The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which resulted in creation of the state of Israel and has been at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict, was the main focus of most global newspapers this week.
The Guardian led with a hard-hitting op-ed, advocating peace in the Middle East, “The chaos in the Middle East has helped sideline the Palestinian question internationally. If Israeli politicians cannot find a two-state solution, the status quo will cement a one-state reality or perpetual occupation. In some ways the two-state slogan is a convenient evasion, leaving unanswered questions over the size and scope of a future Palestinian nation. Balfour’s original sin was to afford national rights to only one of the two peoples who claimed the land. This cannot be repeated. Palestinians need to be able to govern themselves in a state recognisable as such. The world’s gaze will fall again on Israel and the condition of the Palestinians. To end a hundred years of conflict will need both sides to understand that neither can prevail through violence. Peace can be built only by equitably sharing the land they both crave.”
The paper carried a piece by Yasmeen Al Khoudary that highlighted the hypocrisy around the UK’s decision to celebrate the Balfour Declaration and its impact on the people of Palestine to this day.
“This week, a hundred years on, the British government is officially celebrating the centenary of Balfour with what Prime Minister Theresa May described as “pride”. But being in Britain at this time feels like being deafened by white noise around marking a historic event, as if Balfour was just another relic from the British Empire. The reality, however, is that it is alive and well, and it continues to have a detrimental effect on the lives of millions of Palestinians every day. Yet the continuing discussion in Britain is shallow and superficial, and is in many ways an insulting re-enactment of the atmosphere that prevailed in 1917. We in the “existing non-Jewish communities”, whose immediate lives are still affected by the declaration, just as they were in 1917, are silenced and sidelined.”
The Washington Post carried an op-ed that put the history surrounding the decision in some perspective.
“In 1916, Britain had already agreed in secret with France and Russia to a division of the Ottoman possessions that saw Palestine designated under joint ‘international control’. A year later, with the Bolshevik Revolution upending some of these plans, Britain sought to consolidate a buffer between a French-dominated Levant and their colonial concerns in Egypt — and so a mandate for Palestine looked more and more appealing. Zionists, buoyed by the British support, lobbied for Palestine to be placed under British rule, which it eventually was,” the article noted.
Commenting on the plight of ordinary Palestinians, Independent ran a comment piece that connected decades of ensuing conflict in Palestine to the Balfour Declaration.
“Today there are an estimated 5.3 million Palestinian refugees outside the Territories, most of whom reside in countries in the region which refuse to grant them citizenship. One hundred years later, the Palestinian belief in their right to return home is no closer to becoming a reality. Since the election of US President Donald Trump, an emboldened Israel has announced the creation of thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And despite a new reconciliation deal between the Palestinian [National] Authority and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the coastal enclave’s two million residents endure a worsening humanitarian situation, after a decade of the Israeli blockade.”
The Spectator carried an extract by the writer Peter Oborne, “The settlements (colonies) have become part of the basic economic, infrastructure and security apparatus of the Israeli state. This means that the two-state solution which Britain has claimed to support for so long has become impossible. Netanyahu’s triumph means that very soon a one-state Israel must choose between democracy and apartheid.”