On November 29, sixty-three years ago, the United Nations General Assembly met at Lake Success in New York and decided with a 33 vote majority to split Mandate Palestine into two states: one for the Jews and one for the indigenous Palestinian Arabs. The ramifications of the so-called Partition Plan of 1947 resonate to this day, even though the actual scheme was never put into action.
The fact of the matter is the plan to partition Palestine was one of the first manifestations of a dominating minority over the weaker majority.
In 1947, the year of the UN plan, Palestinian Arabs made up the majority of the population with Jews comprising a mere 33 percent of those living in the country. Many of them had been illegally smuggled into the country after the ban on Jewish immigration had reached new heights in Britain especially during the Second World War. In 1942 David Ben Gurion, later to become Israel’s first Prime Minister, explicitly declared the previously floated Zionist goal of making Palestine a homeland for the Jews.
The plan was in the making years before, what with the British announcing that its mandate in Palestine would end no later than August of 1948 on the backdrop of a "promise" given by Sir Arthur James Balfour to offer Palestine to the Jews back in 1917. At the same time, the UN, Europe and the United States could not completely disregard the indigenous population of Palestinians (Muslim, Christian and Jews alike) and their right to their homeland. Hence, the decision to divide the country was taken, a decision that did not sit well with the Palestinians or their Arab neighbors.
In any case, the UN Partition Plan was never implemented and Israel was created as a result of the devastating 1948 War. However, the seeds of Jewish domination had already been planted, domination we are not able to shake until this day.
For one, the idea of partitioning Palestine and giving the majority of the country to a mostly immigrant population is outrageous. It is no secret that Palestine was not even the Zionist movement’s only choice of a homeland for the Jews. Places such as Uganda were floated way before the persecution of Jews in WWII. However, the Holocaust and the subsequent isolation of Jews as a people was the catalyst for this expedited move to Palestine, especially since Jews (both indigenous and immigrants) already had a foothold in the holy land.
Plus there was the religious element, which Zionism exploited for making its legitimate claims to the country. These factors and no doubt many more colluded to create an invincible firewall against any real resistance to the creation of a Jewish entity in Palestine.
The rest is history. Since the Arab League rejected the plan –” understandably –” the parties went to war. Although in retrospect, it may seem to an outsider that the Partition Plan was the most rational and logical solution to the problem of creating a Jewish homeland and accommodating the Palestinians all at the same time, nothing could be farther from the truth. From a Palestinian and Arab perspective, this was a huge injustice, a violation of rights and an enforced domination. Jews once lived in Palestine peacefully alongside other Palestinians as a religious minority before 1948. Historically, Palestinians held no grudges against Jews per se. Tensions only began to rise as politically motivated Jews with colonialist aspirations began to encroach on Palestinian land.
Today, this dominating/dominated relationship has yet to perish. The Balfour Declaration and the UN Partition Plan offered a level of legitimization to the Jews which they had never before experienced. These two historical landmarks also cemented the notion of Jews as a nation-people rather than a religious group. Hence, as a nation, they automatically became entitled to the rights of any other nation, namely statehood. The religious claims to the "ancient land of Israel" further strengthened Zionism’s argument that Jews had a right to Palestine.
Now, with the dismal state of affairs Palestinians find themselves in over 60 years later, one may ask whether the decision to reject the partition plan was the right thing to do. The fact is, Palestinians are haggling over much less than what the UN decision initially granted it, including a Jerusalem that would have maintained special international status. Israel has swallowed up far more land than what the partition originally proposed and is violating international law by continuing to build settlements on occupied Palestinian land –” land, it might be added, from which the UN has called on it to withdraw.
Still, with all of the misfortunes that befell the Palestinians since then, one could not envision a different scenario. Palestinians lived on the land of Palestine for centuries, undisputed. All of a sudden, foreign, European immigrants with grand colonialist ideas began to seep in stealthily, claiming land and property as their own, granted to them by hidden and powerful hands. Just as suddenly, an "offer" is put before them to divide their country. Some of the most fertile areas of Palestine would go to these foreigners while the rest would be theirs. Of course the Arabs and Palestinians did not accept. That would have been absurd.