Letter: The trouble with the Balfour Declaration


Editor of the Reformer:Dan DeWalt's commentary ("No easy answers in Israel, Palestine issue") in Tuesday's Reformer was excellent. DeWalt's piece, like the many letters to the Editor and commentaries in last month's Reformer talking about Israel and Palestine, referred to the Balfour declaration of 1917. DeWalt refuted Martin Cohn's claim, in an op-ed in the Reformer on May 4, that the Balfour declaration indicated that Great Britain intended to give Palestine to the Jewish people. People who support Cohn's claim always cite the first part of the Balfour declaration, which states: "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object." Curiously, however, people like Cohn never cite the second part of the Balfour declaration, which states: "(I)t being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine...". This obviously contradicts directly the claim that with the Balfour declaration Britain intended to give Palestine to the Jewish people. However, looking at both parts of the declaration, there is one glaring omission which tends to be overlooked entirely: The Balfour declaration never mentions any political rights, either of the Jews or the Palestinians. This is no accident. Britain intended to rule Palestine, under the guise of a League of Nations mandate, by itself, giving neither Palestinians nor Jews any political rights. The declaration speaks of a "national home for the Jewish people in Palestine," not of a "national state for the Jewish people." And the declaration speaks of "the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine," but totally omits "political" rights. So going back to the Balfour declaration as a justification of anything now existing and going on in Palestine/Israel is a dead end and should be abandoned. Of course, Britain's rule in Palestine after World War I came to an inglorious and terribly bloody end, and that is the root cause of all the problems in that region today. Leave the Balfour declaration out.Reto PiethGrafton, June 8


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