The 1917 Balfour Declaration: ‘Settler Colonialism’ 100 years on

The 1917 Balfour Declaration: ‘Settler Colonialism’ 100 years on

From Balfour to the present day: a century of colonialism in Palestine

This year’s November 2nd marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It signifies 100 years of suffering of the Palestinian people and the colonisation of their land.

In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour wrote a letter to the wealthy British banker and Zionist Lord Rothschild, in which he declared :

“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, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This short letter had no legal status, but was later incorporated within the terms of Britain’s Mandate for Palestine. Thus it became one of the most significant documents leading eventually to the creation of the state of Israel and the on-going quagmire of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

From the outset the Declaration was controversial, and almost all the opposition came from within the Jewish community itself, because very few Arabs were even aware the existence of such a proposal. The Declaration was seen largely as a means for diverting Jewish immigration from Britain to Palestine. The most prominent British Jewish politician of the day, Sir Edwin Montagu, opposed it vigorously. Later, when the language of the Balfour Declaration was included in the Mandate for Palestine, the House of Lords voted to reject this in a motion passed by 60 to 29, on the ground that the Declaration was opposed to the “wishes of the great majority of the people of Palestine”.

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