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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

There really was once a Palestinian Arab state - sort of

A little-known footnote in history that could be an accurate indicator of how any future Palestinian Arab state would be:

In 1948, the Arab League was upset at King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan for his territorial designs on the West Bank. Under their prodding, the notoriously anti-semitic ex-Mufti of Jerusalem set up his own "government" in Gaza in September 1948.

Abdullah was adamantly opposed to this "Gaza Government" and the issue caused a major rift between Transjordan and the rest of the Arab world.

The actual wishes of Palestinian Arabs do not seem to have entered the equation for either party! (click all pictures to enlarge)



The democratic nature of the nascent nation was soon apparent...

Also look at King Abdullah's objection - that creating a Palestinian state was like accepting Partition! (Note also the article in the middle!)


And what is a country without a flag?



Tensions mounted between Transjordan and Iraq over this issue:


Alas, as soon as Israel launched an counter-offensive against Egypt later in 1948, the Gaza government ministers (who no doubt had a great love of the land) fled bravely to Cairo. And then their ministers started quitting, one by one. By March, the "government" was in tatters:


The New York Post published an interesting analysis on the situation back in October 1948:

Rift in the Arab Front


Abdullah and the British Are Isolated
in the Middle East

By OBSERVER

Behind the Arab front there is a rift. The Arab League has set up a government in Gaza comprised of the followers of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. Abdullah of Transjordan has not recognized this government. Hilmi Pasha, who commanded the Arab forces on the Jerusalem front, was elected head of the Gaza government. Abdullah then stripped Hilmi Pasha of his authority as commander on the Jerusalem front and placed the Old City of Jerusalem under a new commander. The Gaza government is on the territory occupied by the Egyptian army.

Abdullah’s legion has done more fighting than the forces of any other Arab state on Palestinian soil. Abdullah hoped to have the entire country for himself, but since Israel successfully defended its territory, he now counts on the annexation of at least the Arab part of the country to Transjordan. His rival is the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. They are carrying on an old feud.

* * *

The British planned that Abdullah’s legion—their own creation—should conquer all of Palestine for Abdullah, which means for them. So they supplied him with officers, money, ammunition and even spies.

The ex-Mufti planned that Abdullah should conquer the country for him. His own “Army of Liberation” under Kaukaji proved to be good only on the run.

Egypt is not at all interested in increasing the British sphere on its border; for many years the entire policy of Egypt has been directed toward getting rid of the British, in Egypt proper, in the Sudan, in the Suez Canal zone. The Egyptians think that if the British should dominate Egypt from the Negev, they would never leave the Suez Canal zone or the Sudan.

Egypt would therefore like to have southern Palestine for itself. Opposition to Zionism is artificially intensified; the Egyptians make war against Israel but they regard the British as their real enemy and Abdullah as a British stooge. Said one of the Egyptian delegates at the Paris Conference, quoted by the United Press correspondent in his dispatch of October 2: “Britain is now considered the Arabs’ number one enemy.”


The entire enterprise fell apart, without ever having governed anybody (but that didn't stop many Arab countries from recognizing it.) The cynical nature of the effort was emphasized in 1950, when the Arab League tried to resurrect the Gaza Government again for purely political gain, as is mentioned in this good overview from the Palestine Post then:




A few notes of interest:
  • The entire episode was so embarrassingly inept, no Palestinian Arab advocate today ever mentions this as an example of historical Palestinian sovereignty. They prefer the myth of a nation called Palestine to the reality of a short-lived aborted vanity enterprise.
  • Not once can I find that any of the parties showed the slightest interest in what is best for the Palestinian Arabs that they were pretending to help.
  • The "government" ran away and abandoned its supposed subjects at the earliest sign of fighting.
  • Should such a state have succeeded, it would have been just another Arab dictatorship - in this case a theocracy under the Mufti.