Lord Arthur Balfour in Tel Aviv, c. 1925 (from the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress)
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London released a press statement on the 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, issued on November 2, 1917, and which turned the Zionist aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine into a reality when Britain publicly pledged to establish "a national home for the Jewish people" there.
More than a century on, millions of Palestinian refugees continue to grapple with the devastating upshots of the Balfour Declaration, which led to a significant upheaval in the lives of Palestinians.
The pledge came in the form of a letter from Britain's then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community.
Though the Balfour Declaration included the admonition that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", the British mandate was set up in a way to equip Jews with the tools to establish self-rule, at the expense of the Palestinian Arabs.
The efforts made by PRC in this regard have been on the go over recent years to urge Britain to apologize to the Palestinians for the tragedy that has befallen them as a result of the Balfour Declaration.
The Balfour Apology Campaign (BAC), kick-started by PRC nine years ago, falls within the above context as it matches ongoing endeavors to hold Britain historically, morally, and politically accountable for the dispossession and displacement of 750,000 civilians from their own and only homeland—Palestine—to give way for the establishment of the self-proclaimed state of Israel.
As a result, nearly 7 million Palestine refugees have become scattered all over the world, torn from the nourishment of home and the warmth of family.
The tragic consequences of the pledge continue to plague the lives of the Palestinians till the moment of writing. So far this year, 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Hundreds more have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, racist practices, forced displacement, and house demolitions.
Desperation is mounting, especially among young Palestinian refugees and asylum seekers across the Middle East and in other parts of the world. They are confronted with poverty, unemployment, and a general lack of prospect. Some are risking their lives in search of a more dignified life.
In Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, over 80 percent live below the poverty line.
The British government should officially apologize to the Palestinians over this shameful declaration which led to an unprecedented infringement of the rights of of Palestinians.
At the same time, the UK government should not adopt the position of former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who planned to move the UK embassy to Jerusalem.
Britain bears a moral and historical responsibility over the displacement and dispossession of millions of Palestinians and should therefore make every possible effort to remedy the wounds inflicted upon the Palestinians as a result of the pledge.
The international community should also speak up for the rights of the Palestinians to establish an independent Palestinian State on the 1967 borders and the rights of millions of refugees to return to their homeland. The Israeli occupation should be brought to an end and Israel should be held accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity.