The war between Israel and Hamas has its roots in Britain's shameful betrayal of the Palestinians

95 years ago Lord Balfour backed a Jewish state. The price is still being paid

Share

You’ve seen the pictures, read about the bloodshed, heard the accusations. The military head of Hamas was assassinated by Israel in Gaza. Rockets fired in retaliation killed three Israelis and Israel then went into overkill. The November anniversary of the Balfour declaration is marked not with wimpy fireworks but real bombs, big bangs.

It is exactly 95 years since Lord Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary, informed Baron Rothschild that Britain would back a new Jewish state on Palestinian territory as demanded by Zionists, some of them terrorists who had attacked British targets. Lord Edwin Montagu, the only Jewish member of the UK cabinet, objected vehemently to the decision: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto and you want to force me back there again”. He was overruled by his colleagues, some of them avowed anti-Semites.

Britain had no legal right to the land it breezily handed over and has never apologised for its disastrous decision. Palestinians paid for Europe’s massive, anti-Semitic killing project. Thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians were dispossessed and, since then, it’s been a story of endless conflict. And so here again is another horrendous conflagration breaking out in a volatile region. 

Recently, I have chaired and attended meetings on this never-ending crisis. Some people in the audience asked why Muslims obsess  incessantly about Israel and never about Syria and other Arab tyrants, or Hamas. A fair enough point. When Arab despots murder and torture their own people, their sins are not less heinous than those committed by outside adversaries. And the three recent victims of Hamas attacks weren’t simply collateral damage. The anti-Semitic prejudices of millions of Arabs and Iranians is repellent. But I would put this question to Israeli apologists too: why can’t they muster human sympathy for dead Palestinian babies and their howling parents? Don’t they feel anything for these innocents? This time, Palestinians have paid tenfold for those three Israeli lives. Israel’s uncontrolled, unmonitored, unaccountable power can overwhelm any resistors or enemies, or people unlucky enough to be born Palestinian.

On the web is a photograph of an old man in Gaza holding a placard with this message: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” You may or may not agree with his rocket retaliation, but all his other accusations are verifiably true as witnesses – some Jewish – have been attesting for years. Even treacherous Balfour stipulated in that fateful letter of November 1917: “Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” That bit has never been honoured.

While Western leaders avert their eyes, there is growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause and dismay that Israel flouts international law with impunity.

Remember too there was a time when Jews and Palestinians were not filled with poisonous odium for each other. Well all that is history now. Israel exists and must, as I have believed all my life. But it can’t expect to do as it damn-well pleases. Oh yes it can! says Obama’s administration. Not only is Israel free to carry out extra-judicial assassinations – a favourite Obama solution to crises but: “Israel has the right to defend itself... and make its own decisions about its military tactics and operations.” That is exactly what Assad says he is doing and in response William Hague rightly issues grave, moral condemnations. The same Hague and his diplomats are doing all they can to stop the UN recognising the Palestinian state and until this weekend censured only Hamas for this worsening situation. Now, with Israel threatening invasion, our Foreign Secretary (timidly) reproaches the nuclear-armed bully state. Just a month ago, the EU upgraded its trade agreement with Israel. These collaborators have not collectively asked Israel to back off. In contrast, Arab heads are, at least, trying to influence Hamas and get a ceasefire. 

While Western leaders avert their eyes, there is, among millions of European citizens, growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause and dismay that Israel flouts international law with impunity. The chasm between Europe’s ruling classes and the ruled can no longer be ignored.

Dr Izzeldin Abdullah, a Palestinian doctor found three of his daughters blasted to death in Gaza by Israeli shells in 2009. This week he wrote: “My family in Gaza are not safe; and the same can be said for all those innocent people in Israel.” He begged for a “ halt to this craziness” but his words will not be heeded and such voices from Palestine will disappear as hate consumes all hope. Hezbollah and the Iranian regime will pile in and unimaginable consequences will follow. For Israel’s own sake, it must stop being so boneheaded and halt this inferno. Obama needs to step up and use his power to save the world. It is that serious.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little