At a recent summit of the Arab League in Mauritania, the Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki announced that the Palestinians intend to bring a lawsuit against Britain for issuing the Balfour Declaration in November 1917. Although the move has been much derided, Alex Ryvchin argues that it needs to be taken seriously:
Writing in the Guardian, Ian Black called the latest stunt by the Palestinians “a stretch” that has “attracted more ridicule than serious analysis.” But the tenacity of the Palestinians in pursuing their objectives in international forums must not be underestimated, no matter how inconsequential or misguided these attempts ultimately prove to be.
In foreshadowing the lawsuit, the Palestinian foreign minister railed that the British “gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.” In fact, the Balfour Declaration gave nothing to anyone. It simply expressed British support for the idea that the Jews, a people indigenous to the land, should be able to return there to reconstitute their national home if they so desired following the collapse of Ottoman colonial rule.
It was the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, and not [Arthur Balfour,] a solitary British minister, that recognized the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and the “grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” It further encouraged “close settlement by Jews on the land.”
These binding international pronouncements . . . demonstrate that Jewish national rights were recognized long before the Holocaust made the justice of a Jewish homeland not only self-evident but urgent. They also make nonsense of the proposition, often put by Palestinian advocates, that Israel was allowed to be created by the European powers to make others pay for their sins in relation to the destruction of European Jewry.
Boorish and unconscionable as Maliki’s statement was, it had an unintended virtue. It laid bare the true, but often disguised, Palestinian position that Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people has no place in any part of the land. . . . The Palestinian leaders have also demonstrated the extraordinary lengths to which they will go to mire their people in a sense of grievance and entitlement instead of preparing them for the compromises necessary finally to achieve their own state.