It was a Brit who played a vital role in re-establishing one of the world’s most ancient nations.
Arthur James Balfour didn’t live to see Israel declared a nation by the UN in 1948, but it was his letter – later termed “The Balfour Declaration” that helped begin the long process.
For those who know their history and love the state of Israel, Balfour’s letter is cause for celebration. But not everyone wants to celebrate 95 years of the Balfour Declaration.
“Britain must atone for its sins in Palestine” was the title of Nabeel Shaaf’s op-ed in the Daily Telegraph last week.
Sins? I’ll let you make your own mind up. Here’s the text of Balfour’s (Britain’s foreign secretary at the time) 1917 letter:
His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours 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.
Balfour’s letter was written to the Zionist Federation (ZF), which still exists today! Last week I had the pleasure of being the ZF’s guest at an event in the world’s oldest military think tank located in Whitehall. Israeli statesman Dore Gold addressed the select few who had gathered for the historic commemoration.
War Crimes, Apartheid and History
The former Israeli ambassador to the UN and current president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs didn’t just pick up on Shaaf’s op-ed, he smashed it to smithereens.
Dr. Gold argued there are three elements to the modern day verbal war against Israel: Accusations of war crimes, Apartheid and arguments over history.
“You can disprove pretty easily the first thesis of War Crimes because ultimately these false charges are shown to have been baseless. You can disprove the Apartheid charge because all you have to do is visit Israel!
In Apartheid South Africa there were black hospitals and white hospitals but those who put forward this false thesis have never been to the emergency rooms in Hadassah hospital where there are Jewish doctors and Arab doctors. And not just in Hadassah, but in every hospital in Israel!
“But the third charge Nabeel Shaath was making,” Dr. Gold continued, was a historical charge, a charge linking Israel’s very existence to a colonialist history.”
War of The Words: “Colonialism”
Dr. Gold revealed the Palestinian Authority is officially pushing this line in a book they published this year which stressed that Palestinians and their supporters should use the term “colonialism”.
The hope of those arousing this theme is they can arouse European guilt and by doing so accelerate the deligitmization efforts we’ve seen, deny Israel’s right to exist. It’s for that reason Shaath talks about ‘British sins.’ He wants you to feel guilty. His suggestion is the Balfour Declaration was the sole source of Jewish claims and rights: If there was no Balfour Declaration Israel would have no basis in law or history.
Dr. Gold went on to explain that the Balfour Declaration formed part of the treaty at Sèvres which not only allowed the Jewish state to emerge, but gave independence to many Arab states such as Jordon, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
Furthermore, Dr. Gold argued the Balfour Declaration did not invent Jewish rights but rather recognized a preexisting Jewish right to the land.
What becomes clear is Balfour and his generation back then knew the Jews were a people who lived in that land. They had roots in the land, they had a historical connection which could be invoked in international treaties and as a matter of fact anyone looking at recent history over the last couple of centuries would know that Jews had been streaming back to their historical homeland for a very long time.
Dr. Gold said this “very long time” dates back as far as 1492 when Jews returned to the Galilee in huge numbers.
We’re not talking about people from overseas who have no connection with the land. We’re talking about a Jewish people who were intimately connected with their ancestral homeland but this is precisely what those who want to delegitimize Israel want you to forget or even not know anything about.
Today, much is heard about Palestinian rights. But you don’t hear nearly as much talk about Israeli rights or Jewish rights, Dr. Gold said.
The Balfour Declaration didn’t create new rights. Dr. Gold instead argues Balfour was merely educating his generation about preexisting Jewish rights which our generation has largely forgotten.
No Dead Letter
“What Balfour did back in 1917 is not some dead letter,” Dr. Gold declared boldly.
“It’s something that survives legally even within the modern UN system [article 80 UN Charter] although it’s rarely talked about among diplomats.
Dr. Gold’s closing words should have been heard by more than 100 or so people in Whitehall. Now thanks to the wonders of technology, they can be:
The nerve of turning to a British newspaper and accusing Britain of an original sin which ignored completely the basis of Jewish rights to the land, but moreover what Britain had done for the whole Arab world, is simply unacceptable. Those who know modern diplomatic history know how outrageous that claim was.
That generation — Prime Minister Lloyd George, Foreign Secretary Balfour — understood they were in power during a rare historical moment as great empires were collapsing and something else had to replace it. They understood they had a historical responsibility which they took upon themselves.
Today, the modern state of Israel is strong. It’s a thriving country. If they [Balfour and Lloyd George] could see what has emerged they wouldn’t recognize the Op-Ed of Nabeel Shaaf in the Daily Telegraph but they would be extremely proud at the legacy they left behind.