In July, the Palestinian Authority unexpectedly announced plans to sue Britain in an International Court over perceived harmful repercussions on local Arabs of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which laid out a vision for a future Jewish State in the Middle East.
The announcement took place during the recent Arab League summit, where activists followed up with demands for an official British apology. British Prime Minister Theresa May ignored the protests until this week when she nearly affirmed her unequivocal support for the Jewish state.
May praised Israel as a thriving democracy, an engine of enterprise and a beacon of tolerance during her party’s annual Conservative Friends of Israel lunch. She spoke against opposition Labor’s wrong and unacceptable anti-Semitism and against the BDS movement and announced official British acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.
May, who is looking to develop new global trading partnerships following Britain’s Brexit vote, and having recently returned from a trip to the Arabian peninsula, highlighted existing economic ties with Israel and looked forward to greater cooperation in cyber-security, anti-terrorism and health care.
For many supporters of Israel, however, her statements branding Israeli settlements as “illegal,” stung.
“They are not conducive to peace. It must stop,” she said, adding that her preference is for a two-state solution.
Regarding the Balfour Declaration she clearly stated that Britain will mark its 100th anniversary “with pride” and described it as “one of the most important letters in history.” In doing, so she clearly responded to the recent demands for an apology.
The Balfour Declaration was a product of a time in British politics when Christians were at the forefront. Then Prime Minister Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour were both Bible believers and supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Balfour had thought it should be in Uganda, but was persuaded by leading Zionist, expert chemist and Israeli president to-be Chaim Weizmann that, just as Balfour would not wish to “settle in Saskatchewan” because that was not his heritage, neither would the Jewish people want to settle anywhere but the Middle East.
“We had lived in Jerusalem when London was still a marsh,” he said.
On Nov. 2, 1917, Lord Balfour wrote to head of the British Zionist Foundation, Baron Rothschild:
A month later on Dec. 11, 1917 General Edmund Allenby, who as a boy had been taught from Scripture to pray for Israel, marched the British army up to the gates of Jerusalem, which had been ruled by Ottoman Turks for exactly 400 years. He expected a battle, but remarkably the Turks had fled, mistakenly understanding Allenby’s name to mean “Allah is coming” and fearing divine retribution.
This paved the way for formalization under the League of Nations of the British mandate to govern Palestine from 1923 to 1948. However, succeeding British governments reversed Balfour’s policy and reneged on the commitment to the Jewish people. Around the war years Britain did not even allow the full official quota of Jewish refugees to enter Palestine, thus exacerbating the lethal pressure cooker of mainland Europe. Meanwhile, Britain sought favor with oil-rich Arab nations.
Britain’s position paved the way for the United States to bring up in 1948 a vote regarding the establishment of the State of Israel in the United Nations, a vote on which Britain abstained. In the same year, the UK lost the “jewel in the crown” of its numerous colonies, India, and so ended an era of global supremacy.
Thirty-three countries voted in favor of the establishment of the State of Israel. Jump forward to 2016 and it would perhaps be more logical, although less diplomatic, for the Palestinian Authority to sue all of them, because of the direct connection between their actions and the current situation. Alternatively, they could sue the US government for their ongoing support of Israel, or even the worldwide Church for promoting the document which Christians have understood as the divine covenantal framework for the Jewish state: the Bible.
Or Israel could sue her Arab neighbors for continual harassment and warring against the vulnerable and vastly outnumbered Jewish state. The families of innocent victims of terror might also want to sue the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for their unashamed support of terrorist actions against Israelis. Or perhaps Christians in Gaza might want to sue for the litany of injustices against them.
May is the daughter of an Anglican Vicar and a church goer. Certainly some of her policies, notably on gay marriage, have been condemned as conflicting with scripture, but she clearly reaffirmed what Balfour declared almost 100 years ago in advocating “a Jewish homeland in the Middle East.”