Translation of Arabic Article about Balfour Declaration, Doar Hayom, 1925
Several days before the arrival of Lord Balfour in Palestine, this article was printed in the Jerusalem-based Arabic newspaper Mir'at al-Sharq. The unnamed columnist had written an opinion piece on the visit, which was translated into Hebrew and published in the Hebrew newspaper Doar Hayom on March 23, 1925.
Rather than criticise Lord Balfour, the British government, or even the Zionist organisations working in Palestine:
Simply working for their own benefit, and no blame can be attached to people who work purely for their own benefit.
The writer criticises the Arab community and its leaders for spending too much time in futile protests instead of combatting the sale of land to the Jewish population. Once the protests are over, “people will just return to work and life will return to normal,” he claims.
The writer uses strong language to express his criticism, such as when he compares the process of selling land to the Jewish population to “pimping”:
Balfour did not hand over the land to the Zionists, but rather we ourselves give our land to the Zionists ... we pimped the land to them ourselves.
He also asks a number of rhetorical questions to strengthen his message, such as his suggestion that: “Surely protecting one hectare of our own land is better than a thousand protests and a thousand telegrams sent to newspapers?” He ends his piece with the dramatic statement that: “It is good to be seen to protest the Balfour Declaration, but it’s much better to act for the benefit of our land. Where are our sacrifices? Where are our true believers in a homeland?”
At the end of March 1925, Lord Balfour came to Palestine for the opening of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. While the Jewish community greeted him with celebrations, the Arab leaders, who had strongly opposed the Balfour Declaration, announced a general strike in protest.
Mir’at al-Sharq was published in Jerusalem and was known as an overtly political newspaper and a shaper of Arab public opinion. From the outset, it adopted a peaceful attitude towards the British Mandate and encouraged mutual trust between the British and the Palestinians.
The Balfour Declaration, History.com
This source could be used in General History and Jewish History classes as part of a discussion about the Balfour Declaration and the various reactions of the Arabs in Palestine as well as about the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A class can also discuss the internal tensions that prevailed in Arab society, and see this piece as reflecting that the Arab society was multi-faceted, rather than homogeneous. Secondly, it shows that the Arab press did not avoid criticism of their leadership.
Media teachers can also use this article to demonstrate the role of newspapers in forming public opinion.
Where did this article first appear?
In what language did the article first appear?
Where and when was the Hebrew translation printed?
What was taking place in the same month that this article appeared?
Reading Between the Lines
What is the writer’s attitude towards the Balfour Declaration, the British, and the Zionists? Bring evidence to support your answer.
What is the writer’s attitude towards Arab society and its leaders?
What is the writer’s main criticism?
Why do you think a Hebrew newspaper chose to print a translation of this article?
What can we learn from the article about Arab society in Palestine in 1925?
Try and find what is being written in the Arabic press about the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
Have Arab attitudes towards the Balfour Declaration changed over the decades?
Research Arab organisations and individuals who support Zionism.
What are their main arguments in favour of Zionism?