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Overthrow the Balfour Declaration

October 29, 2017 at 8:45 am

Lord Arthur James Balfour, former Prime Minister of the UK [George Grantham Bain/Wikipedia]

One of the most common recurring themes in modern Israeli propaganda, especially in the West, is the idea that the “conflict” is a “complicated” one.

This idea is promoted by some of the “Friends of Israel” type groups, especially Labour Friends of Israel and other groups on the liberal side of Zionism.

The idea underlying this myth is to confuse and disengage people, in order to turn them away from the situation, so that Israel can be allowed to get away with its occupation, apartheid and war crimes without worrying about political and popular pressure for them to cease.

Polls have shown in the past that this has had some effect – although highly limited. A major survey recently released by the Institute of Jewish Policy research showed that one-fifth of respondents – a majority of those who expressed an opinion – agreed with the statement that “Israel is an apartheid state.”

While this statistic starkly illustrates the limits of Israeli propaganda, it is not the whole picture. An overall majority – 62 percent – were unsure or declined to answer the question. In part, this may have been through fear of questionnaire-respondents being falsely labeled “anti-Semitic.”

But overall it shows the amount of confusion that there is in the general public about basic facts when it comes to Palestine and the Israelis. One part of the reason for this is the aforementioned Israeli propaganda theme that the situation of the Palestinians is “complicated.”

While it is true that is in every history of a people or nation there are complications to understand and intricate details to grapple with, in many ways the situation in Palestine is the most uncomplicated in the world.

Some basic facts to remember

Basic fact number one: Almost 70 years ago, in 1948, Palestine was partitioned by force against the will of its (Palestinian Arab) majority. The Zionist militias who went on to form the foundation of the Israeli army expelled a majority of the Palestinian people at the point of a gun, using bombings, force, terror, massacre and in some cases even rape. More than 750,000 Palestinians were kicked out from their homeland or fled for fear of massacre. Today, they and their descendants number in the millions and Israel continues to block them from returning to their homeland.

Basic fact number two: 50 years ago, in 1967, Israel launched a war of aggression against its neighbors, and in the process illegally occupied the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (as well as Syria’s Golan Heights). The military dictatorship Israel imposed there remains in place right up until today. Basic human rights are systematically denied to the Palestinians living in these areas by Israel, which runs a deliberately designed system of racist discrimination there. Israel’s “courts” for Palestinians in the West Bank have a 99.7 percent conviction rate.

Basic fact number three: 100 years ago this week, the British government issued the infamous “Balfour Declaration,” which promised to hand the land of Palestine over to a settler colonial movement – Zionism. Written during the First World War while Britain was still at war with the Ottoman Empire, Palestine had not even been yet occupied by the British. Palestine, like many other territories occupied by rapacious imperial powers, was never the British Empire’s to give. Britain helped steal the country from its native inhabitants by force.

The imperialist Balfour Declaration is the origin of the entire conflict between Palestine and the Israelis that continues until today. There is a strong continuity between Balfour, the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the occupation of 1967.

The Balfour Declaration is nothing to be celebrated. We should instead campaign for it to be overturned. In its place is needed a real democracy in which all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea can live in equality and without military rule, racist systems of discrimination or constant wars of aggression.

The regressive idea of a “Jewish state” in Palestine, a land in which the vast majority was not Jewish, must be overturned. Historic Palestine – between the river and the sea – is even now not a majority Jewish territory. Even with the violent gerrymandering of 1947-49, the Zionist movement has been unable to maintain its “pure” sectarian state. It is a colonial idea born of the old British imperials policies of divide and rule.

Is it no wonder today that, increasingly, Israel’s biggest international allies and friends are in the white supremacist far right. People like Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon and the far-fight movements which are worryingly growing in Europe. Not for nothing does Spencer call himself a “White Zionist.

Instead of racism and separation, we need unity and democracy – in Palestine as everywhere.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.