Broadcast live on 15/5/2017
First published by the Arab Weekly on 30/4/2017
The Balfour Declaration is a letter from Arthur Balfour, then the British foreign secretary, to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, dated November 2, 1917.
The critical part of this short letter said: “His Majesty’s government view[s] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use [its] best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done that 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.”
For Israel and many Jews around the world, the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is cause for celebration. After all, the declaration paved the way for the establishment of a homeland for Jews in Palestine, which, 100 years on, Israel would claim has been achieved in what it calls “the Jewish state.”
Palestinians, both informally and at the official level, argued that — at the very least — Britain should use the document’s 100th anniversary to acknowledge the role it played in what the Palestinians describe as the nakba — “disaster.”
After all, peace has not been achieved; the Palestinians continue to exit either in exile, under occupation or as second-class citizens within Israel’s internationally recognised borders.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demanded an apology from Britain during his address at the UN General Assembly last September.
“We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine,” Abbas said. “This is the least Great Britain can do.”
In the Palestinian diaspora, several ideas were considered, including mass demonstrations on or near November 2.
The London-based Palestinian Return Centre secured a petition on the British government’s petitions site calling on London to openly apologise to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration.
“The colonial policy of Britain between 1917-1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation,” the petition reads, adding that London should recognise its role during the mandate and “must lead attempts to reach a solution that ensures justice for the Palestinian people.”
The government’s response was that the Balfour Declaration is a historic statement for which London “does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the state of Israel.”
It further stated that “establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”
The statement recognised that the declaration “should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination. However, the important thing is to look forward and establish security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through a lasting peace.” It then reinstated Britain’s position on how peace can be achieved.
Britain plans to celebrate Balfour or “mark it with pride,” as British Prime Minister Theresa May announced. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will attend and a royal visit to Israel is planned.
In response, Palestinian envoy to Britain Manuel Hassassian said celebrating Balfour “rubs salt in the wounds of the Palestinian people.” He made no reference to the threat made at the Arab summit last July by Abbas to sue Britain in an international court for the Balfour Declaration.
The Times of Israel recently reported that the British government, which has been delaying the issue of a visa to the new Palestinian head of mission announced by Abbas, might be planning to “downgrade” the status of the diplomatic mission in London.
The prospect of the British government responding to the call from its own Parliament in 2014 to recognise the state of Palestine seems as distant as ever.
مشاركتي في برنامج الحصاد على قناة الجزيرة بتاريخ ٢٢/٤/٢٠١٧
First published by the Middle East Eye on 13/4/2017
On 7 April, I travelled with my wife, Lina, and my five-year-old son, Adam, to Palestine to spend Easter with family and friends, mainly in Attur, East Jerusalem.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at Tel Aviv airport and made our way to passport control. I was asked about the purpose of my journey which I explained. A minute later, an officer arrived to take me away for questioning while my wife, who holds a Jerusalem ‘residency’ ID card and my son, traveling on a British passport, were told they could go through.
I explained that they would wait for me while I was questioned and they were directed to a waiting room near passport control, one with which we are very familiar.
The first officer asked me a couple of questions and directed me back to the waiting room for a colleague of his to call me in soon after that. He was clearly waiting for me as my name was clearly on a list of ‘problem people’. He did not accept that I was on a family visit, not a political one, and told me that I ‘have a problem’.
He asked me if I knew about the new law banning those that promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset last month. I explained that I did. In fact, I wrote about my views on this in Middle East Eye at the time.
He then asked if I was involved in any “anti-Israel” organisation. I explained that I was involved in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and had been vice chair until last January. I stated that I saw PSC as a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli policy organisation rather than an anti-Israel organisation. He did not accept that.
He then referred to a pile of papers printed in Hebrew and claimed they were some of my tweets. He claimed that I called Palestinian terrorists shaheeds (martyrs). Since I do not read Hebrew, I could not comment on any specific tweet and I asked for him to produce the tweets in English, which he did not.
Separated from family
We then had a long conversation (about half an hour) about the situation and the lack of hope for Palestinians and the reasons for the lack of peace – just the sort of discussion with Israelis that denying entry to those who are working for peace will prevent as a result of this new law.
I soon realised that the officer was going to deny me entry, especially when rather than giving me the entry visa slip, he started printing out documents. He confirmed that I was to be denied entry and then asked me the most difficult question of the day: “Will your wife return with you or go through?”
He even said, “Of course your wife is an Israeli citizen, so she can go through.” My wife is not an Israeli citizen but a stateless person, made stateless by Israel. In addition to her Jerusalem “residency” permit, she has an Israeli travel document and a Jordanian travel document for travel outside her homeland. I told him I would ask her what she wanted to do and was taken back to the waiting room.
As I returned to the room, my wife shuffled in her seat to get herself ready. She thought I had been given an entry visa until I told her that I would not be allowed in. She could not believe this and broke down. My son was bewildered, but ran to hug his mum who was weeping.
I, of course, was never going to deny my wife the opportunity to go home to see her family and so, about an hour later, she left with my son and I was left reflecting on what had just happened.
Humiliation as a weapon
I contacted the British Embassy for help, but none was forthcoming. However, my local MP Richard Burden very kindly contacted the embassy in Tel Aviv and I had a call back from the British Consul who wanted to ensure that I was ok and that I could contact him if my situation changed.
I then waited for my flight which was not until 5am on 8 April. A couple of hours before that, I was taken for a full body search. It is interesting that the state which sells technology to other states resorted to a body search of someone who had been through security in Birmingham and Brussels and had not exited the airport.
But this was not about security: it was about humiliation, something Israel is a world expert at and which it has been meting out to Palestinians since its creation.
I was taken to my flight half an hour before departure and my passport was handed to the pilot. This – and later being met by Belgium’s police – made me feel like a criminal. When I asked why I could not have my passport, the officer calmly told me, “Because you are still in Israel.”
Upon arrival in Brussels, I was met by the police and taken to the police station. I was treated well and handed my passport without delay and I then made arrangements for my return to Birmingham.
Denials and hypocrisy
On 7 April, Israel stabbed me in the heart. It not only denied me entry and separated me from my family. It denied me my right to enter my homeland. That humiliation is something only Palestinians can understand.
The state which was created in my homeland and against the will of the indigenous Palestinian people not only denies Palestinian refugees the right to return from their camps, but also regularly denies those with Western passports the ability to visit.
Meanwhile, Israel’s illegal settlers are allowed to live on stolen land and travel to Western-style democracies unimpeded. They should be banned from entry to the UK, including Israeli ministers.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman himself lives in an illegal settlement but has the red carpet rolled out when he visits the UK. Contrast this with human rights activists who visit the Palestinian areas to bear witness to Israel’s atrocities and are now to be denied entry to see the situation for themselves.
Palestinian citizens of Western states should also not be impeded and banned from visiting their homeland and their remaining family members.
The British government’s reaction to any denial of entry by Israel was articulated by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently when he said, “It is a sovereign decision for Israel as to who is allowed to enter the country.” It’s a statement that the British ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, has reiterated to me.
It is important to note here that Israel is now sovereign over the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights and that access to these areas is only possible through Israel which controls the whole of historic Palestine.
Not only is my government not willing to demand that Israel shelves its discriminatory law, it has also promised to celebrate the centenary of the very document that has directly resulted in the denial of my right to live and work in my homeland and in the continuing plight and Nakba of my people.
Dancing on Palestinian graves
Our prime minister had the temerity to tell the Conservative Friends of Israel that the UK would celebrate the Balfour Declaration with pride. She has invited the Israeli prime minister to London for the celebrations and even promised a royal visit to coincide with the celebrations. In so doing, Theresa May is dancing on our graves as Palestinians. Palestinians do not have justice and we continue to be murdered by Israel on an almost daily basis under the pretence of security.
If her Majesty the Queen or his Royal Highness Prince Charles makes a royal visit, he will be within touching distance of Deir Yassin, the site of a massacre recently commemorated – and many others. He will drive past houses that belonged to Palestinians and from which they were ethnically cleansed.
He will be near the British Consulate in Sheikh Jarrah and will be able to see Palestinians homes that have been demolished and others that had their Palestinian owners thrown out to be replaced by illegal settlers.
And if he visits his grandmother’s grave again at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives, as he did back in October, he won’t seek permission to do so from Palestine, but from the occupying power, Israel. He would, of course, be welcomed with open arms in Palestine once it is free and independent with its capital in East Jerusalem, where his grandmother’s grave is located.
By refusing to take any action against Israel for its continued illegal occupation or its new law, which impacts directly on British citizens, the British government fails the Palestinian people again, but also provides Israel with continued cover to entrench the occupation and to liquidate the Palestinian cause. It also severely damages the UK’s reputation further as it looks towards the world.
– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash. He writes here in a personal capacity.
First published by the Middle East Eye on 28/3/2017
After supporting the UN resolution against Israeli settlements, the UK’s attack against the council is illogical – unless this is all about trade deals
In a surprise move, the UK representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council made a scathing attack against the council at its 34th session late last week, accusing it of “bias against Israel”.
Of particular concern is the council’s Agenda Item Seven which requires that Israel’s human rights record is discussed and scrutinised three times each year.
“The persistence of bias,” the UK representative argued in his statement, “particularly the disproportionate volume of resolutions against Israel, undermines the Council’s credibility as the globally focussed and objective international human rights body we all want and need.”
Making no distinction between attacks on Israeli forces maintaining an illegal occupation and attacks on civilians, he said that the council “must also recognise the continuing terrorism, incitement and violence that Israel faces. According to the Quartet’s report last year, there were 250 terrorist attacks, leading to the deaths of at least 30 Israelis”.
“If things do not change,” the representative concluded, “in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories.”
Breaking with the EU
Despite the UK’s dissent, the 47-member council comfortably passed five resolutions on Israeli human rights abuses:
- Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,
- Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
- Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
- Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan
- Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan
The UK only supported the resolutions on Palestinian rights to self-determination and the human rights situation in the occupied territory, voting against the resolution on the occupied Syrian Golan and abstaining on the other two.
The UK’s argument for voting against the Golan resolution was that “Syria’s regime butchers and murders its people on a daily basis. But it is not Syria that is a permanent standing item on the Council’s agenda; it is Israel.”
Even while voting against the resolution, the UK confirmed that it had not changed its position on the illegality of Israel’s occupation of this Syrian territory. However, in voting against the resolution, the UK broke from the EU, which may be a sign of things to come as it exits the union.
The UK’s stance seemed to be in tune with the Israeli and the US positions. After the resolutions passed, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the UNHRC “has become the most notorious branch of the BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement] movement. The body’s resolution on Syria, he said, was “ridiculous”.
Acting US spokesperson Mark Toner said the US “strongly and unequivocally” opposed the council’s Agenda Item Seven, the one which permanently tables a discussion of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians three times each year.
The US stance can be explained by the change of administration from President Obama’s to that of President Trump.
‘Stay strong Israel’
Following his election, Trump claimed that Israel was being treated “very, very unfairly”. He accused Obama of handling Israel with “total disdain and disrespect” after the US abstained from the vote on UN Security Council resolution 2334 which condemned Israeli settlement building. Trump then tweeted “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been enacting Trump’s promise. Last month, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a high profile position at the UN and, more recently, pressured the UN secretary general to pull a report labelling Israeli policies as apartheid.
She further threatened to boycott the Human Rights Council altogether. And in her appearance at the recent AIPAC conference, in a reference to resolution 2334, she promised, “The days of Israel-bashing at the United Nations are over.”
While the US abstained on 2334, the UK voted for the resolution before it passed in December. Instead of halting construction, Israel has since announced approval for the constructions of thousands of new settlement units.
So it is at best illogical for the UK to abstain at the UNHRC on a resolutions condemning Israel’s settlement activities and, at worst, an abdication of its responsibility as a signatory to the 4th Geneva Convention that sets rule for the administration of occupied territory.
The UK’s threat to vote against all future resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the occupied Syrian and Palestinian territories implies that it might also vote against a resolution reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. That would be a shocking development which would further damage the UK’s image as an upholder of human rights.
If not occupation, what is it?
It is interesting to note that the UK is willing to change its policy to protect Israel when it perceives it to be treated unfairly, but not to bring it to account for its violations of international law.
If passing resolutions, democratically put and democratically passed, against Israeli oppressive and illegal practices is unfair, what does the UK consider Israel’s 50-year occupation to be?
What does it consider illegal settlements, land theft, legalising illegal settlements, prisoners, the siege of Gaza and the refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to be?
Every day, Palestinians wake up to the reality of a foreign occupation that is far from temporary, one which impacts every aspect of their lives. That is grossly unfair.
In the UK’s own statement at the council, its representative stated clearly that, “Respect for justice, the rule of law, and international law are the cornerstones of international peace and security”.
The representative should have taken note of the findings of the report which UN ESCWA commissioned, released earlier this month, which found Israel guilty of apartheid.
While that report was taken down following pressure from the US and Israel through the UN General Secretary, it was quickly followed by another damning report of Israeli policies in which Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, charged Israel with “the subjugation of humanity” in Palestine and intensifying a crackdown on human rights campaigners.
Either the UK doesn’t get it or it is prepared to turn a blind eye to Israeli policies as it looks beyond Brexit and towards strengthening trade ties, including those with the US and Israel.
In the new brave world, it seems trade will always trump human rights and the upholding of international law. The UK is talking the talk on Israeli aggression through empty condemnation, but walking the walk to protect it.
In the centenary year of the Balfour Declaration, the UK is once again betraying the Palestinians while celebrating its role in creating Israel, an apartheid state.
It should be putting Israel on notice, not the UN Human Rights Council.
First published by the Middle East Monitor on 6/3/2017
In my last article for MEMO, I wondered whether the Conference for Palestinians Abroad (CPA) could lead to Palestinian unity of vision. It was a privilege to be with an estimated 6,000 Palestinians from 50 countries in Istanbul for the conference, which took place on 25 and 26 February, both as a founding member and to test that question.
The dates are important because I believe that the launch of this conference will mark a milestone in the Palestinian struggle for justice, freedom, equality and the restoration of our rights. The 26 February will forever by the day when Palestinians who live outside Palestine and who are refused the right to return to their homeland said loud and clear that enough is enough. We will no longer be sidelined or ignored, either by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO, our non-representative representative); Israel (the cause of our catastrophe); or those in the “international community” who had a hand in our dispossession and expulsion from our homeland by Zionist terrorists in 1948 and who continue to deny us our rights to this day.
The unequivocal message from Istanbul was that the Palestinians will not give up their right to return to the places from which we were ethnically cleansed. This was exemplified by Palestinian poet Mohammed Abu Daya who brought his original title deeds to the conference and after a moving speech handed them to one of his many grandchildren, imploring him to commit to returning, and receiving a promise from him that he will struggle to return to that very plot of land one day. Some may see this as unrealistic and theatrical. However, that would be to misunderstand the core Palestinian issue. The struggle has always been about Palestinian refugees returning to their homes instead of languishing in the diaspora, whatever political structure exists in historic Palestine.
Reaffirming the right of return was at the heart of the conference but the final statement also reaffirmed the commitment by Palestinians in involuntary exile to liberate Palestine from the “river to the sea”. Such language is usually mistranslated by Zionists to mean the destruction of Israel and “throwing the Jews into the sea”. That is pure propaganda from Zionists who, by the way, happen to believe that the Palestinians must be thrown out of their own land for there to be a truly Jewish state west of the River Jordan.
They are forever looking for means to achieve this, claiming that “Jordan is the Palestinian state” or that a state can be created in the Sinai to which the Palestinians in “Judea and Samaria” (the occupied West Bank) can be sent, by force if necessary. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has no qualms about claiming the whole of historic Palestine for Israel. “We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country,” she believes. “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, buoyed by Donald Trump being in the White House, claims that there will not be a Palestinian state. Indeed, the far-right Bennett has called for the annexation of most of the illegally-occupied West Bank, starting with the illegal colony-settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, and bringing it under Israeli “sovereignty”.
Standing next to Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed two conditions that must be met before “peace”: The Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state and, “Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.” The latter is de facto Israeli sovereignty over historic Palestine from the river to the sea. While he has not explicitly called for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, Israel would continue to rule over an occupied people for ever, making their lives so miserable under the pretext of security that they would leave of their own accord. In Zionist terminology, this is known as “silent transfer” and it is very much part of Israel’s strategy for a Palestinian-free land.
None of the above inflammatory statements by the most senior Israeli ministers has been condemned by any member of the so called international community. It seems that Western governments are happy for Zionist Israelis to claim the whole of historic Palestine as theirs, but not for the Palestinians whose land it is to do so. If modern day Zionists with no real connection to historic Palestine can lay claim to the whole land on the basis of what they claim to be a Biblical legacy, then surely Palestinians have every right to lay claim to their homeland, which they inhabited prior to Israel’s creation was forced upon them and from which they were expelled over the past 70 years.
I must stress that I did not get any impression from the CPA that liberating Palestine would necessitate or result in the mass expulsion of Jews, unlike the mass expulsion of Palestinians which took place in 1948. The conference focused on the emergence of a just political solution with the right for Palestinian refugees to return at its heart. Had I detected any sense of the former at the conference, I would certainly have withdrawn.
The failure of the two-state solution demonstrates the need for creative thinking to meet the needs of those who truly wish to coexist in historic Palestine. A solution is needed which would end separation. There should be no racist settlements built only for Jews or a new town built only for non-Jews. The solution must allow all who inhabit historic Palestine to live in peace wherever they desire. It should allow those refugees in Gaza, Jenin, Syria, Brazil, Europe and elsewhere to return to their land and homes. A reconciliation commission would need to be set up to deal with the details where the reclamation of exact sites is not physically possible.
Following the Trump-Netanyahu press conference in Washington, the Palestinian leadership’s 24-year long negotiations strategy — the charade of the peace process since signing the catastrophic Oslo accords — has collapsed. The PLO has been almost silent since that 15 February media circus, apart from calling for the international community not to abandon the two-state solution, bringing new meaning to the term “flogging a dead horse”.
It is time for fresh thinking that can strengthen the hand of a future, democratically-elected Palestinian leadership. The 6.3 million Palestinians abroad can play a vital role in shaping this. However, in the absence of a clear plan by the PLO to revitalise diaspora input, the CPA is the only game in town. The outcome of the conference was a commitment to continue to build both the new institution and Palestinian community, as well as lobby organisations abroad.
What is needed for this to materialise is for every Palestinian outside the borders of their homeland to make a commitment for contributions to the struggle in his or her adopted country. They should be knocking on the doors of their local decision-makers, lobbying for a just solution. They should take a more active part in the political system through joining political parties and standing for both local and national elections. They should be supporting and joining local solidarity groups, both as activists and donors. They should be forming alliances with other human rights groups and Jewish groups committed to justice for Palestinians. They should raise their voices in the media, locally and nationally, using articulate and convincing speakers and writers. They should also be knocking on the door of the PLO leadership in support of the CPA to ensure that the message is received and it is understood that they will no longer accept being ignored.
The CPA needs to find a sustainable way to continue to function long into the future. For that, it will need to widen its membership base in order to put to bed accusations that it is led by one group. The more community organisations which join, bringing together the widest possible spectrum of Palestinian views, the more representative the CPA will be. In turn, the more effective that the CPA is, the louder will be the call to the PLO to wake up and respond to that half of the constituency that it is meant to serve but which it has ignored since 1993. It can take strength from blessing the CPA, working to encourage Palestinians abroad to join it and developing appropriate links to it, leading to elections for the Palestine National Council, the people’s parliament.
Can the PLO rise to this challenge, as it must? Can its necessary reform include true representation for Palestinians abroad? Not only do they hope that it can, but all Palestinians would also want this. Fulfilling its responsibility would strengthen its hand in uniting and representing the Palestinian people and seeking a just solution for them. Ignoring or smearing the CPA will only add to the PLO’s own weakness, bringing it to the point of irrelevance. No Palestinian would want that to happen or for it to be interpreted as a desired outcome of the gathering of 6,000 Palestinians in Istanbul last month.
First published by the Arab Weekly on 19/2/2017
Israel continues to violate UN resolutions with impunity and Palestinians can expect more bad anniversaries to mark.
2017 is the year of anniversaries for Palestinians. Sadly, none can be celebrated.
The first of these will be May 15th — the 69th anniversary of the catastrophe, known as the Nakba when Israel was created in the Palestinian homeland without their permission. It also marks the period when 750,000 Palestinians were driven out to neighbouring countries by Zionist gangs and Israeli armed forces.
Early June brings the 50th anniversary of the six-day war, when Israel captured the remainder of historic Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai. While Sinai was returned to Egypt, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights remain occupied. This occupation is seen as illegal by the international community. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan is not recognised by any other country.
June also marks the tenth anniversary of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.
In November, two events that irrevocably changed the future of historic Palestine will be marked. November 29th is the 70th anniversary of the UN General Assembly passing Resolution 181, which recommended the partition of Palestine at the end of the British Mandate.
The resolution recommended the creation of independent Jewish and Arab states and a special international regime for the city of Jerusalem. While the Zionist movement accepted the resolution, the Palestinians and Arab states rejected it because they viewed it as violating the principle of self-determination
November 2nd is perhaps the most significant anniversary. This year marks the centenary of what the Balfour declaration, the letter from British Foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild of the Zionist Federation in which he stated:
“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.”
The declaration was made before Britain was given the mandate on Palestine and without any consultation with the indigenous population of Palestine. Through this, Britain promised a land it did not have to a people who did not live on it without consulting those whose land it was.
Last December, in a speech to the Conservative Friends of Israel, British Prime Minister Theresa May referred to the Balfour declaration as “one of the most important letters in history” and that “it demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people”. She said “it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride”.
In his address to the UN General Assembly in 2016, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated: “We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine…This is the least Great Britain can do.”
It seems Abbas’s words fell on deaf ears. Not only has Britain refused to apologise, May recently rolled out the Downing Street red carpet for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In the meantime, Israel continues to violate UN resolutions with impunity and Palestinians can expect more bad anniversaries to mark.