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The new Balfour Declaration

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital echoes Lord Balfour’s denial of Palestinian rights a century ago. Today, however, Palestinians are more empowered to challenge it.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 2016 AIPAC Police Conference in Washington D.C., March 21, 2016. (Photo courtesy of AIPAC)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 2016 AIPAC Police Conference in Washington D.C., March 21, 2016. (Photo courtesy of AIPAC)

During a debate in the British Cabinet regarding its policy toward Palestine in 1919, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour informed Lord George Curzon, another senior statesman, that the government was not interested in “consulting the wishes of the present [Arab] inhabitants of the country” to help formulate its decisions. The great powers were “committed to Zionism,” he said, and Zionism was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Balfour’s sentiments echoed throughout President Donald Trump’s speech on Wednesday when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. Trump made no mention of the Palestinians’ history and belonging to the city, or the fact that over a third of its residents identify as Palestinian. He said that he would only support a two-state solution — and presumably, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem — if it was “agreed to by both sides.” The U.S. decision, he insisted, “is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

The irony of Trump’s timing is not lost on Palestinians: last month marked the centenary of Lord Balfour’s infamous letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, a prominent Zionist activist, which promised British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Like Trump’s announcement, the Balfour Declaration was the outcome of several aligning interests and efforts, including the Zionist movement’s intensive lobbying, state officials’ evangelical Christian beliefs, and the imperial power’s strategic goals for the region. It not only prioritized Zionist claims over Arab rights, but elevated the Zionist movement from a nascent organization into a major political force.

In contrast, Britain actively interfered in Palestinian Arab affairs and repressed local resistance to its rule. Divisions and misjudgments within the Palestinian leadership mired its ability to mobilize effectively against the colonization of their lands. Arab rulers paid lip service to the Palestinian cause but abandoned and betrayed it for their own political ambitions. Remarkably, these realities remain as true of 2017 as they were of 1917.

The Mayor of Tel Aviv showing the city to Lord Arthur Balfour, April 1925. Photo from Library of Congress.

The Mayor of Tel Aviv showing the city to Lord Arthur Balfour, April 1925. Photo from Library of Congress.

It is too soon to tell whether Trump’s proclamation will have a similarly profound mark on the conflict; but in many ways, his speech has already inflicted significant damage. Like Balfour before him, Trump has energized Israel’s ethno-nationalist movement and dismissed the Palestinians’ indigenous right to their homeland.

By breaking with the international consensus, Trump has made the occupation of East Jerusalem an acceptable political norm; other allies like the Czech Republic, which declared West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital soon after Trump’s speech, may now be emboldened to follow suit. Moreover, by rewarding its colonial policies with a major symbolic victory, the U.S. has incentivized the Israeli government to complete its annexation of other parts of the occupied West Bank without fear of American backlash.

But in spite of these worsening realities, Palestinians are more empowered to overcome them today than their ancestors a century ago. The U.S. has further proven the façade of the peace process and of its ability to be an honest broker. Members of the UN Security Council roundly condemned Trump’s decision, and European states are being pressured to respond with firmer policy actions.

Grassroots movements around the world are rallying public support for the Palestinians, including through BDS and with the support of Jewish allies. Palestinians are making their voices heard in political forums, in the media, and on the streets, with many hoping to emulate last summer’s campaign of civil disobedience in defense of Al-Aqsa.

Thus despite his powerful legacy, the Palestinians that Lord Balfour so wilfully ignored have not been erased. Writing to Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1919, Balfour admitted that “The weak point of our position is of course that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination.” A hundred years later, the demand for that right has only grown stronger.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      I agree with the Balfour Declaration.
      There is nothing “palestinian” about the “palestinian” !
      There is NO distinct Palestinian….
      Royal Family
      or anything
      What we have is just a bunch of Jordanian Arabs illegally squatting in Judea & Samaria.
      MASS REPATRIATION to the East Bank is the only rational solution.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Thank you for sharing this very interesting article!

      There just seems to be one important component missing from the conversation. That is, of course, the Biblical narrative in a way that I don’t believe either side has taken the time to seriously investigate, but I believe would be worth your while.

      Now we’ve all heard Pres. Trump and Pres. Netanyahu’s positioning on the Bible, but I don’t think either one has seen or understood the Holy Book from a “quantum” perspective.

      Carl Sagan once illustrated in his Cosmos series the perils of being trapped in a “flatland”, a dimension of space and time that is a “shadow” of something greater.

      He also pioneered (pardon the pun) efforts to launch vehicles and send coded messages using radio telescopes to one day reach an alien civilization in the distant future.

      To help visualize his beliefs on this matter, he wrote Contact, of which a book was written about how extraterrestrials would use mathematics in order to communicate with sentient beings like us.

      The Balfour Declaration was written a century ago. Life was very different back then. Not too much different than it had been over the past 18 or so centuries…

      Today, we are a more connected and informed society. Many of the “demons” that have haunted this world have been erased through the advancement of science and a better understanding of how our universe is made, one Planck constant at a time.

      On that note, I think it would be in everyone’s best interests to put aside their differences and look at the facts from a purely mathematical basis. No politics, nationality, religion or future Balfour Declarations required to solve the riddle of the Middle East.

      I present to you some interesting mathematical findings that I think deserve a close study by anyone who understands numbers, code and geometry. It would be to get some mathematicians, software engineers and perhaps some artists to look at these findings and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

      A lot of unnecessary political bickering and bloodshed can be saved, if everyone of you can work together on this common denominator that ties all things past, present and future together. My associate Paul Banat and I published a book regarding these findings, and much more. I would highly recommend reading it, as it will give you the correct perspective to approach resolving the political conflicts which have been going on for far too long on all sides!

      If any of you have any questions, I can always be reached and would be more than happy to offer any assistance on these very important matters.

      Kind regards,

      Richard Balfour


      Reply to Comment