BBC radio’s flagship Today programme broadcast this morning (around 0720, then again at around 0735) a vicious historical travesty to mark today’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the letter from Britain’s Foreign Secretary in 1917 committing the government to work towards the establishment of a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people.
Presenter Nick Robinson revealed a degree of historical illiteracy matched only by the aggression he displayed towards Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely – who herself gave a master-class in catastrophically missing the point, and thus utterly failed to address the central calumny being hurled at Israel from the other side of the microphone.
Robinson stated first that this letter promised a homeland for the Jewish people alongside another homeland for the Arabs. It did no such thing. The relevant text of the letter was as follows:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country” (my emphasis).
The crucial point is in the passage I have highlighted. For the British government did not offer, as Robinson falsely stated, a second homeland for the Arabs. Its undertook rather to protect the “civil and religious” rights of existing non-Jewish communities.
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“We all feel a compelling need to watch stories, to tell stories … to discuss the things that tell each one of us that we are not alone in the world,” says TV titan Shonda Rhimes. A dominant force in television since “Grey’s Anatomy” hit the airwaves, Rhimes discusses the future of media networks, how she’s using her narrative-building skills as a force for good, an intriguing concept known as “Amish summers” and much more, in conversation with Cyndi Stivers, director of the TED Residency.
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
Five-hundred years ago yesterday, on October 31, 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a German church, thereby launching what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. Whatever else can be said of him, Luther unwittingly initiated something else that is often overlooked. “The Reformation produced one logical if unexpected result,” explains European historian Franco Cardini: “a definite boost to the positive evaluation of Islam, and therefore to the birth and development of an often conventional and mannered pro-Islamic stance” in the West.
Thus, although Luther maintained the traditional Christian view of Islam—denouncing the Koran as a “cursed, shameful, desperate” book filled with “dreadful abominations”—he condemned the concept of crusading, which had been essential for the survival of some European Christians, such as those of Spain: since its conquest by Islam in the eighth century, the Iberian Peninsula had faced wave after wave of Islamic incursions emanating from North Africa (especially at the hands of the Almoravids and the Almohads, whose jihadi zeal and barbarous means far surpassed anything ISIS can come up with).
Nor was Luther merely against crusading “over there” (e.g., to liberate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, etc.). In 1517, the same year that he nailed his theses, history’s greatest jihadi empire—that of the Ottoman Turks—absorbed the vast domains of the Mameluke sultanate in the Middle East and North Africa and, having already conquered much of the Balkans, prepared to renew the jihad into the heart of Europe. Against this, Luther originally preached passivity—going so far as to say that, although the Muslim sultan “rages most intensely by murdering Christians in the body … he, after all, does nothing by this but fill heaven with saints.” When the Turks marched to and besieged the walls of Vienna in 1529, rebellious Lutheran soldiers were heard to cry out that the “Unbaptized Turk” (meaning the sultan) was preferable to the “Baptized Turk.”
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The Department for Exiting the European Union revealed earlier in the week that it had carried out 58 assessments of the impact Britain could have on most sectors. But it argued that there was a “strong public interest” against publishing them, as officials said policymaking over Britain’s departure needed to be “conducted in a safe space to allow for design and deliberation to be done in private”. The European Commission adopts a similar approach to negotiations. “When entering into a game, no-one starts by revealing his entire strategy to his counterpart from the outset: this is also the case for the EU,” it says.
Nevertheless, Labour hopes to force the Government this evening to publish these papers by making use of an arcane parliamentary procedure – inviting MPs to vote to call on the Queen to request that her ministers publish the documents. David Davis pointed out yesterday that MPs voted in December to allow the Government not to release anything “which undermines the negotiation or the national interest”. However, Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke have made clear they want the studies to be published. One Tory told the Sun that they’d need “ some persuading not to” back Sir Keir Starmer’s motion this evening, so the Opposition could peel off a good few Conservatives. If so, it will be up to the DUP to save the Government from embarrassment.
The vote is expected to take place at 7pm. Labour believes it would be binding on ministers, but the Telegraph understands that it would be up to the Government to decide how to respond. Arch-Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith told Radio 5 today that he didn’t want the papers to come out until “after you’ve completed negotiations”. Michael Deacon thought ministers were conceal the papers, given that their findings were either “extremely good” or “possibly bad”. “If campaigners do force the Government to come clean, I for one will refuse to read the studies, and urge all decent patriots to do the same.”
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