In his article in The Hindu “Separated at birth” (Op-Ed, August 30, 2012), Mr. Saif Shahin is only partially correct in equating Israel with Pakistan. It is true that the failing Muslim state resembles the Zionist state in areas such as its abhorrent treatment of minorities, its extraterritorial ambitions, its religious extremism, racial supremacism and of course, its bloody history. But Mr. Shahin fails to mention that Israel is unique insofar as the most important aspect of its history is concerned — the manner of its creation.
The partition of India, howsoever undesirable and inexcusable it may have been, was a legally formulated and politically accepted division between two indigenous peoples. But Palestine was forcibly partitioned without the consent of its people and it was opposed by all right-thinking intellectuals of that time including Mahatma Gandhi. A quick look at Israel’s history would reveal the singular nature of its creation and what makes it unprecedented.
During World War I, Britain offered to back the Arab demand for post-war independence from the Ottomans in return for support to the Allies. Not only did the British refuse to honour their pledge to the Arabs, but they also gave a contradictory pledge to the Jews in the form of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to create a “national home” for them in Palestine despite not possessing any sovereignty over that country. As a result, Palestine was subjected to the British Mandate (1922-48) under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. But the mandate itself was blatantly opposed to the letter and spirit of Art.22 as it gave the Mandatory (the British government) the additional power “to place the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as would secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.”
It would appear that the aim of the mandate was to facilitate the immigration of the Jews into Palestine in violation of the rights of the original inhabitants, the Palestinian Arabs, who at the time of the mandate constituted 92 per cent of the population. Official records (cited in Henry Cattan’s The Palestine Question) show that in 1946, the Jewish population increased to 6,08,230 (out of a total population of 19,72,560) from 83,794 in 1922 when the mandate was approved by the League of Nations.
The Palestinians completely rejected this demographic change and demanded independence. Cattan writes that when the British government tried to limit Jewish immigration and grant independence to Palestine, the Zionists unleashed an orgy of violence, including the killing of 91 senior officials by blowing up the King David Hotel at Jerusalem, the seat of the government, raiding military stores, bombing Arab market places and homes, and even capturing and hanging of British officers.
Unable to control the Zionist terror, the British government in April 1947 formally referred the Question of Palestine to the U.N.
U.N’s double standards
It may be noted that the Mandate for Palestine had legally ended with the dissolution of the League of Nations in April 1946. But instead of granting independence to the Palestinians, the British continued with the mandate for another year.
Nevertheless, the General Assembly adopted on November 29, 1947, Resolution No: 181 (II) for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states with 57 per cent (14,500 sq. km) of the territory going in favour of the Jews who actually owned less than six per cent of the land and constituted less than one-third of the population despite forced immigration. The original land owners, the Arabs, got only 11,800 sq.km of their own property.
According to Henry Cattan, the U.N. had no legal right to partition Palestine as it had no sovereignty over that country. For even if it is assumed that Turkey relinquished its rule over Palestine (through the Treaty of Lausanne) in favour of the League of Nations, the U.N. could not have claimed to have inherited the Palestinian sovereignty from the League after it was dissolved in 1946 because no such arrangement was in place. Therefore, in the view of Cattan, Resolution 181 (II) was outside the competence of the U.N. He quotes renowned international jurist Prof. I. Brownlie as saying, “the resolution of 1947 containing a partition plan for Palestine was probably ultra vires, and if it was not, was not binding on member states in any case.” Given this damning history, Israel cannot be compared with any other nation on this planet. Not even a country like Pakistan.
(A. Faizur Rahman is the secretary general of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)