Tag Archives: Balfour declaration

Action, not more words

Lord Balfour

Lord Arthur Balfour

Most Americans don’t give a squat about diplomacy and history, so the 100th year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration won’t register much more than a tick in U.S. papers and social media.  The U.S. Congress will be quietly considering a resolution in support of this abomination in the next few weeks.

On the other hand, the history and import of Balfour’s infamous letter, giving a homeland to the Jews in the land of Palestine, is drawing a lot of attention in the UK and Palestine.

On November 2, 1917, Lord Balfour wrote:

“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 Zionists considered this short statement (which they drafted in large measure) their first and biggest diplomatic success. From these 67 words, sprang the Zionists’ dream and the Palestinians’ nightmare. Today, a century later, it is clear that the first part of Lord Balfour’s declaration has been realized, but not the second.

Many are calling attention to this failure, walking 3,400 km. from London to Jerusalem to drive the point home. 

Today (Nov. 2, 2017) a new declaration was presented to the Consulate-General in Jerusalem with a request that it be passed on to the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and to the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Preamble
We have walked more than 3,400 kilometres to be here today. We have walked in penance and in solidarity. We have walked in recognition that the Balfour Declaration led to one people’s freedom and another people’s oppression.

We have walked with our Christian, Muslim and Jewish partners in the Holy Land to hear their witness to the consequences of Balfour. Today, one hundred years after the original Balfour Declaration was made, we propose a new declaration. We offer a ‘new Balfour’ to Her Majesty’s Government, a new 67-word declaration written in the belief that peace will only come through justice and reconciliation.

“Her Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine/Israel of a safe and secure home for all who live there. The nations of the world should use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this objective, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil, political and religious rights of Palestinians or Jews living in Palestine/Israel or any other country.”

I understand and appreciate the sentiments expressed in this new declaration but it’s naive and, even if everyone agreed with it (especially leaders in the UK, Israel and Palestine), it’s too little, too late.

Rather, world leaders should take note of the report released this week by S. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and human rights expert, and the UN rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories. He’s calling for sanctions against Israel to pressure that government to end its military occupation. This is a critical and necessary step to secure justice for the Palestinians, but it’s also important to reaffirm our global commitment to international law and the rule of law.

The “duration of this occupation is without precedent or parallel in today’s world,” the report said. Israel has “driven Gaza back to the dark ages” due to denial of water and electricity and freedom of movement. There is a “darkening stain” on the world’s legal framework because other countries have treated the occupation as normal, and done nothing to resist Israel’s “colonial ambition par excellence,” which includes two sets of laws for Israelis and Palestinians.

Words will no longer suffice a century after Lord Balfour’s declaration. Palestinians need action, not more words.

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“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

albert_einstein_quotes2

So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

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