Abbas’ lies on Balfour

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On the eve before the centenary celebrations of the Balfour Declaration, The Guardian newspaper provided a platform to Mahmoud Abbas. To add insult to injury, the paper erroneously calls him the “Palestinian president”, ignoring both the fact that Abbas’ democratic legitimacy – if he ever had one – expired years ago, as Abbas is too afraid of losing to more extremist forces, if he held an election – as well as giving him a platform to pontificate and spread his lies. I am not a regular reader of The Guardian, so I may be wrong on this, but to date, nobody has been given the opportunity by the paper to respond.

But, let us see about the manifold propaganda lies in Abbas’ opinion piece:

He promised a land that was not his to promise, disregarding the political rights of those who already lived there.

Let us remember first the wording of the letter that became known as the Balfour Declaration, sent by the Foreign Secretary Althur Balfour to Lord Rothschild: “… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …”. Maybe my definition of disregard is different from Abbas’, but does not the British declaration of intent clearly state it wants the rights of others present in the lands fully respected? Also, by the time the declaration was issued, General Allenby stood before Jerusalem, having largely obliterated the Turkish defenses. Also, on the basis of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, Britain definitely was in a position to make such promises. Readers of The Guardian may agree with Abbas that there was an element of “colonialism” both in Sykes-Picot and Balfour, but only if they ignore the maxim of looking at things in their historical context. Saying otherwise only serves to set up the aura of victimhood that Palestinian Arab leaders are so fond of.

This British policy, to support Jewish immigration into Palestine while negating the Arab-Palestinian right to self-determination, …

The very next sentence is again a classic: there was no declared policy, not in the Declaration, nor later. Balfour only expressed “view[ing] with favour” the establishment of a “national home”, and started to backpedal almost immeadiately afterwards, when the conflicting promises to Arab representatives – in the MacMahon-Hussein correspondence, as well as in the dealings of Lawrence with Hussein’s son Feisal – became public. Even before the Mandate came into effect, the British had begun to limit Jewish immigration, and that became official policy in the White papers, later on, almost up to the day when the Mandate ended.

Britain has also never negated Arab rights to self-determination, not in Jerusalem, where they soon appointed al-Husseini to the position of Grand-Mufti, even when the man became a Nazi supporter and thus an enemy.

In 1948 Zionist militias forcibly expelled more than 800,000 men, women and children from their homeland …

Classic Palestinian-Arab victimhood. Even the New Historians agree there was never a systematic policy of expelling Arabs, not in 1948, when most Arabs left after being called upon to do so by the invading Arab armies, or when hundreds of thousands left in fear of repercussions for past pogroms (i.e. in Safed, where the then thirteen years old Mahmoud Abbas’ family had lived). In a 2001 article by Benny Morris, the New Historian, states: “During the spring and summer of 1948 large scale evacuations were initiated by local Arab leaders and the Arab Higher Committee …”. Ari Shavit, a prominent journalist with Haaretz, in his book “My Promised Land”, provides further examples to support this.

The Balfour declaration is not something that can be forgotten. Today, Palestinians number more than 12 million, and are scattered throughout the world.

This is the final example I am going to cite here: there are no “12 million” Palestinians “scattered” around the world. This figure – and the resultant refugee status accorded to them – only exists by virtue of the singular method applied by UNRWA, a UN body that exists solely to cater the Palestinian Arabs. Every other person who became a refugee since the creation of the UN, appears in the statstics of UNHCR. Until they lose their refugee status. But UNRWA Palestinian Arab refugees never lose their refugee status. On the contrary, even their descendants are considered refugees by UNRWA. And UNRWA justifies its existence with the ever growing numbers of refugees, due to this unique method.

Allow me to close on a personal note: in 1970, I became a refugee, when my parents fled communist Hungary. They received an initial loan (a few thousand Swiss Francs) to purchase furniture and to enable them to start a new life. This loan has been repaid to the last cent, within 5 years. I became a Swiss citizen in 1979, served in the Swiss Army, have been paying taxes and excercising my rights as a Swiss citizen, ever since. So, I am personally offended that Arab countries still keep the descendants of Palestinian Arabs in camps (a policy encouraged and enabled by UNRWA), without civil rights, without the popssibility to work for a living. And I am personally offended by a world that tolerates this! Abbas is only a – very visible – symptom of this attitude. It is time, for the world to change its attitudes. It is time to tell Arabs to stop acting like victims, and to get a life: those that are descendants of Palestinian Arabs, but also those who are descentants of Arab that invaded Israel on the day of its creation and have waged wars against her ever since! That would be a lot more helpful than allowing an old fart to attack Britain for the Balfour Declaration – 100 years on!


Moravi Ödön

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