Mohamed Ali Eltaher



Page 32


When Britain volunteered to hand over somebody else’s country, or at least part of it, to a new set of mostly Eastern European settlers not related at all to the peoples of the Middle East, the Palestinians stood against the uninvited newcomers. They did so not because they were of the Jewish faith, but because they were brought in as uninvited settlers whose declared Zionist goal was to snatch the land or as much of it as possible from its people and appropriate it for themselves. The indigenous Arab Palestinians of the Jewish faith living on the land along with Christian and Muslim Palestinians were not involved in the plan. Apart from a handful of individuals among the Jewish leadership, most of the new immigrants had practically no idea that there were still people of the Jewish faith living in the Holy Land since Roman times!

Having watched the beginnings of the subtle process put in place to dispossess them from their land after Britain officialised its commitment to turn Palestine into a Jewish National Home through the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Palestinian opposition became increasingly more vocal. By the 1920s the Palestinians became somewhat more organized, and started targeting manu militari both British troops and institutions, as well as Jewish settlements and individuals. The latter of course hit back at the Palestinians in self-defence. Thus started the cycle of violence that continues to this day.

The historic responsibility of Britain in the whole tragedy of the Palestinians is paramount; and the British should be accountable to the Palestinian people for what they did to them by appropriating their country, and worst still by giving it to other people without an “if you please”!

Senior leaders of the Zionist Movement, such as Dr. Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion, knew very well that Palestine was inhabited, and that the Palestinian population would be opposed to the idea of bringing European Jews to their country to create the Jewish National Home. Many among the European Jewish immigrants/settlers, on the other hand, were quite surprised to discover that Palestine was already inhabited, and not a “land without a people looking for a people without a land”26. A large number among the Jewish population, even today, viewed the Palestinians as “Arab squatters”, and unwelcome strangers who came from neighbouring countries and took over “their Promised Land” while its legitimate owners were away during the previous two thousand years!27

Of course Mohamed Ali Eltaher stood against this colonial invasion that was forced upon his country and his people against their will. Had the colonial settlers, who forced themselves in, been other than European Jews, even if they were Arabs or others, he would have opposed them with the same determination.

After all, the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean, whose cultures are based on sharing, have hosted generations of refugees and displaced peoples including Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout their whole history going back thousands of years. Without dwelling on the infamous episode of the Spanish Jews who were chased from Spain during the Catholic Inquisition, there is the example of the Armenian refugees who were settled in Greater Syria after World War I, also without an "if you please".

The Armenian refugees, though, blended with the peoples of the region and did not threaten anybody or take away their lands. Most Armenian immigrants eventually succeeded as businessmen, craftsmen, artists, musicians, legal experts, ministers in Arab countries, members of Arab parliaments, and some of them even adopted the Arab and Palestinian causes as theirs. No one asked them to renounce their heritage, their religion, or their identity. They too never felt they had to become arabized or compelled to convert to Islam to improve their chances among the Arabs. The European Jewish settlers could have done just the same as their predecessors and shared with everybody else, and they could all have lived happily, or at least peacefully, ever after. Had that been the case, possibly no Israel-Palestine problem would have arisen, and the Holy Land could have remained truly holy for all believers.

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