In Edinburgh, during 1859, William and Robert Chambers founded an encyclopaedia, renowned for its accuracy and scholarliness; it ceased publication in 1935. In 1878, in Volume VII of their Encyclopaedia, there appeared a highly informative article on Palestine’s geography, agriculture and economy. Published well before the Zionist movement’s ability to strongly influence British foreign policy towards the Middle East, even then, the entry took the view that in Palestine “the Jews are all foreigners” in a land “overrun by predatory Arabs”.
Away from political opinion and looking simply at the reality of Palestine in 1878, the article nevertheless pays tribute, albeit unconsciously, to Palestinians by noting that, “Palestine is a land flowing with milk and honey.” In what amounts to recognition of Palestinian history and agriculture, the encyclopaedia tells us: “There is no evidence of its climate having changed or deteriorated, nor any reason to suppose that it would fail to support as great a population as ever it did, provided the same means as formerly were used for its cultivation.” Chambers also informs us that: “The cultivated fruits are the vine, apple, pear, apricot, quince, plum, orange, lime, banana, almond and prickly pear.” It reveals further that, among other crops, Palestine produced “wheat, barley, peas, potatoes and European vegetables, cotton, millet, rice, maize and sugar cane.” Chambers explains further, “the most valuable products of the vegetable kingdom are derived from the vine, fig, olive and mulberry trees”, while “wine for home use is made in all the central and southern districts. Olive oil is a valuable export.”
The Palestinian homeland has, for centuries, been subjected to control by foreign powers but at the end of the First World War the victorious allies had a moral duty to facilitate the Palestinian right to self-determination; that right was ignored. In 1929, US President Herbert Hoover, claiming that Palestine had been “desolate for centuries”, expressed support for the Zionist enterprise and welcomed Britain’s acceptance of the mandate of Palestine “in order that there might under this protection be established a homeland so long desired by the Jews.”
‘A land without people’
According to Jewish Virtual Library, the concept of Jews as a people without a country first appeared in print in 1843. Scottish clergyman, Alexander Keith, wrote that Jews are “a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people.” The Christian Zionist knew full well of the Palestinian presence and culture because he had first visited the Holy Land in 1839. In 1901, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded for the establishment of a national fund to purchase land in Palestine in order to facilitate separatist European Jewish colonisation. By 1948, the JNF had managed to purchase less than 7% of Palestinian land and most of that had been bought from absentee landlords living outside of Palestine. The Palestinian people clearly refused to part with their land.
Agricultural sabotage and environmental devastation
The decades of Israeli military Occupation and rule of over ever more Palestinian land, condemned in many UN Security Council and countless General Assembly Resolutions, continues to be perpetrated in the certain knowledge that such injustice inevitably provokes protest and resistance. The Palestinian right to return, liberation and sovereignty has been embodied in international law and recognised in countless United Nations resolutions. As of 2013, Israel had been condemned in 45 resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council. News media silence and Great Power complicity (the US has blocked at least four UNSC resolutions against Israeli settlements) in the Zionist enterprise present the foreign domination of the Palestinian people as though it were a conflict between two equal parties. This enables Israel to justify as ‘defence’ its air strikes on Gaza and attacks on fishing boats, as well as the destruction of Palestinian agriculture and homes. In addition, the Israeli military Occupation inflicts upon the Palestinian people, by day and by night, home invasions, restrictions of everyday movement and curtailment of basic human rights.
Restore freedom of speech — allow justice
In their homeland, the Palestinian people are forced to endure a racist, foreign military occupation and, in addition, as a United Nations study on the Right of Return of the Palestinian people notes, “the greater part of an entire nation” has not only been been uprooted from its land and exiled but it has also been denied the right to return by the Occupying power, Israel. The Zionist regime obdurately also claims the right to Jewish settlement, ignoring the fact that civilian settlement in occupied territory is specifically prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It is urgent now that the world and its mainstream news media wake up and insist on respect for, and implementation of, international law in order to allow justice to survive. An example of this is the plight of journalist Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks has done so much to inform and arouse the world as to the enormity of Israel’s crimes against humanity. Asa Winstanley reminds us of key revelations from the WikiLeaks cables relating to Palestine. On 29 September, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture appealed to the world, saying that “the #Assange case is not about the law, but about intimidating journalism, suppressing press freedom and protecting impunity.”
There are already signs of change: Good news from Britain on 27 September, as the Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton passed a motion on Israel and Palestine, put forward by Young Labour, condemning “Israel’s continuing illegal actions”. In moving the motion, The group’s Jawad Khan said that the motion would “bring us one step closer to finally ending the shameful century of British complicity and the denial of the right to self-determination, liberation and return”. This is just the beginning.