In today’s 140-character world, it’s all too easy to blur the line between fact and fiction, and apply false assumptions leading to fallacious beliefs”.
When we opened the Felix edition containing an article entitled “A response to those who criticise the Balfour Declaration”, we were eager to read on: an opinion most likely opposing our own, and written by two Imperial students – thus presumably logically thought out and supported by evidence. What better way of challenging one’s own beliefs? Unfortunately, we got as far the second paragraph before we began to find misrepresentations of well-known statistics alongside unsubstantiated arguments and sweeping generalisations throughout the article.
Because the authors will not hear from us what Zionism is, then let’s take a closer look at Theodor Herzl’s proposals for a Jewish homeland – the very same man that coined the idea of Zionism. Herzl himself stated that antisemitism could not be defeated or cured, only avoided, and that the only way to avoid it was the establishment of a Jewish state. These claims were made by him after witnessing the blatant anti-Semitism that was present at the Dreyfus case in Paris. Beginning in late 1895, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews). The book argued that the Jewish people should leave Europe either for Argentina or, preferably, for Palestine, their historic homeland, if they wished to. Herzl then negotiated with the British regarding the possibility of settling the Jews on the island of Cyprus, the El Arish region in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, and Uganda. So, quite clearly, the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine specifically was not his utmost priority, since, although he mentions Argentina or Palestine as choices, he generally refers to the location of the state as “over there” in his book, and considered four other possible areas.
“Palestine and Jerusalem are holy sites of three religions, hence none should have a larger claim over the others”
The land of Palestine was one of his choices due to historic ties with the Jewish religion; but this is not something surprising, since all three Abrahamic religions have historic ties with the land of Palestine – it’s the place where Jesus Christ was born, died, and buried, and where the Prophet Mohammed is said to have travelled to from Mecca, and then ascended to heaven from the Al Aqsa Mosque (located in Jerusalem). Palestine and Jerusalem are holy sites of the three Abrahamic religions, hence none of them should have a larger claim over this land than the other two. This is something acknowledged by Herzl himself, as well as Arthur Balfour when he signed the declaration. So we return back to the same question posed in the initial article: Why is it then, that Palestinians have suffered ethnic cleansing, and exist as second class citizens in the state in Israel?
What the authors of the response to our article have answered is a pure blatant denial of these facts, ignoring the stories of displaced families living in refugee camps, or children in Gaza with no access to clean water or electricity because the supply is being cut by Israel when they please. There are countless cases of young Palestinian boys and girls being attacked by illegal Israeli settlers, checkpoints that only Palestinians have to go through in order to carry out daily activities such as going to work, and random searches and detentions carried out at late hours of the night.
“There are countless cases of random searches and detentions being carried out in the late hours of the night”
Palestinians are being held in prison without trials or accusations (including those who are underage), torture tactics are being carried out during interrogations, there’s a ridiculously long list of discriminatory laws existing against Arab citizens in Israel, the separation wall is twice as tall and four times longer than the former Berlin Wall, and yes, ethnic cleansing did happen, it’s called Al Nakba – in 1948 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes, with another 300,000 refugees being displaced after 1967; as of 2015, for the UN Relief and Works Agenecy for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) mandate there are 5 million Palestinian refugees.
So no, these are not “sweeping generalisations” or “buzzwords” these are facts, that the writers purposely chose to ignore because it suited their political agenda. Every single listed violation of human rights above has been well-documented, so if you will not take it from us, the oppressed, maybe sources like Humans Right Watch, UNRWA, Unicef, Haaretz, and Wikipedia will be valid enough.
And since the authors cited people that have experienced the South African Apartheid, maybe they will find Nelson Mandela’s view on the conflict relevant: “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”