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.