Balfour Declaration’s centenary a historic moment
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/04/2017 (2176 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This year marks the historic centennial of the Balfour Declaration.
One hundred years ago on Nov. 2, the declaration was issued by the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, which saw the British government endorse the creation of the Jewish national home in Palestine.
The declaration represented a national commitment by the British government for Zionist aspirations in Palestine, which ultimately laid the groundwork for Israel’s founding, without which the Jewish state may never have been created.
Balfour himself was a preeminent Zionist, despite claims to the contrary.
Arthur Balfour and the Balfour Declaration’s legacy deserves to be remembered in history with due accuracy and integrity. To that end, locally, an important organization called Canadians For Balfour 100 is in the vanguard in promoting this historic milestone. Composed of distinguished experts in international law, former diplomats and prominent businesspeople, the organization serves to educate the world about the irrefutable legal rights afforded to the Jewish people that emerged following the issuance of the Balfour Declaration.
According to Richard Bass, a Middle East historian, educator and author of the book Israel in World Relations, the Jewish legal right to a national home in Palestine was derived from the fact that the Mandate for Palestine incorporated the Balfour Declaration.
The mandate specifically referred to “the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine” and to the moral validity of “reconstituting their National Home in that country.” The mandate’s term “reconstituting” shows recognition of the fact that Palestine had been the Jews’ home (a de facto Jewish national home existed at the time the Balfour Declaration was issued, as 90,000 Jews resided in the area of Palestine that was to be Israel).
Furthermore, the British were to “use their best endeavours to facilitate” Jewish immigration, to encourage settlement on the land and to “secure” the Jewish national home.
The mandate itself — and its incorporation of the Balfour Declaration — affirmed the 4,000-year connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and their right to self-determination. (While the Jews received their rights to self-determination in Palestine, Arabs received those rights in all the remaining territories of the Middle East: millions of square miles, compared with Palestine’s 10,000 square miles.)
Bass points out that the Balfour Declaration’s principles and commitments were endorsed, signed and recognized internationally at the San Remo conference in 1920 and by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922, when it approved the Mandate for Palestine. Both were internationally sanctioned vehicles that enshrined the Balfour Declaration’s provisions which then became binding international law.
The Balfour Declaration and Mandate for Palestine, according to Bass, “extended one set of rights to Jews in Palestine and another to non-Jews. Jews were given the right to establish a national home in Israel; Arabs, subsumed under the more general term ‘non-Jews,’ were given only civil and religious rights. In other words, there was a general assumption that all non-Jews, including Arabs, would live as a protected minority within the Jewish national home.”
The non-Jewish Arab population did not secure political sovereignty rights.
Despite these facts, Arab protagonists have, since time immemorial, sought to undermine the historical and legal rights of the Jews to the Holy Land. In fact, the Palestinian leadership launched a “Balfour Apology Campaign” which demanded a formal apology from the U.K. for issuing the Balfour Declaration.
Make no mistake: Arthur Balfour supported a Jewish-majority nation-state. If alive today, he would revel in this fact and not be repulsed by it.
Mike Fegelman is the executive director of HonestReporting Canada (www.HonestReporting.ca) a non-profit organization that ensures fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel.