A Declaration to Balfour 100 years on

Your epitaph in Whittingehame proclaims
You planted peace in your collapsing world.
Then who to hold responsible for lines
That launched the crisis history unfurled

The letter which in government you signed
Addressed to Baron Rothschild with your favour?
Chaim Weizmann?
Who composed the first design
With sights on riding your colonial power

Expanding into lands as yet not won
Which Sykes had carved from Ottoman frontiers
As Allenby approached Jerusalem
With troops enhanced with Arab volunteers

Still unaware they were to be betrayed?
Or should we look for culprits closer to home?
Your supercessionist mother, as a child
Or anti-Semite wife who shared your love?

Whoever, thirty years on, in blood drenched lands,
For vanguard thugs and desperate escapees
Your text became a weapon in their hands,
Legitimised a new catastrophe.

So now you have a thrawn memorial
Kibbutz that bears your name in Galilee
Where scores of villages were razed, all
Residents killed or refugees.

Eurig Scandrett is a longstanding and senior UCU activist who has campaigned for the rights of Palestinians.

Note: The Balfour Declaration was a letter dated 2 November 1917 from Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. Tellingly, it stated: ‘His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people …’.

Photograph

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