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Ramzy Baroud in Aljazeera: How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

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The ethnic cleansing of Palestine was an outcome of the Balfour promise. (Photo: File)

Ninety-nine years since Balfour’s “promise”, Palestinians insist that their rights in Palestine cannot be dismissed.

By Ramzy Baroud

When I was a child growing up in a Gaza refugee camp, I looked forward to November 2. On that day, every year, thousands of students and camp residents would descend upon the main square of the camp, carrying Palestinian flags and placards, to denounce the Balfour Declaration.

Truthfully, my giddiness then was motivated largely by the fact that schools would inevitably shut down and, following a brief but bloody confrontation with the Israeli army, I would go home early to the loving embrace of my mother, where I would eat a snack and watch cartoons.

At the time, I had no idea who Balfour actually was, and how his “declaration” all those years ago had altered the destiny of my family and, by extension, my life and the lives of my children as well.

All I knew was that he was a bad person and, because of his terrible deed, we subsisted in a refugee camp, encircled by a violent army and by an ever-expanding graveyard filled with “martyrs”.

Decades later, destiny would lead me to visit the Whittingehame Church, a small parish in which Arthur James Balfour is now buried.

While my parents and grandparents are buried in a refugee camp, an ever-shrinking space under a perpetual siege and immeasurable hardship, Balfour’s resting place is an oasis of peace and calmness. The empty meadow all around the church is large enough to host all the refugees in my camp.

– Read full article: How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland – Ramzy Baroud, Aljazeera


One Response to - Ramzy Baroud in Aljazeera: How Britain Destroyed the Palestinian Homeland

  1. Nicholas Baykov

    his is an excellent article. There are however, some further aspects of the story of the Balfour Declaration that most people are unaware of and could have been briefly mentioned.

    Firstly, Balfour himself had no love for the Jews. He once met the German composer Wagner’s widow, and later admitted that he « shared many of her anti-semitic postulates ». When, as Prime Minister, he put through the 1905 Aliens Act restricting immigration into Britain in the wake of the Russian pogroms, he spoke of « the undoubted evils that had fallen upon the country from an immigration which was largely Jewish ». Even though Balfour attracted some support for Britain from Zionists in the USA and in Russia, as was his intention, most Jews, who were then either uninterested in or even opposed to Zionism, a strong movement but then a minority one, understood that he was no friend of theirs. In 1917 Sir Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of the British Cabinet, appealed against the Balfour Declaration in his « Memo on the Anti-Semitism of the British Government ». He felt it was an attempt to expel Jewish people from Britain that was morally and historically unjustifiable. He described Zionism as a « mischievous political creed », and also said « I assert that there is not a Jewish nation ». (On this latter subject, I suggest that those who have not read Shlomo Sand’s works should do so.)

    Secondly, it was indeed the strategic importance of Palestine in the Middle East that influenced the British government to support the Balfour declaration: the sea passage to India, which was blocked by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, and subsequently the importance of Middle Eastern oil. And Britain, as the article says, was not the only great European power interested in establishing a strong foothold in the Middle East. Everybody knows that France gained control of Syria and Lebanon after the First World War. What most people don’t know is that the German government during the First World War was interested in the Zionist movement: thanks to the efforts of the latter, in particular those of Richard Lichtheim, a prominent German Zionist whose son I knew, the German government pressured the Turkish authorities to cease expelling Jews from Palestine, which they had started to do after the outbreak of the war. And we know how efficient the Turkish government was in Armenia! But for this German intervention, there would have been no Jews left in Palestine by 1917 and the Balfour Declaration might have remained a dead letter. This may seem ironical in the light of events in Europe a couple of decades later, but not to those who appreciate the ideas shared by Nazism and Zionism, namely that the Jews form a “race” which cannot be integrated into Gentile societies.