Al Taher: The Fraud Of The Century 

Friday, November 02 2001 @ 04:23 PM GMT Contributed by:

By Dr. Omar Al Taher

Amman - IT IS exactly 84 years ago tomorrow that an unprecedented event in the history of the world took place. Britain, through its Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration promising the Jews a homeland in Palestine.

The declaration took the form of a letter sent on Nov. 2, 1917, by Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leading member of the Jewish community in Britain. This promise became universally known as the "Balfour Declaration" and is indeed responsible for radically changing the history of the Middle East until the present day. No wonder that Palestinians, whose land was promised away, collectively refer to it as the "Ominous Declaration".

It is worth noting right from the outset that at the time of the declaration, neither Palestine nor the Middle East (save Egypt) were under British colonial control. So here we have a country (Britain) promising to give somebody else's country (Palestine) to a third party (world Jewry).

The legal position in this regard is depicted by the well-known legal maxim "no one can give that which he has not" (nemo dat quod non habet). Obviously, this declaration, not having been given by the Palestinians, or acquiesced in by them, cannot be legally or morally binding on the Palestinian people. International Law Professor Musa Mazzawi contends, in this regard, that this declaration could only be valid against Britain. He draws an analogy of an unsuspecting tourist who had been "sold" Buckingham Palace. This tourist would have no redress against the queen, but may have a claim against the "seller".

By 1947, following the facilitation by Britain of the influx of well over 600,000 European Jews into Palestine, the United Nations, whose preamble talks about human rights, justice, peaceful cooperation, equal rights and self-determination, recommended the partition of Palestine into two states, one for the Palestinians and another for the Jews, with an internationalised Jerusalem (Resolution 181 of Nov. 29, 1947).

Naturally, Palestinians rejected the partition of their homeland with what they rightly saw at the time as a foreign colonial settler community. Jews, on the other hand, accepted it, and Israel was founded on May 14-15, 1948. This ushered in the beginning of what could accurately be described as a "parallel universe"; where lies became truths, victim became aggressor, murder became self-defence, expulsion became transfer, and the killing of children is a mere "tough response".

In the process of what Israel calls its "war of independence" and what Palestinians refer to as "Al-Nakba" (the catastrophe), over 750,000 Palestinians were either expelled from, or were terrorised into fleeing, their homeland by Jewish terrorist organisations such as the Irgun, the Haganah, and the Stern Gang. Ironically, two of the leaders of these terror groups (Menachem Begin and Yitzak Shamir) excelled to prominence and became prime ministers of Israel.

In the 20 years that followed the creation of Israel, the world saw Palestinians lose even the areas allocated for them by the partition plan, thanks to Israel's expansionist and belligerent policies. In 1967, Israel invaded the West Bank and Gaza Strip; over 500,000 Palestinians were forced to flee.

Today, 53 years after the creation of Israel and 84 years after Balfour gave his promise, the descendants of the 1.2 million exiled Palestinians number around 5 million.

They are scattered in all four corners of the globe, with no nationality and no homeland.

The remainder, around 3 million, continue to live either as second class citizens or under Israeli military occupation.

Israel has continuously refused to allow the repatriation of Palestinians, despite over 60 UN resolutions requiring it to do so. In fact, Israel's very admission to the UN was conditional upon it permitting Palestinians to return. Israel continues to flout, not only the letter but also the spirit of, every UN resolution with impunity, thanks to the United States and the guilt-ridden conscience of the world community.

The Palestinians' position is somewhat awkward. Whenever they attempt to remind the civilised world of the injustice of not only being dispossessed of title to their homeland, but also of being denied the right to live on their soil, they are automatically accused of being anti-Semitic, neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers. Well, Palestinians are none of the above. They cannot be anti-Semitic because they themselves are Semites; they cannot be neo-Nazis because they are the victims of Nazi-like atrocities and practices, and obviously they do not deny the Holocaust. But, having been dispossessed and uprooted from their homeland, Palestinians resent those who authored their tragedy.

Natalie Sarruate, a French novelist, once said: "I hate victims who respect their executioners." What does the world expect of the Palestinians? To be thankful to Britain for giving their country away? Or perhaps to be grateful to Israel for dispossessing them and ethnically cleansing Palestine of Palestinians? The world should be able to distinguish between anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli. One could have the highest respect for Jewish people, Jewish religion and Jewish culture, yet abhor Israel's brutality and arrogance.

The above is a backdrop to the images we've been seeing on TV during the past 13 months. Third generation Palestinians are still trying to right the wrongs committed by Balfour, 84 years after he issued his declaration.

The writer, a holder of a PhD degree in international affairs and an LLB degree from the UK, is currently a legal trainee at a law firm in Amman. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

2001 Jordan Times (Amman). This news item is distributed via Middle East News Online ( For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact our syndication department.