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Britain’s unfinished Balfour business

Sir Simon McDonald, the top official at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a former British ambassador to Israel, told a pro-Israel conference in London yesterday that the second part of the 1917 Balfour Declaration “remains unfinished business” that Britain had a duty to see through.

What was this “unfinished business”? The FCO has falsely claimed that that the second half of the Balfour Declaration made a pledge to the Arabs of Palestine that remains unfulfilled, and that way to fulfil it is through the establishment of a Palestine state.

This is wholly untrue. After committing the British government to supporting a national home for the Jews in Palestine, the Declaration added: “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

That commitment has been honoured. What was deliberately omitted was any reference to political rights for non-Jews; and that was because the commitment to a national homeland was to apply to the Jews alone. So the second half of Balfour’s letter contained no unfinished business, and the FCO grossly misrepresents it to say that it did.

Sir Simon himself, however, tried to avoid that trap by asserting that in a different era the Declaration would have carried through its thinking to give Palestine’s non-Jewish communities those political rights:

“If written after the Second World War, when the international community developed a rules-based international architecture, the Declaration would have included the political rights of self-determination of these communities too.”

That claim is absurd. Balfour’s letter was the product of religious and political circumstances which were absolutely specific to that time; it was inspired by a set of views about the Jewish people alone. Without Balfour’s letter, there would have been no commitment to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Sir Simon then went on to say:

“We cannot ignore the negative feelings of Palestinians and the Arab world about the Balfour Declaration that still persist today.”

We should think carefully about what these words from Britain’s top diplomat actually mean.

Did he mean Britain couldn’t ignore the enduring Arab rejection of the commitment by the Balfour-inspired Mandate to settle the Jews throughout Palestine – those “negative feelings” so tellingly expressed on BBC Today yesterday by the Palestinian delegate to the UK Manuel Hassassian, who described that Jewish immigration as “itself a crime against humanity”?

Did he mean Britain couldn’t ignore the Palestinians’ continued aspiration to destroy Israel, as expressed through its maps and insignia, its incitement to terror and veneration of the mass murders of Israelis and the indoctrination of its children to murder Jews and steal their country from them?

Did he mean Britain couldn’t ignore the deranged conspiracy theories and Nazi style blood libels not just about Israel but Jewish people in general that pour out of the Palestinian authority and wider Arab world, ensuring that Balfour’s legacy is one of unending conflict?

Alas no. What Sir Simon undoubtedly meant was that Britain would appease these negative feelings by accepting that the Palestinians have a legitimate reason for them. Perhaps Sir Simon would tell us, therefore, from what legal, moral or historical sources that legitimate grievance derives. For there is none – not in law, not in history, and most certainly not in the words of the Balfour Declaration.

There is indeed unfinished business arising from the Balfour declaration.

Unfinished is Britain’s pledge to create the Jewish homeland which it subverted and betrayed when it tore up the UK’s legally binding Mandate obligation to settle the Jews throughout Palestine, instead denying desperate Jews entry from Nazi Europe while turning a blind eye to illegal Arab immigration in order to block the Jewish homeland that Britain was legally bound to create.

Unfinished is the acknowledgement that Britain did indeed create a separate state for the Palestinian Arabs in 1921, when it hived off more than three quarters of Palestine to become Transjordan, now Jordan – the original two-state solution and national home for the Palestinians which everyone now ignores.

Unfinished is the Arabs never having been held to account for their unceasing attempts to destroy the State of Israel through war, terrorism or the “strategy of stages” – through which the Palestine state to which the FCO is so deeply committed is intended to serve as the geographical platform for Israel’s destruction.

Unfinished is the Palestinian Arabs’ incitement and glorification of terrorism and the indoctrination of their people into Nazi-style antisemitism and the historical lies which seek to write the Jewish people out of its own history.

If Sir Simon McDonald wishes finally to realise the “lasting peace” that he said would fulfil the whole of the Balfour Declaration, this is the real unfinished business Britain must no longer ignore.

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