Thursday, February 2nd | 12 Shevat 5783

November 2, 2017 3:16 pm

Palestinians Express Rage on Balfour Declaration Centenary as Israeli PM Netanyahu Urges Final Acceptance of Jewish State

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A group of Palestinians in Bethlehem marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration by burning Israeli flags alongside an effigy of Lord Balfour. Photo: Maan news agency.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked Thursday’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration by renewing his call on the Palestinians to “finally accept a Jewish national home and finally accept a Jewish state,” the Palestinian Authority and official Palestinian media waved black flags as a sign of mourning amid fierce denunciations of Britain, the Zionist movement and Israel.

Issued on November 2, 1917 by the thenBritish Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, the document that came to be know as the “Balfour Declaration” took the form of a message to the Zionist Federation informing them that “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people […]”

Balfour then affirmed that the British government would “[…] 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.”

Meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Thursday, Netanyahu said,  “One hundred years after Balfour, the Palestinians should finally accept a Jewish national home and finally accept a Jewish state.”

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“When they do, the road to peace will be closer and, in my opinion, peace will be achievable,” Netanyahu added.

May, who said last week that she would be marking the Balfour centenary with “pride,” took the opportunity to restate Britain’s support for a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. The British leader added that she would be talking to Netanyahu about “the obstacles and difficulties in the settlement building.”

On Thursday, Palestinian leaders and media outlets indicated strongly that they objected to more than just Israeli settlement policy. The Israeli monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that to mark the Balfour Declaration centenary, “all official PA print media, WAFA and the official PA daily, including its front page, came out only in black. PA TV news readers and reporters all wore black.”

The front page of Thursday’s official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, carried a cartoon of Theresa May driving a bulldozer emblazoned with the text of the Balfour Declaration, in order to “crush Palestinian rights.”

Palestinians frequently depict the Balfour Declaration as the beginning of their conflict with the Zionist movement. The 1968 Palestinian National Charter of the PLO refers to  the “Zionist invasion,” dated in the notes to the charter as having begun in 1917.

In an official statement, PA President Mahmoud Abbas repeated his call for the British government to apologize for the “disastrous” Balfour Declaration.

“The second day of November marks the centennial of the disastrous Balfour Declaration, which, in 1917, the British government gave the Jews of the world a national homeland in Palestine while it was aware that Palestine is owned and inhabited by another people, the Palestinian people,” the statement said.

Palestinian advocates use the same word  — “disaster,” or “nakba” in Arabic — to describe the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Abbas went on to say that the “responsibility for the displacement and suffering of the Palestinian people” belonged not only with the British government that issued the Balfour Declaration, but the current government of May as well. He said that Britain should be compelled to “bear the consequences of making that promise by compensating the Palestinian people politically, materially and morally, recognize the State of Palestine and work toward ending the occupation from our land just as it sponsored the occupation state, Israel, on the land of Palestine.”

In recent weeks, Palestinian official sources have decried the Balfour Declaration as “the great political crime in the history of mankind,” accused Britain of “creating a racist entity on our land,” and labeled the creation of Israel in 1948 as a “despicable crime” and the “crime of the century.”

On Thursday, the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and other West Bank cities “to mark 100 years of the sorrowful occasion that has led to the displacement of two thirds of the Palestinian population in 1948.”

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