Yesterday I visited Ein Kerem, an Arab/Christian village which was depopulated during the 1948 war. Today I visited Kalandia refugee camp, and met a Palestinian who is disillusioned with the PA and Palestinian statehood, and just wants to go home to the village his family fled from in 1948.
My grandfather was here between 1946 and 1948 with the British forces in mandate Palestine. Britain pulled out and the Zionist paramilitary forces captured Israel up to the ’49 armistice lines. The depopulation of Arab and Christian villages in areas of Palestine now in the state of Israel was a direct result of the British withdrawal.
By withdrawing, the British let the Palestinians down. They could have stayed and fought the Zionists, and allowed the states of Israel and Palestine to be formed according to the Partition plan, which included a corpus seperandum for the administration of Jerusalem. His friend wouldn’t have been killed by an Israeli soldier in the second intifada, because a situation of systematic and ongoing oppression might not have come into being.
Much of the privilege I have in this world comes from having family who had the privilege of British citizenship – which meant easy immigration to British North America (Canada), and access to lucrative employment based on the theft of land from its inhabitants and the unsustainable extraction of resources.
If the British had stayed to fight the zionists, and not withdrawn in may ’48, my grandfather might have been hurt or killed. Which would mean I might not exist.
I am not pro-British, and yet I feel the pull of responsibility which the British renegad upon when they failed to protect the Palestinian residents, both Arab and Christian. I benefit daily from my British heritage, and this binds me to this history whether I identify as British or not. To speak simply: we failed them, and in refugee camps all over the West Bank you can meet those who are still effected by this failure to protect. In relation to this, I feel intense feelings of shame, regret, and obligation.
This is why I wear a keffiyeh in Palestine.