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UK celebrates Balfour Declaration as Palestinians suffer under Israeli occupation and loss of their land

24th Nov 2017
UK celebrates Balfour Declaration as Palestinians suffer under Israeli occupation and loss of their land

Demonstrators in London protest against the Balfour Declaration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the British capital, on November 4 (Photo: Isabel Infantes/ AA)

Aishah Ali

Thousands of protesters marched in London on November 4 to condemn the centurion of the Balfour Declaration that led to the creation of the Israeli state and loss of Palestinian land. The demonstration came days after the UK hosted Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to celebrate the declaration.

The march began from the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to Parliament Square in Westminster. Although it was largely peaceful, a dozen or so pro-Israeli demonstrators tried to intervene to counter-protest but were moved away by police.

The Balfour Declaration was a letter signed 100 years ago by the then Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, to the leader of British Jewish community, Lord Walter Rothschild, stating support for a “national home for Jewish people” in Palestine. It further stated that the British Government will “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievements of this objective.”

Protestors demanded that the British Government should apologise for the consequences of that decision. A protestor from Birmingham told The Muslim News, “Palestine was not Britain’s nor Balfour’s to give away, and it has now led to decades of brutal occupation for millions of people.”

In Parliament Square, Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian activist, said Britain should “apologise to us and also apologise to the good Jewish people” who have been used as “instruments in the colonial system in the British Empire.”

Other supporters and speakers included film director Ken Loach who said, “It was not the British people who signed Balfour, but the British ruling class” and it is a “monument to their imperialist arrogance.” He added, “Just look at the map and see the destruction and theft of land that has taken place.”

Celebrating the occasion in London, Prime Minister, Theresa May, hosted Israeli Prime Minister at a gala dinner saying Britain is “proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel.” In her speech at Lancaster House, she said she was “proud of the relationship we have built with Israel” and called for “renewed resolve to support a lasting peace that is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians”.

However, she refused to apologise to the Palestinian people. “When some people suggest we should apologise for this letter, I say absolutely not,” she told those who had gathered to celebrate the creation of Israel on Palestinian land.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who did not attend the dinner, because of “pre-existing engagements” said“ A hundred years on the second part of Britain’s pledge has still not been fulfilled and Britain’s historic role means we have a special responsibility to the Palestinian people, who are still denied their basic rights.

“So let us mark the Balfour anniversary by recognizing Palestine as a step towards a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, increasing international pressure for an end to the 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, illegal settlement expansion and the blockade of Gaza.”

However, Corbyn sent Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, to join in the celebration with Netanyahu and May.

Organisers of the event included Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Stop the War, Friends of Al Aqsa and Muslim Associate of Britain (MAB).

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