A half year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed a common sentiment in the Middle East.
The Nobel Prize laureate spoke to Haaretz in Jerusalem as the organization The Elders concluded its tour of Israel and the West Bank. He said the West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, “as it should be.”
“But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.”
It’s a common refrain. When Palestinians (or Arabs generally) don’t deny the Holocaust, they claim (falsely) that Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians or claim that the Palestinians are paying the price of a European crime. But Shlomo Avineir writes that the Arabs and Palestinians were not innnocent victims:
But in the winter of 1938-39, the British changed their policy after the government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain realized that its appeasement of Hitler had failed. Britain began to prepare for a war against the Nazis, and as part of this it changed its Middle East policy. Britain reintroduced the draft, started massive production of tanks and aircraft, and developed the radar. In light of the need to insure the Empire’s critical link to India via the Suez Canal, Britain feared that continued violent suppression of the Arab revolt in Palestine would push all Arabs in the region closer to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It consequently decided to move closer to the Arabs and away from the Jews and Zionism. As Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald explained to the Zionist leadership, the change was prompted not by a British conviction that Arab claims were justified, but rather by realpolitik: There were more Arabs than Jews; the Jews would support Britain against the Nazis in any case, but the Arabs have the option of joining Nazi Germany.
The cruel paradox lies in the fact that appeasement of the Arabs started just as Britain relinquished its appeasement policy vis-a-vis Hitler and was preparing for war against Germany. This was the reason for the 1939 White Paper, which drastically limited the right of Jews to buy land in Mandatory Palestine and placed a ceiling of 75,000 on Jewish immigration. The message to the Arabs was clear: The Jews would remain a minority in Palestine.
Avineri writes that these policies restricting Jewish immigration to Israel, cost hundreds of thousands of lives. This is aside from the very active collaboration between Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Nazis.
Crossposted on Yourish.