zondag 5 november 2017

Achtergronden: 100 jaar Balfour 2017 - 1917

The racist worldview of Arthur Balfour

David Cronin Rights and Accountability 18 October 2017

The Balfour Declaration led to the expulsion of Palestinians. (Wikimedia Commons)
Arthur James Balfour will, no doubt, be praised effusively by supporters of
Israel in the coming weeks for a brief document he signed 100 years ago.
As Britain’s foreign secretary in November 1917, Balfour declared his backing
 to the Zionist colonization project. Through his declaration, Britain became
the imperial sponsor of a Jewish state – euphemistically called a “Jewish
national home” – that would be established in Palestine by expelling its
indigenous people en masse.
An assurance in that document about protecting Palestinian rights proved
 worthless. Balfour himself was quite happy to negate that assurance.
In 1919, he argued that Zionist aspirations were “of far profounder import
than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that
 ancient land.”
Rather than being marked “with pride,” as Theresa May, the current British
 prime minister, has promised, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration ought
 to be a time for sober reflection. One useful exercise would be to examine
Balfour’s wider record of violence and racism.
From 1887 to 1891, Balfour headed Britain’s administration in Ireland. On his appointment to that post, Balfour proposed to combine repression and reform.
The repression he advocated should be as “stern” – in his words – as that
of Oliver Cromwell, the English leader who invaded Ireland in 1649.
Cromwell’s troops are reviled in Ireland for the massacres they carried out
in the towns of Wexford and Drogheda.
Siding with the gentry against what he called the “excitable peasantry,”
Balfour prioritized repression over reform. When a rent strike was called
in 1887, Balfour authorized the use of heavy-handed tactics against alleged
Three people died after police fired on a political protest in Mitchelstown,
County Cork. The incident earned him the nickname of “Bloody Balfour.”

Blessings of civilization?

Balfour penalized dissent. Thousands were jailed under the Irish Crimes
 Act that he introduced.
John Mandeville, a nationalist campaigner, was one of the first to be
imprisoned during Balfour’s stint in Ireland. Mandeville died soon after his
 release and a coroner’s inquest attributed his death to ill-treatment
suffered while in detention.
Balfour tried to smear Mandeville by claiming he had taken part in a
“drunken row” before suddenly falling ill. Mandeville, according to some
accounts, was actually a teetotaler.
Balfour was a British and a white supremacist. “All the law and all the
 civilization in Ireland is the work of England,” he once said.
He used similar terms while defending the subjugation of other peoples.
In 1893, he spoke in the British parliament of how Cecil Rhodes, an imperial
marauder in Southern Africa, was “extending the blessings of civilization.”
While serving as prime minister from 1902 to 1905, Balfour insisted that
Europeans must enjoy greater privileges than Black natives in South Africa.
“Men are not born equal,” he said in 1904.
Two years later – then in opposition – he said that Black people were “less
intellectually and morally capable” than whites.


There are strong reasons to suspect that Balfour was also anti-Semitic.
In 1905, he pushed legislation aimed at preventing Jews fleeing persecution
in Russia from entering Britain on the grounds they were “undesirable.”
One reason why Balfour may have been in favor of establishing a Jewish
state in Palestine was that he disliked having Jews as neighbors. He once
described Zionism as a “serious effort to mitigate the age-old miseries created
for western civilization by the presence in its midst of a body which is too long
regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to expel
or absorb.”
Balfour was often callous. He tried to justify the use of Chinese slave labor
in South Africa’s gold mines and atrocities committed by British forces in
the Sudan. He opposed giving aid to people at risk of famine in India.
Despite his apparent commitment to law and order, Balfour encouraged
illegal behavior when it suited him. He was a staunch supporter of militant
loyalists who insisted that Ireland’s north-eastern counties should not become independent from Britain.
When the Ulster Volunteer Force managed to smuggle 30,000 rifles from
Germany into the north of Ireland, Balfour effectively approved the 1914
gun-running operation by telling the British parliament: “I hold now, and I
held 30 years ago that if home rule was forced upon Ulster, Ulster would
fight and Ulster would be right.”
It was extraordinary that a former prime minister should voice approval
for subversion. Yet that stance did no harm to Balfour’s political career.
Within a few years, he was back in government as foreign secretary – it was
in that role that he issued his declaration on Palestine.
The effects of that declaration were swift and far-reaching. Through
pressure exerted by Chaim Weizmann (later Israel’s first president) and
other senior figures in the Zionist movement, it was enshrined in the
League of Nations mandate through which Britain ruled Palestine
between the two world wars.
Herbert Samuel, himself a staunch Zionist, introduced a system of racial
 and religious discrimination when he served as Britain’s first high
commissioner for Palestine from 1920 to 1925. Those measures facilitated
 and financed the acquisition by European settlers of land on which
Palestinians had lived and farmed for many generations. Mass evictions
ensued: more than 8,700 Palestinians were expelled from villages in
Marj Ibn Amer, an area in the Galilee, as they were bought up by Zionist
colonizers during the 1920s.
Balfour was unperturbed by the upheaval that he set in motion. Worse, he
denied that any problem existed.
In 1927, he wrote “nothing has occurred” that would cause him to
question the “wisdom” of the declaration he signed a decade earlier.
The remark says much about Balfour’s hubris. He was prepared to
trample on an entire people and to dismiss their grievances as irrelevant.




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