Last week marked the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration—the British pledge to create “a Jewish national home in Palestine.” For this occasion, the House of Lords perversely sponsored a panel supporting Mahmoud Abbas’s urgings that the UK apologize for issuing the declaration in the first place. Richard Kemp notes that, if the UK is to do any apologizing, it should be for neglecting to uphold Lord Balfour’s promise:
Arab Jew-hatred certainly did not start with the Balfour Declaration. But it did intensify afterward. It was this intensification, with its accompanying slaughter, revolt, and rioting against both British and Jews that caused Britain to falter and fail. . . . It caused the British government to introduce White Papers in 1922 and 1939 that sought to appease Arab violence and resistance by imposing restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine and on the development of the millennia-old Jewish presence in the historic Jewish homeland.
It caused Britain to deny Jewish immigration into Palestine even as Jews were being butchered in the millions in Europe. . . . It caused Britain to abstain from the 1947 UN General Assembly resolution that brought about the re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. And even to appoint a British general—Sir John Glubb—to lead the Arab Legion’s invasion of Israel immediately afterward.
It has caused Britain up to the present day to sometimes fail to condemn Arab aggression against Israelis, and to find excuses for such violence. All in the name of appeasing the Arabs and their supporters in the Muslim world and even at home.
Despite all of this, with Britain sometimes sinking into moral weakness over its subsequent failure to support the state that it incubated, the country can be intensely proud that Britain alone embraced Zionism in 1917. And it was the blood of many thousands of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers that created the conditions that made the modern-day state of Israel a possibility.
These men fought and died in the Palestine campaign to defeat the Ottoman empire that had occupied the territory for centuries. One month after the Balfour Declaration, on December 7, 1917, British imperial forces under General Allenby drove the Ottomans from Jerusalem. The day the last Ottoman soldier left the Holy City was the first day of Hanukkah, the celebration of the Maccabean liberation of that city 2,000 years earlier.
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