by Iqbal Jassat
Dramatic political events in the last few days, ranging from what many pundits describe as a coup in Pakistan to the intensity of armed resistance within the Occupied Palestinian Territories against Israeli colonisation and apartheid crimes, are likely to dominate public discourse.
Not to be outdone in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the dubious stance adopted by America and NATO, which many observers correctly perceive to be unjust, inconsistent and hypocritical in relation to their position on Palestine.
Since Ukraine has become dominant in global news networks with horrific images of death and destruction, of cities and towns laid to waste and of the pitiful plight of young and old fleeing homes and lands to seek refuge in neighbouring European countries, those in similar tragic fates but of another colour may not be faulted if they remind the world of western double standards.
The “reset” in global politics as undertaken by the Biden administration and slavishly followed by Europe has less to do with justice and more to do with greed by their respective corporate conglomerates and the military industrial complex.
It is within this context and especially the hype generated by British Premier Boris Johnson’s boastful walkabout in Kiev alongside Ukraine’s President Zelensky, that one is compelled to remind Johnson’s cheerleaders within the UK and across Europe of His Majesty’s betrayal of Palestine.
Strutting across the war-torn zones in Ukraine and pledging to continue bolstering the country’s defense via billions of pound sterlings, technology and unlimited supply of weapons and sophisticated military hardware, Johnson in his belligerent rhetoric against Russia, expediently ignores British crimes against Palestinians.
Dr Salman Abu Sitta, widely acknowledged as the foremost authority on the Nakba and an acclaimed researcher known for mapping historic Palestine as well as developing a practical plan for implementing the Right Of Return of Palestinian refugees, insists that Britain committed three cardinal sins for which it must atone and provide full remedy.
This will not be music to Johnson’s ears but the stain of British treachery will remain indelible on its history.
Abu Sitta reminds us that Britain was entrusted with Mandate A for Iraq and Palestine to help both to set up government institutions for an independent state.
Though Iraq became independent, the same did not occur in Palestine. Instead, the British handed over Palestine to East European Jews who had no connection to the land.
Britain appointed the Zionist Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner.
He created the foundations for a settlers’ state on the ruins of Palestine.
Britain dismembered the Palestinian society in 1936-1939 Revolt.
The years are marked as the British-inflicted Nakba.
Britain criminally neglected to protect the Palestinian people during the Zionist invasion and al Nakba of 1948.
The second sin Abu Sitta insists Britain is accountable for, he describes as their disgraceful escape without effecting transfer of power to Palestine.
“In the mid-twentieth century, when Britain left its dominions in Asia and Africa, including India, Cyprus, Malaysia, it handed power formally to a local government of the people and they became independent. In Palestine, the British left hurriedly in disgrace, just like the recent American escape from Afghanistan.”
British civil servants caught the last plane from Lydda airport and its army left to Egypt and by Haifa port.
Britain left Palestine in the hands of armed new settlers from the cold hills of Russia. History has never seen such a criminal conduct.
“As a result, Palestine became without status, easy prey to devour by waiting vultures.”
In his final claim, Abu Sitta insists that given the gravity of the Nakba and Britain’s role in the dismemberment of Palestine, a Nuremberg type of tribunal or trials be held.
“For a country to be occupied by a foreign minority, emptied almost entirely of its people, its physical and cultural landmarks obliterated, its destruction hailed as a miraculous act of God and a victory for freedom and civilized values, in the 20th century, under the glare of cameras and under the watchful eye of the UN and its many resolutions, all done according to a premeditated plan, meticulously executed, financially and politically supported from Britain and its Allies, and still maintained today, is no doubt unique in the history of mankind.
“Yet Britain, as the primary and original culprit, failed to do, or cause to be done, a comprehensive and legally rigorous international enquiry into the causes and remedies of Al Nakba, similar to Nuremberg Enquiry and similar trials.”
The political and economic upheavals resulting from the war in Ukraine which have widespread global implications, and does not hold any meaningful chance of ending soon, especially due to the aggressive war-talk and massive weapons deployment by US and NATO allies, ironically has Britain positioned as a key player in the maelstrom.
Whether one considers the soft coup in Pakistan orchestrated by external actors or the dispossession of Palestinians from their land, Britain’s role as a colonial empire in the Indo-Pak subcontinent as indeed in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, cannot be reduced to a footnote in history.
It has to account for its sins as Abu Sitta insists. Unless it is reigned in urgently, Britain will continue to be a force of destruction and enjoy pride of place in America’s reckless military expeditions.
Iqbal Jassat is Exec Member: Media Review Network
Johannesburg, South Africa