The Balfour Declaration's Comeback

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 |  Tsvi Sadan

The love-hate relationship between the UK and Israel is well known. 

One could dwell on the many setbacks of British policy toward the Jewish state. The 1937 partition plan proposed by the Peel Commission, the infamous 1939 White Paper that restricted Jewish immigration to mandatory Palestine, and the present anti-Israel vitriolic from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

These are sufficient examples of British hate toward the Israel.

But Britain has another side, the one that has produced the 1917 Balfour Declaration that proved foundational to the rebirth of the Jewish state. 

Despite the many setbacks, the recent December 12 announcement by the British government that it is now adopting the 2005 US Department of State definition of antisemitism—"denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist"—shows that the sentiments that gave rise to the Balfour Declaration are still well-embedded within British culture and politics.

Though received little attention in Israel, the UK's adoption of this new definition marks an important departure from the Labour Party's anti-Israel platform. As The Guardian reported, "Britain will become one of the first countries to use this definition of antisemitism … to ensure that culprits will not be able to get away with being antisemitic because the term is ill-defined, or because different organizations or bodies have different interpretations of it."

One immediate result of this statement by Downing Street is its acceptance, reserved as it is, by the Labour Party. 

Though she omitted the part that states that "denying Israel the right to exist" is an integral part of antisemitism's new definition, Corbyn's spokeswoman still made it clear that "Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party share the view that language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews is antisemitism, and is as repugnant and unacceptable as any other form of racism."

Britain under the leadership of Theresa May and America under the leadership of Donald Trump may prove to be the long awaited formidable power that will put an end to the legitimacy antisemitism receives from human rights organizations that are dangerously effective at disguising defamation as legitimate "criticism."

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