THE NEW WORKER

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th October 2017


Balfour’s Day of Shame

WHEN the ISIS militia swept across Iraq and eastern Syria and bulldozed part of the frontier in 2014, the sectarian terrorist gang that was covertly supported by imperialism briefly set up a new ‘Caliphate’ in the lands that they controlled.

Their leaders said they had torn up the Sykes-Picot agreement and this was echoed by some of the Middle East ‘experts’ in the bourgeois media. Some welcomed it for creating a new opening for the Kurds. These gurus told us this was the beginning of the end of the odious Anglo-French carve-up that created these artificial borders after the First World War.

What they didn’t say was that US imperialism wanted to redraw the map of the region and divide it into small, sectarian statelets to form a ‘Greater Middle East’ that would be controlled by American imperialism for the benefit of the big oil corporations.

The borders of all the Arab states in the Middle East were defined by British and French imperialism who planned the carve-up of the Turkish Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The Sykes-Picot agreement was part of an Anglo-French deal with Czarist Russia to partition the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which was a German ally.

At the same time, the Arabs under Turkish rule were encouraged to rebel on the false promises of independence given by the emissaries of Anglo-French imperialism whilst the Zionists were promised a ‘homeland’ in Palestine by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on 2nd November 1917. But Palestine was not Balfour’s to give.

The tragedy of the Palestinian Arabs began when British imperialism first occupied their land in 1918 and encouraged Zionist immigration through the Balfour doctrine. ‘Balfour Day’ became a day of mourning for the Palestinian Arabs. But the Zionists celebrated 2nd November as a national holiday from 1918 until the end of the Second World War.

The Zionists were originally encouraged to emigrate to Palestine by the British colonial authority, which saw Jewish settlements as buffers to contain Arab nationalism. Between the world wars British imperialism encouraged Zionist settlements to play the Jews off against the Palestinian Arabs, though they never originally intended to grant either community any real independence.

British imperialism sought to create a community of Zionist settlers who would prolong their occupation of Palestine indefinitely. They helped British colonialism crush the Palestine Revolt in 1936. But in the immediate post-World War II situation the Zionists seized the opportunity to push for a separate state of their own. In 1948 the British colonial mandate ended and the State of Israel was proclaimed. On that day the first Arab—Israeli war began. It has never ended.

The first war led to the expulsion of a million Palestinian Arabs from their homes by the Zionist regime. Those refugees and their descendants have never given up their right to return to their land. And this is the heart of the crisis in the Middle East that has led to five full-scale wars and continuing simmering conflicts.

Although repeatedly ignored by US imperialism and its lackeys, past United Nations resolutions provide the only basis for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. A lasting solution must be based on the right of return of refugees and an independent Palestinian state with Israel giving up all territories seized since 1967.