Sir Arthur James Balfour is a name forgotten by many, but will forever ring in the memories of Palestinians. He served as foreign secretary in David George Lloyd’s government of the United Kingdom between 1916 and 1919. On Nov 2, 1917, Balfour signed a single paper that arguably destabilized the Middle East for the next 100 years. The paper I speak of is known around the world as the Balfour Declaration. It was an official letter from the British government addressed to Lord Walter Rothschild, who was a prominent leader of the Jewish community in Britain and the Zionist Federation, whose goals were to create a Jewish state. The declaration read:
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by the Cabinet.
His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
On the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that she would celebrate the occasion with “pride”. She will also attend an exclusive event that celebrates the promise that paved the way for the creation of apartheid Israel and rendered millions of Palestinians stateless.
Here is a land that was inhabited by Palestinian Arabs, was ruled by the Ottomans and promised by the British to the Zionist Federation as a homeland for the Jews without consulting a single Palestinian. Other than the fact the British government had no right to make such a declaration, it was absolutely disgraceful to see that letter failed to even mention the Palestinians by name and was rather shy by just addressing the 90 percent of the inhabitants of Palestine as ‘the non-Jewish communities in Palestine’.
Even though the declaration may seem to promise civil and religious rights, it completely negated the political rights of Palestinians to self-determination. The omission of Palestinian rights created sustenance for Zionist Jews to completely ignore the rights of Palestinians living in the holy land. From the ‘youm al nakba’ (the day of catastrophe) till this day, Israel continues to forcefully displace Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers migrating from all around the world.
Israel continues to break several UN resolutions and human rights laws while it continues to be supported by the so-called ‘free world’. As the Arabic saying goes, ‘Those who are above the law will always break the law’, so why would Israel feel the need to abide by any rules or even be trusted to resolve the issue of Palestine if their actions pass without consequences? And if this is the result of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust, why are the Palestinians paying the bill for the crimes of previous Western governments against the Jews?
We are at a stage where we no longer believe that things can go back to what they were before the declaration. However, it is time for a real solution to stop the atrocities that the Palestinian people are suffering every day of their lives. Instead of celebrating and congratulating the Israel premier, the British government has a moral responsibility to set things straight and apply pressure on the Israeli government to finally give peace and justice to both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
It’s high time that the world recognizes the state of Palestine as an independent home of Palestinian people and as the honorable British MP Ms Philippa Whitford said, “You cannot have a two-state solution without fully recognizing both states.”
By Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan
From the editor’s desk