The British were awful. That’s my major takeaway from Midnight Furies, a book about the 1947 partition of India. Like with Palestine, when the British realized that remaining was a losing game, they up and left.
The situations were very different. British rule over the subcontinent’s Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs was longer and thus more deeply entrenched.
But there were similarities.
In both cases the British recommended partition; set a deadline for withdrawal; decided unilaterally to move up that deadline, leaving a smoldering situation. Is it surprising that conflict exploded? In the case of India, the bloodshed was gruesome — and the British didn’t do a thing to stop it.
What would have happened if the Arabs had accepted the 1947 partition plan for Palestine? Using the Raj example, mass bloodshed between Israelis and Arabs would have followed, but, over time, they would have settled into coexistence, with each party having control over its own portion of the land.
Studying the map of the partition plan, one is amazed at the Arabs’ short-sightedness. They were the “Indians” of the situation. The plan was strongly drawn in their favor. The Jews of Jerusalem would have been the West Germans of Cold War Berlin, surrounded by an enemy state. Unlike Pakistan, which was divided into non-contiguous West and East Pakistan, the Palestine partition plan ensured contiguity. (East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971.)
This year is the 50th anniversary of the partition of India — a major historical event that has not retained a significant place in the collective global memory. Contrast that with the Palestinian narrative, which continues to dominate. Unlike the Pakistanis or Indians — or the Israelis — Palestinians refuse to accept a permanent compromise. They seem to prefer a state of self-imposed limbo.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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