If moral decadence is defined as doing a shameful act and being proud about it, then Britain under Prime Minister Theresa May is an embodiment of moral decadence. One hundred years ago, on November 2, Britain committed the original sin by issuing an 84-word declaration.
The declaration issued by Arthur James Balfour, the foreign secretary in the government of Prime Minister David Lloyd, to Lord Walter Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, said: “His Majesty’s government views 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. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.”
Since then, this piece of paper has brought death, destruction and displacement to millions of Palestinians.
Even today, because of this abominable product of the illegitimate intercourse between Britain and the Zionist movement, Palestinians are being killed and their land forcibly robbed by Israel with impunity.
Yet, Britain has no remorse.
A barefaced Prime Minister Theresa May not only refused to offer an apology to the Palestinians, but also took a preposterous posture to defend the Balfour declaration, which Mahatma Gandhi described as a crime against humanity. On Wednesday, at the House of Commons, May declared, “We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of state of Israel and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride.”
If only she had paused and reflected on the issue before she agreed to break bread with Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it would have, perhaps, occurred to her that Britain had no right to give another nation’s land to a group of wealthy Zionists.
In a famous quote, British author and journalist Arthur Koestler described his country’s move as, “One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.”
If only May had pondered as to why Labour Party Leader James Corbyn is boycotting ceremonies being held to celebrate the Balfour declaration, she would have seen the historic wrong the British Government had committed on the Palestinian people, who were not told, even for courtesy, that their land was to be handed over to European Jews. So much for Britain’s boast about its proud history of democratic evolution since Magna Carta and its claim to be the birth place of parliamentary democracy and being the first country to adopt a Bill of Right!
In 2002, Labour Government Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in an interview with New Statesman said, “The Balfour declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one.”
Straw was referring to the pledge made in correspondence between Henry McMahon, Britain’s envoy in Cairo, and Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca and great grandfather of the present king of Jordan. Simply put, Britain promised the Arabs independence in return for their revolt against the Ottoman Caliph.
One hundred years after this broken promise, the British government has no qualms of publicly exposing its moral depravity, as it goes ahead with celebrations to mark a document that stands out as the nastiest symbol of colonial arrogance.
It is often claimed that the Balfour declaration arose out of Britain’s noble intention to help the Jews who were facing growing anti-semitism. Far from it, the declaration smacks of Britain’s intention to further its national interest goals linked to its war efforts and the security of the Suez Canal, a sea passage vital for the control of Britain’s colonies in Asia and Africa.
When the declaration was issued, Hitler was not even in the European political landscape. Holocaust had not yet happened. No concentration camps, no Ghettoes in Poland. The Jews were financially strong in the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia and other parts of Europe. It is also said that the declaration was a payoff for Zionist movement’s support for Britain’s war efforts. Zionist leader and scientist Chaim Weizmann had helped Britain to produce acetone, a key ingredient in naval explosives.
One hundred years ago, before this criminal declaration was made, most of the Jews living in the Middle East in harmony with their Arab brethren had not even heard about the Zionist movement founded by Austrian Journalist Theodor Herzl in 1897. Not knowing the Zionists’ ulterior motive, the Palestinians welcomed the European Jews’ migration. When in the 1930s, the Arabs realised the danger and revolted, Britain crushed the uprising and killed several prominent Palestinian leaders such as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam.
Within 30 years since the Balfour declaration, the Jewish population in Palestine rose from less than 10 percent to more than 30 percent in 1947, the year in which the Palestinians were dealt another crippling blow, this time by the United Nations, an organisation formed to establish justice and world peace.
Ironically, the 70th anniversary of this grave injustice in the form of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 falls also in November, a catastrophic and painful month, in the Palestinian calendar, just as May, in which Israel declared its independence after ethnically cleansing more than 750,000 Palestinians from their villages. Is it justice when the conquered Ottoman province of Palestine was partitioned giving the Arabs who constituted 70 percent of the population 45 percent of the land and the 30 percent Jewish population 55 percent of the land? Seventy years on, the UN is still a puppet of big powers, incapable of righting the wrong imposed on the Palestinians in its name.
After 100 years, three major Arab-Israeli wars, two intifadas, scores of peace efforts, Palestinians are yet to be freed from the yoke of colonialism.
Today, what is in their possession is around 17 percent of the territory the UN partition plan had allocated to them. New laws are regularly passed in Israel to annex as much as the remaining Palestinian land. East Jerusalem which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their future state is part of Israel’s declared capital. As Jewish settlements grow in occupied Palestine, Israel has become an apartheid state with different laws applying to Jews and Palestinians. It was not the Palestinians who persecuted the Jews during World War II. The Palestinians are paying for Europe’s ugliest crime. Sadly, the persecuted have become the persecutors. Occupation of another’s country is not democracy. As the Palestinians mark the Balfour declaration with tears, the international community is impotent to order Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 borders. The promise of a two state solution is a charade perpetrated by Israel with the help of the United States and Britain.
As for Britain, we await the dawn of a world order based on justice to take that colonial criminal before a truth commission to face transitional justice.