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The Balfour Declaration Destroyed Palestine, Not the Palestinian People

By       Message Ramzy Baroud     Permalink
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From Palestine Chronicle


An archive photo of UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour.
(Image by (Photo: UKFile))
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Some promises are made and kept; others disavowed. But the "promise" made by Arthur James Balfour in what became known as the "Balfour Declaration" to the leaders of the Zionist Jewish community in Britain 100 years ago, was only honored in part: it established a state for the Jews and attempted to destroy the Palestinian nation.

In fact, Balfour, the foreign Secretary of Britain at the time his declaration of 84 words was pronounced on November 2, 1917, was, like many of his peers, anti-Semitic. He cared little about the fate of Jewish communities. His commitment to establishing a Jewish state in a land that was already populated by a thriving and historically-rooted nation was only meant to enlist the support of wealthy Zionist leaders in Britain's massive military buildup during World War I.

Whether Balfour knew it or not, the extent to which his short statement to the leader of the Jewish community in Britain, Walter Rothschild, would uproot a whole nation from their ancestral homes and continue to devastate several generations of Palestinians decades later, is moot. In fact, judging by the strong support his descendants continue to exhibit towards Israel, one would guess that he, too, would have been "proud" of Israel, oblivious to the tragic fate of the Palestinians.

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This is what he penned down a century ago:

"His Majesty's government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation."

Speaking recently at New York University, Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi described the British commitment, then, as an event that "marked the beginning of a century-long colonial war in Palestine, supported by an array of outside powers which continues to this day."

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But oftentimes, generalized, academic language and refined political analysis, even if accurate, masks the true extent of tragedies as expressed in the lives of ordinary people.

As Balfour finished writing down his infamous words, he must have been consumed with how effective his political tactic would be in enlisting Zionists to join Britain's military adventures, in exchange for a piece of land that was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Yet, he clearly had no genuine regard for the millions of Palestinian Arabs -- Muslims and Christians alike -- who were to suffer the cruelty of war, ethnic cleansing, racism and humiliation over the course of a century.

The Balfour Declaration was equivalent to a decree calling for the annihilation of the Palestinian people. Not one Palestinian, anywhere, remained completely immune from the harm invited by Balfour and his government.

Tamam Nassar, now 75 years old, was one of millions of Palestinians whose life Balfour scarred forever. She was uprooted from her village of Joulis in southern Palestine, in 1948. She was only five.

Tamam, now lives with her children and grandchildren in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza. Ailing under the weight of harsh years, and weary by a never-ending episode of war, siege and poverty, she holds on to a few hazy memories of a past that can never be redeemed.

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Little does she know that a man by the name of Arthur James Balfour had sealed the fate of the Nassar family for many generations, condemning them to a life of perpetual desolation.

I spoke to Tamam, also known as Umm Marwan (mother of Marwan), as part of an attempt to document the Palestinian past through the personal memories of ordinary people.

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Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold (more...)
 

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