Great Britain’s Balfour Declaration — a century ago — laid the groundwork for a Zionist state in the Middle East and led to the purging of millions of Palestinians from what became Israel, a human rights crisis that continues to roil the Middle East to this day.
I caught up with noted Palestinian human rights campaigner Mustafa Barghouti in San Francisco where he was lecturing on the Balfour Declaration, a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour published on Nov. 9, 1917, and promising a Jewish homeland. The letter came during World War I while Great Britain was at war with Turkey’s Ottoman Empire.
In June 2002, Dr. Barghouti co-founded the Palestinian National Initiative, and currently serves as its Secretary-General.
Dennis Bernstein: What was the significance of the Balfour Declaration and what does it mean to the Palestinian people?
Mustafa Barghouti: The Balfour Declaration was a major historical crime committed against the Palestinian people. It was a crime that led to a series of other crimes, including the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in 1948, when 70% of the population were displaced and forced to leave their country. There are still 6 million refugees spread all over the world. It led to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem in 1967.
But most importantly, the Balfour Declaration was a racist act that discriminated against 90% of the population of Palestine. It gave 10% of the population the right to a homeland and deprived the Palestinians of that right. The result is what we see today, which is a system of apartheid that is much worse than what existed in South Africa.
I believe the Balfour Declaration was also a crime against the Jewish people.