The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London hosted a webinar entitled “Britian&Palestine: 106 Years of the Ramifications of Balfour”.
The panel discussion was chaired by Mick Napier, from Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The first speaker was Alice Panepinto, a reader at the School of Law. She joined QUB as a Lecturer in law in 2017 and became a Senior Lecturer in 2021. Prior to joining QUB Alice worked at Warwick University and outside academia on human rights and international law issues in the Middle East. She holds a PhD in law and a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice from Durham University, an LLM from SOAS, and a law degree from Turin University. Alice researches international law, human rights and transitional justice, with a regional interest in the Middle East.
Alice pointed out to the ways the Balfour Declaration turned British imperialism in Palestine into a Zionist project endorsed by the international community.
She said British colonialism is the basis for Palestinian dispossession. “Without British colonialism and without British power, the situation in the world would not be as it is”.
Alice stressed that Balfour began as a British project and lives on as a dogma of the international community. Describing the mindset of the Declaration, she said it is “arrogant, dismissive and even racist”.
She added that the British-brokered dispossession aimed to substitute the Palestinian natives with the Zionist. Palestinian Arabs were not given access to any significant positions of authority in the British mandatory government; Neither were they given the right to create their own powerful, autonomous state.
The second speaker was Bana Abu Zuluf, a PhD Researcher in International Law at NUIM, Ireland. Bana is a researcher and community activist with the Good Shepherd Collective. She played a crucial role in developing the Campaign to Defund Racism - designed to organize over 200 Palestinian organizations, villages and individuals from across historic Palestine - to stop the flow of charitable money to Israeli settler organizations.
Her presentation tackled the implications of the Zionist colonization of Palestine from 1948 till the present day.
She said the Balfour Declaration of 1917 not only triggered the Zionist colonization but also the Nakba, in reference to the disaster that befell the Palestinian people in 1948, when around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled out of their land, forcing them to leave behind hundreds of destroyed towns and villages.
Bana took the audience back to the late 1930s, when British military trained Zionists in Palestine (approximately 5,500) in guerilla and counter insurgency warfare.
“Today, the British government provides Israel with hundreds of millions of pounds in arms, ranging from aircrafts, helicopters, drones, bombs, missiles, military technology, armoured vehicles, tanks, ammunition, and small arm”, said Bana.
In her view, ignoring the underlying causes of Palestinian dispossession and oppression effectively denies them the agency to alleviate it: “By refusing to recognize Palestinian right to self-determination and providing only passive assistance through humanitarian aid, the British government cements the status of Palestinians as a subordinate group who receive conditional support upon their acceptance of the ‘two-state’ solution and the larger status quo of the Israeli dominance and ethnic cleansing.”
“This forced attachment of humanitarian aid in statements by British politicians about the slaughter in Gaza shows clearly the erroneous logic by which humanitarian support becomes inhumane and by which the British government holds on for dear life their British colonial legacy in Palestine”, she further stated.
On board was also Sharri Plonski, a senior lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London. She is a product of multiple transgenerational colonialities that link the practices of conquest, empire, settlement and migration in Eastern Europe, Palestine, Canada and the UK. Her work, which is concerned with settler colonial relations, anti-colonial struggles, border dynamics and material infrastructures, is primarily anchored in the case of Palestine/Israel and its regional and global relations. She is currently working on a project that investigates the colonial and capitalist entanglements of Israel’s trade and transit infrastructures (as PI on an ESRC New Investigator Grant) and the materials that undergird Israel’s ‘normalisation’ project.
Sharri expressed her dismay at what is going on in the besieged Gaza Strip, saying: “Every morning I’m scrolling through images of rubble”.
She also voiced her deep shock at the UK government’s response to Israel’s expansionist project and the ongoing genocide in Gaza.
Sharri tackled the normalization ties between Israel and the Gulf states in the area of culture, politics, tourism, and economy and how those deals helped nurture Israel’s ethnic cleansing and colonialist project.
The final speaker was Rami G. Khouri, director of global engagement at the American University of Beirut, a nonresident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Middle East Initiative, and an internationally syndicated columnist.
Rami highlighted how the principles outlining the Zionist movement have been active for the last century, pointing out to Israel’s destructive politics, material criminality, and the continuous use of violence and military power in an attempt to drive Palestinians out of their land.
In Rami’s words, the process of creating a Jewish state on Palestinian land could only happen with the collusion and direct involvement of the British colonial power, a project which is now being expanded by the United States.
The panel discussion emphasised that Britain’s role was essential to the establishment of the State of Israel, and by extension, Britain bears responsibility for the terror that ensued during the Nakba, as well as the structure of Apartheid that Israel still operates on until this day. Britain’s current friendliness with the State of Israel is a continuation of Balfour and its historic nurturing of the Zionist movement.
Britain’s support of the Zionist movement set the ground works for the Nakba, and its continued support of the State of Israel enables its policy of Apartheid. However, the Zionist movement was met with resistance and continues to be met with resistance by the Palestinians.