As Dore Gold reminded us, there are those who still suggest that “Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine”.
Unfortunately, they mean sins against Arabs, not the Jews.
Dr Nabeel Shaath, member of the PLO Political Committee and Fatah Central Committee, - the institution that is the real power behind the throne in Ramallah - published last year in The Daily Telegraph, the main Arab claim still trumpeted is that:
“Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain has denied our people their rights” and the main demand: “to realise the establishment of a free state of Palestine”.
In the PLO world of history and politics, “on November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began” and the “Balfour Declaration…pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people”. Britain “had no legal right”, he asserts, to declare so.
There is not enough room in a blog post to itemize his misrepresentations, misinformation, misinterpretation, misreporting and misstatements (Lord Moyne was assassinated by the Lechi, for one and his exclusion of Jews as indigenous to the Land of Israel for centuries, predating Arabs is another). Whatever Balfour did was confirmed and ratified in international law at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, the Weizmann-Faisal Understanding, the 1920 San Remo Conference, the League of Nations Mandate decisions of 1922 and 1923, the US Congress Resolution of 1922, the Anglo-American Treaty of 1924 and even the UN 1947 Partition Recommendation.
He would have us believe that “thousands of Palestinians, fought for their freedom” in World War I alongside Britain and that Britain denied “the right of the Palestinian people to express their will through their own representation” when the proposal for a Legislative Council was turned down by the Arabs themselves as reported so “Great Britain attempted to give to Palestine a constitution and a legislative council to be elected, but this could not be realized because of the Arab’s refusal. Failing to secure the cooperation of the Arabs an Advisory Council was established.”
Let us leave Shaath’s fulminations and turn our attention to something more invidious, the Balfour Project. This drives an anti-Israel and anti-Zionist message in that it “seeks to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration” (that is, in 2017) by
“acknowledgement of Britain’s…deceit surrounding our nation’s true intentions; pardon for our nation’s wrongdoing…having intentionally ignored [the Palestinians’, i.e. Arabs] legitimate aspirations”.
They do note, however “centuries of [English]” anti-Semitism”. I also give them credit, in their timeline, to indicate that only after the death of Muhammad in 632, “Arabic rule and faith spread rapidly throughout Syria Palaestina, Persia, and Egypt.”
How to counter this which will only continue to develop and negatively influence the minds of ignorant people, no matter how well-meaning they may be?
One way would be for the government of Israel, in partnership with the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the Ariel and Bar-Ilan Universities (I can’t see Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion or Haifa universities joining this and as for the Hebrew University, this initiative would cause too much internal strife amongst the academic staff) to establish a Balfour Centenary Commission (I’d volunteer to serve on its advisory board and in fact, I suggested this idea to several ministers, each who passed the buck, last year). Informational resources, academic conferences, educational programs, documentary films and a web site should be on its agenda.
One excellent effort to right the wrongs, and yes, the sins, commited against the Jews during the Mandate period, was viewed Sunday evening at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center which hosted the Hebrew premier of The Forsaken Promise, produced by the Hatikvah Film Trust’s Hugh Kiston, on how the British betrayed their Balfour Declaration. A shortened 43 minute version of the film was shown.
Mr. Kiston passionately spoke of the requirement of the British public to recognize the errors of policy and administrative during the Mandate time. Melanie Phillips spoke about the sorrowful ignorance of history, which has been exploited by Arab and extremist left-wing propaganda. Former Speaker of the Knesset Shlomo Hillel addressed the over 300 guest and recalled Benjamin Disraeli’s remark, that “The Lord deals with the nations as the nations deal with the Jews.” Professor Robert Wistrich summarized and highlighted the centuries of the relationship between Britain and the Jews, through to the ideal of the Restoration of the Jews to their ancient homeland.
The event was inspiring and emceed by Stephen Briggs and I trust the film, with its Hebrew subtitles, will eventually make its way to Israelis television and even into our schools.