Britain’s Disgrace


The Balfour Declaration laid the foundations for one of the grossest injustices in modern history


By Abdel Bari Atwan

Nothing could make a bigger mockery of Britain’s and the West’s claims to be champions of justice and human rights than Prime Minister Theresa May’s insistence on officially celebrating the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, and inviting her Israeli counterpart Binyamin Netanyahu to join the festivities.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a longstanding supporter of international justice and opponent of racism and war, did the honourable thing by refusing to take part in the commemoration. The Balfour Declaration needs to be renounced and condemned rather than celebrated, for it laid the foundations for one of the grossest injustices in modern history. The document and its authors bear responsibility for the dispossession and uprooting of an entire people, and for the succession of wars and massacres that followed in the region whose victims number in the tens of millions, and whose blood is still continuing to be shed today.

Yes, Britain is culpable for this historic injustice.  And its current government is doubly culpable for shamelessly embracing this injustice and insisting that the government which issued this duplicitous declaration was right, while lacking the moral courage to express the slightest regret or utter a word of apology to its Arab victims and especially the Palestinian people.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s attempt to patch things up by publishing a newspaper article about the need to implement the second part of the Balfour Declaration – i.e. to work towards the creation of a Palestinian state — was very belated and utterly unconvincing. It merely added insult to injury and rubbed salt into the Palestinians’ gaping wounds. For neither he nor his government have taken the slightest step in that direction – not just now, but over the entirety of the past one hundred years. Britain has adopted the Israeli position wholesale, and has now invited the king of colonization and perpetrator of massacres in Gaza and Lebanon to dance over our graves at Mrs May’s party.

We Arabs should obviously place much of the blame for this on ourselves, and our failure to confront this Zionist project since its inception. Instead, we have heeded the advice of Britain and the West to make concession after concession in futile negotiations with the occupying power in pursuit of an illusory two-state solution – even approving the appointment of Netanyahu’s ally Tony Blair as peace envoy. It is as though we want to confirm in practice the British and Western stereotype of us as a gullible and ignorant people, regardless of our petrodollar billions, private jets and luxury yachts and even if we study at the best universities.

Our consolation is that the condition of the Arab and Islamic worlds has hit rock-bottom. There is nowhere for us to go except back up again. Things are changing in the region. People no longer live on slogans but on actions, and for all its military its overwhelming military superiority, if there is another war – and that could  be very soon – it will be different in nature, and Israel can expect to emerge defeated.

So let Mrs May dance on our wounds, exchange toasts with her friend Netanyahu whose hands are soaked in the blood of children in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, and celebrate this infamous anniversary as much as she likes. We Palestinians will never forget that Britain sowed the first seeds of our catastrophe, dispossession and the loss of our rights, and we will continue demanding not only an apology but also just recompense. The apology will definitely come one day. Just wait and see.