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The Balfour legacy – in words

This posting has these items, 3 from The National which has devoted time and effort to the subject:
1) National: Britain marks Balfour centenary amid Palestinian protests;
2) Haaretz: Balfour Declaration Centennial Wasn’t About Israel or Palestine. It Was About U.K.’s Delusions of Grandeur, Anshel Pfeffer in fine form;
3) National: Contrary to popular belief, the Balfour Declaration did not sanction the existence of Israel, Hussein Ibish correctly notes that the ‘Balfour Declaration’ did not say that the British government would look with favour on a Jewish national state replacing Ottoman Palestine;
4) National: The Balfour effect: British Palestinians on the UK’s role in their dispossession;
5) JPost: Palestinians bash Britain for Balfour Declaration celebrations in mass protests, what a relief for Britain, not Israel, to be the ab initio wrong-doer;

The Palestinian Mission has run the #Makeitright campaign after TfL refused to carry their posters.

Britain marks Balfour centenary amid Palestinian protests

The centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which fired the starting gun for the establishment of the Israeli state in Palestine, was marked on Thursday across Britain in a highly polarised atmosphere.

Damien McElroy, The National
November 02, 2017

London’s world-renowned Black Cabs bore the slogan #Makeitright. Some of the biggest public venues in the capital were hired for commemorative events. And a black tie dinner in the West End hosted two prime ministers and swath of the elite.

The centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which fired the starting gun for the establishment of the Israeli state in Palestine, was marked on Thursday across Britain in a highly polarised atmosphere.

Theresa May, the prime minister, met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street having pledged to “mark with pride” Britain’s role in creating Israel.

Facing a backlash for her enthusiastic embrace of the occasion, she also called on her counterpart to display “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”.

“The UK didn’t have the right to give Palestine to anybody.

“I am sure they won’t apologize. They support Israel, including today.”
14-year-old Palestinian boy

“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,” she said.

Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, sent the defining statement of British foreign policy to Lord Rothschild dated November 2. In just 67 words, it set the tone for the later British mandate to govern Palestine. After the Nazi extermination campaign in the Second World War, the British were driven out of the region as the mandate expired in May 1948 and Israeli independence declared.

In effect a resolution, the letter said: “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, 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.”

Following the collapse of the Ottomans, the mandate of Palestine was approved in 1920 by the League of Nations and as decades elapsed there was a spike in the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine.

The Black Cab campaign with posters declaring #makeitright was conceived to urge the British public to ensure the entirety of the statement is finally delivered.

“Activists had launched a ‘make it right’ campaign in which 52 black cabs displayed a logo to raise awareness about the consequences of the Balfour Declaration which subsequently led to the forced expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948,” said organiser Lema Nazeeh.

“We are talking about this second part which is not fulfilled, the independent Palestinian state,” said Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador in London. “In 1988 we made our painful historic concession in recognising the state of Israel. We Palestinians would have expected the moral and historic responsibility to be shouldered by this government to apologise to the Palestinian people and to go ahead with the second part by recognising the state of Palestine.”

Senior Conservatives who have urged the government to go further include Sir Hugo Swire, a former foreign office minister, who told Boris Johnson, Balfour’s successor as foreign secretary, to take the step of recognition in a House of Common’s debate this week.

At a separate, privately-organised, debate in parliament on Thursday, the senior civil servant in the foreign office, Sir Simon McDonald pointed out that his own predecessor in 1917, Lord Hardinge opposed sending the letter.

His caution was that he “distrusted general pledges”.

Sir Simon went on to offer sympathy for the Hardinge position. “He wrote he had concerns about ‘giving encouragement to a movement based on conditions which we cannot enforce’. And he was right,” he said. “The second half of Balfour’s Declaration remains unfinished business.

“This second element said that the British Government clearly understood that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’,” he said. “If written after the Second World War when the international community developed the rules-based international architecture, the Declaration would have also referred to the political rights and rights to self-determination of these communities too.”

However Mr Netanyahu dismissed any attempts to depict the Balfour Declaration as an error. “The Palestinians say that the Balfour Declaration was a tragedy. It wasn’t a tragedy,” he said. “What’s been tragic is their refusal to accept this 100 years later. I hope they change their mind, because if they do, they can move forward finally to making peace between our two peoples,” he said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, declined an invitation to attend the dinner, which is being hosted by Lord Rothschild and Lord Balfour.

Activists hope Mr Corbyn will attend a mass rally on Saturday that starts at the US embassy and ends at Trafalgar Square, which is expected to attract thousands. Organisers have called for a 12-point apology to be read to the crowd from Mr Johnson.

A full page advertisement quoted the words of Arthur Koestler, who said the Balfour Declaration was an act in which “one nation promised to a second nation the country of a third”.

Balfour Declaration Centennial Wasn’t About Israel or Palestine. It Was About U.K.’s Delusions of Grandeur

With the Israeli-Palestinian conflict far from resolution, perhaps the Brits need to cling to the idea that Balfour really did matter

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz premium 
November 03, 2017

LONDON – At no point over the last hundred years, since Britain’s Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour wrote what would become known as the Balfour Declaration, has the United Kingdom’s international standing been so diminished. As Britain’s divided and dysfunctional leadership struggles to extricate itself from the European Union, still without a clear idea of its new position in the world, the idea of Britain promising another nation somewhere in the world a “national home” of their own is too distant to even be ridiculous.

And yet, in recent days, the attention that the Balfour centenary has been receiving in London, in dozens of public events, discussions, forums and protests, as well as articles and broadcasts in the media, has surprised even many of those who were involved in organizing these events.

It wasn’t just among those who feel they are on either side of the historical debate – British Jews, Israel’s supporters and those who show solidarity with the Palestinian cause – but there seems to have been a much wider interest also among non-partisans. You could see it in the space given to the centenary in newspapers, on radio and television, but also in the surprisingly strong turnout on Tuesday night at an event organized by a group called “The Balfour Project” at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

Around 500 people arrived at the event, and while some of them, by the badges and T-shirts they were wearing, identified themselves as partisans of one side, the majority seemed like regular concerned citizens, interested in reflection and action as speaker after speaker quoted the terms of the British Mandate in Palestine, Britain’s “sacred trust” – a trust they obviously felt still obligates Britain nearly 70 years after the Mandate ended.

The atmosphere was of a very tepid, very polite, very middle-of-the-road peace rally. While all those who spoke – assorted academics, parliamentarians from across the political spectrum and clergy – were broadly sympathetic of the Palestinians, highlighting their suffering over the last century and calling for Britain to officially recognize a Palestinian state, there were no radical statements or suggestions. With the exception of one speaker, all called for a two-state solution and no one on the stage called for a boycott of Israel.

On the contrary, there was no lack of affirmations for Israel’s right to exist as a  Jewish state, some quite enthusiastic. Obviously there were those expecting something a bit more visceral and felt Israel was getting off much too easily, but they had misjudged the event. It wasn’t about Israel. Not even about the Palestinians. It was about Britain and its unique combination of tortured conscience for the sins of the empire and its delusions of grandeur and of still being a world power capable of influencing events around the world.

“2017 is not 1917. Britain is no longer the world’s leading maritime power,” admitted Crispin Blunt, a Conservative member of parliament who spoke at the Balfour Project event. But like the other speakers, he still insisted that Britain had a duty to try and live up to its “sacred trust,” and help the Palestinians gain their state and Israel to return to the “high moral purpose of its beginning.”

Other speakers acknowledged Britain today has little power to effect change in the region, but still spoke of a burning need to apologize and atone for what they all felt were the actions of a British government who had let the Palestinians, and the Jews as well, down a century ago. There was talk of other processes of national reconciliation and reckoning, such as the peace process in Northern Ireland and the “National Sorry Day,” when Australians apologize for past policies impacting indigenous Aboriginal communities. But there was still a feeling of powerlessness in the hall, at how far the Israelis and Palestinians are from such a stage, and how little Britain can do in reality.

Yet no one advocated that it may just be better to acknowledge failure and admit Britain can do nothing.

The Balfour dilemma still felt in Britain is not detached from other historical issues still being worked out. For the last three years, Britain has been commemorating in many different ways the centenaries of the battles of World War I, amid controversy over how to mark a war which to many today seems a senseless relic of clashing and disappeared empires, and to others still symbolizes a more noble war for peace and freedom.

And of course, it all plays into a much wider and unresolved sense of imperial guilt with Britons still not sure over how to teach their children about centuries of the nation’s history – is the story of the British empire one of relentless shame, or is it okay to say anything at all positive of that period?

In reality, the Balfour Declaration remained a largely unfulfilled promise – the State of Israel becoming a reality only three decades later, no thanks to the rapidly disintegrating British Empire. But with the Israel-Palestine conflict still so far from resolution, perhaps the British need to cling on to the delusions that Balfour did really matter and that they can still do something to fix it in order to preserve the illusion of their standing in the world.

This photo, taken in 1925 in Tel Aviv, shows Arthur Balfour, centre, a former British prime minister and Chaim Weizmann, third right, who eventually became the first president of Israel. Photo by AFP

Contrary to popular belief, the Balfour Declaration did not sanction the existence of Israel

‘A national home’ could have meant one of many possibilities. Still, the dehumanising language used to describe the Palestinians in the document was loud and clear, argues Hussein Ibish

The National
November 01/02, 2017

The 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is both telling and, perhaps counter-intuitively, irrelevant. On the one hand, embedded in the text (a letter that was issued on behalf of the British government on November 2, 1917) are most of the parameters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to bedevil the Middle East. On the other hand, the declaration wasn’t as decisive or definitive a turning point as is sometimes claimed.

At the time of its founding, the Zionist movement had been attempting to gain the endorsement of a great power. Overtures to the Ottoman Empire and Germany failed, but Britain ultimately – and effectively – endorsed the Zionist project through the declaration.

Britain had no sovereignty over Palestine at the time and no legal authority whatsoever to make such a pronouncement. Yet Britain was powerful and capable of frequently translating its ambitions into reality.

The Balfour Declaration is sometimes characterised as a birth certificate for the state of Israel.

This is inaccurate and an exaggeration. The letter endorses “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. This is a far cry from calling for the establishment of a Jewish state. “A national home” could mean many things. The same territory could serve as a national home for multiple peoples. And if Britain intended to endorse the creation of a Jewish state in 1917, it would have said so instead of carefully avoiding such a term.

 Christians and Muslims are primarily identified as “not Jewish” rather than having any identity of their own.

 What is far more telling in the declaration is the language used to describe the Palestinians and implicitly, but unmistakably, highlight their role and rights. Palestinian Muslims and Christians constituted well over 90 per cent of the population, and yet the declaration refers to them, bizarrely, as “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. They are primarily identified as not Jewish rather than having any identity of their own.

The wording seems almost intentionally designed to obscure the fact that these “communities” were, in fact, a vast majority.

The logic of this rhetorical sleight of hand was explained in a subsequent document written by Arthur Balfour, in which he elaborates that “Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”.

There is no effort here to disguise the imposition of a new political reality on an existing majority. What’s more, it is a frank rejection that the opinion of the inhabitants of that territory should play any role in shaping its future. The declaration strongly implies as much when it promises to protect “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

While not being promised a state, the Jews are recognised in the text as a “national” community that requires or deserves a collective “home”.

The question of statehood aside, the Balfour Declaration thus explicitly treats “the Jewish people” as a national group with national rights. The Palestinians, in striking contrast, have “civil and religious rights”, which are effectively individual rights belonging to any human being where the rule of law and minimum standards of equity prevail.

The Arab majority of Palestine is, therefore, not only characterised negatively as “non-Jewish,” but also as a set of undefined “communities” whose members enjoy universal individual rights but, by omission, not any collective, and certainly not any national, rights.

By setting up this dynamic, the Balfour Declaration put in motion the fundamental asymmetries of rights and power that continue to characterise the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and form the principal reason that a reasonable compromise has not been attainable.

Simply put, Palestinians continue to lack the essential leverage to compel the most important Israeli concessions and Israeli political leaders lack a forceful imperative to make them, anyway.

It is not, and it cannot be, a coincidence that in the territory between the river and the sea, Jewish Israelis indeed enjoy national rights, as expressed through the state of Israel, while the Palestinians’ national aspirations remain unfulfilled.

Palestinians are still effectively stuck with trying to defend whatever civil and religious rights they may have, although civil rights under foreign military occupation are, perforce, severely limited.

There was nothing inevitable about the creation of the Israeli state once the Balfour Declaration was issued

However, the Balfour Declaration was only one step in the long process that started from the first Zionist Congress in 1897 to the current impasse.

There was nothing inevitable about the creation of the Israeli state once the Balfour Declaration was issued. Instead, the establishment and rise of Israel – and the concomitant demise of Palestine – were shaped by a vast kaleidoscope of subsequent contingent events and human choices.

By committing the British government, which was preparing to seize control of Palestine from the Ottoman empire, to supporting the essential goals of the Zionist movement, the Balfour Declaration was a crucial turning point. It certainly seems to have outlined the historical processes leading to the creation of Israel and even to the present circumstances.

However, other events, such as the creation of the Palestine mandate by the League of Nations and the impact of the Second World War, were essential factors in shaping that history. The Balfour Declaration therefore casts a long shadow on our present realities, but it was neither the birth certificate for Israel nor the death sentence for Palestine.

The Balfour effect: British Palestinians on the UK’s role in their dispossession

As Britain marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, we talk to British Palestinians about how imperial policy of partition and settlement has shaped their views of their country and the Middle East

By William Parry, The National
November 02, 2017


The legacy of British colonial imperialism and Israel’s ongoing “colonisation” of Palestine are among the unaddressed realities of Balfour’s declaration by the current British government. But what about those Palestinians and British-Palestinians living in the UK today – how do they feel about their adopted homeland and its role over the past century in their dispossession?

Taysir Dabbagh was 10 years old, living with his family in Jaffa when, in April 1948, his life was nearly tragically ended in a terrorist attack by Zionist militants.

Now aged 79, in his home in High Wycombe, a town west of London, Taysir thumbs through an old notebook, a diary his eldest brother, Hassan, kept in the days leading up to the Nakba – when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes, during the Palestine War.

In neat handwriting, Hassan chronicled the day his youngest brother was nearly murdered. Taysir reads a few entries in Arabic then recalls the incident. “I was walking home after trying to buy some coffee for my mother, and three other children were coming from their homes to visit their relatives who lived in the same alley as us.

“On one side is the hill there’s a cemetery at the top overlooking the houses and the sea. As we approached each other, this grenade exploded right among us. I was wounded in several places: my tummy, my shoulders and my head.”

He pauses for a moment as tears well up and his voice breaks, then he apologises: “Sorry, it is very emotional for me. Whoever hurled that grenade saw that we were only children. This is al-Ajami, the quietest place in Jaffa. They knew that if you terrify these people by attacking their children, it will cause a great upheaval. And that’s what happened.”

For Taysir and his family, Britain’s promise of a Jewish homeland inside Palestine gave birth to modern terrorism.

Days later, his family fled Palestine by lorry, and Taysir witnessed his last glimpse of home from a stretcher. Weeks later, they arrived in Damascus, his home until he was 20, after which, longing for “enlightenment” – he says with a laugh – he followed his older brother and moved to England.

Omar Qattan, 53

For another generation of Palestinians living today in Britain, like Omar Qattan, chairman of the A M Qattan Foundation, a leading Palestinian arts and education organisation, the Nakba had displaced the family by the time he was born. The youngest of four, from a highly political family, Omar grew up in Beirut, where his Palestinian identity was hard to elude at the time.

“Being in Beirut was particularly powerful in terms of the Palestinian identity issue because this is where it was flourishing. It was being projected and spread through writing and folklore – it was everywhere, and it was embraced by so many Arabs. And, of course, the revolution was very much at the centre of everything, both positively and tragically. Some of my childhood memories include [author and PLO member Ghassan] Kanafani’s assassination, and then later Kamal Nasser and two Fatah leaders – Mohammed Yousef al Najjar and Kamal Adwan – these were very lively and moving incidents in my memory as a child.”

In response to these rising tensions between the Lebanese right and Palestinian nationalist forces, his parents sent their children abroad to study in 1975. Omar attended a boarding school in Somerset and, a few years later, read literature at the University of Oxford.

His sense of identity underwent several phases, at times simply wanting to be “an English boy”, free to immerse himself in his new culture; but the tragic events engulfing the Palestinian community in Lebanon, culminating in the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla camp in 1982, would always compel him to identify strongly with his roots.

He was one of three students who initially comprised the Palestine Society at Oxford and it proved the start of a journey into his Palestinian identity.

“I met a film-maker named Michel Khlifi, at the time a young Palestinian film-maker. He came at the invitation of our little Palestine Society to show his first film at Oxford. I had never actually seen historic Palestine. All we had seen were revolutionary films made by the PLO, usually in Lebanon, so this was a real revelation and it made me fall in love with the people. It was a renewal. Or maybe the first time I could connect so visually and directly,” says Omar.

For many British-Palestinians born in Britain, their sense of identity and activism are often a result of the stories they heard from relatives who lived through the tragedy of the Nakba: the heart-breaking accounts of dispossession, humiliation, deaths, and the faded land deeds and keys to ancestral homes they hold on to.

Tamara Ben-Halim, 32

A young Palestinian activist, born in London to parents with strong roots in Palestine, Tamara Ben-Halim grew up in Saudi Arabia. She lived there until she was 10 years old, and that was when the family moved back to the UK.

She says the community she lived in while in Saudi Arabia was predominantly Palestinian, and the food eaten, dialect spoken and clothes worn – by the women at least – all strongly reflected this.

But the most profound, indelible impressions of Palestine Tamara experienced were when she was a young girl.

“I grew up with my grandmother telling me about her happy childhood memories of growing up in Jaffa,” she says, “with the orange groves nearby, the sea and everything; as well as that most present and tragic memory of having to leave when Zionist forces began bombing the town; of her father telling her and her sisters to pack their bags, saying that they’d be back in a week, then leaving for Egypt and never returning. That trauma is something that stayed with her and which she told me about many, many times, and it really affected me. It is a big factor in terms of the connection I have to Palestine today.”

That identity for Tamara has manifested itself in recent years primarily through a “career trajectory that has gradually and organically shifted towards focusing on the Palestine issue, moving from charity and humanitarian work, to documentaries, to human rights work”.

London is where she feels at home, but Palestine is also where her heart is.

But it isn’t just Britain’s colonial legacy that is an issue. Israel’s wars and its systematic discriminatory laws that dictate the lives of the nearly five million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, often depend in part on tacit or vocal support from the British government of the day. Many Palestinians affected by Israeli violence and other manifestations of injustice have ended up adopting Britain as their home.

Atef al Sha’er, 35

A soft-spoken and articulate poet and lecturer in English at London’s Westminster University, Atef al Sha’er is from Rafah, Gaza. In 1999, he left Gaza to study English literature at Birzeit University in the West Bank. He was then offered a chance to be “smuggled” out of Palestine to continue his studies abroad. He acted upon the opportunity.

That freedom, however, came at a cost he didn’t fully envisage at the time – because he left unofficially, he is unable to return to Gaza without risking imprisonment by the Israeli authorities. He has thus missed out on nearly two decades of family life, including his father’s funeral several years ago. For him, the opportunity was an extremely bittersweet one.

“One aspect that became clear with time – which now I think is sad – is that I am here in Britain with a British passport and I can visit anywhere I like pretty much. And I haven’t stopped travelling over the past few years – that is,
except to my home, to my country, which is maddening.

“Last year I was in Jordan and this year I was in Egypt. I felt it profoundly, that I was so close to home, but I was not able to go home. It felt very disturbing and strange,” he says.

Balfour’s words would eventually lead to the creation of a Jewish nation at the expense of another. One people, with a long history of exile and persecution, would create new exiles, many of whom continue to be persecuted at home and in the diaspora for being Palestinian. Living in Britain, how necessary and important – and indeed possible – is it to retain one’s Palestinian identity? And is it a betrayal to regard your one-time coloniser’s home as your own?

“I don’t see this as an identity issue,” says Omar. “I never have, apart from briefly feeling alienated from my Arab roots. I’ve always dealt with Palestine as an ethical and political issue – I find that question of identity pretty sterile and reductive.”

Atef takes a similar stance.“I’m an Arab and, of course, I come from this background. But I also have other baggage which is quite strong, which is European baggage, and I am allowed to be both here and in Europe, and it’s easy: it doesn’t feel laboured, I don’t have to justify myself – this is who I am and that’s OK.

“Whereas if I went back [to Palestine] my life would have to be circumscribed and ruled by particular habits and conditions and customs, which aren’t bad in themselves – but my life conditions and my history have made me evolve, move away from this, or transcend this. It’s just the way life moves on.”

In the lead up to the marking of the centenary British prime minister Theresa May said unequivocally there would be no apology regarding the Balfour Declaration on November 2 when the centenary was marked, insisting Britain is “proud” of its support in helping to lay the foundations for the birth of Israel.

To those interviewed for this piece, this is a moral and legal disgrace. Omar insists “the solution can only happen in the legal sphere, and that is through recognition first of all, and proper compensation, both material and, more importantly, political”.

Centenaries come and go. But the struggle for justice will continue for Britain’s Palestinian community and its supporters. That grassroots movement is growing in strength and numbers and is showing the government to be out of touch in a way redolent of South Africa anti-apartheid movements several decades ago.

Taysir, Omar, Atef and Tamara each represent different generations of Palestinians who have made Britain their home. Each continues to promote the Palestinian narrative in their own personal and professional capacities through culture and education. It’s change from within and it’s making a difference.

“We are much stronger and much more able to muster solidarity and support when we deal with Palestine as an issue of justice and equal rights,” says Omar, “not a competition over identities.”

Palestinians bash Britain for Balfour Declaratiom celebrations in mass protests

By Ben Lynfield, JPost
November 02, 2017

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip marked the centennial of the Balfour Declaration with angry protests on Thursday, stressing their view that it was the first step in a process of displacement and discrimination they feel is continuing to this day.

“It destroyed our lives,” said Miasser Abu Ali, 62, who was among several thousand Palestinians to march from Yasser Arafat Square in Ramallah to the nearby offices of the British Council. Schoolchildren waved black flags and protesters held signs denouncing British Prime Minister Theresa May for voicing pride in Britain’s role in Israel’s establishment.

“Theresa May – taking someone’s homeland is no reason to celebrate”
said one sign.

Palestinians see a direct line between the declaration’s support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, where Jews were a minority, to the growth of the Zionist presence under the British Mandate and later the nakba, or catastrophe, of the expulsion by Jewish forces or flight of some 700,000 Palestinians during the War of Independence.

“The British must apologize for their crime,” said Abu Ali, whose parents lived in Milha village – now the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Malha – and fled in May 1948 during the weeks following the massacre of some 250 Palestinians by Irgun and Stern Group forces at Deir Yassin, located in what is now Givat Shaul. Her mother told her they were afraid that they too would be massacred and that Jews told villagers they should leave for their own safety.

“We moved to Bethlehem and lived in a poor neighbourhood but it was like refugee conditions,” she said. “We left our house, our clothes, our food, our trees. They took a country, they took our lives. I understand stealing from a bank or stealing a car. They stole a land.”

The British are culpable not only for the Balfour declaration but also for “facilitating Jewish immigration under the British mandate,” Abu Ali said. She also blamed France and the United States for supporting Israel.

She held up a sign showing a keffiyeh-clad person wearing a key – the symbol of refugee return – as a necklace, and ripping the Balfour Declaration in two. “Justice and Freedom for Palestine,” the sign said.

Some demonstrators held up posters bearing the picture of Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary who issued the declaration, alongside a photo of Prime Minister Theresa May. Their pictures were splattered with an image of a blood-stained hand.

“They are celebrating the crime, but our struggle against the effects of Balfour will continue,” Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul told the crowd.

He later said to reporters: “We want recognition from Britain that it’s a crime, not a paper; a crime that led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of cities and villages and massacres.

We want compensation for the Palestinian people, at least politically, by recognizing its right to a Palestinian state.”

“From Israel – we want it to stop its occupation and its settlement for the sake of the freedom of the Palestinian people,” he added.

Similar protests were held across the West Bank and in Gaza City, where Hamas legislator Ahmed Bahar called on Arab heads of state to boycott May’s government over its support for Israel and its stance toward the Balfour Declaration. He termed the declaration “the peak of wrongdoing to the Palestinian people and the peak of disgrace to Britain.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s office issued a statement that the premier “is disgusted to see the UK celebrating and promoting for apartheid against the Palestinians. We demand the UK apologize and compensate the Palestinian people and immediately recognize the state of Palestine.”

Nizar Nazal, a PA Education Ministry official in Kabatiya near Jenin, said: “We teach our children to not forget the declaration, which made possible a Jewish state and caused the suffering of the Palestinian people, and that we ask Britain to apologize and help us build our state.”

A 14-year-old boy said: “The UK didn’t have the right to give Palestine to anybody.

But I am sure they won’t apologize. They support Israel, including today.”

He dated the Palestinians tragedy back to 1917. “After Balfour, Israeli mafias came and occupied Palestine. People lost their parents, their brothers, their family – but the main thing is that people lost their land. When you lose your land you have nothing.”

Ataya Abu Khawla, 55, a PA employee, said he came out to demonstrate “against this heinous crime perpetrated by the British.

“The British government is responsible for all the destruction that we spot in Palestine.”

If Britain respects itself it will apologize and compensate by recognizing a Palestinian state” in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Bir Zeit University student council wrote a letter to the British Council in Ramallah saying that “the British government and its members and consulate are not welcome at the university until the end of this occupation and terrorism. This disaster would not have been possible without the British government’s effort and promise.

“The British government is responsible for all the destruction that we spot in Palestine.”

MK Yousef Jabareen sent a letter on Thursday, on behalf of the 13 Joint List MKs, to the British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, calling on the British government to “actively work toward ending the Israeli occupation.”

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