“The Balfour Decleration’s legacy deserves to be remembered in history with due accuracy and integrity,” writes Mike Fegelman of “Honest Reporting Canada” in your paper of Oct. 31. Unfortunately his letter, though wordy, does not include the wording of the declaration, which we provided in full in our letter of Oct. 30, including a key portion:
“... 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.”
The present Lord Balfour, the great-great nephew of the first Earl who issued the declaration, is evidently proud of his ancestor. However, he had this to say in an interview published in the UK Sunday Telegraph on Oct. 22, referring to the above part of the declaration.
“That’s pretty clear. Well, that’s not being adhered to. That has somehow got to be rectified. Talking to the more liberal elements of Jewry, they would acknowledge there has to be a greater economic role for the Palestinians.”
Instead, Fegelman relies on quotes from a Richard Bass, whom he refers to as a “Middle East historian.” Bass describes himself on LinkedIn as “author, speaker, educator, University of Toronto — Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.” Bass is evidently a teacher and a writer of texts promoting Israel’s narrative, but not a professional historian.
Fegelman asserts that “that while Jews received their rights to self-determination in Palestine, Arabs received those rights in all remaining territories of the Middle East.” Of course, this ignores the fact that there are significant differences between the various Arabic speaking populations of the area, just as there are between Canada and the U.S.A. — and areas within each country. The national boundaries in the Middle East are creations of colonizers, the Ottomans before the First World War and France and Britain after. A Hebrew/Jewish presence in Palestine, in varying numbers — as well as around the Mediterranean and elsewhere — goes back into pre-history.
However, as the Bible shows, and increasingly confirmed by archeology, Palestine was a “melting pot” of shifting and varying populations of several peoples, in which independent Jewish rule of portions of the land, prior to 1948, likely only lasted a century or two, more than 2,000 years ago.
Many highly qualified historians have documented and commented on the injustices heaped on Palestinians by Israel — and by the British before 1948. We mentioned in our Telegram letter of Oct. 30, the eminent Jewish historian Avi Schlaim, who has written on the disaster Israel has been for Palestinians. Another is Prof. Ilan Pappé, currently director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, also Jewish and, like Schlaim, once a resident of Israel.
All British officials were by no means fully supportive of the Zionist enterprise. For instance, Sir Anthony Nutting, in public life from 1945 to 1956 as a Conservative MP and senior Foreign Office official, wrote around 1975: “Balfour and Palestine. A legacy of deceit,” which documents that in 1917, Britain, like France, was mainly concerned with control of Middle Eastern oil, and safeguarding the Suez Canal. It was also uncertain of winning the First World War, so it curried Jewish support for its side. Pledges to Arab leaders of an Arab role in Palestine, to ensure their revolt against the Ottomans and support for the British, were ignored after the war. Clearly, neither the founders of the State of Israel, nor all its governments since then, have heeded the Balfour Declaration.
It is also a good question whether the first Lord Balfour was fully pro-Jewish. When he was prime minister, he presided over the passage of the 1905 Aliens Act. A major purpose of that was to stem the flow into Britain of Eastern European Jews of low income and status, fleeing discrimination, even pogroms.
Elke and John Molgaard