Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Balfour Declaration Centenary: 7 Months To Go

November 2, 1917, was, of course, when the British government of David Lloyd George issued the infamous Balfour Declaration, arguably the worst (because most short-sighted, shameful, far-reaching and destructive) foreign policy decision in British imperial history. In the countdown to the centenary of its issue, on November 2, 2017, I will be featuring, on the 2nd of each month, a commentary/judgment on the subject.

I begin here with that of the British suffragist and peace activist Maude Royden (1876-1956). It comes from her 1939 book The Problem of Palestine:

"What was the Balfour Declaration?

"It was a statement, issued by the British Government in November, 1917 that 'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours 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.'

"The negotiations which led up to this Declaration were for the most part in the hands of Lord Balfour and Dr Weizmann: hence its title. There is more of it than I have quoted but this paragraph expresses its purpose.

"It is concerned with Palestine; that is to say, with an Arab country to whose people we had promised their freedom, and in return, had their support in war. But the wishes of these people were never once consulted.

"It is concerned with Palestine; that is to say, with a country whose inhabitants were 90% Arabs, but the word Arab does not once appear in the whole of this extraordinary document.

"It is concerned with Palestine; that is to say, with a people who had inhabited that land for thirteen hundred years; yet all the recognition of their existence and presence is a reference from time to time to the 'non-Jewish communities'.

"Non-Jewish! It is as though the Welsh, who once dwelt in Ancient Britain, should refer to the entire English nation as the 'non-Welsh communities of England'!

"The British Government had no right to make this promise. It was invalid from the start. When pressed for a justification, its defenders must - and do - fall back in the end on the fact that 'we conquered Palestine and had a right to do do as we liked with it'. We 'conquered' Palestine by the curious expedient of promising freedom to her people and so ranging them on our side; but if indeed we had conquered them, the justification offered is clearly one of naked force. Has Mussolini a right to 'do what he likes' in Abyssinia or the Japanese in China, where and in so far as they have conquered it?

"Neither had the League of Nations any right to give Britain a mandate for Palestine, still less to give it (as it did) subject to a condition that the Balfour Declaration be carried out. It will seem astonishing to believers in 'power politics' but it is nevertheless true that the weak nations have rights of their own and that these are not less valid than those of the powerful merely because they cannot so readily be enforced.

"Certainly the Arabs have never accepted this strange view of international politics. They have not admitted and they will not admit our right to dispose of their country over their heads." (pp 94-96)

I would urge all and sundry to sign and publicise this petition: Christopher Geidt Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II Please do not advise Royal Visit to Israel in Balfour Cent/?tvHuLlb


Grappler said...

I challenge the 1300 years MERC. I'm no historian, though I read a lot of it, and I'm no archaeologist or anthropologist, but it is my guess that the ancestors of the people of Palestine were there long before that. Typically people change their allegiances and religions when invaders come. The Palestinians are probably the decendants of 1st century AD Judeans and proto-Christians. Their leaders may have been driven out in 70AD and later around 130AD but most of those that were not killed by the Romans remained. Sure, they interbred with the Romans and Byzantines and later with the Muslim invaders in the 7th century but their descendants are still there.

I'm sorry to quote the Guardian again but it is probably correct on this one:

It shows that invasions and rule by Romans, Vikings and Normans had relatively little impact on the DNA of Britain, and even the Angles and Saxons had only around 30% effect on the DNA. The same is probably true in Palestine. It is ironic that perhaps the descendants of the original "Jews" are the people being persecuted in the name of the "Jewish State".

MERC said...

True. She was writing in the late 30s though. The present day Palestinians are obviously a mix of just about everybody who's ever come and gone in the Levant, dating back to prehistoric times.