Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blame The British

Reviewing Jonathan Schneer's new book about the Balfour Declaration, Great Britain's 1917 announcement that it would facilitate the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine (it came pretty close to being written on a cocktail napkin; see image at left), Tom Segev says that Israel's opponents consider it the "original sin" of the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. I recently heard the same expression applied to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war. As for God, while without sin, he was definitely being mischievous when he gave the same land to two peoples back in, oh, 3000 B.C. or so.

About England's move, Segev writes:

The Balfour declaration...finds its place among a multitude of fruitless schemes and indulgent fantasies, except, of course, that in this case, surprisingly, the British by and large kept their word. For at least two decades they allowed the Zionist movement to bring hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants into Palestine, and these new arrivals set up hundreds of settlements including several towns, as well as the political, economic, military and cultural infrastructure of the future state of Israel. But if Israel’s existence originated with the British, so did the Palestinians’ tragedy. The Balfour declaration was only the opening chapter of a still unfinished story.

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