As the hundred year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration takes way, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, as well as various other Palestinian politicians are calling on the United Kingdom to not only apologize to the Palestinian people for the “suffering” caused by the declaration, but to also recognize Palestine as a state.
Meanwhile, the UK is planning quite the opposite, as Israeli Prime Minister heads to a state dinner organized by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to celebrate the centennial.
“The second day of November marks the centennial of the disastrous Balfour Declaration, which, in 1917, the British government gave the Jews of the world a national homeland in Palestine while it was aware that Palestine is owned and inhabited by another people, the Palestinian people,” Abbas’ statement read.
“We therefore reiterate our call upon the British government to publicly apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration and to bear the consequences of making that promise by compensating the Palestinian people politically, materially and morally, recognize the State of Palestine and work toward ending the occupation from our land just as it sponsored the occupation state, Israel, on the land of Palestine,” the statement continued.
Hamdallah called on the UK to “shoulder its responsibility for its historic mistake” committed against the Palestinian people.
“Correct it, instead of celebrating it by apologizing and recognizing the Palestinian state,” Hamdallah’s statement read. “Support its establishment and compensate the Palestinian people for what they suffered as a result of this humanitarian catastrophe.”
The Guardian reported that instead May is expected to announce in a speech that Britain is “proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel.”
“We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel,” the speech reportedly reads. “I believe it demands of us today a renewed resolve to support a lasting peace that is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians – and in the interests of us all … A peace deal that must be based on a two-state solution, with a secure and prosperous Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”
The Balfour Declaration, established by former British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, was signed on 1917, and was the first international recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine. The declaration was the basis of British mandate for Palestine in the 1920s.
While three years ago the UK’s House of Commons voted to apologize for the declaration, the country has failed to officially do so.
In a statement released by Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee and Legislative Council member Hanan Ashrawi, the legislator said Lord Balfour committed a “grave sin,” by “promising the homeland of one people to another.”
“The land was neither Balfour’s nor Britain’s to give away, but, as is always the case with colonialism, a diktat made in a capital far away is meant to supersede the collective rights and aspirations of a people.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said on Thursday his office plans to push through legal proceedings against the British government, announcing that such actions “will be soon brought before British, European and international courts” as a way to “lift the injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people by the Balfour Declaration.”
Malki proclaimed that the State of Palestine has “made every effort possible to persuade the British government to abandon plans to celebrate the centennial of the Balfour Declaration because such a celebration shows lack of sensitivity to the Palestinian people.”
Because such efforts failed to provide results for the Palestinian people, Malki said his ministry will contract a British law firm to follow up on legal proceedings “in order to bring justice and lift the historic injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people, and compel the British government to apologize and make reasonable reparations to make up for that tragedy, including recognizing the State of Palestine.”
Manuel Hassassian, the chief Palestinian diplomat to the UK, spoke to BBC Radio 4 on Thursday, calling for the UK to cancel the centennial celebration.
“Instead of celebrating, marking and adding insult to injury, we Palestinians would have expected the moral and historic responsibility to be shouldered by the British government to apologise to the Palestinian people and to recognise the state of Palestine,” Hassassian said.
Protests have taken place across the occupied West Bank this week condemning the lack of action the British government has taken to right the perceived wrong felt by the Palestinian people.