|Aleppo May 2016|
15 August '16..
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which pledged His Majesty’s Government’s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Arthur James Balfour has a well-deserved place in history, not only because he signed the famous letter addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, but also because he served as Britain’s prime minister between 1902 and 1905, and as Britain’s foreign secretary between 1916 and 1919.
As for Abbas, he might have remained completely unknown had it not been for the Balfour Declaration. The Palestinians as a national entity, recognized internationally and as such by themselves, would probably not have existed had it not been for the Balfour Declaration. They were not recognized as such at the time, either by the Turks or the British.
The Balfour Declaration refers to “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Thirty years later, in November 1947, the UN partition declaration called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state in a divided Palestine. The non-Jewish population in Palestine was considered by the international community, and by themselves as well, not a distinct nationality but part of the Arab nation.
It was the establishment of Israel, and the following Arab wars waged against Israel, that gave rise to a separate Palestinian national consciousness and in time international recognition of a Palestinian nation. Abbas has no reason to sue Britain, which by its declaration and the subsequent establishment of Israel also gave birth to the Palestinian nation that he purports to lead. If anything, he should recognize Britain’s contribution to Palestinian nationhood.
What would have been the fate of the Arab population living in Palestine at the time of the Balfour Declaration had Britain not pledged its support to the Zionist enterprise and if Israel had not been established 31 years later? We can only speculate, though one would expect that their fate would have been intertwined with the fate of the Arab populations in the Middle East in the years after World War I until the present time, and no doubt would have been affected by it.
A description of the tragic fate of the Middle Eastern Arab population in recent years is graphically described in Scott Anderson’s long review in The New York Times: “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart.” Even those who have followed these events – the unending fighting, the brutal massacres, the refugees fleeing for their lives – would do well to read Anderson’s account. It hardly seems likely that the Palestinians, had it not been for the establishment of Israel, would have avoided being caught up in this Arab national catastrophe.
Some minority groups living in Israel, under the impression of events in Syria, have begun to show an appreciation for Israel and the tranquil living conditions and economic opportunities it provides. There has been an increase in volunteering for service in the Israel Defense Forces by Israel’s Christian Arab young men. And the Druze in the Golan Heights, who for years insisted they were Syrians and rejected Israeli ID cards, have began applying for Israeli citizenship and have put their Syrian flags away.
Will the time come when Palestinians, those who are citizens of Israel and even those living in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, recognize that providence has been kind to them? That the establishment of the State of Israel may have saved them the suffering of their Arab brethren in neighboring Arab countries?
The rhetoric of Palestinian leaders like Abbas in Ramallah and Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza might lead you to believe that nothing can be worse than Israeli “occupation,” but it’s not likely that all Palestinians believe that. Maybe some even consider the establishment of the State of Israel a blessing in disguise.
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