100 Years of Balfour

This week marked 100 years since the issuing of the Balfour Declaration on the 2nd November, 1917. The Zionist aim of beginning a Jewish state in Palestine was realised after this public undertaking by Britain to establish a home for Jews via a two-state solution.

According to Al Jazeera, “it is regarded as one of the most controversial and contested documents in the modern history of the Arab world and has puzzled historians for decades” after its conception paved the way for the occupation of Palestine.

100 years on, and numerous protests have been staged in condemnation of the 67 word long declaration.

On Thursday, masses of people gathered in Ramallah (the administrative capital of Palestine) to demand British recognition of Palestine, compensation for the Palestinian people, and an apology from Britain.

President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, also released a statement condemning the declaration, stating that “the two-state solution is in jeopardy … we cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat.”

Further protests included the signatures and letters of a hundred thousand Palestinian high school students that were presented to the British consulate in East Jerusalem. The letters detailed the feelings the high school students had toward the declaration, and called for British PM, Theresa May, to finally recognise a Palestinian state.

Protests in South Africa also demonstrated indignation for the document, where hundreds of protestors assembled in front of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria to call for South Africans to cease working with, and travelling to, Israel.

Numerous media outlets have stated that many South Africans view Israel’s policies and occupation of Palestine as parallel to apartheid; the segregation and discrimination of South Africans by the white minority until 1991.

Yet, disapproval for the Balfour Declaration has also come from anti-Zionist Jews who disagree with Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Despite being raised by members of socialist Zionist groups, Jewish Londoner, Barnaby Raine, is now a vehement critic of both Israel and the role Britain played in its genesis.

Raine cited the Jewish concept of ‘tikkun olam‘ as a reason why he struggles to comprehend Israel’s occupation of Palestine. In Judaism, the classical rabbinic teachings of ‘tikkun olam’ describe acts of kindness that can perfect or repair the world. In modern Judaism, ‘tikkun olam’ is compatible with the pursuit of social justice.

The United Kingdom has repeatedly rejected appeals to apologise for the Balfour Declaration, and to recognise a Palestinian state, declaring that “the time was not ripe”. However, for Raine and protestors in Palestine, Pretoria, and around the world; 100 years of Balfour continues to incite feelings of betrayal, sadness, and indignation.

International Human Rights / Humanitarian Law

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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