The British government remains unrepentant after all these years. Ninety-nine years since Balfour Declaration’s “promise”, Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.
London has yet to take any measure of moral responsibility, however symbolic, for what it has done to the Palestinians. Worse, it is now busy attempting to control the very language used by Palestinians to identify those who have deprived them of their land and freedom.
Because of his terrible deed, Palestinians subsisted in refugee camps, encircled by a violent Israeli army and by an ever-expanding graveyard filled with “martyrs”.
Once Britain’s Prime Minister, then the Foreign Secretary from late 1916, Balfour had pledged Palestinian homeland to other people. That promise was made on November 2, 1917, on behalf of the British government in the form of a letter sent to the leader of the Jewish community in Britain, Walter Rothschild.
At the time, Britain was not even in control of Palestine, which was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Balfour concluded, “I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.”
Ironically, members of the British parliament have declared that the use of the term “Zionist” is both anti-Semitic and abusive!
Just before David Cameron became Prime Minister, he declared, before the Conservative Friends of Israel meeting, that he, too, was a ZionistTo some extent, being a Zionist remains a rite of passage for some Western leaders.
The Balfour document indicated that, once the Ottomans were soundly defeated, their territories, including Palestine, would be split among the prospective victorious parties.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement, also known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was signed in secret 100 years ago, two years into World War I. It signified the brutal nature of colonial powers that rarely associated land and resources with people that lived upon the land and owned those resources.
The centerpiece of the agreement was a map that was marked with straight lines by a china graph pencil. The map largely determined the fate of the Arabs, dividing them in accordance with various haphazard assumptions of tribal and sectarian lines.
Once WW I was concluded on November 11, 1918, the loot was to be divided into spheres of influence:
*** France would receive areas marked (a), which included: the region of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq – including Mosul, most of Syria and Lebanon.
*** British-controlled areas were marked with the letter (b), which included: Jordan, southern Iraq, Haifa and Acre in Palestine and a coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan.
*** Russia would be granted Istanbul, Armenia and the strategic Turkish Straits.
British and French mandates were extended over divided Arab entities, while Palestine was granted to the Zionist movement a year later, when Balfour conveyed the British government’s promise, sealing the fate of Palestine to live in perpetual war and turmoil.
The idea of Western “peacemakers” and “honest-brokers”, who are very much a party in every Middle Eastern conflict, is not new.
British betrayal of Arab aspirations goes back many decades. They used the Arabs as pawns in their Great Game against other colonial contenders, only to betray them later on, while still casting themselves as friends bearing gifts.
Nowhere else was this hypocrisy on full display as was in the case of Palestine. Starting with the first wave of Zionist Jewish migration to Palestine in 1882, European countries helped to facilitate the movement of illegal settlers and resources, where the establishment of many colonies, large and small, was afoot.
When the intentions of the British and their rapport with the Zionists became too apparent, Palestinians rebelled, a rebellion that has never ceased, 99 years later, for the horrific consequences of British colonialism and the eventual complete Zionist takeover of Palestine are still felt after all these years.
The Balfour Declaration was hardly an aberration, but had, indeed, set the stage for the full-scale ethnic cleansing that followed, three decades later.
The idea of inequality between Jews and Arabs was, therefore, built into British – and, subsequently, Israeli and US – policy from the start.”