Sunday, 2 August 2009

The British Mandate in Palestine


"Sir, I may have been the last British serviceman to leave Palestine on May 14, 1948. The governor, General Cunningham, intending to be the last to leave, had already boarded HMS Euryalus at the oiling jetty at Haifa and, to my embarrassment, they were waiting for me, a junior engineer officer, to finish refuelling the ship before we left. Firing had already broken out on Mount Carmel to the south. The feeling on board as we sailed west was of disappointment. Despite the efforts of Britain to provide balance, the world was trying to correct the great wrong done to the Jews in Europe by committing another great wrong, the dispossession of the Arabs of Palestine. Despite the subsequent admirable courage of the Israelis and the unattractive behaviour of Palestinian extremists, I still feel the same. This is simply a sense of practical justice.

The injustice will continue to be the cause of Middle East instability and a volatile fuel for terrorism until it is understood both by Israel and the US. In practical terms it requires the maximum effort by Israel to put it right as far as possible within the bounds of its own prosperity, which would probably improve as a result.

Israel needs to renounce all religious claims to territory, to clear the West Bank of settlements other than those maintained by negotiation, and to facilitate communications between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by some kind of Palestinian-controlled road. The real possibility of peace would make it clear to the Palestinian people which of their political parties truly represents them and their Government would become more reliable. The rest of the world could then help by providing aid and trade to the new nation, cramped and oddly shaped, as is Israel, but at last viable."

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