The British prime minister, Theresa May, appears to be a genuine supporter of Israel. In which case she needs to address the fact that her Foreign Office is not.
The Palestinians have been demanding that the British government apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration which supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
This declaration was embodied in the 1922 Mandate under which Britain accepted the administration of Palestine and the obligation to settle the Jews there.
The demand for an apology led to a British petition signed by more than 13,000 people. A few days ago the government dismissed it. “The Balfour Declaration,” it said, “is an historic statement for which Her Majesty’s Government does not intend to apologize. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”
Let’s put to one side that, in the 1930s, the British actually reneged on the Mandate, betrayed the Jewish people and instead of settling them in Palestine kept them out during the Holocaust. The statement dismissed the demand for an apology. So far, therefore, so good.
Yet just as happened after the Declaration itself, the Foreign Office then proceeded to negate its own position. For it went on to say in effect that the Balfour Declaration was a mistake.
“Much has happened since 1917,” it said. “We recognize that the Declaration should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination.”
This statement displays quite astounding ignorance.
Whose right to self-determination was overlooked in the Declaration? There were no Palestinians demanding such a right because there were no Palestinians.
The Arabs living there at the time did not regard themselves as such. They considered themselves pan-Arab or southern Syrian.
Many living in Palestine weren’t Arabs at all. A 1920 British government handbook noted: ‘The people west of the Jordan are not Arabs but only Arabic- speaking. The bulk of the population are fellahin... (agricultural laborers of diverse backgrounds). In the Gaza district they are mostly of Egyptian origin; elsewhere they are of the most mixed race.”
The only people for whom the Land of Israel has ever been their national kingdom are the Jews. That was why Britain stated in its 1922 white paper that they were entitled to be settled there “as of right and not on sufferance.”
It was why the Balfour Declaration said nothing would be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – a commitment honored to the letter – but omitted political rights.
Because no one else had political rights. Only the Jews had them, because only the Jewish nation was the rightful, indigenous inheritor of the land.
And it was why, at the time of the Declaration, the Arabs themselves approved of the Jews’ return to Palestine which they referred to as the Jewish “fatherland.”
Subsequently, many Arabs made plain that Palestinian identity was always a total fiction.
“There is no such country as Palestine,” said the Syrian leader Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi in 1937. “Our country was for centuries part of Syria. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it.”
In 1946 the Arab historian Prof. Philip Hitti observed: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.”
In 1977 Zahir Muhsein, a member of the PLO executive committee, said: “The Palestinian people does not exist... Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”
In its retrospective acknowledgment of these fictitious Palestinian rights, the Foreign Office has shown it has zero understanding of the war being waged against the Jewish homeland.
In its statement, it says it wants to establish security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through a two-state solution: “... a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states, and a just, fair, agreed and realistic settlement for refugees.”
The assumption is that this is a conflict over the division of land between two peoples with legitimate claims to that land. This is untrue. It is an Arab war of extermination against the Jewish homeland.
What’s more, Britain patented this so-called solution in 1937 when it offered to carve out of Palestine a state for the Arabs alongside one for the Jews. This two-state offer has been subsequently repeated several times. In each case the Jews agreed but the Arabs merely responded by war, terrorism and the mass murder of yet more Jews.
That’s because their agenda, the destruction of Israel, is nonnegotiable. By definition, there can be no compromise with a nonnegotiable agenda. The very act of negotiation is a signal of surrender. Britain would never urge a compromise with al-Qaida or ISIS. So why doesn’t it recognize the analogous threat to Israel? At root it’s because the British don’t regard the Jews as a nation. They don’t therefore understand that the Jews have the only legitimate political claim to the land. Today’s Foreign Office is thus in line with the British diplomat who said in 1938 that the Arabs and Jews were “each as loathsome as each other.”
The Balfour Declaration was the high-water mark of British decency toward the Jewish people. It’s been downhill all the way, Mrs. May, ever since.The author is a columnist for The Times (UK).