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July 29, 2016 4:24 am

The Palestinian Distortion of the Balfour Declaration

avatar by Lyn Julius

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The front page of the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan memorandum. Photo: wiki commons.

The front page of the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan memorandum. Photo: wiki commons.

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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  • James Lee Smith

    This is the stupidest action proposed by the unelected Palestinian government since they were created. Who else are they going to sue: Germany and Hitler because they failed to kill all the Jews in Europe. This is ridiculous on so many levels. First those who issued the Balfour Declaration are long deceased; Second Britain, as a nation, never lived up to the promises made in the Declaration and tried repeatedly in the decades after the issuance of the Declaration to curtail Jewish Immigration to the area. Any court that would take this case and treat it with anything but contempt has no credibility to begin with, just like the so-called Palestinian Authority.

  • scottrose

    The Muslim war against Israel has to be understood in the broader context of global Islamofascist ambitions.

  • Yaakov

    A good summary of the events although omitting the San Remo Conference, among other things.

    Yes, the P.A. has engaged in a pack of lies, ignoring such things as the Jewish majority in Jerusalem even in the 19th century. However, the claim that Arabs living in the area cannot be held responsible for the loss of land by Jews in surrounding Arab countries has validity.

    Arabs who were legitimate land owners in the areas that became Israel but who lost their land at the time of formation of the state of Israel should have been compensated irrespective of what happened to the Jewish refugees elsewhere. This compensation should not have awaited any peace agreement. Compensating them will do much to mitigate the claims that Israel took other people’s land, but it’s also the right thing to do regardless.

    Where will the money come from? I don’t know, but I do know there are many people who have become very wealthy from real estate in Israel. Perhaps the involvement of Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the peace process will include ways of providing justice for the Jewish refugees, although probably not. Whether it does or not, Israel is obliged to provide justice for those who lost their land as part of the birth pangs of the state.

    • I believe you are mistaken: Arabs HAVE been compensated, although the Arab side instigated the war.

      As of the end of 1993, a total of 14,692 claims had been filed, claims were settled with respect to more than 200,000 dunums of land, more than 10,000,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) had been paid in compensation, and more than 54,000 dunums of replacement land had been given in compensation.
      CAMERA observes:
      Israel has followed this generous policy despite the fact that not a single penny of compensation has ever been paid to any of the more than 500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were forced by the Arab governments to abandon their homes, businesses and savings.

  • Nancy Brenner

    Excellent article!

  • Barry Goldberg

    Perhaps Israel can sue the Peel Commission. As I understand it, that was a unilateral decision on the part of Britain, as opposed to the Balfour Declaration, which became enshrined into international Law through the League of Nations, Monteverde Convention, and United Nations.

  • A Zionist

    Jonathan Turner and UK Lawyers for Israel have responded;

    UK Lawyers for Israel’s response to Palestinian threats to sue the British government over the Balfour Declaration.

    There is no legal or any other merit in this claim. The Balfour declaration was not a legal document and did not have legal consequences; it was merely an expression of intent on the part of the British government.
    The key legal document was the Mandate for Palestine, which was unanimously adopted by the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations. This provided expressly for a national home for the Jewish People in their historic homeland, to which many had already returned. At the same time the League of Nations also allocated far larger territories in the Middle East for future Arab states under other Mandates. Furthermore the Mandate for Palestine itself stated that its provisions relating the Jewish national home could be disapplied in the majority of its area east of the Jordan river, enabling that to be constituted as a separate state for Palestinian Arabs, now called Jordan.
    The rights of the Jewish people to their national home in the land of Israel recognised in the Mandate of the League of Nations are preserved by Article 80 of the UN Charter. Denial of those rights would be inconsistent with the UN Charter and international law.
    The Balfour declaration expressed an intention to preserve the civil and religious rights of Arab and other non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Israel has upheld this concept by according equal rights to its Arab citizens, who enjoy far more freedom and a better standard of living and quality of life than Arabs in other countries.

    Jonathan Turner, Q.C.
    UK Lawyers for Israel.