ARMISTICE Day, later known as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth and Veterans Day in the United States, is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, and thus the cessation of hostilities, which took effect at 11:00 am — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.
The event is particularly poignant considering the resulting Treaty of Versailles the very next year on 28 June, 1919 led to the breakup of the respective empires of the Central powers which included the Ottoman Empire.
During the war Britain made a lot of promises aimed at undermining its enemy. Two years before the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” (in what was then merely a collection of three states, Jerusalem, Gaza and Nablus, all linked to the Damascus Province under Constantinople), Sir Henry McMahon, then ‘High Commissioner in Egypt’, had promised the Sharif of Mecca, Husayn ibn Ali, to “recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him.” These territories included the Arabian peninsula, Syria (including Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan), and Iraq as “purely Arab” areas, and part of a future Arab state or states in the region.
Invention of the Palestinian people
Palestinians did not exist at the time. The persons who later became known as ‘Palestinians’ (who included Golda Meir, the third PM of Israel who had a Palestinian passport issued by the British), “had no particular legal status under Ottoman rule. As such, a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ did not exist” writes Mutaz Qafisheh in ‘The International Law Foundations of Palestinian Nationality‘ (2009), and would only emerge much later, under the machinations of the British Mandate for Palestine & Transjordan.
The project to forge a unique Palestinian-Arab identity, though nascent, arose much later under Nazi supporter Amin al-Husseini, a Jerusalemite, during the 1930s, and gaining momentum with Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian, during the 1960s. A process of identification and mythmaking common to all nationalistic struggles.
It is relatively simple to demonstrate that while many people including Jews, were considered indigenous to the states of Jerusalem, Gaza and Nablus and thus formed part of the Ottoman census data, their numbers were greatly bolstered by the arrival of migrants following the construction and expansion of a railroad in the 1920s by the Ottoman Railroad Company which greatly contributed to travel within the Empire.
Initially 8km of rail linking Haifa with Damascus it grew to an incredible 5759km.
In this respect the waves of Jewish refugees from Czarist Russia were no different from those Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians and other Arabs who moved in the direction of freedom and economic opportunity.
One of the best sources of detail on British support of the Arab cause is none other than TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who in 1916, travelled to Mesopotamia and Arabia becoming involved with the Arab Revolt as a ‘liaison to the Arab forces’. Lawrence would later attend the Paris Peace conference as part of King Faisal’s delegation, two weeks after the signing of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, in which it was clear Palestine was to be the Jewish State alongside a much larger Arab state.
The well-known banners of Jordan and Palestine are the result of the contribution of British vexillologists, with the original Flag of Hejaz designed by the British diplomat Sir Mark Sykes, “in an effort to create a feeling of “Arab-ness” to fuel the revolt.
It is thus more than ironic to witness London (and Cape Town) being over-run by a flag whose origin is found in Armistice Day and the British occupation.
It was William Bernstein writing in ‘The Delusions of the Crowds: Why people go mad in groups (2021) who observed: “People do not deploy the powerful human intellect to dispassionately analyze the world, but rather to rationalize how the facts conform to their emotionally derived preconceptions. Over the past several decades, psychologists have accumulated experimental data that dissect the human preference of rationalization over rationality.”
“When presented with facts and data that contradict our deeply held beliefs, we generally do not reconsider and alter those beliefs appropriately. [Instead] we avoid contrary facts and data, and when we cannot avoid them, our erroneous assessments will occasionally even harden and, yet more amazingly, make us more likely to proselytize them.”
“In short, human ‘rationality’ constitutes a fragile lid perilously balanced on the bubbling cauldron of artifice and self-delusion.”
Footnote: The Re-Invention of the October Massacre
Ahmed Munzoor Shaik-Emam of the Anti-Immigrant, New Freedom Party (NFP) is very vocal about refugee rights when it comes to the tragedy of Palestine and Gaza but absolutely silent on the plight of other refugees in the region.
He claims (in an SABC interview on Armistice Day conducted at the Cape Town march) the massacre of 260 persons at an outdoor peace festival by Hamas ‘never happened’, instead these persons were ‘killed by Israelis’, and in any event ‘were not civilians’.
There were no deaths, no beheadings, no atrocities rather it is all Israel’s fault, ‘they are killers since Zionists want the Gas in Gaza’, he claims.
Not only is the MP contradicting pathology and forensics reports released by Zaka, as well as victim accounts, his blatant lies serve no purpose other than to create a false narrative, one that does not assist the Palestinian people in any way.
Peace can only arrive by speaking truth to power, dealing with objective facts, refusing to ignore the reality of the situation, and stepping back from those who would invent lies.