Op-Ed: Original Balfour Declaration Raises Arab Hackles
The Palestinian Arabs are up in arms at the news that the original 1917 Balfour Declaration will be released by the British Library for display in Israel alongside Israel's Declaration of Independence at the opening of a new museum in Tel Aviv in 2015 on the site where Israel declared its independence in 1948.
An angry Palestinian Legislative Councillor Abdallah Abdallah is reported by Ben Lynfeld in the Scotsman this week as stating:
“Britain should not be proud of this declaration. It is a declaration which deprived Palestinians of their national home and led to the expulsion of two-thirds of the Palestinians.
Britain should be apologising to the Palestinian people for the Balfour Declaration rather than sending it to Israel.”
Lynfeld inflates Abdallah's claim when he writes:
"The document (Balfour Declaration) promised British support for the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, whose inhabitants at the time were almost entirely Arab."
Abdallah and Lynfeld's claims repeat unsubstantiated allegations that need to be challenged whenever they appear.
They are nothing but propaganda made with the intention of ultimately becoming accepted as incontrovertible statements of fact in the long running and unresolved conflict between Arabs and Jews.
Looking at the historical documentary records - both Abdallah and Lynfeld's claims are groundless.
The "Palestinians" or the "Palestinian people" are defined in Article 5 of the 1968 PLO Covenant as follows:
"The Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or have stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father - whether inside Palestine or outside it - is also a Palestinian"
All other residents of Palestine and their descendants - non-Arab Moslems and Jews - are not regarded as "Palestinians" according to the racist provisions of this Charter.
This "Arabs only" view is supported by Article 1 of the PLO Charter:
"Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation."
"Arab " is clearly the key word that identifies those claiming to be "Palestinians" or claiming to be part of the "Palestinian People" in 2013.
Yet at the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 - there were very few Arabs living in Palestine - as the Interim Report on the civil administration of Palestine between 1st July 1920 and 30th June 1921 makes very clear:
"There are now in the whole of Palestine hardly 700,000 people, a population much less than that of the province of Gallilee alone in the time of Christ.* (*See Sir George Adam Smith "Historical Geography of the Holy Land", Chap. 20.) Of these 235,000 live in the larger towns, 465,000 in the smaller towns and villages. Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The minority are members of the Latin or of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church, or--a small number--are Protestants.
The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years."
The myth that there was an overwhelming majority of Arabs living in Palestine in 1917 is clearly exposed as false in this Interim Report.
This conclusion is supported by the following further facts:
Censuses conducted in Palestine at the time divided the residents into "Moslems", Jews", "Christians" and "Others". The term "Arabs" never rated a mention.
The Balfour Declaration itself only spoke of "the existing non- Jewish communities in Palestine".
Circassian immigration into Palestine in the 1870's after their expulsion from their homeland in the northern Caucasus.
Arabs certainly lived in Palestine in 1917 - but they comprised no more than 10% of the population according to the Interim Report.
Lynfeld further reports that the Arab League, in a statement condemning the British library’s decision, said Palestinians were in control of 98 per cent of the territory at the time of the Balfour Declaration.
Again such a claim is unsustainable.
Who controlled the remaining 2% of Palestine is not stated by the Arab League.
The Palestinian Arabs certainly did not control the other 98%.
Palestine at the time of the Balfour Declaration formed part of the Ottoman Empire which was under the total control of Turkey for virtually the whole of the previous 400 years - until it was lost in World War 1.
The Allied Powers who met in San Remo in 1920 and subsequently signed the Treaty of Sevres with a vanquished Turkey in the same year allocated 99.99% of the captured Ottoman Empire for Arab self-determination and just 0.01% for Jewish self determination.
The Arab League is indulging in pure fantasy and delusion in claiming otherwise.
The unanimous vote of the League of Nations in 1922 endorsing the Balfour Declaration recognising the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine rebuts any claim that there was at the time of the Balfour Declaration any group of residents calling themselves the "Palestinians" or the "Palestinian people".
The existence of such a people before such a claim first appeared in the original PLO Charter in 1964 is false and misleading.
But isn't that what propaganda is precisely about?