by Prof. Efraim Karsh
It was not the Balfour Declaration that paved the road to the Nakba but its rejection by the extremist Palestinian Arab leadership – against the wishes of ordinary Palestinian Arabs who would rather have coexisted with their Jewish neighbors
“100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people. This paved the road for the Nakba of Palestinian people and their dispossession and displacement from their land.”
So claimed Mahmoud Abbas at last year’s U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting in what constitutes the standard Palestinian indictment of the November 1917 British government’s pledge to facilitate “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” provided that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
It is an emotionally gripping claim, but it is also the inverse of truth. For one thing, Britain did consult its main war allies, notably U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, before issuing the declaration, which was quickly endorsed by the contemporary international community, including the leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement, and aped by the Ottoman Empire. For another thing, it was not the Balfour Declaration that paved the road to the Nakba but its rejection by the extremist Palestinian Arab leadership headed by the Jerusalem Mufti Hajj Amin Husseini – against the wishes of ordinary Palestinian Arabs who would rather coexist with their Jewish neighbors and take advantage of opportunities created by the evolving Jewish national enterprise. Had this leadership not ignored the wishes of its subjects, and the will of the international community for that matter, there would have been no Nakba.
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Prof. Efraim Karsh
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