Southampton University is hosting a conference next month which has stirred a whole raft of Zionist anger. "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" is, say its detractors, "anti-Semitic" and will, according to one British MP, "de-legitimise the existence of a democratic state". Ah, is that the same "democratic state" wherein one-fifth of its citizens face official discrimination on a daily basis and the de-legitimisation of their culture, identity and existence in their own land?
Without wishing to pre-empt what the speakers at the conference are likely to say, this issue of "de-legitimisation" of Israel is fascinating, not least because it presupposes that the state has legitimacy in the first place. Accusations that Southampton's examination of this topic will actually "legitimise anti-Semitism" are part of the usual smokescreen put up by the pro-Israel lobby in order to kill any discussion of Israel's contempt for international laws and conventions.
During World War One, the British authorities, through the High Commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry McMahon, conveyed a number of messages to Sherif Husain of Makkah promising "the Arabs" a Caliphate and the protection of the Holy Places in Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalem. Post-1917 Britain's promises began to look even less likely to be fulfilled, with the issue of the infamous Balfour Declaration promising support for a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…" That clause has been ignored completely ever since, with everything possible being done to expel the "non-Jewish communities" from their land in Palestine; the process continues to this day.
When Zionist leader Chaim Wiezmann arrived in Palestine in 1918, "he warned the British against the application of the democratic system as it 'does not take into account the superiority of the Jew to the Arab…'" Wiezmann's racism underpins the institutional racism of the "democratic state" whose existence is so beloved of the British MP noted above (and, it must be said, the prime minister, most of the British cabinet and far too many other MPs).
In the "recommendations of the King-Crane Commission with regard to Syria-Palestine and Iraq" presented to US President Woodrow Wilson in August 1919, it is stated that "a national home for the Jewish people is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." As such, "the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews… must be greatly modified". A subsequent resolution of the US Congress in 1922 again reaffirmed the commitment for a "Jewish national home" not to damage the rights of the existing population of Palestine. This recurring theme has been ignored ever since.
The following year, King George V sent a message "To the people of Palestine" and, again, they were promised that the "national home for the Jewish People… will not in any way affect the civil or religious rights or diminish the prosperity of the general population of Palestine." The man charged with passing on that message was Britain's first High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, "a British Jew sympathetic to the Zionist cause". Samuel distributed public lands to Jews and fixed a quota of 16,500 Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the first year of his administration, "in addition to the flourishing illegal Jewish immigrants who poured into the country with forged documents and disappeared in the Jewish settlements". The die was cast.
The League of Nations Mandate given to Britain more or less affirmed the intention to create this by now capitalised "National Home" for Jews in Palestine. It has been said that the British government sought this "legal and 'constitutional' cover" in order to be able to "plant and alien entity in the heart of the Arab World for its own strategic colonial plans and needs." When the League's successor, the United Nations, put forward a resolution to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, it was overlooked that the UN Charter gives it no powers or right to create new countries.
"Israel is the only country in the world which was created by a 'recommendation' of the UN," wrote Zafarul-Islam Khan in his book "Palestine Documents". When, however, UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte was sent to sort out the resultant "mess" he was assassinated by the Stern Gang, "a Jewish terrorist group whose leader went on to become prime minister of Israel."
The UN Partition Plan was rejected by the Palestinians and Arab states, who argued that the League of Nations Mandate over Palestine came to an end when the organisation itself was dissolved in April 1946. On the basis of the UN Charter, the Palestinians, it was argued by Henry Cattan on their behalf, should have been granted independence; it was, he said, their "natural and alienable" right. This was rejected.
The partition plan gave most of historic Palestine to the Jewish state even though Jews owned just 6 per cent of the land; in the subsequent ethnic cleansing and so-called "war of independence", the nascent state of Israel took even more land, having reneged on a deal that had been struck with Jordan's King Abdullah, the present king's grandfather.
Israel has never declared what its borders are, the only member state of the United Nations not to do so. Indeed, its membership of the UN was made conditional upon it allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their land. Not only has Israel ignored that condition (along with almost every other UN resolution ever since, despite being a creation of the international body) but it has also obliterated all trace of more than 530 towns and villages which once had a Palestinian population. A glance at the maps of "Palestine" from 1948 onwards show that it has virtually been subsumed by Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent disavowal of a two-state solution and the existence of a state of Palestine should not have been a surprise to anyone. Israel and its founding ideology of Zionism have a greed for more land in order to fulfil the aim of "Greater Israel", from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan and even beyond. There never was any support for a state of Palestine and probably never will be, not in any meaningful sense, anyway. The people who said that the negotiations and "peace process" were a farce have been right all along.
The question remains therefore: what legitimacy does Israel have? It will be interesting to see what the conference in Southampton next month comes up with. That is, of course, if the Zionist lobby and its twisted views of free speech and democracy is unable to have it cancelled. Justice and freedom demand that they fail in their quest.