Monday, May 3, 2010


58. The 1917 Balfour Declaration can be considered as the "precursor" ultimately leading to the creation of Israel. It is the most notorious document on the Middle East, sealing the fate of a nation, called Palestine. It has caused 90 years of death and destruction. The declaration was presented as a major statement of British policy in the ME and was enshrined in the League of Nation's mandate by which Britain effectively governed Palestine, after the defeat of the Turkish forces of the Ottoman empire by the Allied Forces. (in which New Zealand participated). Arthur Balfour was Secr. of State for Foreign Affairs at the time became friendly with a group of eager and devoted British Zionists under leadership of a certain Chaim Weizmann, a chemist from Manchester University. Balfour being Jewish himself appeared to be well disposed to the idea for the creation of a Jewish homeland and persuaded the British Government to accept the Zionist plans to create a homeland for the Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. This led to what is now known as the "Balfour Declaration" and the Palestinians would eventually find a "Cuckoo in their nest". However the majority of Jews in Britain as well as in the Diaspora were kept ignorant of what was hatched out behind their backs by a small club of Zionists . They were led by the Presidents of two British Jewish organisations: The Board of Deputies and The Jewish National Association. They had - as we are all aware of to-day - already fore casted the dire consequences of pursuing the Zionist plans, same as later several British and American statesmen were warning for. "The proposal will be all the more inadmissible, because they the Jews are and probably for long will remain a minority of the population of Palestine, and it might involve them in the bitterest feuds with their neighbors of other races and religions, which would severely retard their progress and find deplorable echoes in the Orient". Obviously at the time they were unaware of Zionist plans to expel most of the native Arab/Palestinians from their ancestral homeland (ethnic cleansing), so as to achieve a favorable demographic landscape. One of them was Edwin Montagu, Secr. of State for India. He became a constant irritation and frustration to the Zionist movement. His objections were that Palestine was inadequate to form a home for either Jewish or other people as it ignored the fact that making Palestine a national home for the Jews, would necessitate the permanent denial of self determination to 670,000 Palestinians who formed nine-tenth of the population. According to the eminent historian Arthur Koestler, the Balfour Declaration meant that 'one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third'. But that is not quite true. In fact, one nation promised the country of another nation to a small group of men who claimed to represent an ethnic group, although they had the support of half of them.
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In July 1937, after continued unrest between the native Palestinian Arabs and the new Zionist/Jewish immigrant arrivals , the British Government decided to somewhat soften the Balfour Declaration of 1917, after an inquiry by a royal commission headed by Lord Peel - the so called Peel Commission - which culminated in a 404-page report. It exhaustively traced the history of the conflict and presenting realities, came to the conclusion that the Mandate was unworkable and that Jews and Arabs could not live under one political roof. Partition was recommended, with the Jews getting 20% (Galilee appr. 40 x 40 km and the Coastal Plains appr. 70 x 12 km) on which they could establish their state. The majority Arab population was to be allotted more than 70% (the present West Bank and the Negev). Something little less than 10% of the country, including the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem (for obvious conflicting religious reasons) and a narrow strip connecting these cities to the Mediterranean Sea at Jaffa, were to remain under British control. It was also recommended that the 300,000 Arabs living in the for the Jewish state earmarked territory should be transferred, either voluntary or under compulsion to the Arab part of Palestine. The 1,250 Jews living in in areas for earmarked for Arab sovereignty were to be moved to the Jewish area.
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Because of the continued infighting between immigrant Jews and the native Arab Palestinians the British government issued in May 1939a new White Paper, which promised the Palestinian inhabitants of the Mandate statehood and independence within ten years. (the same as the other countries that before 1918 were once part of the Ottoman Empire:Syria, Lebanon. Jordan, Iraq). This severely curtailed the continued invasion of Jewish immigrants from abroad into the Mandate. A limit was imposed of 15,000 entry certificates per year for five years. All further immigration was conditional to Arab approval, so ensuring an overwhelming Arab majority when independence came. The White Paper amounted to a complete reversal both of the Balfour Declaration policy and its much modified Peel Commission recommendations, only two years before. However, Jewish illegal immigration, mainly from eastern Europe and Russia continued unabated until May 1948.
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Total population figures between 1800 - 1882 of eight Palestinian cities (Jewish populations in between brackets):
Jerusalem (1800) 12,000 (Jews 2,000); Safad (1836) 6,000 (Jews 1,500); Nablus (1829) 15,000 (Jews 50); Nablus (1860) 24,000 Jews 300; Hebron (1847) 28,500 (Jews 2,500); Acre (1843) 8,000 (Jews 150); Haifa (1829) 2,500 (Jews 50) Haifa (1870) 3,180 (Jews 900).
Jews and Palestinians in those days lived in peace and harmony side by side. The troubles began shortly after the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the massive influx from "Jewish" immigrants (go to Post 5 Shlomo Sand: "When and How was the Jewish People invented") that had entered Palestine illegally. Surely Britain (and later the U.N.) had no business offering the nation of one people to the people of many nations.