Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Salt on the wounds

While the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, should have been an occasion to mark the massive injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation, British Prime Minister Theresa May added salt to the wound and shamelessly declared late last week that she would celebrate it with “pride”.

The Balfour Declaration is a reminder of the worst of the colonial era, which this Middle East region suffered dearly, whereby occupiers dealt with peoples of the region as “subjects” who have no rights whatsoever. Borders and nations were created not to serve the interests of the peoples of the region, but to bankroll the economies of the colonialists and confirm their dominance asserted on purely racist grounds.

The British and French, the two main colonial powers around the turn of the 20th century, certainly did not own the Arab countries they illegally occupied, and saw no contradiction between the principles of humanity they preached and depriving the peoples of this region of their basic rights to live freely and to rule themselves.

There is no other way to look at the Balfour Declaration, whereby those who did not own the land gave a pledge to the growing Zionist movement that they would facilitate the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. According to the racist mentality that justified the illegal colonisation of Arab lands, there was nothing wrong in promising an alien population land that did not belong to them.

If the British were considering India, Egypt and Iraq as part of their empire, and the French saw Algeria and the rest of North Africa as blessed to be ruled by their advanced masters, then there was no surprise that British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour would unilaterally promise the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine to another growing colonialist movement, Zionism.

According to the historians, Palestine was not the only suggested destination for this homeland to compensate Europe’s Jews for centuries of anti-Semitism and discrimination, not at the hands of Palestinians, to be sure. When the elders of the Zionist movement concluded that the only way to end the pogroms and their suffering was to create their own state, other parts of the world, in Africa and Latin America, were also considered as possible locations.

However, it was the people of Palestine who ended up paying the price, with the occupation of their land and forced displacement from their homes. All resolutions issued by the UN Security Council insisting that Palestinians had a right to self-determination and should not be forcibly removed from their lands were simply ignored. Israel created not only one of the largest refugee crises in the world, following its creation in 1948, but later expanded its occupation in 1967 and continued its suppression of the Palestinian people living in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

The illegal expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem is only one example how the occupiers have no intention to recognise their crimes.

While the power of the former colonialists faded, Israel was blessed with a new patron: the United States. Using its veto power in the Security Council, together with the British and the French, Israel was shielded from any accountability and provided cover to continue its illegal occupation and crimes against the Palestinian people.

British Prime Minister May is certainly aware of the great injustices the Palestinian people have suffered and the growing movement in Europe and the United States opposing the crimes and racism of the Israeli occupation. However, the most she could offer was recognition of “sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration”.

The thousands of Palestinians and Arabs killed in consecutive Israeli wars over the past 100 years, and the millions of Palestinian refugees who continue to dream about a return to their homeland, have far more than “sensitivities”. While Britain alone cannot bring an end to Israel’s long and illegal occupation of Palestine, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration should have been opportunity for former colonialists to offer an apology, instead of this insulting declaration of “pride”.

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