By Rich Walter
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, on behalf of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, recently announced that the Palestine Liberation Organization was making plans to sue the British over the issuance of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
For almost 100 years the declaration has represented for the Palestinians the political beginning of Palestine falling out of Arab influence and into the control of the budding Zionist movement. Al-Malki made his announcement about possible legal action at the end of the July Arab League summit meeting in Mauritania.
The possible lawsuit is one more in a series of efforts by anti-Israel or anti-Zionist forces that have, since Israel’s inception, sought to delegitimize Israel diplomatically: at the United Nations, from Eastern European Soviet bloc countries, at the international court at The Hague, through certain Christian church groups, at the 2001 Durban Conference Against Racism, and in the contemporary boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
By focusing on the Balfour Declaration, the PA seeks to reinvigorate the claims of the original 1964 PLO Charter, which said, “The Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.”
The PLO Charter continued that “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”
The contents of the Balfour Declaration speak specifically about “the establishing of a national home for the Jewish people and protecting the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities.”
That wording was included in the 1922 Articles of the Mandate, sanctioned by the League of Nations, and in the 1920 San Remo Agreement of the victorious Allies of World War I, which established the status of the former Ottoman territories in the Middle East as mandates.
Rich Walter is the associate director of Israel education for the Center for Israel Education.