Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to prosecute Britain for publishing the 1917 Balfour Declaration amounts to an outright rejection of the right of the Jewish people to have their own state in former Palestine - the major stumbling block to peacefully resolving the Jewish-Arab conflict for the last 100 years.
Abbas effectively abandoned further peace negotiations with Israel when his Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki announced Abbas’s decision during an Arab League meeting in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on 25 July:
We are working to open up an international criminal case for the crime which they [Britain] committed against our nation – from the days of the British Mandate all the way to the massacre which was carried out against us from 1948 onwards …
… With the commemoration of 100 years since this historic massacre, and following the continuity of this tragedy, we request that the Secretary General of the Arab League assist us in prosecuting the British government for publishing the Balfour Declaration which caused this catastrophe against the Palestinian people.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – from its founding in 1964 – had labelled the Balfour Declaration a “fraud” - revising this position in 1968 by claiming it was “deemed null and void.”
Such unsubstantiated assertions of British fraud and illegality are supposedly now to be legally challenged – but can Abbas be taken seriously?
Abbas has not similarly threatened France - although France’s Secretary General For Foreign Affairs - Jules Cambon – informed Nahum Sokolow on 4 June 1917 – 5 months before the Balfour Declaration:
You were good enough to present the project to which you are devoting your efforts, which has for its object the development of Jewish colonization in Palestine. You consider that, circumstances permitting, and the independence of the Holy Places being safeguarded on the other hand, it would be a deed of justice and of reparation to assist, by the protection of the Allied Powers, in the renaissance of the Jewish nationality in that Land from which the people of Israel were exiled so many centuries ago.
The French Government, which entered this present war to defend a people wrongfully attacked, and which continues the struggle to assure the victory of right over might, can but feel sympathy for your cause, the triumph of which is bound up with that of the Allies.
I am happy to give you herewith such assurance.
Abbas is not proposing to sue all 51 member States of the League of Nations who unanimously adopted and incorporated the Balfour Declaration in the Mandate for Palestine – when calling for the “reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine”.
Threatened legal action against Britain only will probably never eventuate – let alone have any chance of success.
Abbas’s latest grandstanding ploy comes as he desperately tries to recover lost political ground to Hamas by reinforcing his own Jew-hating credentials.
The Nouakchott Declaration has however served to focus attention on thirty years of long-overlooked international political decisions taken between 1917 and 1947 which resulted in:
- 99.99% of the Ottoman Empire lands conquered by Britain and France in World War 1 being set aside for Arab self-determination whilst only 0.01% - Palestine – was set aside for Jewish self-determination
- 78% of Palestine being closed in 1922 to Jewish settlement and development of the Jewish National Home – such territory subsequently becoming an independent sovereign Jew-free Arab State in 1946 – today called Jordan.
Burying Arab heads in the sand by refusing to accept these decisions remains an exercise in futility.
When Arab minds acknowledge these historic and legal realities - the peaceful resolution of the century-old conflict between Arabs and Jews becomes certainly attainable.
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