When Palestine Was at Stake

The future of Palestine was at stake in the 1940s, and the fundamental clash of interests, between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs, was also a fundamental clash of principles. The differences are shown by a comparison of the liberal Arab nationalist, the Zionist binationalist, and the Reform Judaism anti-Zionist views.

The Arabs sought independence for Palestine, as Britain had promised for the Arab role in Britain’s campaign against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Instead Britain had concluded the secret Sykes-Picot agreement with France to divide the Arab heartland conquered from the Ottomans, and then issued the Balfour Declaration in support of Zionism in Palestine. The term Nakba, a byword for the destruction of Arab Palestine in 1948, was first applied to the 1920 dismemberment of historic Syria into enlarged Lebanon, Palestine, and rump Syria, ruled by Britain and France. In the 1940s, the Arabs were willing to grant Jews full rights of citizenship in a democratic Palestine, but emphatically not national rights, and opposed further Jewish immigration.

The Zionist movement publicly proclaimed its long-standing goal of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1942, and accepted partition when proposed by the UN in 1947. The “binationalists” among the Zionists opposed partition, and proposed that Arabs and Jews share power equally, when Jews were around 33% of the population. The binationalists also insisted on Jewish immigration to achieve demographic parity, and even majority. Binationalism was another form of Zionism, despite its enlightened reputation, and is discussed as such here.

Alone among US Jewish groups, the American Council for Judaism supported democracy in Palestine. The ACJ opposed the 1939 British White Paper limiting Jewish immigration, and advocated immigration for postwar refugees, on liberal, non-discriminatory grounds, as it did to destinations other than Palestine. At the same time it opposed binationalism, deriding its demographic engineering schemes, and did not envision the demographic transformation sought by the binationalists. The ACJ argued that the future of Palestine should be determined by all its residents.

Entire article (PDF with notes) is at When Palestine Was At Stake

On CounterPunch January 28, 2011, When Palestine was at Stake

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