Elias Zananiri, Vice-Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society, argues that the British government bears a moral responsibility for the impact of the Balfour Declaration on the Palestinian people and should now make recompense by recognising the State of Palestine and demanding Israel stop closing the window on the two-state solution.
I don’t know if the Balfour Declaration served Britain’s interests or whether it achieved tangible accomplishments for the British Empire. I am neither a historian nor a British tax payer who wants to know where his money goes. I am a Palestinian who is shattered with grief when I hear that the UK wants to celebrate ‘with pride,’ in Prime Minister Theresa May’s words, the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, without even considering the implications of such a celebration for millions of Palestinians who lost their homeland because of that Declaration.
What pride can there be in a declaration that sought to create a homeland for the Jewish people while leaving another nation with nothing? Tough words? Maybe. But the Declaration was the opening shot of a protracted effort to create a new reality in the Middle East which left the Palestinians, my people, suffering ever since. The disaster that befell the Palestinians as a result of the Declaration requires remorse on the part of the British government. Countries that were ruled by the British Empire in the last century are already independent states. They don’t need Britain’s apology anymore. They licked their wounds of living under British rule and moved on. We, the Palestinians, continue until this very day to pay the price of that Declaration.
Britain, by the way, does know how to apologise, doing so for the 1845-1952 Famine in Ireland. But not for the Declaration? In our case, the British Mandate turned a deaf ear to the atrocities carried out against the Palestinians by Jewish armed groups, which had two future prime ministers, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, in their ranks, and who in many cases didn’t spare the British forces either. The bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 was carried out by the Irgun, which was headed by Begin and both men were placed on the ‘Wanted List’ by the British authorities. The British also suppressed Palestinian revolts against the Mandate and the increase of Jewish migration into Palestine.
It seems the UK does not want to think about an apology and an admission of responsibility for the Declaration. The UK’s refusal to admit responsibility is not acceptable to Palestinians but, 100 years later, it is comprehensible. What is not is the decision to announce, a century later, that the British people should celebrate the anniversary with pride. Why should enlightened guardians of human rights and supporters of every people’s right to self-determination feel ‘pride’?
I grew up as a stateless Palestinian kid admiring Britain. But not for long. As I grew older and wiser it became obvious to me how detrimental the Declaration had been for the Palestinians. It imposed, by Great Power fiat, the ground for the creation of the State of Israel but it failed to honour the commitment 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’.
While viewing with favour ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,’ the Declaration defined the indigenous population of Palestine as ‘non-Jewish communities’. For shame! Jews from all over the world were defined as the ‘Jewish people’ while the Palestinians living in the land of their ancestors for thousands of years were simply considered ‘non-Jewish communities’.
To add salt to the Palestinian wound, the Declaration offered an extra layer of protection of ‘the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country’. By securing a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine on one hand, and on the other ensuring rights and political status the Jews enjoyed in other countries, the Declaration was a double prize for the Jews and a knockout for the Palestinians. I know that many will not see it that way but that is exactly what it meant for an unborn nation that, in due time, lost its homeland and saw the majority of its people either kicked out of, or voluntarily leave, Palestine in the aftermath of the 1948 proclamation of the State of Israel.
The British ruled over India for a little less than a hundred years and they never promised the subcontinent to a third nation. Instead they split India into two separate states: India and Pakistan. So why didn’t the UK follow suit in Palestine and endorse the 1947 UN Partition Plan?
Some will argue that Palestinians never accepted the 1947 partition of Palestine. But we had good reason to reject it: it lacked all fairness. It allocated for a future Jewish state 56.74 per cent of the total area of Palestine, gave a future Arab state 42.88 per cent and left Jerusalem and Bethlehem under a special international status. So, three years before the British Mandate ended, with Palestinian Muslims and Christians forming 68 per cent of the population and the Jews 31 per cent, the Jews were allocated more than half of the total area of Palestine.
No one can undo this history. Nevertheless, a lot can be done to make the Declaration centennial a day for a dramatic move that is not meant to undo what took place a century ago but to begin to repair the damage it caused.
The UN General Assembly on 29 November 2012 adopted Resolution 67/19 which recognised the State of Palestine based on the 4 June 1967 lines as a non-member state, adding one more internationally-recognised term of reference for the two-state solution, i.e. Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. The least the UK should consider is endorsing this resolution to safeguard the two-state solution at a time when the far-right government in Israel is doing everything it can to kill it.
Every expression of concern over the fate of the two-state solution remains meaningless when nothing is done in practice. It is hypocrisy in its worst form. Criticism, press releases, expressions of concern, even the condemnation issued in June by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about the Israeli announcement of 3000 more settlement units in the West Bank, do not stop the settlement expansion that endangers the two-state solution. Should the international community fail to exert pressure on Israel, then Israelis and Palestinians will be subjected to a permanent conflict, driving both sides along the path of mutual destruction.
The UK bears a moral responsibility for the consequences of the Declaration. A recognition of the State of Palestine would be a solid step in the right direction. But the clock is ticking. We are moving rapidly closer to the centennial anniversary. So why not make the anniversary a different day? Make it a day of atonement, a day of repairing the damage, a day for giving back to the Palestinians some of the rights the Declaration took away?
The Palestinians never disappeared as a result of the Declaration and what followed. On the contrary, we remained and we are today an inseparable part of the Middle East. Yes, our state is under occupation, but this is not unique. Populations have lived under occupation for as long as the occupiers could suppress them. Eventually those populations earn their freedom and build their states. Palestinians will be no exception.
The alternative will be bad for all parties. The denial of the Palestinian national rights to self-determination and statehood will continue to nourish conflict in the region and beyond. Various terror groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and others will continue to use the question of Palestine as an excuse to incite, recruit new members and mobilise public support for the despicable crimes they commit. Solving the Arab-Israeli conflict would deny them this excuse.
The calls to sue the UK for Balfour should stop. Instead we need a courageous decision by the UK to undo part of the injustice that befell the Palestinians because of the Declaration. The British people should recognise the State of Palestine instead of dancing on the ruins of the Palestinian people.
There are 22 Arab countries occupying over 99% of the Middle East. This is 500 times the size of tiny Israel. Of the 193 countries at the UN, there is only 1 jewish country.
Let is be very clear, Arab hostility to Jews was part of Arab society since the 7th century, when Arabs invaded and colonialised the Middle East, north Africa and parts of Europe. Under Arab-Muslim rule, Jews were at best, second-class “dhimmis”. The Yellow Badge originated in Damascus, Syria.
From the very beginning, Arabs refused to accept the concept of Jewish self-determination. Judea and Samaria is not “Uganda” where Jews were offered a “home” but rejected the idea since there is no historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Jews have been yearning to return to our land for 2,000 years. Arabs even deny that Jews are a people. Arabs deny Jewish history. Arabs claim that Jewish religious and holy sites are Muslim. Arabs deny that Jews are the indigenous people of Judea and Samaria. Even worse, Arab terrorist attacks on Jews are encouraged and rewarded. This began in 1919!
The constant refusal to recognise the Jewish state; and its right to exist is the source of this conflict that never should have taken place, but for Arab antisemitism. Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the pro-Nazi and self-appointed leader of the Arabs, ensured the Arab population were incited with hatred. It was he who invented the al-Aksa libel. Even when the British illegally took 78% of the land set aside in international law for the Jewish National Home, to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, leaving the Jews with a mere 22%, this failed to satisfy Arab rage. In 1929, Arab massacred Jews in Hebron, where Jews have lived for thousands of years, Jerusalem, where Jews were still a majority and Safed, did not satisfy Arab bloodlust and “rage.” The Great Arab Revolt between 1936-1939, ended only because of WW2. The Peel Commission offered to partition the remaining 22%, but the Arabs rejected the offer.
The Arabs also rejected the illegal UNGA 1947 Partition Plan. Instead,the Arab League promised,”a war of extermination and a momentous massacre . . .” At midnight, on the 18 May,1948, when Israel Declared her Independence, 5 Arab countries illegally invaded the nascent state with the intention to annihilate it and kill all the Jews. The Arab leaders decision resulted in 700,000 Arab refugees. The Arabs never refer to the 856,000 Jews who were ethnically cleansed from Arab lands,where they had been living for thousands of years, long before Islam.
The Arabs tried to destroy Israel in 1956,1967 and 1973 after which time, they have used lawfare and their Red-Green Alliances at the UN to attack Israel. After the 6 Day War,it was Israel who sued for peace. At Khartoum the Arabs replied:
NO recognition of the Jewish state of Israel.
NO negotiations with Israel.
NOpeace with Israel.
The 1967 lines refer to the 1949 Armistice Line and shows the disingenuous attempt to present distortions and revisions of history. These Armistice Lines were never intended as borders. The reason the Arabs want them as borders, which, by they way, the Arabs rejected in 1949, is because they are indefensible. The aim is to replace the Jewish state with another Arab state. Jordan, is a British colonial creation from Arab land and as both the late King Hussein and Abdullah II have admitted: Jordan is “Palestine”and”Palestine” is Jordan. Jordan is your homeland since 90% are Palestinian Arabs who, are also second-class citizens to the aristocratic Hashemites (a tribe from Arabia). Both Kings have revoked their Jordanian passports at times, but rest assured, Abbas et a l have Jordanian citizenship!
UNRWA is a special agency just for Palestinian refugees. Only Palestinian refugees have a different definition – ie a perpetual refugee status for all. This is another example of an offensive tactic to destroy the Jewish State. Whereas the UNHC has repatriated millions of refugees, UNRWA refuses to repatriate any. This deliberate policy is the policy of Arab leaders to keep their own “brothers” impoverished. In Lebanon,where there is a real”apartheid” system, UNRWA looks away.
Even the “Nabka” has been hijacked! This originally referred to the Great Arab Revolt of 1936 against the British who with France,carved up the Middle East, thus cutting off Syria from their “brothers” who had immigrated to Mandate Palestine, because the Jews had cultivated the land! The PA has governed over 90% of the Palestinians for over 20 years! While Abbas has just built his 4th villa, at a cost of $13 million, others are kept impoverished in refugee camps.Where has all the money gone? Why do you educate your children to hate Jews and encourage terrorism?
In the words of Arabs:
There is no such country as Palestine. “Palestine” is a term the Zionists invented. There is NO Palestine in the Bible . . Palestine is alien to us.”
AWNI ABDUL-HADI, Peel Commission Testimony, 1937.
“There is no such thing as Palestine in history. Absolutely not.”
DR. PHILIP HITTI Anglo-American Committee Testimony, 1946.
“It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”
Saudi Representative to the UN, 1956.
“Never forget this one point: There is no such thing as a Palestinian people. There is no Palestinian entity . . . Palestine is an integral part of Syria.”
HAFEZ AL-ASSAD to YASSER ARAFAT
Zuheir Mohsen: there are “no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese”, though Palestinian identity would be emphasised for political reasons. This originated in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
“Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of ONE people, the Arab nation. Look, I have family members with Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Syrian citizenship. We are ONE people. Just for political reasons we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.
A separate Palestinian entity needs to fight for the national interest in the then remaining occupied territories. The Jordanian government cannot speak for Palestinians in Israel, Lebanon or Syria. Jordan is a state with specific borders. It cannot lay claim on – for instance – Haifa or Jaffa, while I AM entitled to Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Jordan can only speak for Jordanians and the Palestinians in Jordan. The Palestinian state would be entitled to represent all Palestinians in the Arab world en elsewhere. Once we have accomplished all of our rights in all of Palestine, we shouldn’t postpone the unification of Jordan and Palestine for one second.
Zuheir Muhsin, military commander of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said after the 1967 Six Day War: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation… yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes.
The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
In 2012 the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of the Interior and of National Security Fathi Hammad said: “Half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.”
Sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem by Dr. Jacques Gauthier
Dr. Gauthier’s comprehensive thesis entitled Sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem was completed in 2006 at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. He has served as legal counsel to various governments including the governments of France, Spain, Mexico and Canada. In 2000 he was knighted by the government of France as Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite. Dr. Gauthier has been involved in the pursuit of human rights in China, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Canada. He has served as the Vice Chair, Acting Chair and President of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Canada).
A heartfelt article that reminds the readership of many home truths regarding the Balfour Declaration and the suffering of the indigenous Palestinians as a consequence.
I would just like to add to the final sentence that Britain should go fruther than just offering recognition of “the State of Palestine instead of dancing on the ruins of the Palestinian people.” They should also lead the way in helping the Palestinian people get what is rightfully and legally theirs , a state in all of the West Bank linked to their territory in Gaza.
Judah Ben Zion :
You write : “The constant refusal to recognise the Jewish state; and its right to exist is the source of this conflict that never should have taken place, but for Arab antisemitism.”
Why do you claim that the Palestinian refusal to recognise the right to exist as a Jewish state is “the source of this conflict”?
The PA have publically declared their recognition of the state of Israel. Furthermore, within the context of international law no country has a “right to exist”: So why has this imposition been placed upon the Palestinian people? That surely is closer to being a “source of this conflict”.
Finally, why do you label your (incorrect) assumption as “antisemitism”? There is no legal basis attached to the Israeli demand, added to which the PA have given such recognition.