A Response to Rashid Khalidi’s Distortions on the Balfour Declaration

On the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi took the stage to address “United Nations’ Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestine People.” Yes, that’s the organization’s actual title, that only a group like the UN could contrive.

Khalidi fed the group the lying propaganda they sought. Below is the speech, with fact-checking inserted after each paragraph.

 
Rashid Khalidi on Russian TV

“It is a great honor to be asked to speak here on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. I am grateful to Ambassador Fodé Seck, to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and to the staff of the UN Secretariat for making this event possible. It is particularly fitting to be speaking today at the United Nations, which has played such a large role in the Palestine tragedy. Today I will be addressing the impact on the Palestinian people of the Balfour Declaration, and of the League of Nations mandate based upon it. I can only hope that if we can all become more aware of this historical background, the United Nations may be able to address the harm caused by this Declaration, and all that followed, more fairly and effectively than it has done over the past 70 years.”

Palestine tragedy.” Perfect propaganda. Not a statement of fact, but one of complete biased narrative which stands counter to the facts. A land that had failed for hundreds of years would in the following years become a global leader. From a failed economy to a thriving one. From a malaria invested desert region to an environmental leader. From a land with virtually no minority rights to the most diverse and liberal in the entire Middle East. Oh, and the number of Arabs in Israel and Israeli territories surpassed the growth of any neighboring countries.

past 70 years.” Meaning since the creation of Israel in 1948, not the Balfour Declaration (1917) itself nor the Palestine Mandate (1922), which both established legal rights for Jews throughout the land. Khalidi’s beef was about creating the State of Israel.

“The momentous statement made on behalf of the British cabinet on November 2, 1917 by Arthur James Balfour, His Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is usually regarded in light of British imperial interests, or in terms of its ostensible subject, a “national home for the Jewish people.” We know a great deal about Britain’s commitment to Zionism. We know less about what the support of the British Empire via this declaration meant for the aims of the Zionist movement – which for nearly half a century proudly described itself as a colonial endeavor, and which at the same time was a national movement in the making.  The ultimate objective of political Zionism, as laid out by its founder, Theodor Herzl, in his 1896 booklet Der Judenstaadt, was as far-reaching as it was crystal clear: a Jewish state in Palestine, meaning Jewish sovereignty and control of immigration into the country. And whatever Britain may have intended, complete and exclusive control over the entirety of Palestine was what the Zionist movement consistently fought for during the ensuing half century, and eventually obtained. It did so largely as a result of over two decades of unstinting British support secured via this Declaration, and the League of Nations mandate that was based upon it.”

complete and exclusive control.” The leading terminology of “complete and exclusive control,” is specifically intended to make political Zionism appear as a racist ideology. It was nothing of the sort. It was an attempt to reestablish Jews in their homeland as a self-governing entity. It did not mean that non-Jews would be evicted from the land nor be denied citizenship. Indeed, at the founding of the country in May 1948, approximately 160,000 non-Jews were given immediate Israeli citizenship. Unlike neighboring Lebanon and Syria, there is no religious litmus test on who can be prime minister or serve in governmental positions in Israel; Arabs and Muslims are not excluded.

“Much of this is well known. However, the Balfour Declaration has another aspect of paramount importance that is often ignored. This was the perspective of the people of Palestine, whose future the Balfour Declaration ultimately decided. For the Palestinians, this statement was a gun pointed directly at their heads, particularly in view of the colonialist ambiance of the early twentieth century. As I will show, the Balfour Declaration in effect constituted a declaration of war by the British Empire on the indigenous population of the land it was promising to the Jewish people as a National Home. It launched what has become a century-long assault on the Palestinian people aimed at implanting and fostering this national home at their expense.”

For the Palestinians, this statement was a gun pointed directly at their heads,Let’s be clear who were the “people of Palestine:” they were Jews and Arabs. The Jews did not view this as a “gun to their heads.” It was a chance to achieve more rights and support for the Jewish immigration to their holy land which had been going on for decades. For the Arabs living in Palestine, there was absolutely no threat to their lives counter to Rashidi’s absurd claim. The declaration actually stated just the opposite of ensuring the rights of non-Jews.

the Balfour Declaration in effect constituted a declaration of war by the British Empire on the indigenous population of the land it was promising to the Jewish people “ Khalidi declared that only Arabs are indigenous to the land. Such a statement deliberately cast that Jews as foreigners and interlopers with no connection to the land. It is a complete falsification of Jewish history, as Jew have lived continuously in the land for 3700 years, and for over one thousand years as the majority, before being expelled by hostile forces. Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since the 1860s!

a century-long assault on the Palestinian people Khalidi’s warped view of history is that the world has waged a war on Arabs for a century. It completely ignores the active warfare launched by the Arabs from the region against the Jewish people. The “assault” from one side is that the British (and the world) recognized the legitimate rights of Jews to reestablish their homeland; on the other is an Arab world that launched a century-long war to murder and expel the Jewish people. Who really made a “declaration of war” and “assaulted” whom?

“From its inception, Zionism was both a nascent national movement and a colonial enterprise in search of a metropolitan sponsor. After having failed to find that sponsor elsewhere, Chaim Weizmann succeeded with the wartime British cabinet.  The Zionist movement thereafter had the support of the greatest power of the age, which was about to become one of the victors in World War I.  Whereas Zionism had begun to be viewed with concern in Palestine since the late 19th century, the Balfour Declaration meant that the country was now threatened by a far greater danger. Indeed, at the very moment that the declaration was issued, British troops were advancing northwards through Palestine, capturing Jerusalem five weeks later.”

colonial enterpriseis a favorite phrase used by anti-Zionists. It follows from the basic line of reasoning of denying the Jews their 3700 year-old history in their homeland. Once Jews have been divorced from their historical connection to the land, their insertion into the region would be as a foreign transplant. As the Jews did not control any country, Khalidi coined the term “metropolitan sponsor” suggesting that since the Jews were scattered all over the world, they were pushing governments to endorse this Zionist initiative. They finally succeeded with the UK as their sponsors.

the country was now threatenedis a theme used over and again by Khalidi, that the indigenous people of the “country” were threatened by both the British and the Zionistic cause laid out in the Balfour Declaration. But Palestine was not a country, but a province of the Turkish Empire. The Empire was already long engaged in World War I when the Balfour Declaration was issued.

“The text of the Declaration confirmed the nature of this danger. It consisted of a single paragraph of 67 words:

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, 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 overwhelming Arab majority in Palestine (which then constituted around 94% of the population) went unmentioned by Balfour, except in a backhanded way: as the “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” They were not described as a people – notably, the words “Palestinian” and “Arab” do not appear in the text of the Declaration. Furthermore, they were offered only “civil and religious rights,” and no political or national rights whatsoever. By way of contrast, Balfour ascribed national rights to “the Jewish people,” who in 1917 were represented in Palestine by a tiny 6 percent of the total population. Regarded in this way, Britain’s backing for Herzl’s aims of Jewish statehood, sovereignty, and control over immigration into the country had portentous implications. It meant British support for bringing into Palestine and implanting a foreign majority at the expense of the indigenous population’s rights, and ultimately at the expense of its existence as a people in its own land.

the words “Palestinian” and “Arab” do not appear in the text of the Declaration.As described above, the term “Palestinians” in 1917 meant both Jews and Arabs that both lived in the region. Palestinian Arabs chose to declare themselves as the sole people entitled to the name “Palestinian” decades later, after the Jewish State was established in 1948 and the Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964 claiming that only Arabs could be Palestinians.

implanting a foreign majority at the expense of the indigenous population’s rights, and ultimately at the expense of its existence as a people in its own land.This phrase sums up the grievances of Arabs: Jews are “foreign” and the Arabs are “indigenous” who have “rights” which are threatened from these invaders coming to take Arab land. However, this is preposterous. Jews are indigenous to the holy land. Arabs invaded the entirety of the Middle East and North Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Arabs that lived throughout the region in what is now known as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt traveled constantly from location to location. Many of the Arabs who lived in Palestine at the time of the Declaration were tenants in homes that were owned by Egyptians. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs from around the region moved to Palestine in the decades after the Balfour Declaration. Who is really indigenous and who really owns the land? An Iraqi that moved to Palestine in the 1930s and rented a house owned by an Egyptian is somehow a “Palestinian” and more indigenous than a Jew that moved to the Jewish homeland in the same year? That’s the ridiculous claim of Khalidi.

“The Balfour Declaration thus meant that the Palestinians faced the prospect of being outnumbered by unlimited immigration, and of losing control of Palestine to the Zionist drive for sole sovereignty over a country that was then almost completely Arab in population and culture. It took just over three decades, and the mass expulsion of most of the Arabs of Palestine from their homes in 1948, for these things to happen, but happen they did.”

losing control of Palestine is a complete lie that the Palestinian Arabs “controlled” Palestine. The Arabs had no control of Palestine. The region was a part of the Turkish Empire – Muslim, but not Arab. The local Arab population did not rule a country nor control its destiny.

mass expulsion of most of the Arabs of Palestine” in Khalidi’s narrative, the local Arabs then living in Palestine were passively minding their business, tending to their orchards when “the Zionist drive” forced them from their lands. The reality is that the Arabs began to attack Jews in Palestine beginning in the early 1920s (including the massacres of 1929) and the first multi-year riots (now called “intifadas”) in the late 1930s. When the Jewish State declared its independence in 1948, armies from five neighboring Arab countries invaded Israel to wipe the Jews into the sea. Palestinian Arabs left the fighting scene while they waited for their Arab brethren to destroy Israel. While some Arabs were forced by Israel to leave the land, most left on their own as they prayed for “their land” (to quote Khalidi) to be liberated and the Jews to be slaughtered.

“Even before World War I, there had been trepidation among the Arabs of Palestine about the rapid progress of the Zionist movement. This became a widespread sentiment as the movement grew in strength and as immigration to Palestine increased: between 1909 and 1914, the leading Haifa and Jaffa newspapers, al-Karmil and Filastin, published over two hundred articles warning against the dangers of Zionism for the Palestinians. Among the peasantry in areas of intensive colonization, Zionist inroads were felt in concrete terms, as land purchase led to the removal of Arab peasants working the land. Their concerns were shared by Arab city dwellers, who observed with mounting concern the constant arrival of new European Jewish immigrants.

dangers of Zionism for the Palestinians.” How dangerous were these Jews? Did they have blood libels against Muslims the way the Arabs had against Jews? No. Did they force Arabs from their homes? No, they purchased the Arab houses (and had the audacity to move in to them afterwards!) Did they initiate riots and kill Arabs? No. So what was the danger from the Jews who were moving to Palestine? Their physical presence. Their being. Something that rankles anti-Semites (93% of Palestinian Arabs are anti-Semitic according to ADL) to their core.

new European Jewish immigrants.” Jews were the only people to move to Palestine during the last century of Ottoman rule. The annual growth rate of Muslims in Palestine was 1.1%, essentially the rate of births minus deaths. Meanwhile Jews moved to Palestine at an annual growth rate of 2.1% from 1800 to 1914. In other words, Jews always moved to Palestine, even before the Balfour Declaration, while Muslims did not. The Arabs only began to descend on Palestine from around the region after the Declaration in numbers that matched the immigration of Jews.

“News of the Balfour Declaration reached Palestine only with much delay after November 2, 1917. All local newspapers had been shuttered since the beginning of the war. Then, after British troops occupied Jerusalem in December 1917, the strict military occupation regime banned news of the declaration from being spread, and did not allow papers to reopen for two year. There were other reasons for the delayed Palestinian reaction to the Balfour Declaration. They relate to the extraordinary wartime conditions that prevailed in Palestine and that caused intense suffering. The country was the scene of a more than a year of grinding battles between British and Ottoman forces which continued until mid-1918.”

delayed Palestinian reaction to the Balfour Declaration,” continues the layering of Khalidi’s #AlternativeHistory. Stating that there was delayed Palestinian reaction suggested that the Palestinians were a people and an entity. They were not. They were part of the Turkish Empire which was melting at the end of World War I. The entire region was collapsing and its fate was uncertain.

“By the war’s end, the Palestinians were already prostrate and exhausted by severe wartime shortages, penury, dislocation and famine, the requisitioning of draft animals, a plague of locusts, and draconian conscription that sent most working-age men to the front. Of all the major combatant powers, the Ottoman Empire suffered the heaviest wartime death toll, with over three million war dead, or 15% of the total population, most of them civilians. Greater Syria, including Palestine, suffered half a million deaths due to famine alone between 1915 and 1918.  Civilian deaths were compounded by horrific war casualties: 750,000 Ottoman soldiers out of the 2.8 million mobilized died during the war. The impact of all these factors on Palestine was intense. It is estimated that after growing about 1 percent annually in the prewar years, Palestine’s population declined by 6 percent during World War I.

growing about 1 percent annually in the prewar years, Palestine’s population declined by 6 percent during World War I.” War is terrible, no doubt. The Jews in Palestine that accounted for over 8% of the population suffered right alongside their Arab neighbors. And the annual growth in the population of Palestine in the prewar years was mostly because of Jewish immigration.

“It was against this grim background of mass suffering and the advance of the British army that Palestinians eventually learned about the issuance of the Balfour Declaration. The shock of hearing about it was exacerbated by a British occupation that marked the end of 400 years of Ottoman sovereignty, a regime which had prevailed for a full twenty generations. There was nevertheless a rapid evolution in the way the Palestinians saw themselves during and after World War I. In a world where nationalism had been gaining ground for many decades, a world war driven largely by unrestrained nationalist sentiment provided a major boost to the national idea in Palestine and other parts of the world. The enhanced salience of nationalism was compounded by the espousal in 1917 by Woodrow Wilson and Vladimir Lenin of the principle of national self-determination. The endorsement of the national principle by two ostensibly anti-colonial powers had an enormous impact on peoples the world over. As a result of the hopes aroused, and later disappointed, by Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Paris peace conference, India, Egypt, Korea and many other countries witnessed massive anti-colonial upheavals.

a rapid evolution in the way the Palestinians saw themselves during and after World War I… unrestrained nationalist sentiment”  Khalidi pivots his view of history from stating that Palestine was a country, to the Palestinians suddenly finding an “unrestrained nationalist sentiment,” like much of the world. Which was it? Were the Palestinian Arabs sovereign and autonomous in their own country of Palestine the way Khalidi began the speech, or were they part of a 400 year Ottoman Empire as Khalidi stated here? Were the people fighting in defense of their country, or were they suddenly self-aware, and now considered themselves a unique people? Khalidi wants you to believe both, as convenient to different parts of the story.

massive anti-colonial upheavals. As in the entirety of Khalidi’s view of history, the local Arabs were the only rightful owners of the land. Jews who moved to the area and purchased homes? Colonialists. After the British took over the Palestine Mandate in 1924, did they export thousands of British Jews to act as their colonial imprint on the territory? Nope. The Jewish immigration to Palestine from 1917 to 1948 came principally from other countries. Further, the British government treated the Jews in Palestine terribly.

“As a result of the war, the Palestinians were suffering from what might be described as collective post-traumatic stress syndrome. They now had to face entirely new realities as they entered a post-war world suffused by nationalist fervor. The Ottoman Empire was gone, replaced by the hegemony of Britain and France, which in 1915-16 had secretly carried out a self-interested colonial partition of the region — the Sykes-Picot accords — that was publicly revealed in 1917. Against this could be set the possibilities of Arab independence and self-determination, promised secretly by Great Britain to Sharif Husayn of Mecca in 1916, and the subject of repeated public British pledges thereafter. While these promises were at best partially and belatedly kept as regards other Arab peoples, they were never honored where the Arab population of Palestine was concerned. So while other Middle Eastern countries eventually achieved a measure of independence, no such option was on offer for the Palestinians.”

 promises were at best partially and belatedly kept as regards other Arab peoples, they were never honored where the Arab population of Palestine. Khalidi sets the tone in a difficult dance in the speech by acknowledging that the Palestine Mandate was both not unique and unique at the same time. The French and British set up new regions in the collapsed Turkish Empire which would ultimately become countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan. Khalidi was nominally fine with those colonial projects since the Arab populations in those manufactured countries got independence. But the Arabs in Palestine did not. But he misleads the audience as to the reasons, as described below.

“In Palestine, Great Britain operated with a different set of rules than in other League of Nations mandates. Unlike all the other class A mandates established in the former Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, all of which were treated according to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations as provisionally “independent nations,” Palestine was denied such treatment. Instead it faced a set of rules rigidly dictated by the terms of the Balfour Declaration. And the Declaration had been tailored to suit the desiderata of Zionism, a European colonizing project and a national movement which had now acquired as its patron a formidable empire whose armies were just then in the process of conquering Palestine. British troops were not to leave the country for over thirty years, by which time the Zionist enterprise had become firmly entrenched.”

European colonizing project… British troops were not to leave the country for over thirty years,” To listen to Khalidi, one would think that the British and French set up mandates throughout the Middle East and then left quickly, giving independence to the local population. However in Palestine, the British army was entrenched so it could set up its “European colonizing project.” It is an absurd falsification of history.

The length of mandates were decades for many regions. Lebanon became independent in 1943. Syria in 1946. Israel in 1948.

Second, the Balfour Declaration had nothing to do with the borders of the Jewish homeland. That was laid out in the San Remo Conference in 1920 which was authored by several global powers including France, Italy and Japan. This was not a British exercise, nor just a European one. It was approved by international law.

Additionally, the San Remo Conference and then the Palestine Mandate gave the British the right – which they exercised – to break the Palestine Mandate in two to establish an Arab state (Article 25). The British did just that, and created the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan in two-thirds of the land of the Palestine Mandate. The Arab country that Khalidi claimed was never created, WAS CREATED at the outset and exists today in the country known as Jordan.

As soon as they were able to do so in the wake of World War I, the Palestinians began to challenge vigorously both the form of governance imposed by the British, based on the Balfour Declaration, and the introduction of the Zionist movement as a privileged interlocutor of the British. They did so initially in the shadow of a strict British military occupation regime that lasted until 1920, followed by rule by a series of British High Commissioners. The first of them was Sir Herbert Samuel, a committed Zionist and former cabinet minister, who laid the governmental foundations for much followed.”

As soon as they were able to do so” is a rewrite of history to vilify Britain in particular for stating that it was in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Palestinian Arab riots began in the 1920s due to the San Remo Conference which gave international legitimacy to the Zionist dream and detailed the historic rights of Jews to reestablish their homeland in Palestine.

challenge vigorously.The Arab riots of 1920 and 1921 and the massacre of Jewish civilians in 1929 cannot be called “challenge vigorously” by anyone other than someone suffering from deep pathology.

“In understanding the unsuccessful efforts of the Palestinians to oppose this regime, two crucial factors are of paramount importance. The first is that unlike most other peoples who fell under the sway of colonial rule, the Palestinians had to contend not only with the colonial power in the metropole but also with the terms of the Balfour Declaration. Thus they had to deal with a colonial settler movement which, while beholden to Britain, was independent of it and had a powerful national impulse and an international base, most importantly in the United States. The second is that Britain did not rule Palestine outright: it did so as a mandatory power of the League of Nations. In rejecting Palestinian protests about the Balfour Declaration, British officials could point to the international legitimacy for its terms provided by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which, at the instigation of the British themselves, had incorporated verbatim the text of the Balfour Declaration, and in 7 of its 28 articles, substantially amplified and expanded on its commitments. Thus the British government could hide behind the terms of their League of Nations mandate in denying the Palestinians treatment as an “independent nation” in accordance with Article 22 of the Covenant.”

colonial, colonial, colonial” Did Khalidi mention colonial? While repeating that the British were a colonial power and tying the Jews to this colonialist enterprise, Khalidi gives a whiff of honesty when he mentioned the “international legitimacy” of the Mandate and the rights of Jews to live, buy land and obtain citizenship in Palestine. But he did this as an aside, suggesting that the goal of a British outpost was a disgraceful subterranean plot in cahoots with Zionists, masked in international law. At this point, Khalidi’s hatred for Jewish presence has taken on an air of an anti-Semitic caricature with Jews now gaining more patronage from other global powers like the United States, while the real motivation and truth was concealed.

“The Palestinians were therefore in a triple bind, which may have been unique in the history of resistance of indigenous peoples to European colonialism. They faced the might of the British Empire in the era between the two world wars when not one single colonial possession, with the partial exception of Ireland, succeeded in freeing itself from the clutches of the European imperial powers. They faced as well an international colonizing movement with a national mission, and with its own independent sources of finance and support, besides those generously offered by Britain. And finally they were confronted with the international legitimacy accorded to British rule by the League of Nations, which had sanctified the Balfour Declaration and its colonial import for the Palestinians by endowing it with the legal imprimatur of the preeminent international body of the day. The Balfour Declaration thus became more than a statement by the British cabinet: it was an internationally sanctioned legal document. In explaining the failure of the Palestinians to retain control of their ancestral homeland, alongside understanding the shortcomings of their leaders and the hindrances resulting from fissures within their society, it is vital to keep in mind this triple bind they were in.”

resistance of indigenous peoples to European colonialism… international colonizing movement… own independent sources of finance and supportThe sum of Khalidi’s arguments of the Palestinians “triple bind” was a combination of lies. Rather than state that the international community had come to realize that the Jews deserved to reestablish their homeland – the EXACT OPPOSITE OF A COLONIZING MOVEMENT – in Palestine, Khalidi advanced that the Jewish money (“independent sources of finance and support”) were able to advance their “colonizing movement” under the umbrella of “international legitimacy” to advance Britain’s “colonial” aspirations. The simplicity and beauty of Jews returning to their homeland was too much for Khalidi, so he invented a multi-headed scheme to vanquish the “indigenous” Palestinian Arabs.

The French and British administered several mandates during these years, ultimately giving each autonomy and statehood. Why would they single out the Arabs living in Palestine for such abuse? If the “European imperial powers” truly wanted to subjugate the Arabs of the Middle East, why did every other region become a state with the exception of the Arabs west of the Jordan River?

For Khalidi, the answer is that the scheming Jews took something that they had no right to – Arab land. In the decades following Israel’s independence in 1948, the Iraqis, Egyptians, Syrians and other Arab states evicted one million Jews from their homes. Where in power, the Arabs could rid themselves of their Jewish neighbors. But the thorny issue of a Jewish State is a bone still lodged in the throat of the Arabs. And rather than accept the legitimacy of the Jewish State, Khalidi and other anti-Zionists have spun a tale of Palestinian victimhood.

“Before November 2, 1917, the Zionist movement was both a national movement in embryo, and a colonial enterprise without a fixed metropole, like an orphan searching for a foster parent. When it found one in Great Britain, as symbolized by the Balfour Declaration, the colonization and transformation of Arab Palestine into a Jewish state could begin in earnest. This process was backed soon afterwards by the international legitimacy provided by the League of Nations. It was backed as well by an indispensable “iron wall” of British bayonets, in the words of that most forthright of Zionist leaders, Ze’ev Jabotinsky.”

transformation of Arab Palestine into a Jewish stateKhalidi makes clear that he believes that Arab Palestine was a proper and appropriate state, and its transformation into a Jewish State happened with shameful “international legitimacy” and the force of British arms. He is correct that Zionism was recognized in international law as described above, but the British did not attack Palestinian Arabs to make this happen. The British came to the defense of Jews being massacred by Palestinian Arabs during their mandate, but they were no friends of the Zionists.

“Seen from the perspective of the Palestinian people, the careful, calibrated prose of the Declaration amounted to a proclamation of war on them. For the next few decades, this war was waged by the Zionist movement with money, legal means, propaganda, and mortars and car bombs, and by the British Empire with multiple forms of repression, prison camps, exile, summary executions, warplanes, tanks and artillery. The issuance of the Balfour Declaration thus marked the beginning of a century-long colonial conflict in Palestine, supported by an array of outside powers. In much different forms, this conflict continues until this day.”

war was waged by the Zionist movement with money, legal means, propaganda, and mortars and car bombs, and by the British Empire with multiple forms of repression, prison camps, exile, summary executions, warplanes, tanks and artillery.” Wow and wow. Once Khalidi established that the natural state of Palestine was an Arab Palestine in which the Arabs were the sole indigenous people, he added that a war was declared to alter that ideal state. He offers an extensive list of aggressions used by the Zionists to execute their war. However, the unvarnished truths were too difficult for Khalidi to admit: that Palestine has been the homeland for the Jewish people for thousands of years; that the Jews had always lived in Palestine, and had always moved to Palestine, despite the difficulties imposed by various ruling authorities; and that the British and the international community had finally recognized that it was time to ease those restrictions as the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Could the international community predict that local Arabs would object to Jews returning to their homeland in a small sliver of the entire Middle East dominated by millions of Arabs? The war was WAGED BY ARABS, not the other way around, made clear the Arab rejection of any Jewish rights or claims to the land.

“I realize that I have imposed on your patience by summarizing some of the history around the Balfour Declaration. Some say that we should forget history in dealing with the Palestine conflict. Those who say this, however, have an absolutely miserable track record of failure in attempting to resolve the core issue at stake: the conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. In fact, this historical background is essential to understanding why this conflict has lasted for so long, and to its just resolution. It also helps us to understand that it did not begin in 1967 or 1948, as some shortsighted observers would have it. Finally, it points out the avenue towards a real lasting, sustainable peace, and towards real reconciliation and compromise between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. Genuine reconciliation depends on acknowledging historical realities rather than ignoring them. And genuine compromise must be based on justice and absolutely equal treatment, and absolutely equal rights, for all, not on the imposition of the will of the stronger on the weaker. That is not compromise.”

Genuine reconciliation depends on acknowledging historical realities rather than ignoring them.There are multiple problems with Khalidi’s world view. If he believes that peace will only be achieved by the world adopting his false version of history, there is no chance of ever realizing peace. It augers a future where Israel will have to finally wage a war against the Arabs that reject the very legitimacy of its existence, rather than just fighting defensive wars against Arab foes that seek to destroy it.

“This historical background points to another fact. This is that peace between Palestine and Israel is far too important to be left to the self-interested ministrations of the great powers alone. Again and again, the history of the League Nations and the United Nations shows us that these great powers were responsible for imposing formulas in Palestine that suited their interests of the moment. In every single case these formulas exacerbated and magnified this conflict. In so doing, these great powers have ignored international law, and essential elements of the covenants and charters they themselves helped to shape, such as the principle of self-determination that animates both the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations.”

great powers have ignored international lawInternational law gave Jews the right to reestablish their homeland in their homeland. International law permitted two-thirds of the Palestine Mandate to be separated into a country where Palestinian Arabs would have self-determination. The great powers supported the Zionist project in international law. Yet the great powers failed in upholding the principles of human rights and self-determination when it allowed two-thirds of Palestine to become a country which expelled and banned Jews. This pathetic travesty is  being further advanced at the United Nations which similarly is advocating for such policy for the West Bank of the Jordan River (all contrary to Article 15 of the Palestine Mandate).

“As the son of an international civil servant who served the United Nations for his entire career, I have been a close witness for decades to the failure of this body to live up to its principles where Palestine is concerned, largely because of the machinations of the great powers.  I am not naïve, however, and as a historian I know all too well that power has its prerogatives. But the United Nations was not set up to make the world a more comfortable place for the powerful, but rather to bring about peace with justice, and the rule of international law. Over the hundred years since the Balfour Declaration was issued, the 70 years since the passing of the Partition resolution, and the fifty years since the adoption of UNSC 242, neither peace with justice nor the rule of law has prevailed where Palestine is concerned. It is high time for the United Nations and the entire world community to act in this spirit.”

the failure of this body.” For 100 years the Arabs have fought against the formation and existence of a Jewish State, not the global community. Seventy years ago the Arabs rejected the Partition plan; not the global community. Fifty years ago the Palestinians and Jordanians attacked Israel and thereby lost the “West Bank” which it had illegally annexed; the global body did not initiate the war. Just after that 1967 war, it was the Arab countries that refused to negotiate peace with Israel, not the global community.

And it is the Palestinian Arabs today that continue with anti-Semitic and anti- Zionist vitriol that prevents peace. In line with UN Resolution 242, Israel gave territories (Sinai) for peace with Egypt. Israel gave territories (Gaza) in exchange for war with Palestinian Arabs.

The problem is neither Israel nor the international community. The problem is Palestinian Arabs.

“Specifically, after a century, it is high time that the establishment of a national home promised by Balfour and the League of Nations to the Jewish people in 1917 and afterwards be matched by the establishment of a national home for the Palestinian people. After 70 years, it is high time that the national self-determination promised to the Israeli people by the UN in 1947, and that they have enjoyed since 1948, be enjoyed by the Palestinian people. And after 50 years, it is high time for the injunction in UNSC 242 forbidding “the acquisition of territory by war” to be vigorously enforced where the territories occupied in 1967 are concerned.”

promises, promises.” If Khalidi wants an Arab parallel to the Balfour Declaration and the UN Partition Plan, he is presumably now in favor of those articles which he had just spent ten minutes lambasting. And if he understood anything about UN Resolution 242, he would understand that land is forbidden to be taken in an offensive war, not a defensive war. The Jordanians and Palestinian Arabs attacked Israel first and lost the land in June 1967. The same way that Israel was allowed to take more land in the 1948-9 war, than had been suggested in the 1947 Partition Plan.

“Finally, it is high time for the United Nations and the entire international community to take vigorous action to break the century-old logjam created and perpetuated by the great powers. This man-made logjam has prevented the principles of self-determination from being applied fairly and equally to both parties to this conflict, the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples. They both deserve the peace and stability that an equitable resolution of the conflict between them on the basis of international law and in a spirit of justice and equality would bring.”

The Palestinian Arabs have shown no interest in the “spirit of justice and equality” for 100 years. The have refused to allow Jews to pray at their holiest location on the Jewish Temple Mount. They have stated that they will not allow a single Israeli to live in Palestine. They have stated that they will never recognize the Jewish State of Israel. They maintain laws that make it a capital offense for an Arab to sell land to a Jew.

The “logjam” to peace in the region is the failure of Palestinian Arabs to recognize the historic and human rights of Jews to be self-governing in their homeland. The myth of passive victimhood and the tainting of the Balfour Declaration and history, is yet another arrow in the Palestinian propaganda machine to defame and undermine the existence and viability of the solitary Jewish State surrounded by over 50 Arab and Muslim countries.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

The Original Nakba: The Division of “TransJordan”

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

The Palestinian’s Three Denials

The Many Lies of Jimmy Carter

Nicholas Kristof’s “Arab Land”

Squeezing Zionism

The United Nations’ Remorse for “Creating” Israel

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7 thoughts on “A Response to Rashid Khalidi’s Distortions on the Balfour Declaration

  1. The salient point is that the League of Nations unanimously approved the re-constitution of the Jewish National Home in its historic homeland. The Trojan Horse called ‘Palestine’ did not appear until 1964 at the instigation of the KGB.
    The Jewish right to ‘Palestine’ is also preserved in UN charter article 80.
    The Arabs/Muslims have no right to any of the land of Palestine and Jordan on 78% gifted by the UK was a crime yet to be addressed.

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