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“The most despicable plot” – Palestinian reactions to the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |

“The most despicable plot” – Palestinian reactions to the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration granting the Jewish people “a national home” in “Palestine” 

PA Minister of Culture:

  • The "ominous promise"

  • "A mark of disgrace in the history of humanity"

  • "Historic mistake"

PLO factions:

  • "The ominous Balfour Promise"

  • "The most despicable plot in the history of the peoples"

  • A "great crime against humanity"

The Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 was a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Zionist leader Baron Rothschild stating that “His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” 

Every year, PA officials condemn the Balfour Declaration and seem to compete in calling it names, denying its legitimacy, and refuting the validity of Jews’ right to a national home in “Palestine” as Palestinian Media Watch has reported. This year is no exception. Here are some examples of statements by PA officials and others about Balfour’s “ominous promise”:

PA Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif stated that the Balfour Declaration is an “invalid promise” that Britain had no right to give, and that the Jews had no right to receive. He called it “a mark of disgrace in the history of humanity” and a “historic mistake,” and predicted that Israel/the Jews will disappear like previous “invaders”:

Minister Abu Saif: “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, and the invaders will go away as those who preceded them went away...

He added: ‘The ominous promise, in which the one giving the promise permitted giving what is not his to one who has no right, was a mark of disgrace in the history of humanity. The historic mistake will only be corrected when the right returns to its owners.’”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 2, 2019]

The PA claims of the illegitimacy of Britain’s actions and Israel's creation is illustrated by this image printed by the official PA daily, which shows the British and the Israeli flags in a no entry sign on the Balfour Declaration together with an image of Balfour and “Palestine”:

Text on image: “102 years since the promise selling Palestine”

(The “1” in “102” is made up of the PA map of “Palestine” that presents all of Israel 

as “Palestine” together with the PA areas)

The PLO factions issued a joint statement on the anniversary that named the Balfour Declaration “the most despicable plot in the history of the peoples.” The PLO claimed that the “ominous promise” was the result of the convergence of interests of the “colonialist states” Britain and the US and the Zionist movement. The PLO repeated the PA claim that the colonial powers used the Jewish people as a pawn in the Middle East to gain control in the region, steal its resources, and prevent the Arab countries from developing:

“Tomorrow will be the 102nd anniversary of the ominous Balfour Promise, which is the most despicable plot in the history of the peoples. This plot was committed against the Palestinian Arab people because the interests of the colonialist states - and foremost among them Britain and the US after it - met with the interests of the world Zionist movement in establishing ‘a national entity for the Jews,’ which was planted in the body of the Arab homeland, whose heart is Palestine, in such a way that it would guarantee a continuation of the control of the region, the looting of its resources, [and] the prevention of its development and prosperity, and it would stand in the way of its unity.”

[Official Fatah Facebook page, Nov. 1, 2019]

Blaming the Balfour Declaration for the current state of affairs in the entire Middle East, the PLO continued:

“To this day Palestine and the region in general are suffering from the catastrophic consequences of this promise, which constitutes a great crime against humanity.”

[Official Fatah Facebook page, Nov. 1, 2019]

The PLO is headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Its members include internationally designated terrorist groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Between 2011 - 2018, the PA transferred more than 7 billion shekels to the PLO. 

A regular columnist for the official PA daily repeated these claims:

“It must be emphasized again that the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration)... was given for colonialist imperialist reasons that were defined at the 1905-1907 Campbell-Bannerman Conference. This conference consolidated the ideological, colonialist, political, and economic background for establishing a foreign body in the middle of the people of the Arab nation in order to fragment its solidarity, steal its resources, and prevent its revival.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 3, 2019]

The following are longer excerpts of the statements cited above and additional statements:

Headline: “[PA] Minister Abu Saif on the anniversary of the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration): The land belongs to its owners”

“[PA] Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif said that the land has and will continue to belong to its owners, and that all of the invalid promises will not change the eternal truth by one iota: Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, and the invaders will go away as those who preceded them went away...

He added: ‘The ominous promise, in which the one giving the promise permitted giving what is not his to one who has no right, was a mark of disgrace in the history of humanity. The historic mistake will only be corrected when the right returns to its owners.’”

[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 2, 2019]

The Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917 was a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Rothschild stating that “His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” In 1922, the League of Nations adopted this and made the British Mandate “responsible for putting into effect the declaration,” which led to the UN vote in favor of partitioning Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1947. In response, Britain ended its mandate on May 15, 1948, and the Palestinian Jews, who accepted the Partition Plan, declared the independent State of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs rejected the plan and together with 7 Arab states attacked Israel, in what is now known as Israel’s War of Independence.

Headline: “102 years since the ominous Balfour Declaration”

“Today, Saturday, Nov. 2 [2019], is the 102nd anniversary of the ominous Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration), in whose framework Britain gave the Jews a right to establish a national homeland for themselves in Palestine.

The Balfour Promise was tantamount to the West’s first step toward establishing an entity for the Jews on the land of Palestine, as a response to world Zionism’s wishes at the expense of a people that has been rooted in this land for thousands of years.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 2 and 3, 2019]

The article includes an image showing the PA map of “Palestine” that presents all of Israel as “Palestine” together with the PA areas, former British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, and a rolled parchment with the text of the Balfour Declaration on it and a no entry sign with the Israeli flag and British flag on either side of the slanted line in the sign. Text on image: “102 years (the “1” of “102” consists of the PA map of “Palestine” -Ed.) since the promise selling Palestine”

Posted text: “A statement that was issued by the PLO factions for the anniversary of ‘the Balfour Promise’ (i.e., Declaration)

Nov. 2, 2019

O masses of our resolved people,

Tomorrow will be the 102nd anniversary of the ominous Balfour Promise, which is the most despicable plot in the history of the peoples. This plot was committed against the Palestinian Arab people because the interests of the colonialist states - and foremost among them Britain and the US after it - met with the interests of the world Zionist movement in establishing ‘a national entity for the Jews,’ which was planted in the body of the Arab homeland, whose heart is Palestine, in such a way that it would guarantee a continuation of the control of the region, the looting of its resources, [and] the prevention of its development and prosperity, and it would stand in the way of its unity. And to this day Palestine and the region in general are suffering from the catastrophic consequences of this promise, which constitutes a great crime against humanity.”

[Official Fatah Facebook page, Nov. 1, 2019]

Excerpt of op-ed by Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul, regular columnist for the official PA daily

Headline: “Europe’s obligations regarding the promise”

“It must be emphasized again that the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration)... was given for colonialist imperialist reasons that were defined at the 1905-1907 Campbell-Bannerman Conference (apparently refers to the 1907 Imperial Conference led by former British Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the minutes of which disprove claims of a conspiracy theory to undermine the Middle East -Ed.). This conference consolidated the ideological, colonialist, political, and economic background for establishing a foreign body in the middle of the people of the Arab nation in order to fragment its solidarity, steal its resources, and prevent its revival...

The fact that 102 years have passed since the [issuing of] the ominous Balfour Promise has not made the Palestinian people forget its historical rights in its homeland... and it is still demanding its political rights to the land of its homeland. It has demanded from all of the European Union states, and especially Britain, as follows:

a. An explicit and clear apology to the Palestinian people for giving the ominous promise.

b. Immediate and direct recognition of the Palestinian state in the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the guarantee of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland on the basis of international [UN] Resolution 194.

c. The imposition of economic, trade, and diplomatic sanctions on the Israeli colonialism state in order to force it to fulfill the demands for peace and the two-state solution.

d. Compensating the Palestinians for their historical losses over the 71 years that have passed since the establishment of the State of Israel.

This is the minimum that the Palestinian leadership and people are prepared to accept.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 3, 2019]


UN Resolution 194 (Chapter 11, Dec. 11, 1948) states that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return." Palestinian leaders argue this means that all Arabs who left Israel during the war (hundreds of thousands) and their descendants (a few million) have a "right of return" to Israel. Israel argues that the resolution only calls for a limited return and only under certain conditions, especially focusing on the words "wishing to return... and live at peace with their neighbors."
 

Headline: “Abu Houli: The Balfour Promise is void, and Britain must apologize to the Palestinian people”

“PLO Executive Committee member and head of the [PLO] Department of Refugee Affairs Dr. Ahmad Abu Houli emphasized... in a press release that was published today [Nov. 2, 2019] for the 102nd anniversary of the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration)... that the Balfour Promise will remain void because it was issued by one who had no ownership over the land, and was given to one who has no right.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 2, 2019]
 

Headline: “On the 102nd anniversary of the Balfour Promise: Demands that Britain apologize and recognize the State of Palestine”

“On the 102nd anniversary of the ominous Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration), the leadership, forces, and factions again demand that Britain apologize to our people and correct its historic mistake by immediately recognizing the State of Palestine...

PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat demanded that Britain take advantage of the political opportunity to fulfill an active and fundamental role in resolving the Palestinian people’s political problem - for which it is responsible [and which has continued] for a century - by apologizing to our people and recognizing its legal and political responsibility for the injustice that it has caused [our people]. Erekat called [on Britain] to recognize the State of Palestine and advance practical initiatives that will translate its desire to deter the occupation into action...

PLO Executive Committee member and head of the [PLO] Department of Refugee Affairs Ahmad Abu Houli emphasized that the Palestinian people will continue to be the spearhead in the struggle against all of the projects and plots to eliminate [the Palestinian cause], foremost among them the American deal of the century (i.e., refers to US President Donald Trump’s as yet unpublished Middle East peace plan), which targets the [Palestinian] rights and principles...

Abu Houli demanded that Britain correct its policy regarding the Palestinian cause and apologize to the Palestinian people for the historic injustice that it has been suffering from for 10 decades as a result of the Balfour Promise, in whose framework Britain gave the Jews a right to establish a national home on the land of Palestine at the Palestinian people’s expense. He added that as a result of this promise, ethnic cleansings and expulsions from its lands to the diaspora were committed against the Palestinian people, and the State of Israel - which is the last settling and occupying military colonialism in the world - was established on the ruins of its cities and villages...

The [PA] government demanded that Britain hurry to cancel the results of the ominous Balfour Promise’s historic injustice by correcting its historic mistake by recognizing the independent Palestinian state in the June 4, 1967 borders, whose capital is Jerusalem...

The Fatah Movement emphasized that it is continuing the national struggle in order to come out against all of the colonialist projects that are targeting the existence of the Palestinian people and its cause, beginning with the Balfour Promise and up to the Trump Promise...

Fatah emphasized that it is continuing in the paths of national struggle and peaceful popular resistance in the international forums.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 3, 2019]

Saeb Erekat also serves as Fatah Central Committee member and PLO Chief Negotiator.

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