The Palestinian People Intends to Sue the British Government Over the Balfour Declaration – but What’s the End Goal of it?

30 September 2016

At the end of July, representatives of the Palestinian Authority announced their intentions to sue the British government over the Balfour Declaration. Although there is legitimacy in the PA’s claim, there is much to wonder about the seriousness of Mahmoud Abbas and its followers to pursue the threat vis-à-vis the British government. The statement of suing the British government has been done at the last annual Arab League’ s summit in Nouakchott (Mauritanian) by the PA’s foreign minister Riyad Al-Makyi, who asked “the secretariat-general of the Arab League to help us bring a case against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration, which resulted in the Palestinian Nakba”. The responsibility of the British regarding the demise of the Palestinian people is unquestionable and sadly even after almost one hundred years since the publication of the Declaration, the United Kingdom has yet no intention to apologize and doesn’t even feel any remorse for its imperialistic endeavor.balfour

There is no doubt that the Balfour Declaration has set in motion the creation of a Jewish state on a land, which was already habituated by a native population and it lead to an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population. Thus, there is an imperative for the British government to take its responsibilities and assumes the implication of the declaration, which was made of imperialistic power manipulation and false promises.
The historical context of the Balfour Declaration is worth to mention to understand the web of lies the British government used at that time. Indeed, in the wake of the twentieth century, Palestine raised strong interest from the world powers, which were eager to increase their economical influence and political prestige in the Middle East. Thus, they seized the opportunity of the weakening the Ottoman Empire and European powers, such Britain and France strengthen their grip on areas along the Mediterranean including Palestine.

Moreover, we cannot speak about the Balfour Declaration without speaking about the correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt and Sherif Hussein of Mecca. The result of their correspondence was the promise by McMahon of an independent Arab state if Hussein would help the British troops to fight against the Ottoman Turks. The malevolence of the British government once the war was won, was to pretend that the Palestine territory was never included in the promise. However, by analyzing the documents and reports from that time, they revealed that British politicians and officials were aware of their obligation to offer Palestine to Hussein as a result of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence. For instance in a document Lord Curzon stated: “Palestine was included in the areas as to which Great Britain pledged itself that should be Arab and independent in the future…” More articles reveal the same position that British had actually promised independence to Palestine. (For more examples visit

More dishonest behavior from the British was their unwillingness to publish the correspondence before 1939. So why to do so, if the British government had nothing to hide. Thus, it is not difficult to understand the feeling of treason among Palestinian when the Balfour Declaration got publicized, which promised a homeland to Jews in Palestine.

The declaration stipulates:
His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non- Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Although the British have fulfilled the first part of the declaration, they have definitely forgotten the second one. In fact, as some commentators of the declaration like to recall “the most hameful aspect of this is that the British never indeed planned to honor the clause in the Declaration, which committed them the respect the right of the non-Jewish population” (…/).balfour-III

Next year, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration should be to opportunity for the British government to analyze with honesty and fairness the impact of the Balfour declaration without being influenced by the noisy hasbara. The Balfour Declaration as Edward Said stated “a prime example of moral epistemology of imperialism”. Furthermore, he gave the best analysis by pointing out that the declaration was made: a) by a European power, b) about non-European territory, c) in flat disregard of both the presence and wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite litteraly make this territory a national home for the jewish people. Thus, it is time for the British government as well as the British civil society to put pressure on its government to face its colonial past.

Although there is legitimacy of the PA to sue the British government, there are still many doubts about the seriousness of President Abbas and its cabinet. The main question is still what’s the end goal of such endeavor? Sure the Brit h hold some accountability, but what are the PA expectations? But mostly, how this legal actions will help the Palestinians people? Once again, Abbas seems totally disconnected from the reality of the Occupation and the daily suffering of the Palestinian people. More extraordinary, Abbas seeks the help of the Arab league, which has done nothing for Palestinian and end the occupation besides establishing a path of normalization with the Occupier.

President Abbas attempt is laudable but its lack of vision and structure is appalling, especially regarding his lack of credibility inside the Territories. Maybe as Walid al-Moudallal mentioned in an Al-Monitor article, “It would be better for the PA to first end all political and economic agreements with Israel, such as the Oslo Accord of 1993 and the Paris Protocol of 1994, in addition to halting security coordination as these agreements are in favor of Israel” (…/palestinian-authority-sue-brita…).balfour-IV

The Balfour Declaration has planted the seeds of a colonial regime on the Palestinian lands and this regime is protected and sustained by the British government since then. Although no apology will be able to change the past and expunge the suffering of the three generations of Palestinians who were force out of their homes or treated as a second class citizens and deprived of their human rights and dignity, an apology and an acknowledgement of British colonial past is a first step towards the recognition of Palestinians rights.