Australasian Muslim Times, Sydney
October 22, 2017
When the Balfour Declaration was made on November 2, 1917, Britain was at the height of its imperial power, locked in a deadly struggle with the upstart German Empire.
Afraid of the possible influence of a declaration of jihad against the British Empire by the Caliph, the Sultan of Turkey General Kitchener, in October 1914, guaranteed to the Governor of Makkah Sherif Hussein that in return for help against the Ottomans, there would be no intervention in Arabia.
Letters were exchanged between Mr Hussein and the British Government via McMahon, the High Commissioner for Egypt.
Guarantee to Palestine
One letter on October 24, 1915 guaranteed that Palestine would be included in an independent Arab nation after the war, but Lebanon would not.
The next month, in great secrecy, discussions were commenced between the French and British allies as to the shape of the carve up of Ottoman lands after the victory. This was in direct contradiction with what had been promised to Mr Hussein.
According to this Sykes-Picot Agreement, a land later called Iraq was to be under the British, Syria and Lebanon under the French, TransJordan under the British and Turkey was to be carved up with Czarist Russia occupying Istanbul and Turkish Armenia.
The Bolsheviks published these secret agreements after the Russian Revolution, but Britain denied that such an agreement existed.
The Balfour Declaration was issued the year after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, in order to rally Jewish support for the British war effort. It promised to support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, provided nothing was done “to prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
According to Avi Shlaim: “By helping the Zionists to take over Palestine, the British hoped to secure a dominant presence in the area and to exclude the French.” (‘Middle East Eye,’ August 25, 2017).
Well aware of what this would mean for Arab support for the war effort, Lord Allenby, whose troops were fighting in Palestine, kept the declaration secret.
Balfour was no friend of the Jewish community. He was in fact anti-Semitic.
He had the 1905 Aliens Act passed to keep Eastern Jews out of Britain. In 1880, there were about 60,000 Jews in England.
Between 1881 and 1905, there was an immigration of some 100,000 Eastern Jews fleeing persecution in Czarist Russia. They could be compared to the present waves of Muslim and Christian refugees fleeing the Baath Party Muharib Daesh today.
Prime Minister Lloyd George was the main instigator of the declaration. As Avi Shlaim comments: “In aligning Britain with the Zionist movement, he acted in the mistaken – and anti-Semitic – view that the Jews were extraordinarily influential and that they made the wheels of history turn. In fact, the Jewish people were helpless, with no influence other than via the myth of clandestine power.”
Born of the most murderous conflict the world had ever witnessed, part of the betrayal and lies of imperial politics, the Balfour Declaration was and is a disgrace.
Unfortunately, the British government is not ashamed of its creation. The current Prime Minister Theresa May continues the policies of old.
“In a December 2016 speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, which includes over 80 percent of Tory MPs and the entire cabinet, she hailed Israel as “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance.”
Rubbing salt in Palestinian wounds, she called the Balfour Declaration “one of the most important letters in history,” and promised to celebrate it on the anniversary.” (Avi Shlaim, Middle East Eye, August 25, 2017).
Bilal Cleland is a keen reader, a prolific writer and a regular columnist of Australasian Muslim Times based in Melbourne. The above article, which appeared first as an opinion piece in ‘Boomerang’ was published in Australasian Muslim Times issue dated October 20, 2017 and has been reproduced here with the permission of the Editor of the publication. Email: info; Website: www.amust.com.au
Mr Cleland is seen here addressing a rally in Melbourne, Australia. Picture Courtesy: wordpress.com