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Suing Lord Balfour

Lord Balfour, portrait by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Photo: wikicommons/National Portrait Gallery)

Recently, Stand for Israel told you how the Palestinians have threatened to sue Great Britain over the 99-year-old Balfour Declaration, a letter from 1917 that created support for a Jewish state. Now, the Council on Foreign Relations' Elliott Abrams writes that such a threat is a waste of time by Palestinian leadership, who should instead be trying to help their people:

Is it to be the International Criminal Court, where perhaps they could seek a warrant to arrest Lord Balfour? Problem: he died in 1930. Perhaps he has heirs whose property might be attached. In fact, he never married and had no children. Or perhaps the PLO might try to attach all the streets named for Balfour throughout Israel, or the community there called Balfouria after him.

And this PLO approach might become a model: perhaps Germans still unhappy with the Versailles Treaty might sue England and France. Like the Balfour Declaration, that was only a century ago–and Versailles was an actual treaty, not a mere “declaration.” If declarations are actionable in international courts, there will be a bonanza for lawyers. Every country in Latin America might sue the United States over the Monroe Doctrine, or perhaps every European country the Monroe Doctrine prohibited from intervening in this Hemisphere might sue us. Lawyers could ponder the difference between a “doctrine” and a “declaration.”

But there is something more serious to ponder: that the Palestinian leadership is wasting its time and energy on this nonsense instead of trying in practical ways to improve the lives of Palestinians. Suing Lord Balfour, or to be more exact suing the United Kingdom over the Balfour Declaration of 1917, is a substitute for decent governance and the evasion of even an effort to provide it. I imagine that Palestinians are fully aware of this and understand that this initiative is a form of bread and circuses. It’s likely that they will not find this whole episode as ridiculous and amusing as we in the West do.

Tags: History

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