A hundred years ago, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, sent a 67-word communique to Zionist Lionel Walter Rothschild stating the UK’s support for “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, a land already occupied by another people. The Balfour Declaration paved the way for the creation of Israel 30 years later as a settler state for imperialism, and for the expulsion of some 700,000 Palestinians from their land.
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and progressives around the world marked the centennial of the Balfour Declaration with angry protests. Some 3,000 took to the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank, and 15,000 protested in London, where the declaration originated. Many also held conferences reviewing the document and its history.
The centenary was marked here in Beirut on Nov. 17 by a conference attended by 350 people. “Balfour Declaration: Centenary of a Colonial Project. What Future Awaits the Zionist Project?” reviewed the international and Arab environment at the time of the document and highlighted its impact on the legal rights of the Palestinian people. Panelists discussed the future of the Israeli settler state in light of Palestinian, regional and international developments.
The event was sponsored by the Arabic International Centre for Communications & Solidarity, the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, and by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Collaboration. Speakers were academics, jurists, economists, former government officials from Palestine and other countries countries. Solidarity statements were given from Greece and Ireland, with an ANSWER Coalition representative the only presenter from the U.S.
Events around the world mark resistance to the accord
Ma‘an Bashur, director of the Arab International Center for Communication and Solidarity, explained that the many conferences, events and activities held all over the world to mark the Balfour Declaration proves that the Palestinian issue is deeply rooted despite imperialist and international Zionist influence. He considered the resistance the ultimate response to the Israel, and said that all efforts must unite to support resistance.
Dr Mohsen Salah, General Manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre Salah detailed ways that Britain secured territory for Israel, including crushing Arab uprisings that emerged during the British mandate of Palestine. He said the British army fought on the ground, side by side with the Israeli occupation forces. Britain repudiated its covenants with the Palestinians and Arabs, he said, practicing on the ground procedures that it knew have disastrous consequences for the Palestinians, deliberately suppressing the Palestinian people and depriving them of their aspirations for freedom and independence.
Hisham Abu Mahfouz, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, firmly rejected the Balfour Declaration, and considered the conference the place to evaluate Palestinian action and discuss ways to face Israel. Abu Mahfouz stated that the Popular Conference supports the Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement in Cairo and the Palestinian national dialogue.
Dr. Salahuddin al-Dabbagh, a member of the Palestinian National Council and the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, presented a paper entitled, “What can be done in the face of the Balfour Declaration?”
Dr. Abdul Halim Fadlallah stated that Israel has its own worries, and cannot always have its will. On the regional level, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas have held back Israeli aggression.
Munir Shafiq discussed the inevitability of the demise of Israel, affirming that the future of Israel is quite different from its past and present conditions.
Dr. Anwar Abu Taha explained that the Palestinian people have, and will continue their resistance using all kinds and forms of protest against the occupation, despite all crises and conspiracies.
Other speakers pointed out that Israeli setbacks in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip were strong signs that Israel can be defeated. It was stated that the armed resistance continues, that 6.4 million Palestinians are steadfast on their land despite their sufferings, and that the 6.3 million abroad have not forgotten their homeland and struggle to return.
The importance of the struggle of Palestinian women was discussed. The British tactic of dividing Arab countries was reviewed. Emphasized was the need for Arab governments and people to unite and oppose attacks on their movements.
U.S. approved of Balfour Declaration
Speaking for the ANSWER Coalition, this reporter expressed support for Palestinian demands for redress from Britain for the Balfour Declaration and its aftermath. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, a KKK sympathizer and an anti-Semite, gave secret support to the Balfour Declaration, she said, showing the U.S. was part of this colonial project from the beginning.
Larger numbers of people in the U.S. are seeing the true nature of Israel as a settler state and client of Washington, Chediac said, and are joining the Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel movement, especially on college campuses.
John Lyons, from Dublin pointed out that British colonialism was a worldwide phenomenon. Balfour earned the name of “Bloody Balfour” in Ireland for instructing police to open fire on Irish protestors. Lyons explained that like Palestine, Ireland was partitioned by the British in 1922, and 6 counties in northern Ireland are still occupied.
Isychos Kostantinos Iresiraklis, former Greek Minister of Defense in the Tsipras government, affirmed Greek grassroots solidarity with Palestine and pointed out that Britain intervened in Greece in the 1949 civil war to defeat progressives. He said that Greece is affected by the American-Israeli strategy to redraw the map of the Middle East.