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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Willoughby Hart

I have only ever spoken to one Palastinian in my life.He asked me a question which I could not answer,this was in 1946 and nothing I have read since has told me what I should have replied.We were both members of the Royal Navy at the time (Don,t ask me how a Palastinian came to be in the Navy) .
The question was "What right had the British Government to give my country to the Jewish people"
In the Navy it is a doddgy practise to ask questions when you only have one anchor on your arm and the other person has two particularly if the PO does not know the answer.
I was disturbed that I could not absolutley refute the accusation because I had a slight knowledge of the Balfour agreement.To cut a long story short I still do not know the answer to the question . You must recall that at that time we had just won the war practically single handed on behalf of all things bright and beautifull and the idea that we might have done anything not entirley above reproach was hurtfull.I still do not know what I might have said in honesty and would like to know .

Stan Rosenthal

"What right had the British government to give Palestine to the Jews?"

A fair question, courtesly put,Willoughby that deserves a considered response.

Here is one answer from an Israeli perspective (if there is another from the Arab perspective I would be pleased to hear of it).

After centuries of persecution (culminating in the Holocaust) Jewish people around the world were in dire need of a safe haven. Their biblical homeland (from which they had been expelled) provided such a place, particularly as through the ages it had been left neglected by the Arabs and was very thinly populated.

Most of the (largely barren) land acquired in the first wave of Jewish immigration in the 1880's was bought from Arab absentee landlords (unlike the conquered colonial territories of England and Spain). It was these de facto Jewish homesteads in parts of Palestine that the Balfour Declaration recognised in 1917 and that were given international legal status when they became part of the League of Nations Mandate.

It was only after the Jews had begun to transform their part of partitioned Palestine that it became such a coveted prize for the local Arabs and the surrounding nations (who had hardly lifted a finger to develop the country when they were in a position to do so).

The State of Israel was approved by the United Nations in 1948 (so it was not just Britain that gave Palestine to the Jews). The State was restricted to those parts of Palestine where the Jews were in a majority. This still left adequate territory for the Palestinian Arabs, which constituted a majority of the usable land (i.e. excluding the Negev Desert). However the Arabs rejected this two-state solution, launched three wars to destroy the Jewish homeland and the Israelis are still having to fight for their existence right up to today.

Willoughby Hart

Thankyou for your comment on my Post
I am afraid the answere you offer does would not have helped me for the following reasons.
1)The events after 1946 were not available to me at that time and had they been so the question would have been "What right had the UN...."
2)Despite your satement that Palestine was underdeveloped, which it was.It had a awfull lot of people in it,where were they supposed to go ? The Palestinians were objecting strongly and we (The British Army that is) put a lot behind barbed wire. At the same time the Igrun Zwie Leumi and the Stern Gang were trying to blow us up for preventing the ingress of refugees and keep the peace .
Palestine had its own coinage and gave the impresion of being a viable if poor state.
3)I can not see the point that because a place is under developed it can be taken over by others, though I would quite agree that we the British have done our share of that in the past.
I only know what I saw and experienced perhaps someone who was in Palestine for a longer period than I was could comment.

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