A century on, Balfour Declaration keeps regional tensions alive
London- The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration aggravated tensions between Palestinians, who reflected on their misfortunes, and Israelis, who celebrated the occasion that eventually led to the formation of their country.
“It’s so divisive even today because Zionists think that the Balfour Declaration laid the foundation stone for modern Israel — and they’re right to think that — and by the same token non-Jewish Palestinians and Arabs see it as the foundation stone of their dispossession and misery,” historian Jonathan Schneer told the Associated Press.
Events celebrating the Balfour centenary took place in Israel, including one in the Knesset, while thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets to express their objection to the day that Britain promised to create a home for Jews in historic Palestine.
“It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” wrote British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour on November 2, 1917.
From a Palestinian perspective, that part is yet to be fulfilled.
“[Balfour] 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,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wrote in an opinion article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
“Today, Palestinians number more than 12 million and are scattered throughout the world. Some were forced out of their homeland in 1948, with more than 6 million still living in exile to this day,” Abbas wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu travelled to Britain to mark the anniversary.
“One hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept a Jewish national home and finally accept a Jewish state and, when they do, the road to peace will be infinitely closer and, in my opinion, peace will be achievable,” Netanyahu told British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Balfour anniversary came at a time when the Middle East peace process appeared to have reached a dead end and showed little hope of being restarted.