100 years after Balfour: time for an apology?

Protest in Gaza

Ever since Britain first began colluding with the Zionists to establish a state in Palestine, the entire Palestinian people have paid the price—and we still do today, 100 years later

The message that changed our fate:

Foreign Office
November 2, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations that has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet

His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use its best endeavors 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.

I would be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

[Foreign Secretary] Arthur James Balfour

One can clearly see in these words the manipulation and skullduggery. It starts with "his majesty's government," then endorses the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews, not a state that would include the Jewish people. It did not even designate the Jews as refugees or emigrants. It is clear the goal is colonialism and occupation.

Notice, however, the last half of the declaration. Can anyone credibly state that the result has not “prejudiced the civil and religious rights of the ‘non-Jewish communities’ (just say it! Palestinians!)? Do Palestinians now enjoy equal rights with Jews in the area that had been our own homeland? No.

Israel "faked it until it made it." Following what has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased, along with the suffering of the Palestinian people, and the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict began. In 1948, the year when Israel was founded, three-quarters of a million Palestinians were forcibly displaced. This triggered a range of “-cides”: genocide, ethnocide, sociocide, politicide, memoricide and urbicide, all against the Palestinians,  the original owners of the land.

The book, "Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel," by David Cannon, focuses in part on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the UK from 1997 to 2007 and whom the author labels “Israel’s lieutenant.” Blair involved Britain in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and supported Israel's war against Lebanon in 2006. Blair also successfully pushed to turn the Palestinian Authority into a police force that fulfills Israel's security demands. In addition, Cannon notes that 50 years ago, Britain provided the tanks and advanced weapons Israel relied upon in its 1967 war on Palestinians, in which it occupied the West Bank. The British and Israelis continue to cooperate today in the production of highly advanced weapons and drones, which are deployed against Palestinians.

Reaction of the Palestinian people

In Ramallah, Palestinians are sitting in front of the British Cultural Council to protest the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, demanding that the UK apologize, stop its cooperation with the occupation and rectify the historical injustice. They are calling on the British Parliament to recognize the state of Palestine, along the people’s right to return, self-determination and independence.

In Gaza, the Council of International Relations organized a protest earlier this year (April 26, the day the UN endorsed the British assumption of control of Palestine), and the Palestinian Return Centre launched a petition as part of its Balfour Apology Campaign. It is calling on the UK government to publicly apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration. Although more than 10,000 signatures were collected, British officials refused to recant. Instead, they said the government was ‘proud’ of its role in the creation of the state of Israel: "The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves toward peace."

Jehan Alfarrah, a 26-year-old Palestinian from Gaza who works as a journalist for the Middle East Monitor in the UK, told me that "a number of events are being held across the UK to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. These include conferences, seminars and online campaigns, among other things."

On November 1, the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad (PCPA) will launch a coordinated social media campaign at 8 p.m. Jerusalem time using the hashtag #Balfour100. The campaign calls on the UK government to apologize for the Balfour Declaration and its colonization of Palestine, as well as demands the cancellation of one of the largest Zionist celebrations of the declaration, set to take place on November 7 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

On November 4, there will be a march and rally in London calling for justice for Palestine. Speakers at the rally will include Mustafa Barghouti (a prominent Palestinian politician and activist), Parliamentarian Andy Slaughter and Palestinian ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian.

The aim of all of these events and activities is to raise awareness about the implications of the Balfour Declaration and to stress Britain’s historical and political responsibility for the Palestinians. Is it too much to expect some measure of justice after 100 years?

Category: Story Tags: , , Comments: 0

Mentor: Pam Bailey

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.