November 2 marks the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 letter sent by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to a prominent British Zionist leader promising land in Palestine for foreign settlement. This criminal act of the British Empire to “give” the land of another people usurped during the First World War for colonial settlement created the conditions for countless atrocities against the Palestinians, as well as the subsequent proclamation of a Zionist state and the ongoing genocide and seizure of Palestinian land. Work is underway in many countries to prepare for the centenary in 2017.
In considering the crime the British committed it is important to keep in mind the aims of the British Empire at the time and its geopolitical strategy. British Prime Minister Lloyd George and his Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill informed the head of the Zionist Federation Chaim Weizmann in 1921 “that by the Declaration they had always meant an eventual state.” To ensure the Zionist minority had the upper hand on behalf of British interests, Lloyd George told Churchill: “You mustn’t give representative government to Palestine.” Researcher Nu’man Abd al-Wahid noted: “The newly European Jewish settlers were to be the Praetorian Guard of Egypt and specifically of the Suez Canal. As such, in the words of Winston Churchill, European Jews would then ‘be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire’ rather than ‘unassimilated sojourners in every land.'”
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) condemns the infamous act known as the Balfour Declaration and the ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people. It is also important to keep in mind the collusion of successive Canadian governments in empire-building, the Zionist Project and its wanton aggression and pre-emptive wars. In World War I, the Borden government at the request of Lloyd George facilitated the recruitment in Ontario by David Ben-Gurion for the “Jewish Legion,” which marched into Jerusalem with General Lord Edmund Allenby’s British Egyptian Expeditionary Force just five weeks later on December 9, 1917 (Allenby took a stroll in the old walled city and declared, “Today the Crusades have come to an end.”)
In 1947-48 the participation of Lester Pearson in the legalization of the occupation of Historic Palestine at the United Nations earned him the ignominious title of “the Canadian Balfour” and his role during the 1956 Tripartite invasion of Egypt and the occupation of the Suez Canal and invasion of Egypt a prize for “peacekeeping.” Further, on May 18, 1948, the Canadian cabinet decided that the question of application of the Foreign Enlistment Act to Palestine should be deferred so as to facilitate the military recruiting of Canadian nationals in the Haganah to suppress the Palestinians. The Trudeau government is now criminalizing opposition at home and abroad to Zionism and Israeli state terrorism as “anti-semitism,” most recently regarding the October 13 resolution of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, that condemned Israel for restricting Muslims access to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, aggression by its police and soldiers and recognized Israel as the occupying power, all the while hypocritically speaking against Islamophobia and for tolerance.
Canadians reject and despise such “friendship” with Zionist Israel with the contempt it deserves. We join with the peoples of the world in demanding an end to the occupation, recognition of the right of return and redress including reparations.
The Balfour Declaration Centenary Campaign launched on November 2 with events in dozens of cities. The campaign is demanding an immediate apology for the Balfour Declaration and its official rejection, as well as a number of important measures to do justice today. The campaign launched internationally with public demonstrations on November 2 in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Nazareth and Gaza, Palestine; Cairo, Egypt; Amman, Jordan; Damascus, Syria; Beirut, Lebanon; London, England; Edinburg, Scotland; and Belfast, Ireland. Events included demonstrations outside Parliaments, British embassies and in Damascus, a national conference. According to reports protests took place at 25 British embassies around the world.
The statement issued at the launch of the campaign states:
“We call on the international community and all peace- and justice-loving people to join the campaign to call on the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom to:
“1. Reject the Balfour Declaration including its role as an instrument of displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people;
“2. Issue an official apology to the Arab Palestinian people for their role in issuing the Balfour Declaration and making possible the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people;
“3. Acknowledge their historic, legal and moral responsibility for damages sustained as a result of the implementation of the Balfour Declaration;
“4. Institute reparations to the Palestinian people in accordance with the provisions and principles of international law, justice and equity, which guarantee the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland and the right of self-determination.”
Local committees have been formed in various countries to prepare for the centenary. In Gaza, Palestinians demonstrated on November 1 and 2. On November 2 at the United Nations headquarters, speakers called on the world to stand with the Palestinian people as they fight to affirm their rights. Speakers also called for deepening the unity of the Palestinian cause in the face of increasing Israeli aggression, emphasizing the importance of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the organization of all Palestinians.
The National Jordanian Committee for the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is organizing seminars and aims to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to be presented to the British House of Commons and government. In Damascus, the event featured many organizations representing the more than 500,000 Palestinians living in Syria, trade unions and political, social and religious oganizations as well as Bouthaina Shaaban, political advisor to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic. The event drew parallels between the colonial division of the Levant and foreign takeover of Palestine and the current imperialist efforts to divide Syria and Iraq using foreign fighters.
In England, the Balfour Apology Campaign launched with an event at the House of Lords on October 31, hosted by Baroness Jenny Tonge. Majed Al-Zeer, President of the Palestinian Return Centre stated, “We want official recognition of Palestinian suffering. We are committed to fight for the self-determination of Palestinians.”
The Palestinian Popular Campaign Against the Balfour Declaration issued a statement noting:
“The Balfour Declaration was issued by the British colonial power, which had no legal or legitimate right over Palestine. It had illegally granted our homeland, Palestine, to the Zionist movement. The Balfour Declaration was aimed at creating a Western Colonial base in Palestine, through the creation of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, which came at the expense of the Palestinian People.
“Without the British colonial policies that continued from the so-called British mandate in 1917 until the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948, the Palestinian 100-year-old catastrophe would have never happened. The British colonial policies included: The ethnic cleansing of about 300,000 Palestinians through expulsion and denial of citizenship; stripping Palestinians of their properties and granting these properties to the colonial settlers; arming and training colonial settlers; crushing any Palestinian resistance with the most horrifying means imagined, and destroying the Palestinian society and its fabric, which eventually resulted in the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel.”The United Kingdom, along with its superpower allies, continues to play a major role by shielding Israel and its settler colonial apparatus, apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, while granting it legitimacy. This allows Israel to act with impunity and encourages it to continue to deny the Palestinian people their fundamental rights of self-determination and return to their Indigenous homes from which they, or their ancestors, were uprooted in 1948. Today, Britain aids the United States in the perpetuation of neo-colonialism.
“The catastrophe of the Arab Palestinian people in 1948 continues at the hands of Israel, aided by the United States, using the same old policies and laws established by the British such as land confiscation laws, home demolitions, ‘administrative’ detention, deportations, violent repression, and the continuation of the expulsion of about 7.9 million Palestinians who are denied their basic national and human rights, especially their right to return and live normally in their homeland.
“And because the catastrophe (nakbah) of the Palestinian people would have never continued without the endless military, diplomatic, economic, and media support of Israel by Britain and the West that goes on until today, we, the Arab Palestinian people in all of Palestine and Diaspora, including all organizations and associations of the Palestinian civil society, call on all the free people of the world and those who believe in human rights, justice, and basic human values to join us in our campaign.”
The Balfour Declaration Centenary Campaign can be found at www.bdcc2017.com.
1. Nu’man Abd al-Wahi, “The Empire’s Balfour Declaration and the Suez Canal,” Churchill’s Karma, December 20, 2012.
(Photos: Balfour Declaration Centenary Campaign, Balfour Apology Campaign, O. Aqarbeh, K. Abdelmajeed, I. Hijjawi, Maan News, M. Asad, A. Khalefa)