November 2, 1917 was an ill-omened day in the history of the Arab and Muslim nation. It is the day that Arthur James Balfour sent a letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leader of the World Zionist Movement, in which he stated the British government’s support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. This promise was made by someone who did not have the right to make it. At the time, the Jewish population in Palestine was no more than 50,000, around 5 per cent of the total population in the country. The ill-fated declaration disregarded the hundreds of thousands of Palestine’s indigenous people and only mentioned their civil and religious rights; the Palestinians’ political, economic and administrative rights were ignored by Balfour altogether.
This cursed declaration brought a minority of Jews from the diaspora together; it was followed by the immigration of Jews from all over the world, into a melting pot of over 70 nationalities. This was the first concrete step in the establishment of an entity to encompass the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration was used by the World Zionist Movement as the legal basis for its demands for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine and the achievement of the Jewish dream.
The movement got what it wanted and its dream was fulfilled with the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land on 15 May 1948. This entity was granted UN membership after pressure by the global superpowers, making Israel the first state in the history of the international political system to be established on stolen land after first displacing its indigenous people, and to receive international support and unprecedented backing from the most powerful country in the world, the United States of America. This allowed Israel to be arrogant and strut around, waging wars and expanding, swallowing ever more Palestinian and Arab land, all the while mercilessly and inhumanely torturing the Palestinian people who had been able to stay in their land in 1948.
I will not go too far into the history nor reasons that led Britain to establish this Zionist entity and the apparently unlimited Western support that it enjoys. The humanitarian and religious claims that have been utilised to justify the creation of Israel are both false and misleading in order to whitewash what remains a Western imperialist project. Israel was planted in the region to promote Western colonial interests, and was known at the time as the West’s guard dog.
Last week, the chief guard dog, Benjamin Netanyahu, celebrated the centenary of the Balfour Declaration with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who boasts proudly of her country’s contribution to the establishment of Israel. Of course, she ignored Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s request for an apology to the Palestinian people for stealing their land. It is ironic, though, that this request was made by an individual who has conceded so much of Palestine in his disgraceful negotiations with the enemy state.
The guard dog preceded the Balfour centenary with the bombing of the Palestinian resistance in a Gaza tunnel, killing eight Mujahideen. It was as if he was trying to provoke the resistance groups in order to see their reaction and present them with a difficult test on this painful anniversary that stirred pain and anger within Palestinian hearts. It revived the dream of liberation from Israel’s occupation that has never left the mind of Hamas for a moment since its establishment 30 years ago.
However, the movement is now bound to an agreement called Palestinian reconciliation, in which it has given up power in Gaza and handed over the border crossings to President Abbas and his cronies, whose term of office should have ended in 2009. Like his friend Netanyahu, Abbas chose the anniversary of the shameful Balfour Declaration to celebrate the Hamas move like a victorious conqueror who had recovered control of the crossings from an occupying invader. His portrait, alongside Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s, was on display during the celebration; it was as if they were taking back control from an enemy force, not from fellow Palestinians who entered into a national reconciliation deal based on partnership.
This shocked those within the ranks of Hamas, although its officials stayed silent, with the exception of Dr Mousa Abu Marzook, who tweeted: “The manner in which the Rafah Crossing was handed over was inappropriate and we did not agree upon it. Any agreement lacking justice and fairness, and which does not respect what was agreed upon by both parties will not succeed.”
Abu Marzook’s full statement was revealing: “Even if I knew nothing about Gaza, I would know that what happened has nothing to do with unity, as unity must be shared between two parties. What actually happened was an exchange based on Israel’s conditions for the crossings, i.e. crossings without Hamas.”
In a third tweet, the Hamas official complained that Fatah is now requiring Hamas to recognise Israel as a condition for its participation in the government, and this violates the agreement. This indicates the truth behind this alleged reconciliation, which has been exposed as an agreement formulated by the Israeli intelligence agencies to serve Israel’s interests, and not the interests of Palestinian national unity, as the PA claims. The PA and Israel seek to strip Hamas of all its sources of power. They want to disarm Hamas and place it under the control of the PA, which is something that Abbas has stated on numerous occasions. This aligns with Israel’s desires, as stated by Netanyahu, to merge Hamas into the Oslo-created authority by means of the settlement imposed by Washington and adopted by several Arab parties to normalise relations with Israel as part of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”.
Herein lies the dilemma that Hamas has put itself in by means of this suspicious agreement; it is full of traps, which were known to everyone. I do not think that they were invisible to Hamas, unless Yahya Sinwar, the movement’s leader in Gaza, knows of a way out of the deal. He has made concessions to Fatah, through which it gained more than it had demanded, thus tempting it to impose conditions and be inflexible in its positions.
I think it will be difficult for Hamas to escape from this dilemma. It will either have to continue with its resistance to Israel’s military occupation, or become a chapter in the history of Palestinian resistance, which since the 1920s has carried the struggle to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea.
While the Balfour Declaration promised the Jews a national home in Palestine in 1917, the Trump declaration a century later gave Israel normalisation with all of the Arab countries and has achieved Israel’s biggest dream of expanding from the Nile to the Euphrates by means of the deal of the century. The Palestinian people are the main losers on both occasions, and everything in between.