Muslim Eye | How I feel about the Balfour Declaration - 99 Years On!
Upon writing this, I initially planned to express it as an open letter, but then I thought who would I write it to, who needs to truly understand the pain that we, as Palestinians, have had to endure since 1917. And coming to think of it, the world should know. I write this to the world. I write this to my neighbours, my friends, my colleagues and teachers. The worlds piercing silence has been one that cannot go unheard. The apathy to the situation and the lack of decent reporting about the atrocities and injustices Palestinians have had to persistently experience for 99 years, is just simply shocking and quite frankly disappointing.
The Balfour Declaration, might have come from Britain but essentially it was accepted by the world. The day that, the British Foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote this letter to Lord Rothschild, the head of the Zionist federation of Great Britain and Ireland, was the day that all Palestinians lost their land, their families and history. The day Mr Balfour declared, without the permission of the indigenous people of Palestine, a homeland for the Jews, is the day he started a never ending ideological war between two peoples. He created a division that was simply unheard of in Palestine, the division between Jew, Arab, Muslim and Christians. Prior to the Balfour Declaration Jews, Arabs, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony under the rightfully named state of Palestine. A Palestine that covered not only the West Bank and Gaza but Jaffa, Haifa, and everything within its borders. Even in the wording of the declaration mentions the land as being called Palestine and not a state called Israel.
"His Majesty's Government view 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, 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”
This issue is beyond Britain, it is global, and it was accepted and not questioned by the international community. I see many academic articles and analysis that consider the effects that the Balfour declaration has had on Palestine and even the Arab World, but what I fail to see and get a sense of is the human story.
I recently read an article where Palestinians are demanding an apology from the British government, and quite rightly so. But what really pained me was the reply and statement made by a spokesperson at the British Commonwealth Office
“The Balfour Declaration was a historic statement and one that the UK Government will not be apologising for… We are focused on encouraging the Israelis and Palestinians to take steps which bring them closer to peace,” they said, adding that the government supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“However, we do recognise the sensitivities many people have about the Balfour Declaration and will mark the anniversary accordingly.”
The Balfour Declaration was a historic statement but one that created this conflict they so fashionably talk about in meetings here and there. However, what is most bizarre is that this declaration is very reason as to why there is no peace in the country. The fact that they are trying to facilitate peace in a situation that they caused, just baffles me. The ‘Isreali-Palestinian’ conflict is a product of their promise to a people that they caused a great deal of injustice to. It is not like you would let your child offer someone else’s toy to another child, and make it out as if it was theres in the first place! Same with a piece of land, it was never theres to offer, in the beginning. Britain had no right to hand a precious land and country that clearly had and is owned by a people, to another just to make them feel better about a war they were involved in.
No injustice in the world is justifiable, in any shape or form. Therefore from the Brits experience they should have known what they were promising something that would cause a never ending war.
My ancestors were forced out of their homes in their pyjamas with nothing in their hands except for the key of their homes, and hope in their hearts. The hope of returning. They lied to them and told them to leave their possessions as they assured them that they would be able to go back. But on that same night they saw, with their own eyes that, that would never happen. They saw the new inhabitants of their homes invade their living rooms and bedrooms with little care in the world, because someone out there promised them this! And as I write this I tell you my ancestors passed away, still holding that key so very close to their hearts, whilst dreaming about that day they would go back to their homes. They dreamt about the day they would get a chance to walk down those orange tree fields and smell the familiar sweet scent that they knew and grew up to know Palestine to be. They dreamt and vividly remembered stories that brought them so much joy and yet so much sorrow. But unfortunately, returning was never to happen. My grandparents, and many other people’s grandparents and ancestors passed away heart broken. Those who stayed, were and still are forced to watch their land being confiscated and destroyed and those who left, again, watch from afar as their chances of going back decrease with time. It was not hate that engulfed them, it was pain and heart break.
99 years of bombardment. 99 years of being ethnically cleansed. 99 years of pain and suffering. 99 years of being displaced. 99 years of being wiped off the map and 99 years of me without my land.
But 99 years and 99 more we will resist. 99 years and 99 more we will hold our grandfathers key in one hand and a rock in another and 99 years and 99 more we will call it Palestine and none other.
In the words of Mahmoud Darwish, The Metaphor of Palestine is stronger than the Palestine of Reality.
Palestine lives in all of us and thus will forever exist In Shaa Allah.
Aseel academically majors in Middle-East Politics and is an avid blogger in subjects such as religion, culture, womens rights and politics. Her Palestinian roots form the foundations of her passion for writing and expressing herself to the world.