Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas wrote his own article about how Britain should “atone” for the Balfour Declaration.
Even though the article is in English, I can only find it in one Gulf newspaper. The British press seems to have ignored Abbas altogether during Balfour week!
But his article still needs to be exposed – because it is a litany of Palestinian lies that must be answered.
Many British people will not know of Sir Arthur James Balfour, an early 20th century foreign secretary. For 12mn Palestinians, his name is all too familiar. On the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the British government should take the opportunity to make things right.
At his desk in London, on 2 November 1917, Balfour signed a letter promising the land of Palestine to the Zionist Federation, a recently established political movement whose goal was the creation of a Jewish state. He promised a land that was not his to promise, disregarding the political rights of those who already lived there. For the Palestinian people – my people – the events this letter triggered have been as devastating as they have been far-reaching.
No, Balfour said “His Majesty’s Government view with favour 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 wasn’t a promise and the declaration was not to give land to the Zionist Federation but to the Jewish people.
At the end Balfour’s letter says “I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.” That was the British Zionist Federation, founded in 1899. Balfour didn’t promise Palestine to the British ZF – he said that Great Britain would help to facilitate a national home for Jews worldwide.
Abbas doesn’t want to say that the letter was intended to create a state for “Jews” because he knows damned well that Jews had been wishing to return to Israel since the first century CE. So he purposefully lies, characterizing Balfour as a promise to a few Zionists
Abbas’ lies don’t end there. His assertion that Balfour disregarded the “political rights” of Palestinians makes the reader assume that there were a Palestinian people who asserted political rights in 1917. There weren’t. A very tiny number of Palestinian Arabs said they wanted an Arab Palestine (in reaction to Zionism, not from any actual desire for a state) but the majority of Palestinian Arabs, if they wanted any national rights at all, wanted it to be part of Syria.
In 1948 Zionist militias forcibly expelled more than 800,000 men, women and children from their homeland, perpetrating horrific massacres and destroying hundreds of villages in the process. I was 13 years old at the time of our expulsion from Safad. The occasion on which Israel celebrates its creation as a state, we Palestinians mark as the darkest day in our history.
Abbas himself described his family’s leaving Safed in 1948 – and they never saw a single Jewish soldier. They left on their own. In his words:
“We left on foot at night to the Jordan River… Eventually we settled in Damascus… My father had money, and he spent his money methodically. After a year, when the money ran out, we began to work. “People were motivated to run away... They feared retribution from Zionist terrorist organizations – particularly from the Safed ones. Those of us from Safed especially feared that the Jews harbored old desires to avenge what happened during the 1929 uprising. This was in the memory of our families and parents… They realized the balance of forces was shifting and therefore the whole town was abandoned on the basis of this rationale – saving our lives and our belongings.”
This was the experience of most Palestinians who left in 1947-8 – a small number were indeed expelled, a larger number voluntarily left on their own, and most fled out of fear. (Note also how Abbas has inflated the number to “more than 800,000” – another lie, the real number was about 600,000.)
The Balfour declaration is not something that can be forgotten. Today, Palestinians number more than 12mn, and are scattered throughout the world. Some were forced out of their homeland in 1948, with more than 6mn still living in exile to this day. Those who managed to remain in their homes number roughly 1.75mn, and live within a system of institutionalised discrimination in what is now the state of Israel.
A lie on top of the other lies.
Approximately 2.9mn live in the West Bank under a draconian military occupation-turned-colonisation, with 300,000 of that number being the native inhabitants of Jerusalem, who have so far resisted policies to force them out of their city. Some 2mn live in the Gaza Strip, an open prison subjected to regular destruction through the full force of Israel’s military apparatus.
Are 300,000 Jerusalem Arabs in danger of being forced out of the city? Of course not.
Is Gaza an open prison? Of course not.
Has Israel ever used its full force on Gaza? Of course not.
Every sentence is a lie that cannot be supported.
The Balfour declaration is not something to be celebrated – certainly not while one of the peoples affected continues to suffer such injustice. The creation of a homeland for one people resulted in the dispossession and continuing persecution of another – now a deep imbalance between occupier and occupied. The balance must be redressed, and Britain bears a great deal of responsibility in leading the way. Celebrations must wait for the day when everyone in this land has freedom, dignity and equality.
Abbas himself has rejected peace proposals – as the Palestine Papers and Haaretz have shown. Any of these would have given his people a state. He, and his blood-soaked predecessor Arafat, are the ones responsible for their not having reached that alleged goal, not Great Britain.
Despite the horrors we have endured in the past century, the Palestinian people have remained steadfast. We are a proud nation with a rich heritage of ancient civilisations, and the cradle of the Abrahamic faiths. Over the years we have adapted to the realities around us – the chain of events triggered in 1917 – and made deeply painful compromises for the sake of peace, beginning with the decision to accept a state on only 22% of our historical homeland while recognising the state of Israel, without any reciprocation thus far.
Try to find any record of a specifically Palestinian Arab heritage or civilization in any newspaper or book written before 1950. I’ve tried. There isn’t any.
And there is a contradiction within this paragraph itself. If there was an ancient Palestinian people, then they lived in areas that were considered Palestine before Balfour and San Remo. Which means, they included Transjordan. But Abbas here says that the West Bank and Gaza are 22% of his “historic homeland” – yet they only include areas of British Mandate Palestine, not “Eastern Palestine“.
Why does Mahmoud Abbas, so proud of Palestinian heritage, accept a colonialist definition of Palestine that excludes much of what was considered Palestine before 1917?
The answer is he same as to the question of why did the PLO in 1964 explicitly exclude the West Bank and Gaza from areas it claimed as its land. Because Palestinian nationalism was never about creating a state – it was about destroying one. And when Jordan and Egypt controlled parts of British Mandate Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas never claimed those areas as his own.
Only the land that Jews control are the ones that must be “liberated.” Arabs controlling part of Palestine was fine.
Which means that Palestinianism is not a national liberation movement. It is an antisemitic movement.
But that isn’t politically correct.
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