Battle over Balfour Declaration heats up... 99 years after it was issued

"There was already a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in the mid-19th century, well before the Balfour Declaration."

November 28, 2016 00:19
2 minute read.
Balfour Declaration

Lord Arthur James Balfour and the text of the Balfour Declaration. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

A month after a Palestinian group met in Britain’s House of Lords with the aim of burying the Balfour Declaration, an Israeli group on Tuesday will take to a room in the House of Commons to praise it.

Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and up until a month ago the Foreign Ministry’s director-general, will hold a meeting titled “Refuting Balfour’s Detractors” to provide a high-profile response to Palestinian efforts to get a British apology, or even to extract compensation, for the November 1917 declaration that paved the way for the Jewish state.

Rather than take the affirmative step of recognizing the Jewish right to a nation-state in Israel, Gold said, the Palestinians are “doing the exact opposite by denying actively the very request for a Jewish homeland.”

On October 25, the Palestinian Return Center held a symposium in the House of Lords it trumpeted as the “launch of the Balfour Apology Campaign,” aimed at getting a British apology for the Balfour Declaration, which it described as “an historical breach against the aspirations of the people of Palestine” that “shattered its hopes for freedom and self determination.”

Gold said he will prove at Tuesday’s meeting that the Palestinian Return Center is a Hamas entity.

In July, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, speaking on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League summit in Mauritania, called on the league to help him sue the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration pledged British support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The 100th anniversary of the declaration, which was made in the form of a letter from then-foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, is to be marked next year.

Gold said both Hamas and the current Palestinian government are united “in this attack on the Balfour Declaration in its 100th year. I think they are trying to achieve several other goals: They want to put the state of Israel into the colonialist box, seeing Israel as a colonialist entity born of British imperialism.”

Many in Britain have a problem with their nation’s colonialist-imperialist past, he said, and as such the Palestinians are able to find allies in their cause to delegitimize the Balfour Declaration.

Gold said part of what needs to be shown is that the return of the Jews to Israel began “well before General Allenby marched into Jerusalem” in December 1917. He pointed out that there was already a Jewish majority in Jerusalem in the mid-19th century, well before the Balfour Declaration.

In order to give the event a bipartisan flavor, Gold invited Yair Hirschfeld, the head of the Tel Aviv-based Economic Cooperation Foundation, to speak at the meeting. Hirschfeld was one of the key architects of the Oslo Accords and is strong supporter of a two-state solution.

Among others who are scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s meeting are former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, British historian Andrew Roberts, British Conservative MP and former justice minister Michael Gove and Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev.

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