How Middle East partition still kills any chance of peace

The organisation Zochrot are a group of Israeli citizens working to raise awareness of the Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian catastrophe.

They were asked by Israeli news service Ynet last week to write something on the partition plan… from 1947. Below is the translated piece of Ariella Azoulay:

The United Nations partition decision of 29 November 1947 was adopted in complete opposition to the desires of the country’s Arab inhabitants who were at least 70% of the population. A not-insignificant number of Jews also opposed the decision. From the moment that the UN decided, the Zionist leadership counted the country’s inhabitants along to the line dividing Jews from Arabs. The position of the Zionist leadership in support of partition and its unconditional justification of using violence to establish the Jewish regime were presented as the Jewish position. Ultra-orthodox Jews, communists, pacifists and those who supported the creation of civil society had no place in the public discourse, and almost no information is available about their struggle. This erasure is also the outcome of the action of the state apparatus as it took over public discourse, the discourse of female and male citizens, and organized the totality of relationships among the country’s inhabitants according the destructive ethnic division between Jews and Arabs.

The Arabs who lived in Palestine for hundreds of years, occupying more than 90 percent of the territory, opposed from the outset the plan to partition their land, and refused to cooperate with the UN bodies that prepared it. The partition plan, therefore, was designed by the UN and the Zionist leadership, which thereby gained recognition as the leadership of the state-in-formation. The country’s Arab inhabitants had little influence, given the line-up of forces: A-(Jewish)-state-in-formation and an organization of states (the UN) supporting it. The new diplomatic, military and political map that was created transformed them into “stateless persons.” The UN decision was a crucial moment in transforming the Arabs from inhabitants of their country into “stateless persons,” even before they became refugees. The state that came into being in their land did not want them, nor was there any other state which did. The reason and rationale behind the opposition of the majority of the country’s inhabitants to the partition plan received almost no attention. In a situation where there was room for only two competing stories, which were presented as if they both sprang from the same initial conditions, their logic…  was understood as an example of “irrational policy” or as “their story.” The Palestinians were presented as having missed the opportunity that had been “given to them,” as having made a continuous series of errors – mass flight, hostile action, cooperating with the attack by Arab states. The Jews, on the other hand, were presented as seizing the opportunity presented and knowing how to make the most of it.

Today, 62 years after the Partition Plan divided the residents of the country – Jews and Arabs – from each other, restructuring them into two hostile national entities, the time has come to critically re-examine the calamity to which it led and consider how it might be possible for all the country’s inhabitants – those who immigrated throughout the years and those who were expelled in order to create a state only for some – to create a regime in their own image, the image of a heterogeneous society which will be know how to celebrate its religious and national holidays in private and free the state from the burden of nationality so it can prosper as a civil society.

Ariella Azoulay teaches political philosophy and visual culture at The Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies, Bar Ilan University, the author of Constituent Violence 1947-1950 (Resling, 2009, in hebrew) and The Civil Contract of Photography, Zone Books, 2008.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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