From Balfour to Obama

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Balfour was keenly aware of the presence of an indigenous Arab population, but in an era that preceded international law, the United Nations charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention, a powerful empire had no qualms about granting a land deed for territories it had no legitimate claim to.

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On November 2, 1917, Lord Arthur Balfour, the then British foreign secretary, promised to create a homeland for the Jews in Palestine. Known as the Balfour Declaration, the document became the first stepping stone towards the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel.

Palestine was still under Ottoman rule when it was written. But Britain and its allies were making headway in defeating the ailing Ottoman empire and, when Palestine came under British control just a month later, the document suddenly assumed much greater significance. The Balfour Declaration was presented as equal to a land deed that conferred legitimacy on the plans of the international Zionist movement.

Balfour was keenly aware of the presence of an indigenous Arab population, but in an era that preceded international law, the United Nations charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention, a powerful empire had no qualms about granting a land deed for territories it had no legitimate claim to.

The Balfour Declaration did include a stipulation that "nothing shall be done that may prejudice the religious or civil rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" - a clause that was not exactly heeded by the founders and rulers of Israel. But little more could have been expected as the declaration itself stripped the Arab community in Palestine of its right to land and self-determination.

But the Palestinian Arabs were the last thing on Balfour's mind, or the minds of many other British politicians. He was primarily concerned with solving 'a European problem' and not with addressing the rights of an indigenous people. He also sought to bolster a declining British empire.

Balfour saw the establishment of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine as the best solution to what was commonly referred to as Europe's 'Jewish problem' - a solution that reflected and embodied the central anti-Semitic belief that Jews were an alien body causing problems in Christian Europe.

Balfour was a known anti-Semite who as prime minister supported and pushed for the 1905 Aliens Act that sought to curb Eastern European, particularly Jewish, immigration to Britain.

Over the years, he grew convinced that Zionism - the movement that advocated the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine - offered a convenient solution to the 'Jewish problem'. Like other anti-Semites he did not believe that Jews belonged in Europe and felt that they comprised a separate race and religion that could not live in harmony within their countries of residence.


For the rest of the article please see Aljazeera

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/2010/11/20101161186926470.html

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