Gulamhusein A. Abba: The Balfour Declaration — Did it call for a celebration or apology?
UK Prime Minister Theresa May hosted a dinner to mark the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration that paved the way for Israel to come into existence. Also present were Lord Rothschild, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and of course, the chief guest Benjamin Netanyahu.
The British PM said, “We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel. We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel.”
Netanyahu said, “The Balfour Declaration puts Britain on the right side of history. In marking that declaration today you are keeping Britain on the right side of history.”
The gumption of these people celebrating something that created a monster that has killed thousands of innocent Palestinians, wiped out entire Arab villages, demolished hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinian homes, burnt down Palestinian orchards, forced millions of Palestinians to flee and become refuges, many twice over. A monster that has committed and continues to commit heinous war crimes, flout international law, grab more and more of Palestinian land and build Israeli settlements thereon.
And the British PM is proud to have paved the way for the creation of this monster? And celebrate the document that did this?
No, Mr. Netanyahu, marking that declaration with a celebration is NOT keeping Britain on the right side of history. On the contrary.
It is truly astounding that instead of taking this opportunity to apologize to the Palestinians and make amends, the PM chose to publicly celebrate the event with a lavish dinner with the man who is the main culprit. It is an unmistakable and unforgivable slap on the face of the Palestinians, adding insult to injury.
It is worth remembering that the Balfour Declaration is not the only blow that the British struck against the Palestinians. Britain has much more to hang its head in shame for.
For starters, it played games with the Arabs and Jews. It promised both of them government of the land after the war. It kept its word with the Jews, but broke it shamelessly with the Arabs.
The Balfour declaration did say that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” But these were just words. Much was done to prejudice not only the civil and religious rights of Arabs in Palestine, but also their political rights. And most of it was done by the British when they were in control of Palestine under the British Mandate.
Soon after the British got control of Palestine, it began to facilitate the immigration of European Jews to Palestine. Between 1922 and 1935, the Jewish population rose from 9 percent to nearly 27 percent of the total population.
The British Mandate created the conditions for the Jewish minority to gain superiority in Palestine and build a state for themselves at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs.
The British allowed the Jews to establish self-governing institutions, such as the Jewish Agency, to prepare themselves for a state when it came to it, while the Palestinians were forbidden from doing so.
Britain refused all Palestinian demands for elections, for a national assembly and for a national executive. In effect Britain prevented democracy from evolving so long as the Arabs were a majority.
During the Arab Revolt that began in 1936 to protest British rule and the official support for the increase in Jewish immigration, the British used “punitive house demolitions” and “administrative detention” (the internment of prisoners for an indefinite period of time without subjecting them to trial or charges) against the Arabs.
Between 1936 and 1939, the British authorities demolished 5,000 Palestinian homes.
In 1948 the 750,000-plus Palestinians who were driven out from their homes during the ethnic cleansing, were forced out by Israeli forces, most of whom were trained by the British.
When about the time the UN announced its partition plan and delineated the boundary of the proposed Israeli state, the Israeli paramilitary forces started in earnest their ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from that land and committed horrendous massacres.
A hundred years back, a European country made a “declaration” to the Zionist Jews that it would help them establish a “homeland” in a country (Palestine) which at that time it did not own — a declaration that has resulted in unimaginable misery, death and destruction faced by the Palestinians.
Does that call for a celebration? Or should the country that made that infamous declaration be hanging its head in shame and apologizing for what it had done? You be the judge.
Gulamhusein A. Abba, a retired journalist, is a resident of Danbury.