Bertrand Russells Last Message
By Bertrand Russell
This statement on the Middle East was dated 31st January, 1970,
and was read on 3rd February, the day after Bertrand Russell's death,
to an International Conference of Parliamentarians meeting in Cairo.
The latest phase of the undeclared war in the Middle East is based
upon a profound miscalculation. The bombing raids deep into Egyptian
territory will not persuade the civilian population to surrender,
but will stiffen their resolve to resist. This is the lesson of
all aerial bombardment.
The Vietnamese who have endured years of American heavy bombing
have responded not by capitulation but by shooting down more enemy
aircraft. In 1940 my own fellow countrymen resisted Hitler's bombing
raids with unprecedented unity and determination. For this reason,
the present Israeli attacks will fail in their essential purpose,
but at the same time they must be condemned vigorously throughout
The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous
and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force
of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed
to reason and has suggested negotiations.
This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes
to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken
by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed
negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous
aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned,
not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory,
but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much
more aggression the world will tolerate.
The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands
were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone
as the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.
Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their
precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the
people of Palestine is that their country was given
by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State.
The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people
were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number
have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this
spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees
have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and
the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict.
No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse
from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine
to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent
just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential
ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.
We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because
of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis.
I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering.
What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the
horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy.
Not only does Israel condemn a vast number. of refugees to misery;
not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule;
but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging
from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands
take precedence over national development.
All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must
ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future
conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement
must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied
in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice
to the long-suffering people of the Middle East.
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