- 1 The world of matter versus the world of ideas and values
- 2 Muslims caught unprepared
- 3 The missteps of Yusuf al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem
- 4 The farce of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence
- 5 Britain, the master of deceit
- 6 Rendering the Palestinians nameless, identity-less and simply non-existent
- 7 Exploiting Palestinians Across Time
- 8 In the vocabulary of Zionism, the Palestinians do not exist
- 9 Everything was “free” and “up for grabs.”
- 10 The inhumane Zionist occupation of Palestine
At the turn of the 20th century, Palestine was assailed from all directions, both actually and ideologically. Britain and later Israel were responsible for the former, while the Enlightenment and the ensuing democratic as well as liberal thought of the West in general were culpable for the latter. It is almost impossible to ascertain which feature of the West was more megalomaniac, more aggressive and more proselytizing: hunger for territories, or hunger for subjugating and controlling minds.
The world of matter versus the world of ideas and values
No one doubted that the Muslim world was ill prepared to withstand the growing imperialistic appetite of the Western powers, but what was surprising were the Muslim reactions with which the threats have been met. Instead of coming to terms with the mounting problems methodically and fully, and preparing adequate short- and long-term solutions also in a systematic and comprehensive manner, most people, especially the rulers and their intellectual and religious collaborators, were able to perceive and deal with no more than the material aspects of the events.
Thus, expectedly, a string of analogous measures was pursued in response to the situation at hand. However, if divorced from their entrenched intellectual and ideological dimensions, no material dimension can be properly diagnosed and attended to. The two are inextricably linked, existing and operating in a nuanced and intricately intertwined cause-and-effect dynamic.
Indeed, both Zionists and Britain were cognizant of what they wanted and how. At first, they were probing the ability and resolve of Arabs to resist the Zionist statehood idea and its potential translation into reality. When it emerged that the conditions were encouraging and were getting ever more favourable, the Zionist efforts were correspondingly intensified. How fluid and open-ended the Zionist plans were at the outset, so as to throw dust into the eyes of Arabs and the rest of Muslims, testifies the response of Theodor Herzl to Yusuf al-Khalidi -an Ottoman politician and mayor of Jerusalem, who was also a scholar that lectured at the University of Vienna - that if the Zionists were not wanted in Palestine they will search and find elsewhere what they needed.
However, from 1917 onwards, when the roadmap for the creation of Israel was clearly outlined, there was no more turning back. Flexibility, dialogue, compromise and reasonableness were progressively removed from the vocabulary of the British-Zionist pact.
This begs the question of why there was no intellectually comprehensive nor systematic Muslim response to Theodor Herzl’s bombshell. Patchy and muddled responses produced no tangible results. On the contrary, they proved counterproductive, underlining the Muslim incompetence and vacillation.
If the unfortunate Theodor Herzl incident proved one thing, it is that Muslims did not have what it takes, especially in the arena of intellectualism, to resist the ideological onslaughts of the West. The Muslim mind was yet to be configured adequately for the purpose. The issues of global significance – and impact – were yet to start preoccupying it as part of the increasingly complex local and international realities.
In a nutshell, the Muslim mind failed to recognize that there was more to the Western world than just weapons, technology and indulgence. There was a world of ideas and values which was more destructive and needed to be addressed more urgently. The effects of the French campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) led by Napoleon Bonaparte seem to have been short-lived. They failed to penetrate deeper into the core of the Muslim being and awaken the dormant consciousness.
Decades-long modernization of a great part of the Muslim world – starting with the efforts of Muhammad Ali in Egypt and culminating in the Tanzimat reforms in Istanbul - should have focused, instead of blindly imitating the material progress of the West, on mastering – and possibly Islamizing - the Western philosophy and thought, in order to be able not only to withstand, but also prevail over the incessant attacks of theirs. Without question, the Western ideas and values represented the soul of its progress.
Hence, merely following the West in its physical development persuaded Muslims to become permanent followers and imitators, but if they conquered the ideological foundations of Western civilization, that would have placed Muslims at once in control of their own destiny and in a position to deal with the West confidently and on an equal footing. In the end, Muslims would have secured and owned both Orient and Occident. Having adopted a wrong course of action, though, Muslims now control neither, with the problem of Palestine functioning as much as an embodiment and proof of the Muslim debilitation as the centre of gravity in their stalled universe.
The newly polished Western notions of liberty, equality, egalitarianism, democracy and revisionist theology were alien in the Muslim world and to the Muslim mentality. The first Muslim scholar to refer to those principles and values was Abdurrahman al-Jabarti (d. 1825), who did so in his book “Chronicle of the First Seven Months of the French Occupation of Egypt.”
However, if the book contains that particular significance, it, in equal measure, stands as evidence of how much the Muslim mind was indifferent to learning about the Western thought – not to embrace, but grasp and repudiate, it – and how much it was prepared and willing to maintain the status quo.
The creation of Israel was inspired and guided by the avantgarde Western idea of one nation one state and a cluster of its sister ideas – regardless of how much those had been distorted and manipulated - according to which the state and the nation are congruent, and where a belief in freedom and equality constitutes the foundation of a democratic system of government.
The problems of the world were getting ever more internationalized, unpredictable and open-ended, resulting in two ruinous world wars which came to pass in rapid succession, calling for recalibrating both the scope and nature of thought patterns.
Strictly speaking, cognitive frameworks and thought processes were supposed never to be the same again. This nonetheless in no way implies endorsement of a new intellectual and, by extension, civilizational ethos. Rather, it implies that Muslims needed to be cautious and wisely adopt pragmatic styles and methods, for the reason that – irrespective of whether it was appealing or not – while Islamic civilization was declining, its Western counterpart was rapidly rising.
As the power dynamic was shifting away from them, Muslims were no longer in a position to dictate the terms of encounters. Their position as a global player was increasingly becoming untenable.
Muslims caught unprepared
It was because of these conditions with the majority of Muslims in the Middle East as the centre of gravity of Islamic civilization that they were not prepared to navigate the challenges of modernity and to handle the complexities of modern-day society.
An example is an exchange of letters between Yusuf al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. It was Yusuf al-Khalidi who wrote a letter in 1899 to Zadok Kahn, the chief rabbi of France, to convince Zionists to abandon their Zionism project and leave Palestine alone. The letter was a response to the publication of Theodor Herzl’s “Der Judenstaat” (“The State of the Jews”). Zadok Kahn showed the letter to Theodor Herzl who, in turn, replied to Yusuf al-Khalidi.
Another example is the famous McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, which is a series of letters exchanged in 1915–16 between Hussein b. Ali, emir or sharif of Makkah, and Sir Henry McMahon, the British high commissioner in Egypt. “In general terms, the correspondence effectively traded British support of an independent Arab state for Arab assistance in opposing the Ottoman Empire. It was later contradicted by the incompatible terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, secretly concluded between Britain and France in May 1916, and Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917” (Britannica, Hussein-McMahon correspondence).
And the third example is the content of the Balfour Declaration, according to which the British Government viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
The three instances show that Muslims, represented by Yusuf al-Khalidi on behalf of the Ottoman government and Hussein b. Ali, and Westerners, represented by Theodor Herzl, Sir Henry McMahon, Mark Sykes, François Georges-Picot and Arthur James Balfour, though part of the same problem, were rarely on the same wavelength. They had different perspectives, disagreeing basically about everything. Looking from the Muslim side, the incompatibilities were engineered and intentional, but from the Western side, they were unavoidable and spontaneous.
To the West, in addition, the Muslim side represented the waning order and jurisdiction, whereas the Western counterpart exemplified the arrival of the future. The standoff seems to have been a struggle between an anachronism and avant-gardism.
That is why no bilateral treaties of any kind have ever been reached, and the subsequent decisions were in fact the unilaterally formulated views of the rising West – represented by Britain and, to some extent, France, Russia and Italy – which then were imposed upon the vanquished Muslims and were implemented within their crumbling political domains.
Reading through the above referred-to documents, one gets an impression that they are ambiguous and indefinite, which is partially true because the objective principally of Britain was to make things look as such in order to bolster its leverage and facilitate the implementation phase. The more Machiavellian and long-drawn-out British policies were, the more they benefited the West and harmed the disordered interests of Muslims.
The reason for that was the realization “that the present stage of operations in the Ottoman Empire is transitional, but daily declaring itself more and more in our favour.” The Government have thus made “every effort to avoid definite commitments for the future; and consequently the longer a final programme is postponed the stronger becomes our position as negotiators, and the more reasonable will the other two parties, both Turk and Arab, be likely to show themselves towards our view” (Bernard Regan, The Implementation of the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate in Palestine (1917–1936)).
The missteps of Yusuf al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem
The Muslim political rifts were exposed and further augmented by their at once misunderstanding and misuse of the key concepts. When Yusuf al-Khalidi emphasized the validity of the Abrahamic Covenant, how nobody could dispute the rights of the Jews to Palestine, how “a marvellous spectacle it would be if the Jews, so gifted, were once again reconstituted as an independent nation, respected, happy, able to render services to poor humanity in the moral domain as in the past – he was wrong to add that those were “abstract conceptions, however pure, however noble they may be.”
He was also wrong while saying that people “must reckon with reality, with established facts, with force, yes with the brutal force of circumstances.” The man was wrong because Zionism and its aspirations were steadily emerging from the world of abstract ideas to that of intelligible and palpable realities. Moreover, all of reality, facts and prevalent circumstances were increasingly pointing towards a different direction. Muslim decision makers should have known better which way the winds were blowing.
Next, Yusuf al-Khalidi somewhat naively reminded that “Palestine is now an integral part of the Ottoman Empire and, what is more serious, it is inhabited by people other than only Israelites. This reality, these acquired facts, this brutal force of circumstances leave Zionism, geographically, no hope of realisation...Jews certainly possess capital and intelligence. But however great the power of money in this world, one cannot buy millions all at once. To achieve a goal like the one that Zionism must propose, other, more formidable blows are needed, those of cannons and battleships.”
What Yusuf al-Khalidi did through the last proclamation of his - most probably due to complacency, overconfidence and defiance - was an indirect admission that if there was no protective Muslim power in Palestine, and if Zionists somehow managed to muster an overwhelming military power of their own, such that will be able to conquer Palestine, they can embark on an adventure of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. The words could likewise be understood as a form of invitation, so to speak. Despite not being wanted, the Zionists could still enter Palestine as “gate-crashers.”
That said, Yusuf al-Khalidi should have known better that the might of the Ottoman Empire was in a rapid decline, was dwindling and regularly losing its distant territories – that is how Bosnia and the whole of the Balkan region (Rumelia) were lost, and based on the pattern, Palestine’s turn was imminent; that the Western powers, which were hostile towards Muslims and, motivated by political expediency, could be easily turned into the allies of the Jews, were all over the place, probing, scheming and spreading their devious agendas; and that, in accordance with the previous two factors, Palestine could soon become exposed, alone and at the mercy of its enemies.
All things considered, Yusuf al-Khalidi might have spoken too soon, and, instead of demoralising the Zionists and their Western backers, he might have encouraged them. The determination of Theodor Herzl, representing a cause, was obvious. He was determined to accomplish his mission, no matter what obstacles lay in his way. In his letter to Yusuf al-Khalidi, he subtly suggested the use of inducements, such as bribery. So, if he was willing and prepared to disclose this in an official communication, one can only imagine the clandestine tactics Theodor Herzl had at his disposal and was ready to resort to them.
This should have set off a red flag for Yusuf al-Khalidi. As the succeeding events confirmed, his words came back to haunt him, though he did not live enough to witness all their ramifications. Aged 64, he died in 1906, eleven years before the Balfour Declaration, and fourteen years before Britain occupied Palestine.
The farce of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence
Perhaps the best case in point is the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence. In it, especially on the part of Hussein b. Ali, a variety of keywords has been used interchangeably, such as Arabs, Moslems, Arab nation, Arab nations, Arab countries, Moslem world, the Arab kingdom, Khalifate, and Arab Khalifate of Islam. The only thing that is clear in the Correspondence is that it took place in a haphazard manner and was heading nowhere, towards a cul-de-sac at best.
It laid bare the fact that the Arab position was weak, confusing and desperate, and that the position of Britain was clear, unwavering and resourceful. Such was the complex political landscape, both on a local and international level, that it posed significant challenges for the Arab position, while simultaneously bolstering Britain's influence.
Hussein b. Ali claimed that “the whole of the Arab nation” wanted to get rid of the Ottomans and their rule and thus “accomplish their freedom, and grasp the reins of their administration both in theory and practice.” But to accomplish this goal, the Arabs could not act alone.
Hence, they beseeched Britain to support and aid them. In return, the Arabs will be the sincere partners and acquiescent allies of “the illustrious British Empire”; Britain will be given preference “in all cases and matters and under all forms and circumstances”; and “England shall have the preference in all economic enterprises in the Arab countries whenever conditions of enterprises are otherwise equal.”
With this, Hussein b. Ali was effectively planning to dispose of one “foreign power” (by the way, in no way were the Ottomans a foreign occupying power, but that is how Arab nationalists perceived them), replacing it with another, who, apart from insatiable thirst for power and control, had nothing in common with the Arabs, their history, traditions and faith. A concrete course of action had not been established for managing the aftermath that would follow the overthrow of the Ottomans.
No surprise that Britain was content with Hussein b. Ali’s offer, for its main objective was to crush and then throw away the Ottomans from the Middle Eastern geopolitical theatre. Sir Henry McMahon rather jubilantly declared to Hussein b. Ali that he was happy that the Arabs had finally realized that “Arab interests are English interests and English Arab.”
Britain could now attend to its core business - i.e, putting an end to the Ottoman presence in the fiery but promising region - after which, when the helpless and disoriented Arabs are left to fend for themselves, the main surgical intervention, which was supposed to include the creation of Israel as well, will come to pass.
For that reason were all aspects of the Correspondence in principle tolerable for Sir Henry McMahon. As long as they were vague, general and deferable, he was fine. However, whenever a specific and clearcut pronouncement was needed, he would cleverly manoeuvre around it by adding more vagueness and generalization and a degree of ostensible, albeit misleading, approval.
For instance, regarding the question of Arab countries’ limits and boundaries, which was most crucial, Sir Henry McMahon simply wrote that “it would appear to be premature to consume our time in discussing such details in the heat of war, and while, in many portions of them, the Turk is up to now in effective occupation.”
Moreover, concerning the question of the vilayet of Baghdad, Sir Henry McMahon commented: “We take note of your remarks concerning the vilayet of Baghdad and will take the question into careful consideration when the enemy has been defeated and the time for peaceful settlement arrives.”
Hussein b. Ali was also concerned about the vilayets of Aleppo and Beirut, to which Sir Henry McMahon simply observed: “With regard to the vilayets of Aleppo and Beirut, the Government of Great Britain have fully understood and taken careful note of your observations, but, as the interests of our ally, France, are involved in them both, the question will require careful consideration and a further communication on the subject will be addressed to you in due course.”
Embodying the Arab socio-political reality and mindset, Hussein b. Ali did not know what exactly he wanted, nor what the best political course of action considering the circumstances was: a form of Arab caliphate; continuation of Muslim caliphate but with its seat moved from Istanbul to an Arab fulcrum; full-fledged independence and freedom for the Arab countries along the lines of the principle of nation–state congruency; or a form of either federated or confederated small-scale caliphate for the independent Arab countries.
If Hussein b. Ali did not know, neither did Sir Henry McMahon wish to dwell on the issue. In his customary fashion, the latter merely remarked that such a critical thing should be discussed and agreed upon later – the bridge should be crossed when everyone gets there, after defeating the Ottomans. Sir Henry McMahon said: “When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories.”
Britain, the master of deceit
Ultimately, having been convinced of the material, intellectual, psychological and spiritual incompetence of the Arabs, Britain decided to act on its own and solely for the benefit of its own interests, leaving its Arab allies - who heretofore had placed their absolute confidence and trust in Britain - in the lurch.
So confident were Sir Henry McMahon and his government of the success of their schemes that halfway through their historic correspondence with Hussein b. Ali, they embarked on the equally historic Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was an agreement between Britain and France, with the consensus of imperial Russia and Italy, for the division of the Ottoman Empire. “The agreement led to the division of Turkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine into various French- and British-administered areas” (Britannica, Sykes-Picot Agreement).
Noteworthy is the detail that negotiations for the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement were launched in November 2015, which was approximately the time of Hussein b. Ali’s third letter to Sir Henry McMahon. After that, there were two more letters from Hussein b. Ali and three from Sir Henry McMahon.
The negotiations leading to the Sykes-Picot Agreement were completed in January 1916, and the Agreement itself ratified in May 1916. This means that the negotiations were concluded around the time when Sir Henry McMahon sent his fourth and second last letter, and the Agreement was endorsed about two months after the final letter in the Correspondence – tenth in total - was sent from Sir Henry McMahon to Hussein b. Ali.
If the Arabs were not sure as to what they wanted and how to go about charting their political future - either to continue with the old traditional ways or to make recourse to what was coming their way as flickers of the Western civilization – Britain and its Western partners had no such problem. They were in no doubt as to what they wanted and what the Arabs were not supposed to have.
The latter had to be robbed not only of the benefits connected with the old ways - that is, the residues of the fading institutions of caliphate and ummatic cohesion – but also of the benefits latent in the modern systems of governance and their general development models.
In an attempt to permanently “solve” the Arab problem, the West was convinced that the Arab polities needed to be rendered neither traditional nor modern, neither Oriental nor Occidental, and parts of neither a caliphate framework nor an Arab unified coalition. Having thus been deprived of their collective power, the Arabs were not expected to be moulded into conventional states either. The only option left was to mutate the Arab polities into unbalanced and volatile geopolitical freaks.
Only then, it was thought, will the Arabs get what they deserved and perhaps were ready for, and will the mission of Britain and its Western axis of evil be accomplished. And that exactly was the aim and, as subsequent episodes proved, accomplishment of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
The Arab nations that were dreaming of their own free and sovereign states, perchance joined in a loose caliphate-inspired confederation, were divided and segregated in a manner that was carefully crafted to guarantee that they would always have difficulties which both the caliphate and nation-state models were designed to avoid. Instead of moving forward, the newly formed Arab states were meant to be consumed by their internal issues, causing them to either stagnate or regress.
The creation of Israel was the finishing touch, tantamount to the icing on the cake. It was designed to unsettle and counteract whatever influence the existing cluster of the Arab states could generate. It acted as the malignant force in the region, with the purpose of preventing the Arab states from achieving normalcy, mending their ways, and from making any genuine civilizational progress.
The gullibility of the Arabs, especially Hussein b. Ali, was indeed startling. They could not understand who Britain was and what its real intentions have been until the proclamation of the Balfour Declaration, which according to Bernard Regan was an indication of Britain’s “break with previous imperialist practices and embodied both the apotheosis and the nadir of British imperialism.”
The cunning strategies of Britain were so disgustingly clever that they caught both allies and enemies off guard. After the Balfour Declaration, people, including Hussein b. Ali, were forced to reflect on their actions, but it was too little too late for soul searching to produce any meaningful impact. From then on, the future of the Middle East was destined to follow a downward path only. The point of no return had been reached.
Rendering the Palestinians nameless, identity-less and simply non-existent
When it comes to the subjects of nationhood and identity, the situation in Palestine was inhumane. To say that it was horrible would be an understatement. The preeminent global aggressors, utilizing their most refined cunning strategies, have converged upon Palestine with the intention of subduing and deforming it beyond recognition.
A prominent feature in the said strategies was to neutralize Palestine as a Muslim society, to upset its demographic composition by displacing the local population and facilitating Jewish migration into it, and by denying statehood to the remainder of the Muslim populace. This way, the Muslim Palestine and its Muslim citizenry were intended to become nationless, homeless, identity-less, faceless, voiceless, abandoned and forgotten. They were meant simply to become non-existent or unaccounted for, in which case there will be no serious hindrances on the way to achieving Western-Israeli objectives.
For that reason did the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement stipulate that Palestine should be under an “international regime”, did Britain occupy Palestine under the aegis of the UN, did the Mandate for Palestine state clearly that Britain will be “responsible for putting into effect the (Balfour) Declaration, and did Britain and the rest of the Western world coordinate and facilitate the creation of the state of Israel, trying tooth-and-nail to sustain its artificial existence till the present day.
History is a witness as to the nature of those undertakings. While Israel has continued to act illegally and brutally, like a pampered bully, committing various crimes against the Palestinians, including ethnic cleansing and genocide, without ever being held accountable, the Palestinians have not been granted any human rights, let alone independence and statehood. And while Israeli endless and cutting-edge state- yet West-sponsored systematic criminality against Palestine is incessantly justified, any Palestinian response to the inhumane occupation and aggression, however scanty it may be, is peddled as illegal, belligerent and a vicious and barbaric act of terrorism.
This reality, nevertheless and unfortunately, is understandable because, observing through the lenses of Palestine’s and Palestinians’ enemies, Palestine and its people are not supposed to exist in the first place, let alone act, in particular if such were against the “internationally” agreed upon provisos. The mere presence of the Palestinians and their occasional disruption of the feel-good factor of the global order is considered their greatest crime. As a nuisance, they need to be nullified and kept under constant control.
Exploiting Palestinians Across Time
The problem was further compounded by the fact that even in Islamic civilization, Palestine was always regarded as universally special. It belonged not just to the entire Muslim world, but also to the world in general. Palestine was to be ontologically free and unrestrained, as it were. With its remarkable history and status, it was to rule and dominate, rather than being ruled and dominated. This certainly influenced the mindset of the Palestinian people, inducing them to feel as though spontaneous, inclusive and universal citizens. They belonged to the Muslim ummah and the whole world, instead of some local or regional socio-political entities.
As a result, the Palestinians, more than most other Muslims, were taken aback by the emergence of nationalism and the idea of a nation-state. They were particularly torn between the well-trodden old and precarious new systems. Accordingly - by way of illustration – while administratively being linked to Damascus, Sidon and Acre under the Ottomans, much of Palestine, especially Jerusalem, often dealt directly with Istanbul. Jerusalem was effectively a sister city to Istanbul, operating as a federal or centralized urban environment.
Such was most compellingly displayed, above all, during the initial phases of the Ottoman Empire when it was “a highly centralized bureaucratic state”, which however had to be modified later, giving way to a much more decentralized system (Dror Ze’evi, An Ottoman Century: the District of Jerusalem in the 1600s).
This is what caused Jacob Landau to entitle his collection of rare century-old photographs of Palestine from the private collection of Sultan Abdul Hamid II as “Abdul-Hamid's Palestine.” So much was Sultan Abdul Hamid II in love with Palestine, in order to increase its productivity “for his Privy Purse”, and to “solve problems which challenged the sovereignty of the Empire”, that he even purchased 3.1% of the total land area of Palestine (Roy S. Fischel and Ruth Kark, Sultan Abdülhamid II and Palestine: Private Lands and Imperial Policy).
Thus, in the wake of the Ottoman disintegration and ultimate collapse, and following the emergence of local nationalism as a result of global socio-political currents, the Palestinians were left in limbo. Inasmuch as every group was preoccupied with its own affairs, “rejoicing in that which is with itself” (al-Rum 32), the issue of Palestine had to take a back seat.
Unable to hold on to its universality and spontaneity, nor to become instantaneously an integral part of the modern trends in political organization and governance, Palestine stood at the crossroads. Most of its prospects were dashed following the British occupation, and when Israel was created, it became clear that a long journey fraught with enormous and grave difficulties awaited. The future looked as dark as ever.
As one could predict, the identity of the Palestinians was targeted the most. They were regarded as the Palestinian territories’ deadwood, yet unauthorized settlers. They had to be psychologically isolated first, and then gradually eliminated as much biologically as immaterially.
To the Israeli and Western enemies of Palestine, the case was straightforward. Once the Ottomans are gone, the Palestinians enjoyed neither affiliation nor support. There was no Palestinian state either, on account of which its people could perceive themselves as Palestinians belonging to a state.
The opportunity for a Palestinian state was prevented by Britain and later by Israel. And since the modern state of Israel eventually became an undeniable reality – in a land that after the downfall of the Ottomans and during the British colonization was turned into terra nullius (nobody’s land) – the Palestinians suddenly became unwelcome and without a sense of identity in their own communities. Hence, instead of struggling for the civilizational development of their Palestinian homeland, the Palestinian people were forced to battle for their fundamental sense of self and mere survival.
In the vocabulary of Zionism, the Palestinians do not exist
Therefore, in his capacity as the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl speaks in his “Der Judenstaat” (“The State of the Jews”) as though the Jews will migrate to a place where there existed no people and where they will be welcomed with open arms. He never raised the issue of the indigenous people in Palestine and what relations the new Jewish state will forge with them. The subjects of tolerance, coexistence and cooperation with the local – and even neighbouring – population were not part of the equation.
Paradoxically, Theodor Herzl raises the possibility of “men of other creeds and different nationalities” coming to live “amongst us; we should accord them honourable protection and equality before the law; we have learnt toleration in Europe,” but he does not discuss the case of those whom they will find in the Palestinian urban and rural areas which they planned to occupy. He expounds on an imaginary future, not the pressing present.
He resides in a fictional and impeccable universe dominated and ruled by the Jews alone, not here and now on the real earth attending to the potential problems his Zionist ambitions entailed.
Furthermore, the author speaks eloquently and at length about immigration, Jewish settlements, urban and general development, economy, progress, culture and civilization, but never within any morally accountable framework or terms of reference.
Coming to a place where there were already people, culture, civilization, development, laws, traditions, history, freedom and aspirations, involved repercussions which however were not studied seriously, neither from a human, Judaistic, nor commonsensical perspective. All evidence suggests that the Zionist project was a supremely treacherous endeavour, and that the vast majority of people were hoodwinked into supporting and aiding its implementation.
The Zionists were cognizant that they would not come to a barren and uninhabited land, but to a land that had been occupied, developed and active for ages, which nevertheless posed no quandary whatsoever to Theodor Herzl. He never appeared concerned to demonstrate certain limitations on the magnitude and geographical range of immigration, settlements, development, and a new Jewish culture as well as civilization. Everything in Palestine seemed limitless and absolute. Possibilities ranged from spontaneous to unobstructed.
Everything was “free” and “up for grabs.”
One thus cannot help but deduce that deep inside Theodor Herzl was harbouring the prospects of recurrent conflicts, violence, forceful occupation, oppression and displacement. Owing to that he banked on the creation of a Zionist professional army, as a critical component in a new state, which was expected to be equipped “with every requisite of modern warfare, to preserve order internally and externally.” He likewise looked forward to the constant support of the West (Europe), “which would have to guarantee our existence.”
Undeniably, Theodor Herzl was an evil bigot and a corruption-diffuser par excellence. He planned to rescue the Jews from one darkness only to thrust them into another, from the darkness of suffering on account of being the “other” in Europe, to the one of illegal occupation accompanied by the oppression of the “other” in Palestine. He was right when he said that the Jews had “learned” toleration (civilization) in, and from, Europe.
The Zionists premeditated to do to the people(s) of Palestine exactly what Europe had done to the Jews. Truly, they were excellent learners. The bane of antisemitism in Europe was about to be transfigured into anti-Palestinianism and into the most intense form of Islamophobia. The evil of antisemitism would pale in comparison with the evil of the latter.
By solving the Jewish question as one of the darkest problems of humanity, the Zionists wanted to create a “Palestine question” as the future darkest problem of the human race. Nobody can deny that the “Palestine question” is a blight on the modern dominated-by-the-West civilization whose individuality is either modern primitiveness or primitive modernity.
To the Zionists, neither the Muslim Palestine nor Palestinians existed. Those were non-existent, yet unreal, notions. They, moreover, were “the malicious invention of those who wish Israel ill.” That is why the occupation of Palestine could be rationalized, and sanctioned.
Not even once did Theodor Herzl mention in his more-than-25,000-word pamphlet any of the terms of Islam, Mohammedanism, Muslims, Mohammedans, Saracens, Arabs, Muslim (Arab) cities and villages, or mosques. There is absolutely nothing that could be related to the idea of Islam and the multitiered orb of Muslims, notwithstanding the fact that the Zionists schemed to occupy a country where communities of Arabs (Muslims) lived, where Islam was practiced, where Islamic laws and traditions were observed, and where there were multitudes of mosques and other Islamic institutions.
The inhumane Zionist occupation of Palestine
Without a doubt, herein lies the reason why the Zionist occupation was inhumane, because there were no “humans” to be affected thereby; why it was heartless and merciless, because there were no “hearts” to be broken, nor anybody or anything deserving mercy; and why it was murderous and brutal, because the standing obstacles typified malevolent entities, so they had to be dealt with at once firmly and proficiently. Constituting a segment of the virtually non-existent demographic reality, neither the Palestinian children nor women were to be spared.
This explains why the Palestinians are often described by the Zionists as “animals”, “bloodthirsty animals”, “terrorists” and “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”, and why the Zionist backers in the criminal parts of the West keep supporting the Zionist agendas wholeheartedly, encouraging the government of Israel to “finish them.”
To make things worse, Theodor Herzl was considerate enough to make reference to a small number of churches (Christian sanctuaries) in Palestine, but not to hundreds of mosques. He said that “the sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial status such as is well-known to the law of nations.
We should form a guard of honour about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfilment of this duty with our existence. This guard of honour would be the great symbol of the solution of the Jewish Question after eighteen centuries of Jewish suffering.”
The churches or sanctuaries of Christendom will be respected thanks to the West’s support of the Zionist project, guaranteeing its existence. Such would be a token of appreciation. Mosques are not mentioned simply because, just like Muslims, they are “non-existent.” Standing in the way of the realization of the Jewish state, they will have to go as well. Without Muslims, mosques will be useless. If Muslims are the target of the constant processes of ethnic cleansing, mosques, in equal measure, are the target of the constant processes of cultural-cum-civilizational cleansing.
According to Rashid Khalidi in his book “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine”: “There is a vast body of literature dedicated to proving that before the advent of European Zionist colonization, Palestine was barren, empty, and backward. Historical Palestine has been the subject of innumerable disparaging tropes in Western popular culture, as well as academically worthless writing that purports to be scientific and scholarly, but that is riddled with historical errors, misrepresentations, and sometimes outright bigotry.
At most, this literature asserts, the country was inhabited by a small population of rootless and nomadic Bedouin who had no fixed identity and no attachment to the land they were passing through, essentially as transients. The corollary of this contention is that it was only the labour and drive of the new Jewish immigrants that turned the country into the blooming garden it supposedly is today, and that only they had an identification with and love for the land, as well as a (God-given) right to it.
This attitude is summed up in the slogan ‘A land without a people for a people without a land,’ used by Christian supporters of a Jewish Palestine, as well as by early Zionists like Israel Zangwill. Palestine was terra nullius to those who came to settle it, with those living there nameless and amorphous. Thus Herzl’s letter to Yusuf Diya (al-Khalidi) referred to Palestinian Arabs, then roughly 95 percent of the country’s inhabitants, as its ‘non-Jewish population.’”
Finally, neither did the ill-fated Balfour Declaration make any clear reference to the Palestinian Muslim population, or their national home. On the contrary, the Declaration is explicit about the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people (nation), and that Britain “will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.” The Palestinians are alluded to as just one segment of “the non-Jewish communities” living in the land.
Needless to say that the message here, too, was clear. Despite the outward appearance and deceptive appeal of what was subsequently spoken - such as the preservation of each group’s civil and religious rights – everyone knew that there could not be a single land for two overlapping homelands, nor a single national home for two different, yet opposing, nations.
Oil and water are immiscible, and as things stood, the project of the state of Israel was akin to a wolf in sheep's clothing. The pedestal was reserved only for one side, whereas the other one was doomed either to endure perpetual misery or risk being consigned to oblivion.