Last Monday, November 2nd marked the 98th anniversary of the Balfour declaration. On this date, in 1917, Lord Arthur James Balfour declared that the English government view’s “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”. This declaration was later instituted as part of the British Mandate whose goal was to help facilitate the creation of the Jewish homeland in what was then called Palestine. The modern name Palestine is derived from the name Palaestina given by the Romans in the second century to the area of Judea, in an attempt to erase the Jewish connection from Israel.
98 years after this declaration, we are witnesses on a daily basis to what is known as the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict, and all too often Palestinian instigated attacks. Throughout the years, and especially since Israel liberated many parts of its ancient homeland in 1967, many have come to view the conflict as land based; and with the years the ruling paradigm of land for peace has become conventional wisdom in Western capitals. The thesis says that if Israel would give up the land that it conquered in the Six Day War there would be peace.
This thesis has been the way the State Department has approached the conflict from the Rogers plan all the way up to our current Secretary of State who thinks that concessions and pressuring Israel will bring peace. This thesis is reinforced when Arab leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas talk to the Western media and claim that all they seek is a return to ’67 borders.
However, the facts show the opposite, and that nothing could be further from truth. When we begin to look at what the Palestinians are saying in Arabic we see a different picture. We see that the Palestinian’s leaders are conveying two different messages: one to its people in Arabic, and another to the English-speaking audiences. This is where the US and other Western countries owe a debt of gratitude to Palestinian Media Watch for monitoring and researching what is being said in the Palestinian Authority controlled media. This important organization has been around for 20 years and on a daily basis, lets us know what the Palestinians are saying among themselves so that we can have an accurate picture of the conflict, and better understand events going on in Palestinian society as well as their motivations.
On the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, it is important to shatter the myth that claims this conflict is about 1967 borders. Palestinian Media Watch has documented the following articles which drive home this point. In an article from 1998, they quoted the Palestinian Authority newspaper saying that the difference between Balfour and Hitler was that both wanted to get rid of their Jews, Hitler didn’t have colonies so he killed them, but Balfour had colonies and turned it into Palestine to send the Jews there. This theme has been repeated over the years on Palestinian Authority. Here’s just a clip from a documentary on Palestinian TV from 2014.
In 2005, Ibrahim Mudayris, Official, PA Ministry of Religious Trusts and Religious Affairs said “we put the responsibility on Britain [for the creation of the state of Israel] and say: we will never forget our revenge! We will never forget our revenge on Britain, who cannot escape the burden of its historical, political and moral responsibility because of what it committed on the land of Palestine.” In another article from 2011, girls from a village in Samaria (West Bank) wrote “letters of sorrow and pain to the Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, and to the British Foreign Minister, William Hague, since it was the letter by that country’s Foreign Minister Arthur James Balfour, which has caused the Palestinian people ongoing suffering.”
That’s the past, but just a few days ago on the anniversary of the declaration, Abbas’ Fatah movement posted on its official page the picture below of Balfour engulfed in flames, accompanied by the text: “We will not forget the ominous promise, the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration) given by those with no ownership to those with no right.”
On PA TV just two days ago, the reporter called on the international community to take responsibility for the historic injustice of the Balfour Declaration and work to correct it by allowing the Palestinians to actualize their national rights.
But if all the Palestinians wanted was a state in Judea and Samaria (1967 borders), why would they be constantly criticizing Lord Balfour, an event which happened 50 years before the Six Day War? If they actually recognized the Jewish state, but had a conflict with its borders, why would they be referring to the Balfour Declaration as a historical injustice? The only injustice for them should be the Six Day War!
The answer is that the dispute regarding 1967 borders is just a smoke screen and a pile of dust blinding the eyes of confused Western diplomats. The conflict is about Israel’s existence and the Jewish people’s historic right to live in their homeland. It has and always will be. However, don’t take it from me, listen to the words of the PA official himself.
On the day that the Palestinians mourn the Balfour Declaration Israelis celebrate. They celebrate the fact that this was an important step in the Jews returning to their homeland and creating a beautiful, prosperous and vibrant state — a state that wishes to remain the United States’ most reliable ally.