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.
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.