Balfour Declaration of Support for Jewish Homeland Still Divisive at 100

 In World

As much as the Balfour Declaration became a cornerstone of the creation of Israel four decades later, it also earned the undying enmity of Palestine’s Arab population — which it referred to obliquely as “the existing non-Jewish communities of Palestine.”

At the British Consulate in East Jerusalem, a group of teenage Palestinian schoolgirls delivered hundreds of letters to Prime Minister Theresa May as part of a campaign, led by the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, to get Britain to “make it right” and recognize a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.

Mr. Abbas has been demanding lately that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration. No apology is expected, though the artist-satirist Banksy arranged for a look-alike of Queen Elizabeth II to offer one, along with cake, on Wednesday in Bethlehem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to ring in the occasion at a dinner on Thursday in London with Mrs. May, arranged by Baron Jacob Rothschild, whose great-uncle was the recipient of Balfour’s famous letter.


Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, in 1930.

Associated Press

For a 100-year-old artifact, the declaration remains very much a live issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as between the Israeli left and right. Politicians, pundits and academics are wielding it to score points both historical and contemporary.

A right-wing commentator, Shimon Riklin, wrote on Twitter this week that if the Palestinian national movement truly wanted a state along the 1967 borders, “it would not be challenging the Balfour Declaration.”

“They want it all,” he said. “Get used to it.”

Yousef Jabareen, an Arab member of Knesset, noted that the Balfour Declaration’s reference to “civil and religious rights” of Arabs had stopped short of granting them national or political rights.

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