Sunday, 31 July 2016

Press TV - Palestine to sue UK over Balfour Declaration


My appearance on Press TV's ON THE NEWS LINE program (30 July 2016) to talk about the strengths of the Palestinian Authority's case against the British government over the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Why the Palestinian Authority has a valid legal case against the UK government for the Balfour Declaration

1. The British foreign secretary (Arthur James Balfour) made an undertaking to a British national (Walter Rothschild) regarding the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine at a time (November 1917) when Britain neither had territorial possession of Palestine or when the outcome of the war against Ottoman Turkey was even known, let alone realized;

2. At the time the Balfour Declaration was made (2 November 1917) Palestine was still technically Ottoman Turkish territory and so Britain had no legal jurisdiction to be making promissory declarations in the first place;

3. The undertaking to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine within the text of the Balfour Declaration was made with the explicit provision "...that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..." This did not happen;

4. The British Mandate for Palestine was officially established in 22 July 1922 when the League of Nations conferred it, well over four and a half years after the Balfour Declaration was made, thus any legal authority the British government may have claimed over Palestinian territory is only valid under international law as of the commencement date of this mandate, and not before it;

5. The British Mandate Authority, its senior administration, bureaucracy, military personnel, etc., were under the direct aegis of the British government in London from its commencement in 1922 to its termination in 1948;

6. From the establishment of the British Palestinian Mandate in 1922 to May 1948 with Ben Gurion's unilateral declaration of Israeli statehood, the British Mandate Authority undermined any possibility for the emergence of Palestinian statehood, and instead in word and action -- even when it claimed to oppose the Zionists -- facilitated the emergence of a Jewish state, whereby it acted as a transition body to that end, thus by word and deed negating its undertaking in the cited passage of the Balfour Declaration above and opening itself to liability under international law for its failure in the explicit undertaking;

7. The British government of 1917 had no right of jurisdiction under international law to be making any undertaking for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine;

8. At no time in 1947 when the UN partition plan for Palestine took place (29 November 1947), did the British government attempt to assert any rights under the Balfour Declaration against the creation of a Jewish state when the Balfour Declaration had only called for the creation of a "Jewish homeland" and *not* a Jewish state. This vote at the United Nations took place at a time when the British Mandate for Palestine was still legally in place;

Given the above, the British government holds liability under international law and cannot claim any indemnity from a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority against it. It also cannot claim any statute of limitations either with regard to the Balfour Declaration since there are clear precedents in other areas of international law where such liability may be imposed retroactively, such as crimes against humanity/war crimes, etc (per the Nuremberg precedent and others).