LETTER: West blinded by the Holocaust

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The Independent Online
Sir: In the discussion of the events now affecting Lebanon, it would be good to see an occasional reminder of the modern history of the Middle East, particularly Palestine. The one major relevant thing that most people seem to know is that six million Jews perished in abominable circumstances in the Holocaust. It is right that such an enormity should never be forgotten. But it is relevant to the Middle East only in its powerful influence on the collective mind of the West. That state of mind has induced a persistent blindness in the West to the injustice perpetrated on the Arabs, first by the Zionist movement and then by the State of Israel.

A century ago the Jewish population of the area was only about 6 or 7 per cent, and those were living among, and in much the same way as, the local Arabs. Many were tenant farmers, renting from absentee landlords but with a right to pass occupancy down the generations according to local customary law. The international Zionist movement began a programme of buying from the landlords and evicting the non-Jewish occupants, without compensation. By the 1920s, when Arab distress was becoming acute, their villages were being bombed to help "encourage" them to move. The inevitable Arab revolt occurred. In the 1930s Britain, during its mandate period, proposed partitioning the country. The proposal was opposed by some of the Zionists, but Ben Gurion said: "... after the formation of a large army in the wake of the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine."

The Holocaust wiped from the West's postwar collective mind any sense of justice for the Arabs. The UN endorsed the establishment of Israel, and has sought in vain to contain Israel within its agreed limits. The public, unfamiliar with the Palestine history, but familiar with the Holocaust, has for long tended to see Israel as victim. It is time the balance of understanding was corrected. Public opinion might then more fairly influence governments. We in Britain have a particular responsibility.

John Tippler

Spalding, Lincolnshire

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