Britain’s concentration camp in Palestine

British soldiers round up Palestinians in Jerusalem, 1938. (Nationaal Archief/Wikipedia)

Theresa May’s election manifesto contains a pernicious lie. Near the bottom of page 37, it says: “Britain is already a significant influence for good around the world.”

With May as prime minister, Britain is a force for ill in global affairs. Far from defending the downtrodden, her government has courted dictators and oppressors.

May has sanitized the history of Britain’s meddling in the Middle East. She has made a commitment to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration “with pride.”

That 1917 pledge to support Zionist colonization in Palestine “demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people,” May has said.

Her government has ruled out apologizing to Palestinians for the injustices inflicted on them because of Britain’s alliance with the Zionist movement.

The injustices are bigger than most people realize. While researching my new book Balfour’s Shadow, I learned that the British administration which ruled Palestine between the two world wars set up a concentration camp.

Mass incarceration

Although the term “concentration camp” has become synonymous with the Holocaust, it was in use long before then.

Britain established the first concentration camps of the 20th century during the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. And British archives dating from the 1930s are peppered with references to a “concentration camp” in Palestine.

During 1936, a major revolt against Britain and its support for Zionism erupted in Palestine. The authorities responded with a policy of mass incarceration.

In June of that year, Arthur Wauchope, the British high commissioner in Palestine, received a telegram from London officials. The officials informed him about a parliamentary query on “what steps are to be taken” to provide “reasonable conditions at Sarafand concentration camp.”

A British military base had been installed next to the village of Sarafand al-Amar on Palestine’s coastal plain and was, in Wauchope’s view, a “healthy locality.”

Wauchope tried to depict the camp positively by noting that it had been approved by an unnamed director of medical services and that access to tobacco was “unrestricted” and “facilities are given for daily exercise.”

Wauchope was less rosy in a letter he sent to the Colonial Office in London the next month. He acknowledged that one of the two sections in the camp had “no water closets and bathrooms.”

The section in question was initially reserved for villagers and peasants (fallahin in Arabic), whereas the other section was used for “the urban and effendi [noble] class of inmates,” according to Wauchope. As it was disliked by prisoners, Wauchope “abandoned” that system of segregation, he stated.

A paper drawn up for British diplomats in Geneva the following year was less rosy again.

Emergency regulations, it noted, had enabled harsher punishments against Palestinians who shot at British forces or possessed illicit weapons. More than 460 “agitators were confined for months in the concentration camp at Sarafand without trial” as a result, the file added.

The Palestinian revolt lasted from 1936 to 1939 and the British resorted to large-scale detention and killed thousands of people in that period.

Reputation of cruelty

In 1939, Malcolm MacDonald, then Britain’s colonial secretary, was asked a parliamentary question about “how many concentration camps are established in Palestine.” He replied that there are “13 detention camps at present in existence in Palestine.”

Another question was put to him about “the number of people interned in concentration camps in Palestine and how many of them are fallahin.” MacDonald stated that “the total number of persons at present under detention in Palestine is 4,816, of whom about 2,690 are fallahin.”

Harold MacMichael, Wauchope’s successor as high commissioner, reported to the Colonial Office in June 1939 that “1,154 Arabs and 63 Jews were detained in concentration camp.” It is not clear if he deliberately wrote “camp” in the singular.

Britain ruled Palestine under a League of Nations mandate that gave it the task of creating the conditions required for building the “Jewish national home” – a euphemism for a Jewish state.

And the British response to the 1930s revolt demonstrated how it was wedded to the Zionist project. Jewish colonists were hired in significant numbers to the British police force tasked with quelling dissent. Among the tasks assigned to Jewish police officers was to guard over the huts and stores in the Sarafand camp.

Many of the Jewish police officers belonged to the Haganah, a Zionist militia and the forerunner of today’s Israeli army.

One British soldier, Orde Wingate, brought Haganah commanders into the “special night squads” that he led. Those squads gained a reputation for cruelty; their tactics included rounding up all the male inhabitants of villages who lived near an oil pipeline connecting Palestine and Iraq and whipping their naked torsos.

Israel glorifies this cruelty to the indigenous Palestinians to this day with a number of memorials dedicated to Wingate.

The British resorted to great brutality in crushing the revolt. The use of torture against Palestinian detainees was approved at a high level in the British administration; villagers were forced into cages; patients were shot dead in their hospital beds; and the Old City of Jaffa was largely demolished, leaving hundreds without shelter.

Around 5,000 Palestinians were killed during the revolt. On a proportionate basis, that casualty rate was higher than those caused by Israel during the intifadas which broke out in 1987 and 2000.

It was through such violence that Britain laid the foundations of the Israeli state.

That is the history in which Theresa May has expressed pride. Her claims that Britain has been a force for good merit nothing but contempt.

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Britain's hypocrisy & mendacity goes even further. Jeremy R. Hammond wrote an essay entitled "The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel", in which he demonstrates on the basis of facts that israel was created fraudulently.

"U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 neither legally partitioned Palestine nor conferred upon the Zionist leadership any legal authority to unilaterally declare the existence of the Jewish state of Israel. It merely recommended that the UNSCOP partition plan be accepted and implemented by the concerned parties. Nor could the General Assembly have legally partitioned Palestine or otherwise conferred legal authority for the creation of Israel to the Zionist leadership, as it simply had no such authority to confer.

In sum, the popular claim that the U.N. “created” Israel is a myth, and Israel’s own claim in its founding document that U.N. Resolution 181 constituted legal authority for Israel’s creation, or otherwise constituted “recognition” by the U.N. of the “right” of the Zionist Jews to expropriate for themselves Arab land and deny to the majority Arab population of that land their own right to self-determination, is a patent fraud.

Following the issuance of the UNSCOP report, the U.K. issued a statement declaring its agreement with the report’s recommendations, but adding that “if the Assembly should recommend a policy which is not acceptable to both Jews and Arabs, the United Kingdom Government would not feel able to implement it.”

Furthermore, The U.K. followed up with a statement reiterating “that His Majesty’s Government could not play a major part in the implementation of a scheme that was not acceptable to both Arabs and Jews”.

In other words, the UK played a major part in the double-crossing of the Palestinians, and May continues that practice today. Something to be really proud of indeed !!!

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Paranam Kid is right. The reasons: 1. UN Foundation Chart don't give permission for UN create countries; 2. The General Assembly has not the power of taking decisions, because they only can be taken by the Security Council. And the UNSC never appreciated the GA recomendation about the partition plan. Why? Because, if it did so, it would act against the UN Charter.
Israel was created uniterally by the Zionists, who had used terrorism against Palestinians on the ground and, on the other hand, threatened the countries' diplomats who had voted against the partition as well as bought their support during the pause of the weekend, given by Oswaldo Aranha, the Brazilian who headed the GA, when he saw that the partition plan would be rejected. With the Truman help, Zionists used those days for "convincing", through menaces and high money, the diplomats in that GA. Important: Aranha had not compromisses with the Zionists but with the European powers which wanted the Jews out of Europe. Brazil sent him to the GA with orders to say NO for the partition plan, but Aranha obbeyed European powers instead of his country government. See, for other informations, "Palestine and the Great Powers", by M. Cohen.

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And weren't those "first concentration camps" themselves modeled by the Brits on the "reservations" set up by the US gov't for the indigenous people living in the land which became America? Or maybe that was Hitler's innovation?!

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Here in the UK we will have a General Election; June 2017. Conservative ,Labour , Liberal Democrats have large sections called "Friends of Israel" .UKIP-United Kingdom Independence Party leads a Zionist Faction in the EU Parliament promoting the Israeli "Settlers" kicking Palestinians, Bedouins and Israeli Arabs off their Lands. NO UK Party mentions their allegiance to Israel in their Election publicity material.

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Churchill's Secret War, By Madhusree Mukerjee. About the famine with 4 million death which Churchill caused in ''42 '43 in West and East Bengal now Kolkatta and Bangladesh. The conflict between Pakistan and India is the result of the UK policy in the British Rai since the 19 th century of divide and rule beteen Hindus and Moslims. The separation between Pakistan, East Pakistan ( todays Bangladesh) and India caused millions of death and again in 1971 with the Liberation war of Bangladesh against Pakistan which costs 3 millions of death. Before British rule started in India with the battle of Plassey which the Indians lost there were no frictions between Moslims, Hindus and Budhists. In southwest Bangladesh not far from Mongla there is a place where a mosque, a hindutempel and a church were built gether by a Mogul ruler in teh 17 th entury.
Then Kenya . Caroline Elkins wrote Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya. During the rebellion of the Kikuyu against British rule the British oppressed the Mau Mau in a terrible way. Random executions, abhorent torture, ruthless exploitation. The Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi was build by forced labour. Untill today the UK is spreading oppression, extortion and neo colonialism

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David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His new book is Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel (Pluto, 2017).