-colonial ideology on which it is based.
The vows during the British war were not built on principle but were made for good and to be based on racist ideas – difficult to reconcile with the sacred. In addition, the declaration included its own rejection of the language assuring that “nothing can be done to destroy the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Balfour’s Conservatism is part of avoiding radical change. The declaration was not a good exchange so that it could be broken, like the promises made during the war of the Sharifians. It has little to do with rationality, colonial assumptions, and anti -Semitism to give it the aura of legitimacy – even more unholy – that is in some places today.
The British launched settler colonialism in Palestine carelessly and without reluctance as they did in Australia and New Zealand and in Kenya and Rhodesia. Israel’s atrocities in Gaza are not just self -defense but part of a longer story of settler colonialism dating back to the era of European colonialism. Contrary to British mythologies, settler colonialism was an aggressive process of ethnic cleansing based on racism. U.S. support for Israel’s entry into Palestinian territory is the support of one British -made nationalist colonial country over another. It’s no coincidence that that support became even more generous during the Trump administration, which also boasted no commitment to white supremacy in North America. Discussing the history of colonialism is important in discussing itself in this colonialism.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial position.