ON NOVEMBER 2nd 1917, during the first great imperialist war, the UK ruling class committed one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century when it ‘gave’ Palestine to the Zionist Federation, sentencing millions of Palestinians to hunger, exile and death.
On that day British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour wrote to the Zionist Federation: ‘Dear Lord Rothschild, I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of his majesty’s government the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by the cabinet.
‘His majesty’s government view with favour the establishment of a national home of the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing will 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.
‘I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the attention of the Zionist Federation.’
This brief British cabinet-approved note was in fact a sentence of death, hunger and exile for millions of Palestinian people whose rights were crushed. Monday was the 103rd anniversary of this imperialist death sentence.
In Ramallah, Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), marked the anniversary by stating: ‘It has been 103 years since the British government adopted a supremely arrogant, racist and colonialist promise to give away Palestine and wilfully discard the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.’
She added: ‘The catastrophic consequences of the Balfour Declaration have been our living reality since then,’ and that US President Trump is basing himself on the ‘Declaration’. She said: ‘Just like the illegitimate Balfour Declaration, the Trump “plan” is informed by an absolutist and literalist ideology that excuses the inexcusable, allowing for Israeli exceptionalism to perpetuate at the expense of Palestinian lives and rights.’
Ashrawi called on Britain to correct the wrongs of the Balfour Declaration by recognising Palestine. In fact, the UK government had a celebration to mark its 100th anniversary!
She concluded: ‘Freedom and self-determination are absolute rights that are non-negotiable. We will not accept to be the exception to this universal fact. The Palestinian people will not surrender to a racist ideology that attempts to eradicate our history, culture, and narrative.’
Hamas declared that the Declaration: ‘Will remain the biggest witness to the largest land grab in history facilitated by the British Mandate, the world’s largest power at the time, and carried out by rogue gangs with no principles or history, undermining Palestinian rights, massacring thousands of Palestinian citizens and displacing tens of thousands others under a British Protectorate and amid an international silence.’
Hamas continued: ‘This anniversary comes as the Palestinian people are still facing brutality, suppression, dispossession and forceful displacement at the hands of the Israeli occupation, while the international community remains silent, and the United States plays the same role embraced by its ally, Britain, in its quest to make similar proposals under new names, such as the “deal of the century”, which is no less ill-fated and dangerous than the Balfour Declaration.’
It continued: ‘This anniversary comes as Judaisation plots and plans to alter Jerusalem’s Palestinian and Arab identity and divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque are being accelerated with US backing, a suspicious Arab silence, and a blessing from Arab states normalising ties with the Israeli occupation.’
Hamas declared: ‘We salute Palestinian citizens of the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948, as well as Palestinian refugees in the diaspora and exile, for standing steadfast in the face of all plots and schemes intended to liquidate their national rights, from the ill-fated Balfour Declaration to the “deal of the century”.’
The movement rejected ‘normalisation’ and called for ‘unifying the Palestinian decision making process’.
It declared that ‘Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their lands and homes from which they were forcibly displaced and be compensated for years of dispossession and displacement; this is a constant right that will not be waived with the passage of time.’
The British trade unions must give their full support to Palestine, and insist that the UK government recognises the State of Palestine and gives it full compensation, both material and financial, for the horrendous damage the Balfour Declaration has imposed on the Palestinian people.