Erase Balfour declaration – Usher in freedom, dignity and equality

Palestine Update 185
Erase Balfour declaration – Usher in freedom, dignity and equality

As long as Palestinians continue to suffer injustice, Balfour declaration can’t be celebrated  

101 years ago, on 2 November 1917, Arthur Balfour signed a letter pledging the land of Palestine to the Zionist Federation, a political movement designed to create a Jewish state. His promise was one that he had no authority to make- moral or legal. That promise was politically criminal in that it disenfranchised the political rights of the indigenous Palestinians who had lived there throughout the history of the land. It resulted in severe tensions between European Jewish immigrants and the native Palestinian population, led to war, and far worse as history moved on.  In taking forward the declaration, Zionist militias, in 1948, forcibly expelled more than 800,000 men, women and children from their homeland, committing horrendous carnage and destroying hundreds of villages in the process.

Resultant to the Balfour declaration, Palestinians account for some 12 million people strewn all through the world. Some 6 million still live in exile to this day. Those who managed to stay on are enslaved by a system of institutionalized discrimination in Israel. In the West Bank, some 2.9 million survive under draconian military occupation-turned-colonization. Jerusalemite Arabs constitute 300,000 of that number. They continue to resist attempts to compel them out of their city. Two million live in the Gaza Strip, an open prison subjected to regular destruction by Israel’s military apparatus.

The Balfour declaration was more than political deception. It turned out to be a racist seed of a colonialist enterprise now being cruelly practiced by Israel on the Palestinian populations – the original inhabitants of the land that Balfour had the audacity to sign away. (That is changing with the politics of convenience that Israel and the US are playing out in the region). The consequences of the Balfour Declaration were not confined to Palestine. The Declaration engendered anger towards Britain throughout the Arab world and at all levels of Arab society from the intellectual elites to the masses. Edward Said, writing in his well known book: The Question of Palestine comments on the tacit postulations behind the Declaration. For him it was a principal example of the ‘moral epistemology of imperialism’. He cites four factors to substantiate his conclusion. He observed that the Declaration was made the formulation of a European power, a non-European territory, entirely disrespected the presence and the wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, and, finally, “took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people”.

Those who take sides for justice demand that the unlawful and immoral declaration must rapidly be made derelict and replaced by an agreement which brings justice, freedom and dignity to all. The signs that this is possible are visible from the protests of thousands upon thousands of British people who demand that their government take steps to undo the damage and recognize the State of Palestine. Already 274 Members of Parliament have voted in favour of recognizing the state of Palestine. Thousands have petitioned their government to apologize for the Balfour declaration; and umpteen NGOs and solidarity groups turn up on the streets, to indefatigably argue for the rights of Palestinians. They are impelled by the steadfastness of the Palestinian people who live in pride of their ancient heritage of ancient civilizations, and the fact that theirs is the cradle of the three monotheistic religions. Over the years, however, Palestinians have conceded to Israeli demands through acutely excruciating compromises for the sake of peace, beginning with the decision to accept a state on a mere 22% of their historical homeland while recognizing the state of Israel.

Today those compromises have left them further battered. The much touted two-state solution threatens to further decline with Israel’s expansionism and conquer of land illegally. The Palestinian people still stay firmly footed in their rightful claims for a just place within politically acceptable parameters. This time around, the Palestinians will not settle for a reinvented Balfour in the form of a “deal of the century”. It must be remembered that the Balfour declaration also stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Balfour is the cue to demand and struggle for tangible steps towards ending the occupation on the basis of international law and resolutions, including the most recent UN Security Council resolution 2334. These call to be implemented with a sense of urgency. Accepting Palestine based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, will not only serve to fulfill the political rights of the Palestinian people. This alone will pave the way for a just and lasting peace for the Palestinians, Israelis and the region as a whole.

We share with readers excerpts from selected articles. The summaries provide enough overview. But the curious minded may want to open the links to read up all there is!

Ranjan Solomon

Anti-occupation rallies on Balfour Declaration anniversary in Gaza

Anti-occupation rallies have been held in the besieged Gaza Strip. Palestinians came together on another Friday to demand the right of return to their homeland. This week’s rallies coincided with the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

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Charge Britain with responsibility for Balfour Declaration
The Palestinian Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad has stated that an ongoing global, legal, and political campaign has been initiated for demanding Britain to bear its legal and political responsibilities, due to the dramatic effects of the Balfour Declaration on the Palestinian people. The declaration is regarded as a crime, by all standards. The Conference, in its statement, called upon all Palestinians, countries and civil society organizations to supported Palestinian rights by sending letters to British embassies around the world, as well as the British Prime Ministerial office and the British Foreign Office.

The campaign aims at sparing no efforts in achieving Palestinian rights and suppressing the Israeli occupation, and has adopted peaceful and legal measures in order to revive this demand. The popular conference pointed out, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency, that the Palestinian people live under harsh conditions, directly due to the ongoing Israeli military occupation, which usurped the Palestinians’ lands and expelled its citizens.

How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland
100 years since Balfour’s, Palestinians wont’ compromise their rights in Palestine 

In his book, Before Their Diaspora, Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi captured the true collective understanding among Palestinians regarding what had befallen their homeland nearly a century ago: “The Mandate, as a whole, was seen by the Palestinians as an Anglo-Zionist condominium and its terms as instruments for the implementation of the Zionist programme; it had been imposed on them by force, and they considered it to be both morally and legally invalid. The Palestinians constituted the vast majority of the population and owned the bulk of the land. Inevitably, the ensuing struggle centred on this status quo. The British and the Zionists were determined to subvert and revolutionize it, the Palestinians to defend and preserve it.”  In fact, that history remains in constant replay: The Zionists claimed Palestine and renamed it “Israel”; the British continue to support them, although never ceasing to pay lip service to the Arabs; the Palestinian people remain a nation that is geographically fragmented between refugee camps, in the diaspora, militarily occupied, or treated as second-class citizens in a country upon which their ancestors dwelt since time immemorial….

In his essay in Al-Ahram Weekly, entitled “Truth and Reconciliation”, the late Professor Edward Said wrote: “Neither the Balfour Declaration nor the Mandate ever specifically concedes that Palestinians had political, as opposed to civil and religious, rights in Palestine.

The idea of inequality between Jews and Arabs was, therefore, built into British – and, subsequently, Israeli and US – policy from the start.”  That inequality continues, thus the perpetuation of the conflict. What the British, the early Zionists, the Americans and subsequent Israeli governments failed to understand, and continue to ignore at their peril, is that there can be no peace without justice and equality in Palestine; and that Palestinians will continue to resist, as long as the reasons that inspired their rebellion nearly a century ago, remain in place.

One hundred years later, the British government is yet to possess the moral courage to take responsibility for what their government has done to the Palestinian people.  One hundred years later, Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed, neither by Balfour nor by his modern peers in “Her Majesty’s Government”.

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish