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LONDON EVENT: Centenary of the Balfour declaration Westminster Hall Debate

15-11-2016 22:06

Source: Palestine Briefing

 

Westminster Hall debate 
Centenary of the Balfour Declaration 
Wednesday November 16th 9.30 - 11 am
 
 
Caroline Ansell, the Conservative MP for Eastbourne elected in May 2015, was one of nine new MPs who went on a visit to Israel in September. It was paid for at a cost of £2000 by Conservative Friends of Israel.  
 
 
On Wednesday she is introducing a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall in the House of Commons entitled "Centenary of the Balfour Declaration". A big turnout can be expected as Conservative Friends of Israel have in the past claimed to have the support of 80% of Conservative MPs. 
 
 
This is the opening shot in a year-long public relations campaign by the new Israeli ambassador Mark Regev to persuade the British government to join in "celebrating" the centenary which actually falls on November 2nd 2017.
 
 
The Balfour Declaration refers to a letter sent by the British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild in 1917 which promises government support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" but only on condition that it can be done in a way that does not "prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".
 
 
The national home has been achieved but clearly the promise has not, since the civil and religious rights (not to mention the political and human rights) of the non-Jewish communities have been severely prejudiced. 
 
 
There is an obvious public relations trap here. Anyone who opposes these "celebrations" is in danger of being accused of wishing that the state of Israel did not exist. 
 
 
However, a brave group of historians has set up a Balfour Project in an attempt to shine a light on the history of the Balfour Declaration. As their website says (see below) there have been many promises made to the Palestinians that have been broken. 
 
 
 
So far Middle East minister Toby Ellwood has told MPs (at Foreign Office questions on January 12th) that the Government would "mark" the centenary in November 2017 but he did point out that "there is still work to do to honour the declaration in full".
 
 
Palestinians have said that despite assurances from the Foreign Office that it will only be marking the centenary and not celebrating it, they still view any marking or celebration as problematic particularly when the UK government has failed to honour its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people and when Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador, has talked about "joint celebrations". 
 
 
The declaration was issued at a time when Britain had no jurisdiction over Palestine and was done without consultation of the inhabitants. Lord Balfour wrote in a private memorandum sent to Lord Curzon, his successor at the Foreign Office on 11 August 1919: "For in Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants ... The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land".
 
 
This was contrary to the conclusion reached two years earlier by the British commission of inquiry at the end of the Palestinian uprising of 1936-1939.  This Paper stated: "The Royal Commission and previous commissions of Enquiry have drawn attention to the ambiguity of certain expressions in the Mandate, such as the expression `a national home for the Jewish people', and they have found in this ambiguity and the resulting uncertainty as to the objectives of policy a fundamental cause of unrest and hostility between Arabs and Jews. ... 
 
 
"That Palestine was not to be converted into a Jewish State might be held to be implied in the passage from the Command Paper of 1922 which reads as follows  "Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine.  Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.'  His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view.  Nor have they at any time contemplated ... the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine.  They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE. " (highlight in original)
 
 
For further research, try these two articles: 
 
 

 

From the Balfour project website: 

 

Mindful of centuries of European persecution of the Jewish people
and the continuing plight of the Palestinian people,

 

The Balfour Project

 

invites the government and people of the United Kingdom to mark the
centenary of the Balfour Declaration on 2nd November 2017 by:

• learning what the Balfour Declaration means for both Jews and Arabs
• acknowledging that whilst a homeland for the Jewish people has been achieved, the promise to protect the rights of the Palestinian people has not yet been fulfilled.
• urging the people and elected representatives of the UK to take effective action to promote justice, security and peace for both peoples.
 
 
IN November 1917 the government of Britain issued the Balfour Declaration which promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine whilst also promising to protect the rights of the existing indigenous Arab population. However, in 1915 Britain had already promised the Arabs that after the war they would be granted independence in their lands, including Palestine.
 
 
Then in 1922 the League of Nations gave Britain the Mandate to administer Palestine, requiring her to implement the Balfour Declaration, and to prepare Palestine for independence. Subsequent British governments upheld the promise to create a Jewish homeland but reneged on the promise to protect the rights of the Arab majority.
 
 
Thus, a homeland for the Jewish people has been achieved but the League’s sacred trust to facilitate Palestinian independence is still to be fulfilled.
 
Almost a hundred years ago the stage was set for a struggle to control the land that has intensified from that day to this.
 
 
The Balfour Project was created by British citizens to highlight Britain’s record in Palestine before and during its Mandate.The historical record shows a series of contradictory promises.
 
 
They principally include:
 
  • 1915 McMahon-Hussein correspondence – Britain offered Sharif Hussein of Mecca an Arab State including Palestine
  • 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement – Britain and France made a secret agreement to divide up the Middle East between them
  • 1917 Balfour Declaration – Britain, in promising support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine also promised to safeguard the rights of the Arab population
  • 1918 Anglo-French Declaration – Britain and France promised independence to the former subjects of the Ottoman Turks, including Palestine
  • 1922 Palestine Mandate – Britain promised the League of Nations that it would prepare Palestine for independence, but failed to do so.
  • 1939 White Paper – Jewish opinion condemned the White Paper as a retreat from the promise in the Balfour Declaration to create a Jewish National Home.
  • 1948 Mandate Surrendered  – Britain abandoned its pledge to protect Palestinian rights by withdrawing its forces leading to 750,000 Palestinians becoming refugees.
 
We highlight these in the belief that facing the consequences of our past actions honestly is the first step towards rebuilding trust.
 
 
The Balfour Declaration: "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."


Topics : #Balfour Declaration #Balfour Declaration Centenary #UK #Israel #Palestine #Westminster Hall #Balfour100

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