Back in 2017, the UK government acknowledged its responsibility for the plight that has befallen Palestinian refugees as a consequence of the Balfour Declaration, claiming the Declaration “should have called for the protection of the political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination”. In practice, the declaration has had many long-lasting consequences on the Palestinians and their inalienable rights.
104 years on, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) continues to call on Britain to apologize to the Palestinians for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which has led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland.
In a statement issued on the occasion of the 104th anniversary of the pledge, PRC confirms that it is time for Britain to act with responsibility and acknowledge the political rights of the Palestinian people, which have been denied for more than a century.
The Balfour Declaration, which has resulted in a significant upheaval in the lives of Palestinians, was issued on November 2, 1917. It 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.
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.
The British government acknowledged in 1939 that the local population's views should have been taken into account, and recognised in 2017 that the declaration should have called for the protection of the Palestinian Arabs' political rights.
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 Balfour Apology Campaign (BAC), kick-started by PRC some seven years ago 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.
In 2017, the UK government’s acknowledgement of its responsibility for the plight that has befallen Palestinian refugees as a consequence of the Balfour Declaration came after an e-petition headed up by PRC and launched on the official website of the British Parliament attracted nearly 14,000 signatures by British nationals in just a few weeks. Duty-bound to respond to the petition, after it managed to pass the benchmark for an official response, the never-sorry government responded 10 days later, only to confirm that it will not extend any apology over the Balfour pledge.
As BAC campaigners sought to pass the 100,000 yardstick for a parliament discussion, the parliamentary follow-up committee abruptly altered the cut-off date, reducing it from six months to two months and a half only under the guise that snap elections had been called.
Britain’s reluctance is a sign of its failure to pay heed to the horrendous crimes committed by Zionist gangs who crept into Palestine during the British Mandate and embarked on systematic massacres and ethnic genocides that brought about the displacement of millions of Palestinians from over 570,000 Palestinian villages in 1948.