UK must accept complicity in seizure of land and humanitarian crisis
CAMPAIGNERS ACROSS the Middle East and in the UK have rallied to mark the approaching centenary of the controversial Balfour Declaration, the 1917 statement by the UK foreign secretary promising to create the state of Israel.
The entrenched conflict over Israel-Palestine can be traced back to the British imperial decision to ‘gift’ much of the land as a homeland for Jewish communities who had faced widespread persecution.
Arthur James Balfour, born in East Lothian, Scotland, and foreign secretary, sent a message for the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland that: “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”.
He promised that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
However, 99 years later campaigners for justice in Palestine view the declaration – and British actions in the region that followed – as a betrayal of Palestinians, and a contributor to lasting divisions and war.
“Palestinians have been forcibly removed from their homes and land, villages have been destroyed and despite the promises of the British Government, have suffered for almost 100 years at the hands of colonisers.” Issam Hijjawi, BDCC
The Balfour Declaration Centenary Campaign (BDCC) held events yesterday [Wednesday 2 November] across the UK and the Middle East including in Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Tunisia; and Belfast, London, and outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Handful of MSPs meet campaigners at Scottish Parliament highlighting approach to the Balfour declaration centenary. pic.twitter.com/ZzVAqnnc1G
— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) November 2, 2016
The campaign wants the UK Government to apologise for the historic injustices stemming from the declaration; institute reparations to the Palestinian people displaced; and accept a present “historic, legal and moral responsibility for damages as a result of the implementation of the Balfour Declaration”.
CommonSpace spoke to Wael Shawish, vice chair association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland, who himself – having being born in Palestine – is now an exile, with no home to return to in his family’s native land.
Shawish said the UK Government should do more, given it’s historic responsibility in the region.
Campaign leader Issam Hijjawi added: “On 2 November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour wrote to the world Zionist Federation promising land which did not belong to Britain, but to Palestinians. As we approach the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, more than 12 million Palestinians living in Palestine and across the world are seeking an apology from the British government.
“Palestinians have been forcibly removed from their homes and land, villages have been destroyed and despite the promises of the British Government, have suffered for almost 100 years at the hands of colonisers.
“We will be petitioning the UK parliament asking the government to acknowledge its historical role in the colonisation of the Palestinian people, to apologise for the consequences, and to help deliver the right of return of the Palestinian people, a right enshrined in UN resolutions.”
The UK formally supports a ’two state solution’ for Palestine and Israel, and opposes Israeli settlement expansion. However, the UK government has also continued to sell arms to Israel in recent years – and failed to condemn major bombing campaigns on Gaza.
Picture courtesy of CommonSpace
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