Workshop: Is the Principle of Partition Valid for Palestine – History and Future (June 2011)

“First, one must consider the purpose of the decision made in 1937 to partition Palestine. At that time, the partition was intended to resolve the problem of British colonialism, and not to find a solution for the Jewish immigrants or for the native residents of Palestine. The partition came to serve Britain’s interests.” Dr. Musa Budeiri, lecturer in history and political science at Bir Zeit University, made these remarks during a roundtable discussion that Mada al-Carmel held on the question, “Is the Principle of Partition Valid for Palestine – History and Future?.”

Dr. Budeiri pointed out that even though more than 60 years have passed since partition, the issue of partition continues to be discussed and the same solutions are being offered. In 1937, Budeiri said, Britain did not only propose dividing Palestine into two parts. The plan included a third part, which would remain under British control, and the plan also dealt with transfer of populations. Further, the plan involved annexation of the Arab state on the eastern side of the Jordan River. “Now, Israel raises the issue of partition with the objective of preserving the Jewish state and to rid themselves of the surplus Arabs living in the country. For Palestinians, the partition now means implementation of the principle of self-determination for residents of the West Bank and of the Gaza Strip only. The Arab and Palestinian position does speak of independence, but, so far, there has been no talk about the specific content of this independence,” Budeiri added.

Prof. Ilan Pappe, director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at Exeter University in England, explained that, at the time, the two sides held very different attitudes toward the partition decision: the Zionist side accepted the decision with all its details, and cooperated with the Peel Commission, while the Palestinian side rejected the plan. “The Palestinian side did not relate to the plan’s particulars, but rejected it in principle. The Zionists, on the other hand, did relate to the plan’s details, taking into account the local and international balance of power. They also submitted a map that expressed their solution. Interestingly, the map they submitted is similar to the map of Israel as it presently exists, without the West Bank,” Pappe said. He emphasized that the Jewish side viewed itself as part of the West.

Pappe further stated that the objective of the settlements was to gain control of a maximum amount of territory, and that the settlers were the tool for achieving this control. He additionally noted that, historically, partition was always connected to colonization, and that the plan to partition Palestine was never a real historical possibility, even if there were no settlements.