MAHMOUD Abbas, the Palestinian president, is to sue Britain over its 1917 Balfour declaration that paved the way for the establishment of Israel in 1948.
His foreign minister, Riad al-Maliki, announced the plan on Monday at the opening of the Arab League summit being held in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. Maliki spoke on behalf of Abbas, and said the Balfour Declaration ‘gave people who don’t belong there (what was at the time Palestine) something that wasn’t theirs’.
The Balfour Declaration was signed on 2 November 1917 by the then British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour. His letter to Walter Rothschild, a prominent member of the British Jewish community, said Britain viewed ‘with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and Britain would use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object’.
The declaration laid the foundation stone for the establishment of Israel in 1948 and for the mass expulsion of Palestinians. This was despite the declaration stating ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’
Speaking at the Arab League summit, Maliki said the declaration ultimately led to the Nakba – an Arabic word meaning catastrophe – of 1948. Maliki said the lawsuit against Britain would be filed in an international court.
The Balfour Declaration was preceded in 1916 by a secret agreement between the United Kingdom and France, to which the then Russian Empire consented. The Sykes-Picot agreement divided up the Ottoman Empire between the UK and France, with Tsarist Russia getting a much smaller portion, and was only made public, when, after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Lenin and Trotsky ripped up all of the secret treaties and published the Sykes-Picot agreement in Izvestia and Pravda.
The agreement allocated to the UK areas roughly comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and the ports of Haifa and Acre, to allow access to the Mediterranean.
France got southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia. The controlling powers were left free to determine state boundaries within their areas which they did, appointing the dominant tribal leaders as Kings where Britain ruled, and Presidents where the French dominated.
This was how the powder keg of the imperialist dominated Middle East was created, with the addition of the imperialists’ own armed puppet state in the Middle East, Israel in 1948, to help keep order.
In 1956, just eight years after its creation, Israel, France and the UK invaded Egypt in a failed attempt to overthrow the government of General Nasser who had committed the heinous crime of nationalising the Suez Canal. In Nouakchott, Maliki issued a warning against Arab countries working with Israel, arguing that such action would amount to normalisation of ties with Israel without Palestinian leaders having realised their goal of establishing an independent state.
Maliki’s warning came after a retired Saudi general visited Jerusalem and met Israeli politicians, in what was a rare visit, demonstrating Riyadh and Tel Aviv’s increasingly aligned policy priorities. Despite Saudi Arabia and Israel having no official relations the two tacitly worked together last year in lobbying the US not to sign a deal ending sanctions against Iran in return for the Iranians significantly reducing their nuclear programme.
Both were also active in the failed war to remove President Assad and dissolve Syria as a state. The WRP and News Line support the Abbas decision to sue capitalist Britain for just one of its major international crimes. We urge British workers to break completely with the British imperialist ruling class that is oppressing them at home and conspiring against Palestine and Syria abroad.
The Syrian people are on the brink of a great victory over the imperialist powers and their terrorist gangs. The Palestine people will surge forward in the period ahead to establish their state. The British workers must give them 100% support and emulate their revolution with one at home!