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MEMO hosts ‘Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on’

Middle East Monitor hosted an all-day conference in London to commemorate and understand the repercussions of the Balfour Declaration 100 years on

The grey weather did not deter the hundreds of attendees who arrived early on Saturday morning at the British Library in London to attend MEMO’s conference to commemorate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. A heavily subscribed event, the conference took a detailed look at Britain’s role in the creation of Israel, past and present, showcasing an alternative narrative to the celebrations promised by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Attendees were able to purchase books on the Palestinian issue, including those shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2017 and indulge in refreshments before being ushered into the auditorium. They were welcomed by Dr Daud Abdullah, the Director of MEMO, who expressed the importance of recognising the Balfour Declaration for what is was.

There is no doubt that the Balfour Declaration was the most defining and far reaching document in the history of the Middle East.  We cannot refer to the current turmoil in the region, or understand the turmoil in the region without some reference to the Balfour Declaration.

He emphasised that the context surrounding the development of this document was necessary to understand the modern Israeli state.

Daud Abdullah, Director of Middle East Monitor, speaking at Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Professor Avi Shlaim, an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, echoed these sentiments in his keynote address, noting that despite the Balfour Declaration being only 67 words long, it had extensive and long-term consequences for the region as a whole.

Zionism was a settler colonial movement and the state of Israel its progeny, is a settler colonial state

Professor Shlaim gave the audience a broader picture of British foreign policy at the time of the Balfour Declaration, citing the three promises Britain made at the end of the First World War. The first was to pledge to Sharif Hussein of Mecca to establish an independent Arab kingdom, which in the eyes of the Arabs would include Palestine. Britain later denied that this was the case.

Professor Avi Shlaim speaking at Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

The second was the Sykes-Picot Agreement that divided the Ottoman Empire, ensuring that Western influence could progress in the region.

The third was the Balfour Declaration; a promise Britain had no legal authority to make this promise. The concept of a national home does not exist in international law, he stressed.

Shlaim even suggested that there was an anti-Semitic motive behind the Declaration, such that by creating a Jewish homeland, Jews would not have a full right of citizenship in other countries where they lived. His speech continually highlighted how the Zionist project was an exercise in colonial occupation, one that benefited British imperial interests at the time above all else.

Understanding the Balfour Declaration 100 years on

The first panel discussion of the day, mediated by Professor Penny Green of Queen Mary’s University of London, attempted to shed some light on context in which the Declaration.

Dr Basheer Nafi of the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies started the discussion by looking at the events that led up to release of the declaration and the letters that were exchanged between Lord Arthur Balfour and Chaim Weizmann, a prominent British Zionist and who later became the first President of Israel.

Professor Jonathon Schneer of the Georgia Institute of Technology spoke of how prior to the Declaration, Jews were not unified in any particular way, but observed their religion wherever they lived; in the UK  it was seen as British first, Jewish second.

Professor Penny Green , (FL), Dr Basheer Nafi (C) and Dr Peter Shambrook, speaking at Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

However, Zionists such as Weizmann advocated that for the contrary, calling for Jews to return to their ancestral homeland. Schneer deliberated on how the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided the Ottoman Empire according to British, French and international control had betrayed Arabs and the Jews, who were counting on the British to grant them a protectorate in Palestine for Jews only.

So much deceit, so much deception, could not but lead to terrible repercussions

Balfour researcher, Dr Peter Shambrook assessed the reasons why the declaration was created, ranging from wartime objectives, anti-Semitism and even the influence of key Zionist advocate. He emphasised that the British policy of “double speak” had led to the deliberate withholding of democracy from Palestine as long as there was an Arab majority.

Prof Jonathon Schneer and Dr Peter Shambrook speaking at the Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Questions from the audience mainly pertained to Britain’s on-going support of Israel, from its support and celebration of Israel to its tacit support of Israeli bombing in Gaza.

Some members of the audience tried to argue that Balfour was a conditional promise that was not intended to infringe on the rights of Palestinians. Dr Shambrook however clarified that the sentences in the statement that alluded to the conditionality of Israeli behaviour were added as an afterthought and lip service to exonerate Britain from seeming to promote the persecution of the indigenous people. Britain had held no moral obligation to fulfil the rights of the Palestinians.

The whole point was deliberate ambiguity

Before breaking for lunch, attendees were granted an early viewing of a short film,“Balfour” by Independent Jewish Voices. The film showed numerous Jews, some of who grew up in Israel, looking back on the reality of the Declaration, unravelling the myths about what the state allegedly stands for.

Palestine & international law – from Balfour to settlements

Peter Oborne, moderating panel 2 of Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Journalist Peter Oborne hosted the second session that examined the Israel-Palestinian conflict in light of international law.

Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, Dr Victor Kattan, gave a history of how in the late 1930s Britain attempted to push a mandate that would see the rights of Palestinians catered to. In considering what prompted Britain to suddenly attempt this, he pointed to the fact that Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the Indian Muslim League had wanted to bring a court case against the British in the League of Nations in protest of the situation of the Palestinian people. Whilst such attempts were unsuccessful, it was indicative of British fear for being held accountable. Kattan even suggested that it would be possible for Palestine or even an NGO to draft an international claim for the record to the Hague now that they are part of ICC.

Panel 2 discussion at the Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. conference. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Prof John Duggard a judge ad hoc at the International Court of Justice, also emphasised that speaking about Israel’s conduct was paramount and lamented the fact that Israel is only protected by Western states from the ICC by the UK.

South African apartheid was no worse than what occurs in occupied Palestine

Human rights legal consultant Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, progressed to enumerate the violations of international law by Israel, from ethnic cleansing of the Arab population, to the on-going and widespread appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property.

Salma Karmi-Ayyoub speaking at the Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. conference. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

She argued that Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state meant that it necessarily violates international law as it actively privileged Jews and most importantly had enforced such a system on a non-Jewish population. Karmi-Ayyoub posited that Israel would have to undergo a radical, constitutional change in order to stop those violations.

Britain’s role – from Balfour to BDS

The third and final session of the day assessed Britain’s current role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Chairwoman Clare Short, former British Minister of International Development emphasised the importance of focusing on the future whilst learning from the past, before handing over to Dr Mohsen Salah, General Manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre.

Salah detailed Britain’s involvement in securing Israeli territory, which included crushing the various Arab uprisings that emerged during the British mandate of Palestine. He also pointed to the fact that British army personnel fought side by side, on the ground with the Israeli occupation forces.

Journalist David Cronin, looked at strategies used to oppose the Israeli occupation, namely the use of boycotts. He pointed out that Balfour had an aversion to boycotts, namely because of the powerful symbolic nature that withholding payment presented. He advocated that the international community and Palestinians should harness the power of boycotts to bring about a change in Israel.

Clare Short, former British Minister of International Development (FL) Dr Mohsen Salah, Journalist David Cronin and Dr Jacob Cohen at the Palestine, Britain and the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Dr Jacob Cohen, who joined the Zionist movement at the age of 16 before leaving it four years later, also praised how the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement had expanded its international influence and hoped that the global community would continue such long-term campaigns. He was heckled during his speech when he accused of Israel of perpetuating conflict in order to receive foreign aid and weapons investment, an argument the majority of the audience applauded.

When the discussion opened to the floor, a pro-Israeli commentator spoke in defence of Israel, alleging that it had made peace with Arab countries, retreated from Gaza and was prepared to sacrifice it’s land for peace. Other questioners spoke positively of the support for the Palestine movement and encouraged all listeners to transform their attendance into activism.

As the attendees filed out of the auditorium, many expressed their gratitude to MEMO for hosting such a comprehensive event that had invited speakers from all over the world, to discuss the origins of an enduring conflict that has affected millions of people.

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  • Matt McLaughlin

    You should outlaw any speak of ’48 &focus on ’17

  • Fasdunkle

    “She argued that Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state meant that it necessarily violates international law as it actively privileged Jews”

    There are plenty of states which actively privilege muslims – when does MEMO plan to hold events to condemn them?

    “There is no doubt that the Balfour Declaration was the most defining and far reaching document in the history of the Middle East”

    Yeah, a brief letter had more effect than the bible or the koran.

    • zafarov

      Same old hackneyed discredited Hasbara ‘whataboutery’. You really must try and be more creative

      • Fasdunkle

        Standard nonsense when hypocrisy is pointed out – scream “hasbara”

        • Vinegar Hill

          Do two wrongs make a right? Stick to the topic.

          • Fasdunkle

            Given MEMO supports Islamic supremacism it is a perfectly valid point

          • Vinegar Hill

            The truth is not found in “Islamic supremacism” it is found in facts which have been presented in MEMO.

          • Fasdunkle

            MEMO is the propaganda site of an islamic supremacist organisation which seeks a return to imperialism, colonialism and apartheid.

          • Helen4Yemen

            “Therefore they boast of being the noblest, yes, the only noble people on earth. In comparison with them and in their eyes we Gentiles (Goyim) are not human; in fact we hardly deserve to be considered poor worms by them. For we are not of that high and noble blood, lineage, birth, and descent. This is their argument, and indeed I think it is the greatest and strongest reason for their pride and boasting.”

            Martin Luther – The Jews and their Lies.
            ____________
            He had no idea genetic science would expose these pretenders to have no genetic link to the region – none whatsoever.
            _______
            Neil Gaiman
            99.9% European
            0% Middle Eastern
            https://twitter.COM/neilhimself/status/278035051210498048

        • Helen4Yemen

          Deuteronomy 34:4 The Lord said, “Moses, this is the land I was talking about when I solemnly promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give land to their descendants.

          ________

          Are any of these descended from Abraham,Isaac, Jacob?

          Name………………………. European DNA……. Middle Eastern DNA

          1) Alex Feinberg…………… 99.8% …………… 0%

          2) Dershowitz DNA………. 99.9% …………….0%

          3) Rabbi Hammerman…,,, 99.9% …………… 0%

          4) Tony Kushner…………… 99.9% …………….0%

          5) Joseph Cohen………….. 99.8% …………… 0%

          6) Bill Maher…………………..99.9% ……………..0%

          7) Neil Gaiman……………… 99.9% …………… .0%

          8) Jill Sobule………….. …….99.9% ……………..0%

          9) Alisa R Doctoroff…….. ..98.0% …………….. 0%

          10) A.J. Jacobs………………99.9% ……………. 0%

          Source:

          https://disqus.COM/home/channel/semite/discussion/channel-semite/stunning_ashkenazi_dna/

    • Helen4Yemen

      You do not get it that the Ashkenazi – with 0% ancestry ties to the region – faked his way to Arab land as “returning”?

      Alan Dershowitz DNA results
      99.9% European
      0% Middle Eastern
      https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

  • Fiona Leach

    This was an excellent event, well organised and with excellent speakers who knew a great deal about the subject. They presented the facts clearly and backed them up with hard documentary evidence from the period. I learnt so much about the circumstances that led to the Balfour Declaration and feel shame that a former government of my country could have behaved with such duplicity. It is up to us to put pressure on our politicians to get the current government to officially recognise the wrong it has done the Palestinians and to recognise Palestine as a state. To suggest that the Balfour Declaration is only a cause for celebration and not for guilt and regret is disgraceful.

    Fiona

    • Fasdunkle

      Yes I am sure the subject was covered objectively given MEMO is a propaganda site for the Islamist supremacist group the Muslim brotherhood

      • JockF

        Your have added nothing substantive, other than sarcasm, to support your assertion!

        • Fasdunkle

          My assertion is that MEMO is a propaganda site for the muslim brotherhood and they offer nothing objective when it comes to Israel. Those are just facts

          • Vinegar Hill

            What should they offer in defense of Israel?

          • Fasdunkle

            For 100s of years under Islamic colonialist apartheid the area was a backwater. Now it is thriving

          • Vinegar Hill

            Your response stinks of arrogance and colonial military superiority. Who are you,and who is Israel to say to the indigenous population that they accept what Israel has to offer.? All that your response says is that the indigenous Palestinians have to bow down on their kness because Israel is more powerful.

            I can smell the stench of arrogance based on power, similar to colonial power of another epoch in what you have written. You are immoral and despicable in your support of such a vile, violent and vicious state called Israel.

          • Fasdunkle

            It is just a fact that under islamic colonialism the levant was a backwater.

          • Helen4Yemen

            You mean like the French in Algeria for 130 years and the British in Yemen for 160 years? Never forget that the Ashkenazi shamelessly faked his way to Arab land as “returning”.

            Alan Dershowitz DNA results
            99.9% European
            0% Middle Eastern
            https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

          • JockF

            That is your innuendo and not facts as you surmise.

          • Fasdunkle

            Lol – what do you think MEMO is? Ever wondered why it constantly bigs up the brotherhood and its allies?

          • JockF

            You have NOT added anything for or against the views presented by the speakers of this conference, except for your biased opinion against MEMO.

          • Helen4Yemen

            Does Europe not have enough land for a totally EUROPEAN people?

            Alan Dershowitz DNA results
            99.9% European
            0% Middle Eastern
            https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

  • John Lewis-Dickerson

    Not only should the UK apologize for the Balfour declaration and make reparations, both the UK and France should apologize for the secret Sykes-Picot agreement divvying up the Ottoman Empire between themselves!

    • Fasdunkle

      Nothing to apologise for. Nation states were created from the wreckage of 100s of years of islamic apartheid colonialism.

  • Helen4Yemen

    Martin Luther: On the Jews and Their Lies

    “There is one thing about which they boast and pride them selves beyond measure, and that is their descent from the foremost people on earth, from Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and from the twelve patriarchs, and thus from the holy people of Israel.”
    _________
    Alan Dershowitz DNA results
    99.9% European
    0% Middle Eastern
    https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

  • Helen4Yemen

    Martin Luther: On the Jews and Their Lies

    Our Lord also calls them a “brood of vipers”; furthermore, in John’ 3:39 he states:
    “If you were Abraham’s children would do what Abraham did…. You are of your father the devil.” It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham’s but the devil’s children, nor can they bear to hear this today”.
    _____________
    Alan Dershowitz DNA results
    99.9% European
    0% Middle Eastern

    https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

  • Helen4Yemen

    Martin Luther: On the Jews and Their Lies

    “Thus he must listen to their boasts and their praises to him for setting them apart from the Gentiles, for letting them be descended from the holy patriarchs, and for selecting them to be his holy and peculiar people, etc. And there is no limit and no end to this boasting about their descent and their physical birth from the fathers.”
    _________________

    Alan Dershowitz DNA results
    99.9% European
    0% Middle Eastern

    https://web.archive.ORG/web/20170605012758/https://www-tc.pbs.ORG/weta/finding-your-roots/files/2014/11/AlanDershowitzDNA.jpg

    • Jack

      Helen4yemen changes her tactics, as the Racist DNA spew made her look pathetic.
      She moved to Promoting Jew Hate Propaganda quoting the notorious Jew Hater Martin Luther…….