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May, Netanyahu celebrate Balfour while Palestinian politicians call for UK to apologize, recognize Palestinian state

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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.

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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10 Responses

  1. eljay on November 2, 2017, 11:55 am

    ” … 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.” …

    It’s funny how Western political visions of a two-state solution always seem to involve a “secure and prosperous” Israel but never a “secure and prosperous” Palestine.

    And of course they never touch on:
    – honouring obligations (e.g., RoR);
    – respecting international laws; or
    – accountability (for past and on-going (war) crimes committed).

  2. Kay24 on November 2, 2017, 1:31 pm

    It seems PM May is proud that the UK played a huge part in an ongoing occupation, and illegal land grabs, by placing unwanted (by the UK and the US) homeless Europeans, in territories where indigenous people have lived, farmed, and flourished, for years before. Her endless pride will make her continue UK’s shameless support of what is now known as an apartheid nation, that receives aid and weapons, to keep killing more Palestinians, when they decide the “mow the lawn”. I guess shame is something the UK and the US don’t feel, when they see thousands of Palestinians being killed, entire families wiped out, illegal settlements being built by the acres, and the poor Palestinian farmer losing his land and olives to the squatters. The results of the “brilliant” gesture by the UK, US, and UN, to right a wrong, at the expense of powerless people.

    When will the Palestinians be given their rights and freedom? They have suffered for too long.

  3. Boomer on November 2, 2017, 2:03 pm

    An informative piece from Israel:

    “Britain’s True Motivation Behind the Balfour Declaration
    Why the British thought a vaguely worded statement would galvanize American Jewish support for World War I – and how it became the engine that led to the State of Israel”

    Shlomo Avineri Nov 02, 2017 2:33 PM
    read more:

  4. amigo on November 2, 2017, 2:48 pm

    Let,s hope and pray that May,s government will fall and Jeremy Corbyn will occupy (no pun intended) number 10. I predict , one of his first acts will be to apologize to the Palestinian people and recognise their state.The House of commons can follow suit shortly afterwards.

    So far the defence minister has resigned and there are (based on some reports ) an additional 35 Conservative Pols suspected of sexual harassment acts.Conversely , there are 5 Labour Pols in the same boat.One can see which camp would be most affected by a clear out .In an election , Labour would gain an additional 10 to 20 seats and that would would put the Conservatives out of the game and their DUP partners.

    “Tory aides have compiled a list of three dozen Conservative MPs accused of inappropriate behaviour including being “handsy at parties”, it has been claimed.

    The list, contained in a spreadsheet, reportedly names 20 ministers among those at whom the claims are levelled”.

    Labour pols are not entirely off the hook but the numbers are far lower in their case.Some 5 mp,s are under investigation..

    Looks as if the Etonian boys misinterpret the meaning of “Noblesse Oblige .

  5. JosephA on November 3, 2017, 1:35 am

    Reparations to the Palestinian people from Britain would be s good start to right an immense historical injustice!

  6. John O on November 3, 2017, 5:19 am

    Excellent article from veteran British journalist Robert Fisk on the legacy of the Balfour Declaration:

    “So now it’s time for us all to follow Theresa May’s bone-headed suggestion that we feel “proud” of the iniquitous Balfour Declaration on its hundredth anniversary this week. The Israelis will be celebrating – and why not, for it set Britain’s seal on the future Israeli state in Palestine. Perhaps Israel would not have been created without it. But the fearful suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian refugees which was to follow in the coming years suggest that the Balfour letter – through its very wording – was certain to create a terrible wrongdoing which to this day curses the place we used to call the Holy Land.

    Even more disgraceful than May’s foolish words – for many Britons may well feel shame or prefer silence when they contemplate this episode of history – were Mark Regev’s remarks this week that citizens of the United Kingdom, to which he is currently accredited as ambassador – are “extremists” if they oppose the Balfour Declaration.”

  7. Kay24 on November 3, 2017, 6:21 am

    “Nigel Farage: ‘Jewish lobby’ has disproportionate power in the US
    ‘Farage’s clumsy use of the terms Israel and Jewish lobby interchangeably and his reference to their ‘power’ has crossed the line into well-known antisemitic tropes,’ says Board of Deputies

    To which Peter Beinert on CNN poo poohed the thought saying American Jews have the right to lobby within the country…..Strange, he forgot to mention that the Israeli lobby in the US pushes, and lobbies, for what Israel wants, even over the best interests of their own country. Coaxing/pressurizing American institutions, and Congress, to pass anti BDS resolutions, is not for the benefit of the US, last I heard. Looks like Beinert is now on the dark side.

    • m1945 on November 3, 2017, 8:29 pm


      BDS is not in the best interest of the people doing BDS. For example, if an Israel bond pays higher interest than a French bond, it’s in my interest to buy the Israel bond. If I choose not to buy it because of BDS, I’m doing something that is not in my interest.

      • Kaisa of Finland on November 3, 2017, 11:25 pm


        “BDS is not in the best interest of the people doing BDS. For example, if an Israel bond pays higher interest than a French bond, it’s in my interest to buy the Israel bond. If I choose not to buy it because of BDS, I’m doing something that is not in my interest..”

        Well, you might have never heard of people to whom equal human rights and a humane way of treating other people are far more important than “the higher interest from a bond”.. Might be a surprise for you, but yes, we are here!! And for us the BDS works just fine: Not only boycotting things from the occupied areas, but rather boycotting everything coming out of Israel at the moment and the whole idea of Israel the way it is built right now.

      • John O on November 4, 2017, 3:57 am

        @Jack Green

        Thank you, Jack. Now tell us something we don’t know.

        You assume the only reason for investing is to make as much money as possible.

        I might invest in a thing because I believe in its objectives (e.g. a renewable energy company). I might refuse to invest in another because I disapprove of it (e.g. an arms manufacturer). I would ask myself why one bond is offering a higher return than another. It could be its issuer is having difficulty attracting investors, perhaps because its objectives are dubious ethically. If the return offered is unusually high, it’s probably a Ponzi scheme.

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