Britain must apologise for the Balfour Declaration

Balfour portrait and declaration

Ever since UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour pronounced the Balfour Declaration on 2 November 1917, promising a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, Palestinians have endured ongoing violation of their basic human rights.

With only 67 words, seismic changes were forced on the Palestinians, making contradictory, irreconcilable and ambiguous promises: one nation promised another nation the land of a third nation.

By promising Jews, who made up 6 per cent of the inhabitants of Palestine, their own state, the declaration totally compromised the rights of the other 94 per cent of the population. It referred to the majority population as “the non-Jewish community in Palestine” and contradicted the 1916 McMahon-Hussain agreement and the principles of national self determination.

Millions of Palestinians continue to suffer from the unjust and misguided British policy in Palestine. Great injustice leaves great scars. It is time Britain apologised as a first step towards rebuilding for the future.

In Palestine, Britain did not propose even to go through the formality of consulting the inhabitants of the country about the future of their land.

Now, over 11 million Palestinians continue to suffer from Britain’s colonial legacy in Palestine. Not only is it time for Britain to apologize for the human rights abuse suffered by Palestinians while under British Mandate administration, but there needs to be an admission of this original sin which bought untold misery through nearly a century of conflict, ethnic cleansing, ongoing human rights abuse, brutal occupation and apartheid.

The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), with other partners around the world, is preparing to launch a global campaign to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

The five-year campaign, which will be launched during Palestine memorial week in January 2013, will include mass mobilization, popular events, conferences and workshops, lobbying, petitions and many other initiatives.

The campaign, to be launched in the UK, will gather a million signatures from those seeking justice in Palestine, in condemnation of British colonial policy during 1917-48.

Millions of Palestinians continue to suffer from the unjust and misguided British policy in Palestine.

Great injustice leaves great scars. It is time Britain apologised as a first step towards rebuilding for the future.

Postscript

By Jeff Blankfort (US-based radio producer and campaigner for Palestinian rights)

What needs to be pointed out is that the Balfour Declaration was Britain’s reward to the Zionists for what it perceived as their assistance in pushing US President Woodrow Wilson, a close friend of US Zionist leader and Supreme Court Head Justice Louis Brandeis, into going to war in 1917 on Britain’s behalf when it had become clear that it could not win the war without American help. This is well documented and flies in the face of the widespread, mistaken notion that the British viewed a Jewish homeland in Palestine as protecting their imperial interests, ignoring the fact that the British had no such need given that it already controlled Egypt, Transjordan, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Iran and the Jewish colonists in Palestine were in no position to help further British interests and had no inclination to do so.

Any honest examination of the history of the Zionists in Palestine, including but not limited to British Foreign Office documents (See Palestine Papers: Seeds of Conflict by Doreen Ingrams, Braziller, 1973) reveals that the Zionist presence in Palestine, from beginning to end, was never anything but a major headache for the British whose government, before the ascension of David Lloyd George to the prime ministership, was strongly opposed to the Zionist plans for Palestine. What is not generally known about Lloyd George is that before replacing the anti-Zionist Herbert Asquith as Britain’s prime minister, he was part of the London law firm that represented the Zionists in Britain.

It should also be added that the Balfour Declaration was the result of months of negotiations between His Majesty’s government and the Zionists who wanted Jewish rights in Palestine to be declared in even stronger terms, which is why it reads as if was put together by a committee, which it was. When, in the face of Arab opposition to wholesale Jewish immigration to Palestine in 1939, the British issued their famous “White Paper” placing limits upon it, both Chaim Weizmann, the worldwide leader of the Zionist movement and Samuel Landman, one of the negotiators with the British, now no longer under Zionist influence, wrote strong condemnations of the British, accusing them of double-crossing the Zionists after their earlier deal.

These were published in the British press and no doubt caught the eye of not only the Nazis, but the German people as well, sending them a clear message as to who was behind their loss in World War I and their subsequent suffering in the wake of the Versailles “peace” conference. That the overwhelming majority of German Jews were loyal Germans and not Zionists and that many had fought for the Kaiser in World War I was brushed aside, and that was just one of the ways that the Zionists, consciously or not, contributed to the horrors that would later be suffered by their co-religionists. This subject, by the way, is forbidden on that otherwise excellent website, Mondoweiss, and raising it got me banned from commenting there by Phil Weiss many months ago.

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