103 years of Palestinians’ colonial subjugation since the Balfour Declaration was issued



(Washington, DC)--Today, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) solemnly commemorates the 103rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, issued on this date in 1917. Named after the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, the declaration which bears his name committed Great Britain to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jewish people” at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population. 

A British demographic survey conducted three years after the Balfour Declaration found that the Jewish population was approximately 10 percent of Palestine’s overall population; indigenous Palestinian Muslims and Christians accounted for 90 percent of the population.

Despite this demographic reality, the indigenous Palestinian population’s political and national rights were ignored in the Balfour Declaration, not to mention their ethnic and national identity. Instead, Great Britain promised only not to “prejudice the[ir] civil and religious rights,” and referred to them as “non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” This blatant denial of Palestinians’ nationality paved the way for the erasure of their indigeneity, and facilitated the Zionist takeover of Palestine.

The colonial arrogance in the text of the Balfour Declaration was perfectly amplified by Balfour himself, who, in 1919, wrote to his successor as Foreign Secretary: “In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country….Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

The Balfour Declaration was incorporated into the British Mandate for Palestine, making the League of Nations--the predecessor of the United Nations--complicit in denying Palestinian self-determination. This type of international diplomatic support for Zionism at the expense of the Palestinian people created a precedent and model for the continued denial of Palestinian self-determination to this day.

Today, it is the State of Israel, backed by the military and diplomatic might of the United States, which continues this century-long pattern of denying the Palestinian people their right of self-determination. In violation of international law, Israel refuses to allow Palestinian refugees their right of return to the homes from which they or their ancestors were forcibly displaced by Israel during the Nakba in 1948; denies Palestinian citizens of Israel their equal rights; and imposes upon Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip a brutal military occupation. 

On this dark day in Palestinian history, AMP salutes the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in their long-denied quest for justice, liberation, and their eventual self-determination, and recommits itself to work toward that noble cause.