Lord Balfour, for one, sharply rejected the Wilsonian approach. “In Palestine,” he declared, “we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American commission has. [. . .] Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is…of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”
In the end, Lord Balfour had his way. Instead of independence, boundaries were drawn, dismembering the Arab East and creating British and French spheres of influence over the newly created states of Lebanon and Syria (France) and trans-Jordan and Iraq (Britain) as well as Palestine (also to the British, with the understanding that it would become the “Jewish Homeland”).
And so, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is not cause for celebration. Rather it should prompt us to recall the grave injustice that imperial acquisitiveness and racist insensitivity have done to an innocent Arab nation. Their rights and opinions were ignored and as a result the last 100 years have been marked by unceasing conflict and suffering. This is the shame of Balfour.