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Balfour Declaration: Flow of Champagne or Reversal of Injustice?

Unbelievably one of the most shameful chapters in the annals of British imperialism has been earmarked for celebration.

In an outrageous and grossly insensitive affirmation of Lord Arthur Balfour’s infamous “royal fatwa” of 1917, the Tory government of Theresa May, is set to uncork thousands of bottles of wine and champagne.

Undoubtedly the celebration to commemorate a century since the Balfour Declaration paved the way for the Zionist movement’s illegal dispossession of Palestine, will be recorded as a shameful event.

It will go down in history as a display of bigotry and triumphalism by an elite utterly disconnected from the pain and suffering the victims of Britain’s deliberate manipulation have had to and continue to endure.

British legacy in Palestine is so damn ugly that any self-respecting citizen of Her Majesty’s Raj, would be expected to not only denounce it, but also demand accountability.
Indeed the operative word is accountability. Flowing therefrom would necessarily be a reversal of the gross injustice perpetrated against the indigenous Palestinian population – both Muslim and Christian.

If there’s a desire and commitment to redress injustice, as in the recent case of South African activist Ahmed Timol whose death in detention in 1971 has finally been ruled to be murder not suicide as claimed by the apartheid regime, it can be pursued successfully.

This year marks 46 years since Timol was killed at the notorious John Vorster Square prison in Johannesburg. Until the Pretoria High Court judgement that he was murdered, the official apartheid version – deliberately manipulated – held that he had flung himself out of the 10th floor. Accountability required a fresh untainted probe for justice to be served.

And just as it would have been gory for the apartheid-era death squads and their masters and backers to celebrate killings of a multitude of freedom lovers, so is it utterly reprehensible for opponents of Palestine’s freedom struggle to make merry of the Balfour Declaration.

Not surprisingly Gideon Levy makes the following assertion in his latest oped in Haaretz: “British colonialism prepared the way for Israeli colonialism, even if it didn’t intend for it to continue for a 100 years and more”.

While much has been written and talked about the Balfour Declaration in recent days, a fundamental question which keeps recurring is whether it is compatible with civilized values. That with the stroke of a pen the British handed over land which didn’t belong to them, over the heads of its rightful owners to a people who had no claim to it, confirms that colonialism was and is an enemy of morality.

At the same time, the current debate and analysis has yet again opened up fresh opportunities to challenge Israel’s fabricated propaganda. For instance historians such as Ilan Pappe are quite emphatic that the land of Palestine was not empty when the first Zionist settlers arrived there in 1882.

The crime thus committed by the British in pursuit of imperialism allowed Zionism a free, unhindered passage to colonize Palestine. As attested to by Pappe, Zionism was a settler colonial movement, similar to the movements of Europeans who had colonized the two Americas, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

In addition the Declaration also paved the way for Israel to undertake what settler colonial projects are motivated by. It is what a leading intellectual on settler colonialism Patrick Wolfe describes as “the logic of elimination.”

Thus to sum up the effect of the notorious Balfour Declaration in one word, “Elimination” is best suited.

A century of colonialism has not only dehumanized Palestinians, it has robbed them of countless lives and thousands of hectares of land. And instead of acknowledging these ghastly deeds with a view to reverse the injustice, the British Raj continues to endow Israel with funds, weapons, protection and the free flowing of champagne.

Iqbal Jassat
Exec Member: Media Review Network
South Africa

Iqbal Jassat

Iqbal Jassat