Alan Dershowitz: Israel Does Not Cause Antisemitism

By Alan Dershowitz: In a recent letter to the New York Times, the current Earl of Balfour, Roderick Balfour, argued that it is Israel’s fault that there is “growing anti-Semitism around the world.” Balfour — who is a descendant of Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary who wrote the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago — wrote the following: “the increasing inability of Israel to address [the condition of Palestinians], coupled with the expansion into Arab territory of the Jewish settlements, are major factors in growing anti-Semitism around the world.” He argued further that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “owes it to the millions of Jews around the world” who suffer antisemitism, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This well-intentioned but benighted view is particularly ironic, in light of the fact that the Balfour Declaration had, as one of its purposes, to end antisemitism around the world by creating a homeland for the Jewish people. But now the scion of Lord Balfour is arguing that it is Israel that is causing antisemitism.

Roderick Balfour’s views are simply wrong, both as a matter of fact and as a matter of morality. Anyone who hates Jews “around the world” because they disagree with the policy of Israel would be ready to hate Jews on the basis of any pretext. Modern-day antisemites, unlike their forbears, need to find excuses for their hatred, and anti-Zionism has become the excuse de jure.

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To prove the point, let us consider other countries: Has there been growing anti-Chinese feelings around the world as the result of China’s occupation of Tibet? Is there growing hatred of Americans of Turkish background because of Turkey’s unwillingness to end the conflict in Cyprus? Do Europeans of Russian background suffer bigotry because of Russia’s invasion of Crimea? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no. If Jews are the only group that suffers because of controversial policies by Israel, then the onus lies on the antisemites rather than on the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Moreover, Benjamin Netanyahu’s responsibility is to the safety and security of Israelis. Even if it were true that antisemitism is increasing as the result of Israeli policies, no Israeli policy should ever be decided based on the reaction of bigots around the world. Antisemitism, the oldest of bigotries, will persist as long as it is seen to be justified by apologists like Roderick Balfour. Though Balfour does not explicitly justify antisemitism, the entire thrust of his letter is that Jew-hatred is at least understandable in light of Israel’s policies.

Balfour doesn’t say a word about the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel’s repeated offers of statehood. From 1938 through 2008, the Palestinians have been offered and have repeatedly rejected agreements that would have given them statehood. Even today, the Palestinian leadership refuses to accept Netanyahu’s offer to sit down and negotiate a final status agreement without any pre-conditions. Nor does Balfour mention Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists groups that constantly threaten Israel, along with Iran’s publicly declared determination to destroy the state that Lord Balfour helped to create.

It’s all Israel’s fault, according to Balfour, and the resulting increase in antisemitism is Israel’s fault, as well.

Roderick Balfour ends his letter by essentially joining the boycott movement against Israel. He has declared his unwillingness to participate in the Centenary Celebration of the Balfour Declaration, until and unless Israel takes unilateral action to end the conflict. So be it. I am confident that the author of the Balfour Declaration would have willingly participated in this celebration, recognizing that no country in history has ever contributed more to the world – in terms of medical, technological, environmental and other innovations — in so short a period of time (69 years) than has Israel. Nor has any country, faced with comparable threats, ever been more generous in its offers of peace, more committed to the Rule of Law or more protective of civilians who are used as human shields by those who attack its own civilians.

So let the Celebration of the Balfour Declaration go forward without the participation of Roderick Balfour. Let Israel continue to offer a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians. And let the Palestinians finally come to the bargaining table, and recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in the way that the Balfour Declaration intended.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School, and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter. This article was previously published by the Gatestone Institute.

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We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

By Yaffa Abadi: It is a scary and somewhat daunting phrase that captures the truth about many aspects of interpersonal relationships. When it comes to the Jewish people as a unit, this too rings true. Most of the time our own worst enemy is, in fact, ourselves.

As the century mark of the Balfour Declaration is coming along, I have become engrossed in researching the process that led to the Declaration and what we can learn from it up until today. To me, this seems like a prime example where the Jews of the diaspora came together as a unit to fight for the continued existence of the Jewish people. But, as my research expands, a certain name keeps coming up. A thorn in the rosebush of this Jewish unity.

His name was Edwin Montague and in my mind, he represents one the biggest problems facing world jewry to this very day. Montague was the single Jew working in the British Cabinet during World War One and his family was one of the most prominent and influential families in British and Jewish affairs. With such a seemingly large influence in the secular world, you would assume that obviously this was a huge positive for the Jews at the time. One foot in the door of British politics!

Think again.

Montague was one of the most staunch anti-Zionists around, making it his life’s work to resist Zionist endeavors. In his writings, he makes his views clear, claiming ‘Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom.

His attitude towards the Zionist movement came to life when he used his influence to try put an end to one of the most important letters leading up to the establishment of Israel and what led me to Montague in the first place – the Balfour Declaration. He tried his very best to stop this meaningful Declaration from being accepted. However when he saw that this was not possible, he was sure to add phrases that blurred the lines and added a sense of ambiguity about the nature of the homeland that the Jewish people would eventually receive.

Montague is an example in history that parallels some of the biggest threats we have today. From the anti-Israel Neturei Karta ‘a group of Orthodox Jews which rejects Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel. based off of their supposed religious ideals, to extreme left movements such as J Street who parade as Zionist organisations but whose actions, such as drawing parallels between Israel and Hamas and constantly condemning Israel’s protective efforts, proves it to be another Jewish movement that can act as a magnet to anti-Zionists.

While the size of movements such as these may not be large, any sort of threat coming from within our own people is something the Jewish Nation has suffered from the most throughout our history as a nation.

Going back to ancient times, we are reminded of the story of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa. A petty argument between these two Jewish men which led to the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash (temple). This cruel destruction of our most Holy temple did not begin from an outer force, but rather from the hatred that was bred within the Jewish community.

It is strikingly clear that while, as Jews living in Israel, we face many threats from outer forces, one of our worst enemies is none other than ourselves. From the biblical times, seen throughout our history and highlighted with Montague’s involvement in the Balfour declaration, this threat of Jews against Israel is very real still today and must be countered by remaining loyal and united even in the face of our differences.

Let us learn from our mistakes, and take action to ensure the continuity of our people. Let us look forward to celebrating the century mark of the Balfour Declaration as a symbol where our unity as a Jewish nation overcame all.

People take part in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, New York May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

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Netanyahu denounces campaign to apologise for Balfour Declaration

Israel’s prime minister dismissed calls for Britain to say sorry for supporting the establishment of a Jewish state as ‘amazing’

Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the campaign in the UK for an apology for the Balfour Declaration – suggesting it was driven not by territorial dispute but by the very existence of the Jewish state.

The Israeli prime minister’s comments to the Jewish News came as Anglo-Jewry gears up to mark the centenary of Britain’s historic pledge and just weeks after the House of Lords launch of a campaign to push for an apology for the 1917 declaration – which he dismissed as “amazing”.

Addressing the second Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, he said: “The Balfour declaration recognised this land as the home of the Jewish people which obviously had consequences later down the line.

“But if the Palestinians are challenging 100 years later even the idea that the Jewish people have a home here you know they’re not really gung-ho on a state – a nation state for the Jewish people. It’s very revealing about the true source of this ensuring conflict.

“It’s not about territory, even though that’s an issue. It’s not about settlements, even though that’s an issue – it’s not the issue. It was never and is still not about the Palestinian state. It was always about the Jewish state. The fact there was a challenge to the Balfour declaration 100 years later tells us we haven’t come very far.”

In a tweet, Justin Cohen said:
“In answer to my question, @netanyahu denounces campaign for UK apology over Balfour Declaration as ‘amazing’ #JMS2016

Although the premier didn’t say what he will do for the centenary, Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK and the PM’s former spokesman, has previously spoken of bilateral plans to mark the occasion. A programme of events is also being finalised by the Balfour 100 Committee, comprising dozens of Jewish community and Israel organisations.

Netanyahu also used the summit to rubbish claims that Israel is facing increasing international isolation – insisting the opposite is the case.

With a diary comprising 250 meetings with presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers this year, he said: “The great powers of Asia, Africa and Latin America, they’re all coming to Israel. It’s happening at an unbelievable pace. I wish we had a little isolation because I could use the time.”

He said warmer relations were being driven by cooperation on tackling terrorism, Israel’s technological prowess and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – claiming he encourages visiting leaders to host direct talks without preconditions.

“Israel has all of a sudden become a cyber security and digital health power. We have a car industry all of a sudden. All of these countries understand that not only to protect themselves against terrorism but to seize the future – everything is becoming technologies – and Israel is a global force in technology.” He predicted that “it’s only a matter of time before this bilateral change is going to be reflected in the way countries vote in the UN”.


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The Meaning of the Palestinians’ War on the Balfour Declaration

Photo: From the Facebook page “Palestine Belongs to Palestinians!”

Encouraged and empowered by the recent UNESCO resolution that rejects Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, the Palestinian Authority is boasting about plans to hold a series of global events throughout the coming year to decry the establishment of the state of Israel.

The purpose of the campaign, described by the Qudsnet News Agency as “massive,” is to “make the international community, and especially Britain, confront their historical responsibilities and call on them to atone for this major crime committed, and raise the issue of the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

The “major crime” in question is the Nov. 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration, sent by the UK foreign secretary to Jewish community leader Walter Rothschild, to be delivered to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

“His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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,” it stated.

Though this was well before the term “Palestinians” – or people calling themselves “Palestinians” – even existed – distorting history is part and parcel of their effort to delegitimize Israel in any and every way possible. The UNESCO vote is but one tiny example of this practice, which is gaining momentum with the help of Western leftists.

Another is the incessant cacophony about Israeli settlements constituting an “obstacle to peace.”

Ironically, the very fact that all PA factions make no bones about considering the Jewish state a catastrophe worthy of annual mourning – and deserving of the slaughter of innocent Jews — does not serve to dissuade proponents of a two-state solution from their claim that new apartments in the West Bank are unnecessarily provocative.

On the contrary, though Abbas said clearly that no Jews would be welcome in PA-controlled territory under any circumstances, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called attention to this blatant antisemitism, it was he who was mercilessly berated far and wide, especially by the White House and State Department.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief “peace” negotiator, took the opportunity, as he always does, to use US criticism of Israel as a way to prove that the Jewish state was born and lives in sin.

In a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday, Erekat did this in the context of the Balfour Declaration, which he called the “symbolic beginning of the denial of our rights.” Chastising the world for not taking significant steps to end the travesty of Israel’s existence, he spewed customary lies about how the Jewish state came into being. “The Palestinian people were violently dispossessed from their homes and exiled from their homeland in 1948, endured the occupation in 1967, only to be forced into the historic compromise recognizing the 1967 border as the borders of the state of Palestine,” he wrote, conveniently omitting the true story of Israel’s war of Independence and Six-Day War 19 years later – the assault of surrounding Arab armies on a tiny fledgling country that spent much of its time trying to come to an arrangement with those bent on its annihilation.

Erekat’s piece was in keeping with Abbas’ announcement in July that the PA was going to file a lawsuit against Britain for the Balfour Declaration. This was conveyed by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki to the Arab League Summit in Mauritania, which Abbas was unable to attend, due to the death of his brother.

In spite of the fact that Omar Abbas had been treated for cancer at a Tel Aviv hospital – along with the family members of many honchoes in Fatah and Hamas – the PA leader was going ahead with his litigation against the UK over the 100-year-old document, “after which hundreds of thousands of Jews arrived from Europe and other places in Palestine at the expense of our people.”

With such a blatant admission of its actual position on Jewish statehood — going so far as to wage war on the Balfour Declaration — the PA should be treated with the disdain and derision it deserves.

Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.


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Palestinian campaign vs Balfour shows hostility to Jewish state undimmed after 100 years

Op-ed: Netanyahu always claims Palestinian opposition to Jewish sovereignty anywhere, not just to occupation and settlements, lies at the root of the conflict. The PA’s new battle against a century-old British declaration sadly proves his point

Hidden away at the British Library — available for viewing only by special permission — is the original Balfour Declaration, foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour’s short but oh-so-resonant century-old letter of British government intent to revive Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land. Also preserved, in an elegant folders kept under lock and key, is an earlier draft of the Declaration, a version that was circulated to various officials for their responses and possible amendments before the final text was issued on November 2, 1917.

Even after deciding on the legitimacy of the Zionist cause — and assessing its potential advantage to British interests — the Brits, as the various drafts of the Declaration make plain, recognized the spectacular sensitivities and potential repercussions of the decision to “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

From the get-go, the British sought to square the circle — to restore Jewish statehood in the only place on earth where the Jewish people had ever been sovereign, but to do so while preserving the rights of the other communities living in the Holy Land. That effort to realize Jewish sovereign rights while also legitimizing the claims of the Arab peoples here was maintained when Britain ended its mandate and the UN in 1947 recommended partition — a revived Jewish state alongside a first-ever Palestinian state.

The Arab world opposed the Balfour Declaration from day one, opposed the UN partition plan, and sought to destroy the State of Israel in 1948. And on Monday, even though the Palestine Liberation Organization ostensibly came to terms with pre-1967 Israel when Yasser Arafat entered the ill-fated Oslo process with Yitzhak Rabin a quarter-century ago, a senior member of that same PLO proclaimed the Balfour Declaration to be a criminal “colonialist project” and formally launched what he promised will be a year-long campaign designed “to remind the world and particularly Britain that they should face their historic responsibility and to atone for the big crime Britain committed against the Palestinian people.”

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki welcomes United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Muqataa, the PA headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 28, 2016. (FLASH90)

A few months ago, the Palestinian Authority revealed it was also preparing a lawsuit against the British government over the Balfour Declaration, with the PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki holding London responsible for all “Israeli crimes” committed since the end of the British mandate. It was Britain that had committed the original sin of paving the way for Israel’s establishment, because the Balfour Declaration, said Malki, “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.”

Polished Palestinian Authority politicians and spokespeople would have the world believe that their objections to Israel are centered on the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and on the settlement enterprise — and that what they seek is an independent Palestine alongside Israel, not in place of it.

Here we still are, a century later, with the Palestinian leadership branding as a ‘crime’ the start of a process that, had they accepted it, would long since have given them statehood

The Palestinians’ new campaign to highlight the ostensible illegalities and iniquities of the Balfour Declaration tells a different story. It shows an undimmed hostility to the very notion of Jewish sovereignty anywhere in the holy land, and an abiding refusal to accept Jewish legitimacy here. The 1917 Declaration pledged to safeguard the rights of others even as it sought to realize the rights of the Jews. So, too, the UN vote on partition in 1947. And yet here we still are, a century later, with the Palestinian leadership branding as a “crime” the start of a process that, had they accepted it, would long since have given them statehood. For the Palestinian leadership, in 2016, we Jews remain people who don’t belong there, who got something that wasn’t theirs.

This is not Hamas talking, not a terrorist organization avowedly committed to destroying all vestiges of Israel. This is the supposed moderate, mainstream Palestinian leadership. The relative good guys. The hierarchy regarded internationally as responsible. The leadership with which Israel has negotiated and would negotiate.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris in 2008 (Thaer Ganaim/Flash90)

Unfortunately, there should be no great surprise about this. The same purportedly responsible Palestinian leadership, while claiming to seek a two-state solution, is relentlessly pushing resolutions through UNESCO that rewrite history to sever Judaism (and Christianity) from its holiest places in Jerusalem, and thus to discredit Jewish sovereign legitimacy. Pathetically, most UNESCO nations are abetting the farce, either failing to oppose or actually voting in support of the Palestinian mockery of historical fact. With their pusillanimous votes, these nations are thus encouraging the Palestinian intolerance of Jewish legitimacy, and, by extension, tacitly countenancing Palestinian violence against the ostensibly unrooted Jewish state.

The same purportedly responsible Palestinian leadership, it might also be recalled, chose not to accept prime minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace offer, which again would have given the Palestinians the viable, contiguous independent state alongside Israel that they assure the international community is all they seek.

And the same purportedly responsible Palestinian leadership tirelessly uses its TV, print media and social media to incite violence against Israel and assert the illegitimacy of sovereign Israel.

One of several Palestinian children’s drawings posted on the Facebook page of Fatah, the political party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, October 11, 2016 (Source: Palestinian Media Watch)

By continuing to expand the settlement enterprise, building homes for Jews even in West Bank areas that Israel cannot credibly envisage retaining in any peace agreement, the Netanyahu government, like almost all of its predecessors since Israel captured the territories in the 1967 war, gradually discredits those genuine Palestinian moderates who seek peace and believe it is attainable. Building homes in such areas also discredits Israel internationally — undermining the government’s claim to strive for peace and a viable two-state solution. And it harms Israel’s fundamental interest in maintaining a Jewish state and a democratic regime, since one or both of those foundational qualities will be lost if we cannot disentangle ourselves from the millions of Palestinians in the disputed territories.

Buildings under construction in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba outside Hebron, July 6, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

But when Netanyahu tells Israelis and the international community that the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the settlement enterprise, as the Palestinians claim, but rather the perpetual refusal of the Palestinian leadership and populace to internalize the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty anywhere in the holy land, the Palestinians themselves provide ongoing confirmation.

The Balfour Declaration sought to restore a Jewish homeland while respecting the interests of the non-Jews who share this land. Thirty years later, the UN set out a specific framework for achieving this. This was not acceptable to the Arabs of Palestine and those who spoke for them at the time, since their desire for a first-ever Palestinian state was outweighed by their hostility to the notion of a revived Jewish state alongside them. And it is all too evidently not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership now.

In declaring diplomatic and legal war on the Balfour Declaration, Palestinian leaders are telling the world — to their and our enduring misfortune — that nothing has changed in 100 years, that their opposition to our state in any borders remains greater than their desire for their own independent entity. A century later, they are affirming that their refusal to share any part of this land with the Jewish people remains absolute.

Lord Balfour’s writing desk, at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv (Ziko/Wikipedia)

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Palestinian Authority to Sue British Government Over Balfour Declaration

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Malki, on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the PLO was making plans to sue the British over the issuance of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. For almost 100 years, the Declaration has represented, for the Palestinians, the political beginning of Palestine falling out of their influence and into the control of the budding Zionist movement. Al-Malki made his announcement about possible legal action at the end of the July 2016 Arab League summit meeting in Mauritania.

The possible law suit is one more in a series of multiple efforts by anti-Israel or anti-Zionist forces who have since Israel’s inception sought to delegitimize Israel diplomatically: at the UN, from Eastern European Soviet Bloc countries, at the International Court at The Hague, through certain Christian Church groups, at the 2001 Durban Conference against racism, and in the contemporary Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

By intentionally focusing on the Balfour Declaration, the PA seek to reinvigorate the claims of its original 1964 PLO Charter which said, that “The Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.” The PLO Charter continued that “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”

The contents of the Declaration spoke specifically about “the establishing of a national home for the Jewish people and protecting the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities.” These phrases were included in the 1922 Articles of the Mandate, sanctioned by the League of Nations, and earlier in the 1920 San Remo Agreement of the victorious Allies of World War I, which established the status of the former Ottoman territories in the Middle East as Mandates.

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The Palestinian Distortion of the Balfour Declaration

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki has threatened to sue Britain for issuing the 1917 Balfour Declaration because, he claims, that it led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian threat is not as laughable as it sounds. It’s not unexpected either, as part of the current Palestinian strategy to exploit any law and abuse any forum to delegitimise Israel.

The Balfour Declaration, named after then-UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged Britain’s support for the establishment “in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This was not intended to be at the expense of the local Arabs, whose civil rights would not be prejudiced: later, the 1936 Peel Commission proposed to partition western Palestine into an Arab, as well as a Jewish state.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” Malki was quoted as recently saying,”And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.”

Almost every word in Malki’s statement is a lie. Britain reneged on its promises to the Zionists. It gave 70 percent of Palestine to Transjordan in 1921 and curtailed Jewish emigration,  sealing the fate of countless Jews trapped in Nazi-occupied Europe.

No Arab states were enjoined to respect the civil rights of their Jewish citizens. These Jews were unceremoniously thrown out of the Arab world without apology and without compensation — and their pre-Islamic communities were destroyed.

The Palestinians say they cannot be held responsible for what happened to the Jewish refugees. While Israel can legitimately discuss Palestinian refugees in peace talks, Jewish refugees would have to address their grievances with the Arab states.

Arab League states, which instigated the 1948 war against Israel, did indeed create both sets of refugees. However, an extremist Palestinian leadership, which collaborated with the Nazis and incited anti-Jewish hatred all over the Arab world, dragged five Arab states into conflict with the new Jewish state — a conflict they lost and whose consequences they must suffer.  The Palestinian move to sue is as if Germans sued the Allies for starting World War II.

From the outset, the Palestinian cause was a pan-Arab nationalist cause. It has also a powerful Islamist, antisemitic dimension. In Arab eyes, the Jews have no claim to a single inch of “Palestine.”

Every Balfour Declaration anniversary, Arab mobs took to the streets, and the demonstrations often degenerated into full-blown riots, as in Egypt and Libya in 1945, when 130 Jews were murdered.

Not only did the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, instigate deadly disturbances in Palestine in 1920 and 1929, but he used the Balfour Declaration as a rallying cry to incite persecution against the Jews of the Arab world.

The Jerusalem Islamic Congress of 1931, called by the Mufti, was followed by violence in Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, and Aden. All this well before the creation of the state of Israel.

But the worst incitement, with the deadliest consequences, took place in Iraq: the Mufti  fled to Berlin after being implicated in a failed pro-Nazi coup, but not before he had primed the Arabs of Baghdad to unleash the Farhud of 1941. The pogrom claimed the lives of at least 179 Jews.

This was the first battle in the Palestinian war against the defenseless Jews of the Arab world. Had the Nazis been victorious, the Mufti wanted to oversee the Jews’ extermination, not just in Palestine but throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

It is these Jews who have been denied justice, the right to compensation for their loss of assets and land several times the size of Israel itself, and the human rights abuses they suffered. It is these Jews who have every right to sue those who wronged them.

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Prepare for war over the Balfour Declaration

As the centenary of the pivotal “Balfour Declaration” looms in 2017, a new group wants Britain to apologise for making it

November 2017 marks 100 years since the famous “Balfour Declaration” was made in a letter to the British Jewish community, including the famous words, “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”.

The letter started a chain of events that led, by no means smoothly, to the eventual formation of the modern state of Israel. With the advent in recent years of campaigns such as BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions), an essentially anti-Israel movement, Sabeel (Palestinian “Liberation Theology”), and a plethora of other anti-Israel organisations and groups, attempts to attribute the blame for today’s conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have delved back into history long before 1948.

Now has arisen a group that wants Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration ever having been made. The Balfour Project claims that Britain deceived both Jews and Arabs in making the 1917 declaration in favour of a “Jewish national home” in what was then Palestine.

The Project attempts to dissect the convolutions of behind-the-scenes talks that went on during World War One, as Britain sought to undermine Turkish rule in the Middle East. By negotiating with both Jews and Arabs over the destiny of vast swathes of Ottoman territory, Britain hoped to create a friendly “bridge” between her African and Indian territories that would enable profitable trade (and Middle Eastern oil) to be cheaper through overland channels instead of the existing laborious sea routes.

So far so normal in imperial diplomacy. In attempts, however, to ensure Britain and France got the best deals from everyone involved, three sets of agreements made with interested parties collided in confusion at the close of the war. In simple terms, the McMahon/Hussein correspondence (1915) sought to buy the allegiance of the powerful Sharif of Mecca and his clan with offers of territory and power; the Sykes-Picot agreement (1917) sought to carve up part of the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France; and the Balfour Declaration (1917) sought to create a pro-British bloc in Palestine. Unfortunately, the Sykes-Picot agreement carved up territory that had already been promised to the Arabs under the McMahon correspondence.

Contrary to the claims of The Balfour Project, the area that is now Israel was under some dispute. Britain wanted to keep a coastal strip on the Mediterranean under her control, while Sharif Hussein wanted control over much of the same area. At no point was the area around Jerusalem and southwards promised to the Arabs.

It is therefore deceptive to accuse Britain of breaking a promise over an area that it had not promised at all. In fact, Hussein’s son Faisal agreed to abandon his father’s claims on Palestine when he was given Iraq to rule. Under the Sykes-Picot agreement also, most of today’s Israel was to be an international zone – again, not promised to the Arabs.

The eventual compromise gave Iraq to the Sharif’s son Faisal, Trans-Jordan to his other son Abdullah, and Lebanon and Syria to the French. The Zionists were left with the slip of land west of the Jordan River that we know today as Israel. Lebanon and Syria became the French Mandate and Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq) became the British Mandate. It is vital to recognise that the promises made to both Jews and Arabs were at least partly, if not mostly, fulfilled through the compromise arrangements.

The Balfour Project makes use of several revisionist articles to claim that Britain needs to apologise to both Jews and Arabs for its historical “balagan” (Arab for a proper foul-up), but betrays itself as another attempt at delegitimisation by its own strap-line: “Contributing to justice, peace and reconciliation in the Middle East”. As soon as you see the words “justice”, “peace”, “reconciliation” and “Middle East” in the same sentence, you know you are facing another attempt to denigrate and delegitimise the state of Israel.

The Balfour Project has already started holding meetings around the UK and while, to their credit, their meeting in Winchester included speakers opposed to the aims of the Project, most of the speakers and writers involved are also heavily connected to the BDS and delegitimisation movements, including Rev Stephen Sizer, Prof Ilan Pappe and others.

The Balfour Project aims to make sufficient impact in Britain that the Government will be forced into an apology for the Balfour Declaration on its centenary in 2017. This apology is not needed, will not contribute to peace or justice, and will not diminish the depth of feelings for and against Israel.

The Balfour Project claims it does not deny the right of Israel to exist, but Rabbi Dan Cohen-Sherbok threw a spanner in the works in his speech at the Project’s meeting in Winchester by pointing out that if the Balfour Declaration should not have been made then does that mean that the Jews should not have been offered a homeland and that Israel should not exist today?

Oops, back to the drawing board!

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Balfour Declaration Anniversary Erases Jewish Connection to Holy Land

November 2, 2015 was the 98th anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the letter that committed the British government of the time to the idea of establishing a Jewish home in Palestine / Eretz Yisrael.

That Palestinians in Gaza marked the anniversary by burning British, Israeli and U.S. flags is not surprising but was covered by the Daily Mail.

The history of the Middle East can be baffling to the uninformed reader, particularly if the subject matter dates back to the early 1900’s and still resonates even today. That’s why the Daily Mail has a responsibility to ensure that the historical background is presented in context.

Instead, we read this:

The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration

In a letter dated November 2, 1917, the UK’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote to Walter Rothschild, the second Baron Rothschild and a leader of the British Jewish community.

 

Balfour promised Rothschild ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ in the heart of Palestine.

 

He further promised that ‘His Majesty’s government…will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object’.

 

He made the agreement on the condition 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’.

 

But Balfour gave no further instructions as to how the contradictory instructions – to establish a Jewish state in Palestine without prejudicing the Palestinian communities already there – were to be carried out, in the surprisingly brief document.

 

The Palestinians are furious that their land has technically been promised to the Jewish people, causing increased tension in the religious city of Jerusalem – revered in both religions.

It’s hardly surprising that the myth of an existing historical Palestinian state that was ‘colonized’ by European Jews continues to circulate if this is the sort of lazy historical background being fed to media consumers.

  • Nowhere in the article does it mention that Palestine, as it was known as then, was a part of the Ottoman Empire and there had never existed an independent Palestinian state.
  • Nowhere in the article does it mention that indigenous Jewish communities had lived in the Land of Israel going back over 3,000 years and there existed a continuous and uninterrupted Jewish religious and national connection to that land.
  • The article mistakenly writes that the Balfour Declaration gave instructions “to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.” In fact, the Declaration supported a Jewish homeland, and not necessarily a state. The Balfour Declaration was but one step on the way to the fulfillment of the Zionist program of restoring Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland.
  • Indeed, to talk of Palestinians in those days referred to both Jewish and Arab residents of the land. When the Daily Mail refers to “without prejudicing the Palestinian communities already there,” it is not clearly stating just who those communities are, instead working on the presumption that Palestinian communities were Palestinian Arabs.
  • This is compounded by the statement that “The Palestinians are furious that their land has technically been promised to the Jewish people.” In 1917 at the time of the Balfour Declaration, there was no national Palestinian identity – the non-Jewish residents of the land considered themselves to be part of the wider Arab nation and Arab nationalists sought an independent Arab state not in Palestine per se but as part of the Ottoman Arab Middle East as a whole.
  • So it was not at that time “their land” that the Palestinians are allegedly furious that it had been promised to the Jewish people.

By missing out any historical context, the Daily Mail has erased legitimate Jewish rights that existed even before the Balfour Declaration and has constructed a Palestinian national identity that did not exist in 1917. (Note: this does not mean that a Palestinian identity did not emerge in later years.)

Read more about Pre-State Israel, particularly during the World War One period, in the Jewish Virtual Library and the Balfour Declaration itself, here.

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