To My Understanding: The Balfour Declaration

Politics

In my attempt to understand the Israeli-Palestinian situation, I decided to dig deep and go way back. I’m pretty terrible at finding good, credible sources, so I approached my Facebook friends and asked if they could share some of their unbiased sources that they use to argue the Palestinian side of the land ownership debate. I needed a good foundation before I could make an informed decision. The reason I asked for the Palestinian side is because at this point I had already seen many arguments for the Israeli side.

One of the first (and easiest) sources someone shared was the Balfour Declaration[1]. Now, in my ignorance, I was a little reluctant to look this up, because I had assumed this was some sort of document the size of the Affordable Care Act. (And this is the point in which you finally realize the extent of my ignorance in this particular matter.)

The Balfour Declaration is a letter. A brief letter from Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild.

Who is Arthur James Balfour?

At the time of the Declaration, Balfour was the British Foreign Secretary[3]. He had been the British prime minister from July 1902 to December 1905[2].

Who is Lord Rothschild?

His name is Walter Rothschild, and he’s the 2nd Baron Rothschild[3] (yep, there’s more of ’em). He was the president of the British Zionist Federation[1].

What did the Balfour Declaration say?

Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“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.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour [1]

Want to know what I think about this? (Hint: not all that much)

My first impression is that the word “Palestine” written in 1917 is supposed to be some sort of revelation to me. The reason it had no effect on me is because a) I don’t deny the existence of Palestine or of the Palestinian people, and b) we’re going to need to go a lot farther back than 1917 to prove anything. Both sides claim thousand-year-old ties. Going back a century isn’t going to cut it.

I realize that some people claim Palestine didn’t exist before 1947. I’ve actually seen quotes in which people claim they were Jordanian one day, and the next they were Palestinian. I don’t know if those statements are founded, or if they’re even real. But here I do admit that the idea that Palestine popped up overnight in 1947 is nonsense.

When I look at the Balfour Declaration, I wonder why Balfour (and the British Cabinet) gets to decide if the Jews can make a permanent home in Palestine. I actually couldn’t find an answer to that until December 9th, 1917. The British capture Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire (the Turks) at the Battle of Megiddo and occupy the entire area known as the Levant[5].

In June 1922, the British obtained a mandate from the League of Nations which legitimized their continued control of the region[5], which was the same year the League of Nations accepted the Declaration[1]. There you have it. By 1922, Palestine belonged to Britain. Legitimately.That is, as long as you consider a Mandate given by the League of Nations to be legitimate.

Also, notice what the Balfour Declaration states. It states that the Jews can establish a Jewish State (or a National Home for the Jewish People), with the condition that they not discriminate against any of the non-Jewish people already there[1]. There is no statement in the Declaration that says all the people in Palestine are or aren’t Arabs or Muslims. Nothing that says there are or aren’t already Israelites or Jews living there.

This just tells me that the British called that area Palestine. It doesn’t tell me anything about who the People of Palestine are. A hundred years from now when people talk about Americans, are they going to mention that this American is a Yemeni, Somalian, Indian, Polish, German, English mix of people? I’d like to know if Palestinian are truly an ancient culture that has always been there, or if they (like Americans) hail from other places.

Supposedly there are census records from that area that date back to 1859. I will try to research those and share my findings. But that may take some time. If you happen to have links or sources that would make my search easier, I’d love to know.

I’m thinking of researching the Canaanites and Ancient Egyptians next if I don’t get distracted. If there’s something in particular you’d like me to take a look at, or if I said something that isn’t accurate (I tried my best to stay as close to the facts as possible), please let me know.

Sources:

1. http://history1900s.about.com/cs/holocaust/p/balfourdeclare.htm

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Balfour

3. http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Balfour_Declaration_of_1917.html

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Palestine

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandatory_Palestine

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“You Should know Better!”

Politics

Those are the words that inspired — yes, inspired — me to begin this journey of what I like to call “a journey of enlightenment.” You should know better! In other words, I should be ashamed that I’m even considering a point of view different than the one I have been taught. I decided something wasn’t clicking, and it just wasn’t making sense. I shared this idea with others, and immediately earned much criticism.

The specific situation that sparked this criticism is the situation in Gaza. I had a friend who shared a video of the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming that he didn’t care how many innocent civilians were killed, and that he didn’t have to explain himself to the Americans. It was a poorly spliced video, and yet I noticed that people actually believed he said that. So I made the comment that the video was spliced, and linked them to the original video.

The comments that followed are as follows (these will only be snippets, as the conversation became heated and lengthy):

It’s edited HOWEVER…this is the reality.No, it isn’t, but I guess that’s a matter of opinion.

I think your facts are a bit skewed Amira.” They wouldn’t be facts then, would they?

Also, I’m a bit disappointed by your defense. I mean really?” Is that a fact?

“Get your facts straight before opening your mouth Amira, you should know better!Know better? Are we on the same page? Because the one I’m on has a spliced video that you’re defending.

I agree with A****, your statements sound like American propaganda and maybe you should look at other sources.Need I point to the video in the original post… again?

I thought you knew better….Well, I didn’t. I never have. I just believed anything I was told.

Wow…really sad. Amira you wouldn’t leave your house, if you had no where else to go.” There’s always somewhere to go if the attack target is small enough. I would rather be unsure that I will live, than know that I will die.

“And yep, you are as blind and as ignorant as they come. A joke really a joke.” Show me your sources!

“Do you have to lie to yourself to make yourself feel good or something?” I try, but the scales just won’t take off those ten pounds!

Get real and quit lying.I’m not actually sure what she thought I was lying about. Possibly my claim that Hamas is telling its citizens not to leave their homes. Or that Hamas refused to honor the cease-fire that Israel honored… twice.

I can’t believe you are spewing this…….of course we check our facts! But you sound like you are not…you sound like propaganda.Again… are we on the same page? Do you know what “propaganda” means?

Got it. Thanks for your point of view. We know where your loyalties lie.I guess because I knew her in high school for a few years she knows EVERYTHING about me.

I’m done with this conversation Amira. You offer no real intellectual debate & you continually ignore my points.Just so you all know, the conversation didn’t end there. And this statement was followed by like, a novel.

And you are the pot calling the kettle black. You say of course you sound like propaganda because you don’t agree with shady information? But you won’t even acknowledge you were wrong about the call notification thing.I wasn’t wrong, by the way, and I shared a few of my sources with her.

These comments were made by a total of three people, only one of whom I actually know. It was amazing really to see how quickly people were ready to judge me as soon as I disagreed with them. The statements I made that they disagreed with were that Hamas needs to let up, that it’s good for the Israelis that they have the Iron Dome, and that Israel was in fact warning the citizens of Gaza before an attack. They asked for evidence of my claims. I provided them. One of the girls seemed convinced that I said they were sending out texts to the Palestinians. I didn’t say that, but she misread, which she did eventually admit.

The only time I ever issued anything remotely close to an insult was when one of them was absolutely convinced she knew me enough to say that I wouldn’t leave my home if I was under threat. I called her insane. And I stand by my statement.

These were not the only people who tried to shame me into agreeing with them. There were two others. But I love them dearly, and though we disagree on this, I respect them and their opinions. Because unlike the above commentators, they actually do know me.

I would like to conclude this post by sincerely thanking the ladies above, and all who have inspired me to go forth on my little journey. I don’t know where it will take me, but I think the credit should be given especially to the women I quoted above. I can’t say that I respect them, because I feel they are rather insulting and condescending (and their idea of proof is that I should know better. Like the information somehow made its way into my head without me knowing). But their effort to shame me into agreeing with them has helped me open my eyes to the sort of pressure put on people to see things a certain way.

So again, thank you. You are truly an inspiration.