Palestinian refugees flee violence following the creation of Israel in 1948. Image Credit: Agency

Ramallah: It is no coincidence that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which authorised a Jewish homeland in Palestine came just a year after the Sykes–Picot Agreement that carved up the Middle East between Britain and France.

“Sykes-Picot was a carefully-designed plan and prelude to the Balfour Declaration,” Nazmi Zoabi, a history professor at Beir Zeit University, told Gulf News.

After the fall of the Ottoman empire in 1916, Palestinians emerged from a four-century-long Turkish occupation only to be reoccupied by Britain.

The British occupation lasted until 1920, until it was handed over

In 1920, a British Civil Administration was established in anticipation of the granting of a formal League of Nations Mandate to the UK, which was approved in July 1922 and came into effect in September 1923.

Under the British occupation, Zionists were putting massive pressure on the British Government to facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

On November 2, 1917, the British responded to the Zionist demands through what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which recognised the Zionist movement’s claim to a national home in Palestine and committed Britain to facilitating its realisation.

The Balfour Declaration, the first significant declaration of a world power in favour of a Jewish national home in Palestine was issued by the British foreign secretary (1916-1919) Arthur James Balfour in a letter to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community.

Favouring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, the Balfour Declaration is greatly regarded as a seminal moment in the history of Zionism, Palestine and the entire Middle East.

It changed history and directly led to the creation of the state of Israel to which all Jews could migrate.

In 1897, the World Zionist Organisation was established and this organisation, according to Zoabi, gained much traction and convinced Britain to recognise the importance of a Jewish homeland.

Britain then introduced the Balfour Declaration, pledging “a national homeland for Jewish people in Palestine”.

The Zionist movement made a deal with Hitler in 1933 called the “transfer agreement” which allowed Jews to leave Germany and go to Palestine in exchange for giving up all their possessions.

Between 1937 and 1947, Jews who migrated to Palestine, organised into militia groups (Ezel) which carried out attacks against British forces stationed there.

On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Arab states rejected the move.

Zoabi said that Hitler’s Holocaust against Jews in Europe played a fundamental role in the founding of Israel, adding that it motivated large numbers of Jewish migrants to move to Palestine, providing the necessary population.

The United Nations approved the state of Israel in 1948, and as a result 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. The Palestinians mourn the loss of their homeland on May 15 each year. It is what they refer to as Al Nakba or The Catastrophe.

“The creation of Israel on Palestinian land would not have been possible without the Sykes-Picot agreement. It breathed life into colonialism,” Zoabi said.

With Arab nations divided into several states, they became weak and unable to control the natural wealth of their land, he explained.

Today, the Arab world remains as divided as ever and engulfed in constant war.

The Palestine issue has been swept aside as the Israeli regime continues to rob Palestinians of their land, their lives, and their dignity.