A reading in the history could be useful for the future.
Mohamed S. Kamel
Most of us remember 1948’s catastrophe, The Nakbah; the days when almost 900,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes and become refugees, the worst refugee crisis in history. Citizens, that should have been refugees for a few days ended up being so for 60 years and amount to more than 4 millions.
But this Nakbah did not start in 1948 it started long before; and it is well known to many of us but not to all.
The Nakbah really started in 1825, in Arrarat, when Mordechai Emanuel Noah[i] purchased the Grand Island, near Buffalo New York, as a homeland for demoralized Jews.
The Nakbah was renewed in 1890, with the scandal known as “The Dreyfus Affair” [ii]. That political scandal, with anti-Semitic overtones, is what divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason, in 1894, and the degradation and imprisonment on Devil’s Island, of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young and promising French artillery officer who was in advanced training with the Army’s General Staff.
The anti-Jewish sentiment that rocked the west from Europe to North America was the real reason behind the Nakbah and the real start. But the Nakbah practically started in 1897, when Theodore Herzl[iii] met with Mordechai Emanuel Noah and both converted the people’s yells in Dreyfus’ convection “Death to the traitor, death to the Jews” into a project of a Jewish state.
Herzl wrote: “A Jewish state” — this is the only solution to anti-Semitism. Herzl decided to work hard so that the Jews could have a state of their own. He hardly saw or spent any time with his family. His friends thought he was crazy. They did not believe it was possible to establish a state for the Jewish people. Orthodox Jews argued that it is forbidden to establish a Jewish state, because only Hashem will return the Jews to the land of Israel. The Jews were scared that if they began to desire their own state – this would lead to even more hatred. But Herzl did not give up.
They did not get the help they were looking for in the beginning. When Herzl met with important people, leaders and ministers of influential European countries (Germany, England, Turkey and Russia), he wanted them to help the Jews get a legal right (charter) to establish a state of their own.
Herzl invited representatives of the Jewish communities from all over the world to the first Zionist congress in 1897 in Basel (Bazel), Switzerland. The representatives at the congress decided that they wanted to establish a home land (state) for the Jewish people.
The British offered them what was commonly known as the “Uganda Project[iv]” before the Sixth Zionist Congress (Basel, August 1903), carrying the majority (295:178, 98 abstentions), then Argentina in 1904’s declaration, but both failed to be sold to the Jewish people.
While Herzl did not live to see the rejection of the Uganda plan or even the Argentina plan, his successor chose Palestine, where they can convince Jews to immigrate to the Promised Land.
In 1906, the Zionist congress decided that the Jewish homeland should be Palestine.
So Palestine was not the goal because of religious reasons but rather became the reason to reach a state.
They tried with the Sultan of Turkey, but the Sultan refused to cede Palestine to Zionists. They tried with Egypt to get Al ‘Arish, in the Sinai Peninsula, adjoining southern Palestine, but failed yet again.
The Zionist movement started out secular then turned into a coalition between Jewish religious and seculars where the religious side attracts the Christian Zionist.
The opposition to Zionism from Torah leaders was initially almost universal. These authorities rejected Zionism as a heresy without genuine basis within Judaism, and in conflict with the teachings of the Torah. In 1892, Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, at that time the most representative Jewish personality in America, denounced, in a Montreal conference, the Zionist project as entirely antithetical to the spirit and letter of Judaic teachings:
“We totally disapprove of the initiative aiming at the creation of a Jewish State. Attempts of this type highlight an erroneous conception of the mission of Israel … that the Jewish Prophets were the first to proclaim … It aims at a Messianic time when men recognize belonging to one great community for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.”[v].
This movement is still alive and has it is own supporters[vi] even within the state itself[vii].
Because the establishment of the Jewish state would need the approval or the collapse of Ottoman Empire, European Jewish offered Europe their support in the WWI in return of their right in Palestine. So the result was the Balfour Declaration in 1917[viii]. That declaration was made in a letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation. The “Balfour Declaration” was later incorporated into the “Sèvres Peace Treaty[ix]” with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine.
November 2nd, 1917.
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
In spite of all this, the immigration rate to Palestine was very low and they did not meet their real goal for the establishment of the state until the early thirties.
This era was marked by the raise of the Nazism movement and the threat from Germany’s new plan for an obligatory displacement of Jewish from Europe to Madagascar, where they can establish a Jewish homeland, in what is known as “Madagascar Plan”[x]. Such plan and all the discrimination against Jews in Europe was the success start of the mass immigration to Palestine.
The other problem faced by the Zionist’s plan was the Arab Jews, who were living a reasonable wealthy life in their countries[xi]. The Zionist movement is in real need for them for two reasons. First, the political argument for Jewish state will not be acceptable as long as there are Jews living a peaceful life in Arab countries. Second, the project needs finance and by them living in their native lands, the Arab countries, no finance would be wired to the new born state.
The huge example about this issue was the “Lavon Affair”, where a failed Israeli covert operation in Egypt known as Operation Susannah occurred, in which Egyptian, American, British and manly Jewish owned targets in Egypt were bombed in the summer of 1954[xii].
Some people might consider it a pro-Palestinian propaganda but it is the history and the reality. Even Zionists cannot deny it.
To recover from this Nakbah, we have to recognize the cause and work for justice. We have to remember that it is the Palestinian’s land. Still, at the same time, we have to recognize the reality.
Recognizing the reality does not mean giving up the land and the rights but struggling to achieve a real justice and long stand solution to the problem.
There is a big different between wishing and what could be done. In real life, there is no “Undo” but there is; let us do it.
Many of today’s Jewish recognize the grave mistake done on behalf of their name and we have to work with them hand in hand to return the golden era when Jews and other Arab were living side by side in harmony in peace and full citizenship. Let us promote the one state solution, the only solution by applying the South Africa model and live two people in one state [xiii].
So it is not 60 years it is long before, but is it going to stop here?
* Mohamed S. Kamel: is a Freelance writer, the editor of I.N. Daily http://indaily.net/, co-founder of the Canadian Egyptian for Democracy (CEFD), Alternative Perspective Media (APM-RAM) and the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF), could be reached at email@example.com
[i] Dreyfus Affair
[iii] Theodor Herzl
[iv] British Uganda Program
[viii] Balfour Declaration of 1917
[ix] Treaty of Sèvres
[x] Madagascar Plan
[xi] Naiem Giladi, The Jews of Iraq
[xii] Lavon Affair and What Really Happened: Lavon Affair
[xiii] Jewish Opposition to Zionism and Are All Jewish Zionist?