The Guardian endorsed the Balfour declaration 100 years ago. But where the Palestinians and Israelis have ended up is not a place we would have wanted them to be
When Arthur Balfour, then Britain’s foreign secretary, promised a hundred years ago to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, his words changed the world. It was certainly a watershed in imperial history when, as the Hungarian-Jewish writer Arthur Koestler so memorably put it, “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third”.
The declaration, contained in a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, was vaguely worded. Mr Balfour had offered a “national home for the Jewish people”, not a state. The British statesman was hostile to the idea of a Jewish government, describing it later as “inadmissible”. He did not say how this “national home” would be created, offering only Britain’s “best endeavours” to do so. All this was to be achieved without prejudicing the “civil and religious rights” of Palestine’s “existing non-Jewish communities”, which at that time accounted for 90% of the population. Notably, the land’s Arab inhabitants were not named as such. Nor were their views sought. Israelis see the declaration as one of their founding documents. Palestinians regard it as a great betrayal and the root cause of their “destitution, dispossession and the ongoing occupation”.
Link : The Guardian view on Israel and Palestine: escape the past | Editorial