Today marks the 99th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, when Alfred Balfour then British Foreign Secretary issued a letter committing the UK government to the establishment of a national Jewish home in Palestine. The event was once described as a process whereby one group of people pledged the land belonging to a second group of people to a third group of people. The declaration famously stated that in pledging to facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. These existing “non Jewish communities” i.e. Palestinian’s constituted 87% of the population but were of course not consulted or even regarded as worthy of consultation in the process by which their land was granted away by the simple issuing of a letter.
As Arthur Balfour later stated “The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far greater import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”
Over the next year PSC working with a range of partners including key Palestinian community organisations will seek to mark the centenary of the declaration. We are together organising a series of events which both seek to raise public awareness of Britain’s central role in the dispossession of the Palestinian people, and what Britain’s role is now in fulfilling its responsibilities as a key member of the international community. Britain has a particular responsibility for ensuring that Palestinians are allowed to enjoy the rights that belong to them as a much as any other people.
On 15th November we will be holding a lobby of Parliament in which we will be pressing MPs to take action against the relentless expansion and maintenance of Israel’s illegal settlement project. Later this month, on 26th November, our Director will be speaking at an event hosted by the Palestinian Embassy to launch a year of events to make it right for Palestine.
For the past 99 years Palestinian rights have been disregarded. As we approach the centenary of the act which built the path for their dispossession, we are making it clear that they have waited long enough. It is time for Palestine: Justice Now