THE HEAD of the Palestinian National Independent Assembly says a London-based law firm has been hired to prosecute the British government over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of Israel.
Munib al-Masri said in a Thursday statement that the Sunday decision by the Court of First Instance in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus to declare the document invalid is the first step to suing the British government in the UK for violations committed during its mandate over Palestine.
The Palestinian court also held Britain legally responsible for the consequences of the Balfour Declaration, demanding an apology to the Palestinians.
The lawsuit was filed by Palestinian lawyers in October last year on behalf of the National Assembly of Independents, the International Foundation for the Follow-up of the Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, against the British government.
‘Britain and its then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, from whom the “Balfour Declaration” was issued at the time, neither owned Palestine nor did they have the right to determine the fate of its people,’ the court ruled.
Britain’s acts violate ‘the rules of international law, local laws, international norms and the decisions of the United Nations League and the United Nations during the period of its occupation of the Palestinian territories throughout the period of the British Mandate, including its implementation of the Balfour Declaration,’ it said.
The ruling said the declaration deprived ‘the Palestinian people of their legal, human and political rights, and … their right to self-determination on their Palestinian lands’.
Masri noted that there are plans to prosecute the British government to force it to apologise to the Palestinian people for the calamities that have befallen them as a result of the Balfour Declaration.
He pointed out that the British government had previously apologised to India, Cambodia, the Mau Mau people in Kenya and the State of Cyprus for the massacres it had committed against them.
Masri highlighted that Palestinian people are not inferior to the rest of the world, and have the right to prosecute Britain or whoever causes harm to them and deprives them of their right to self-determination.
The Balfour Declaration 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. It was published on November 2, 1917.
The declaration was made during World War I (1914-1918), and was included in the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
It is widely seen as the precursor to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, when Zionist armed paramilitary groups, who were trained and created to fight side by side with the British in World War II, forcibly expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, captured huge swathes of the Arab land, and proclaimed the existence of Israel.
- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked US President Joe Biden to maintain his predecessor’s sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has over the past years been investigating the Tel Aviv regime’s war crimes in the Palestinian territories.
Citing Israeli officials, the Virginia-based Axios news website reported on Wednesday that Netanyahu had made the request during his first phone call with Biden last week.
The report said Israeli officials had argued that Washington should maintain the sanctions imposed by the administration of former US President Donald Trump as leverage against investigations in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip as well as Afghanistan, where the US itself is accused of having committed war crimes.
The sanctions were also discussed in a phone call between Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to the report by Axios.
In a major decision earlier this month, a pre-trial chamber of the ICC determined that The Hague-based tribunal had jurisdiction to investigate the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip since 1967.
Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, hailed the decision and said the ruling ‘opens the door’ for justice in Palestine.
The US is also currently being investigated by the ICC for war crimes in Afghanistan, and when Trump was in office, he imposed sanctions on the ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, as well as Phakiso Mochochoko, the ICC director of jurisdiction, in order to block them from carrying out their investigation or being able to travel to the United States.
The Biden administration has signalled a less confrontational line but has not said whether it will drop the sanctions against Bensouda, who has called the measures ‘unacceptable’.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip – territories the Palestinians want for their future state – during the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. It later had to withdraw from Gaza.
About 700,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds since then.
The international community views the settlements as illegal under international law but has done little to pressure the Israeli regime to freeze or reverse its policies.
- The government of Japan on Thursday signed two contribution agreements, amounting to approximately $40 million, with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
From the total contribution, $30.2 million will enable UNRWA to continue providing critical and core services to Palestine refugees in all five fields of operations and another $9.5 million approximately will be used to expand school blocks in Gaza, thus allowing more children to have access to quality education, said a UNRWA press release.
Magoshi Masayuki, Representative of Japan to Palestine, said: ‘I am very happy to announce that the government of Japan is contributing approximately $40 million to UNRWA.
‘This contribution represents our determined commitment and solidarity to Palestine refugees at a time when the region continues to experience a serious humanitarian crisis, including the Covid-19 pandemic.’
Marc Lassouaoui, Acting Director of Partnerships of UNRWA, said: ‘On behalf of UNRWA, I would like to thank the government of Japan for its generous contribution in benefit of the Palestine refugees.
‘The government of Japan has been exemplary in its support to the Agency.
‘We deeply appreciate the steadfast and strategic cooperation that UNRWA and the government of Japan have developed over years in support of this vulnerable community.’
The government of Japan is a dedicated donor to UNRWA, having supported the Agency since 1953. In 2020, the government of Japan was the overall 5th largest contributor to the Agency, playing a critical role at a time when UNRWA faced an existential crisis.
It is thanks to the enduring support of donors like the government of Japan that the Agency is able to provide vital services to Palestine refugees across the Middle East in the face of its continuing challenges, said the press release.
Meanwhile ‘normal’ life continues in Palestine.
A 16-year-old child with haematologic disease and two adult men with cancer have just been denied an Israeli army permit to leave the besieged Gaza Strip for medical treatment at hospitals in Jerusalem or the West Bank, said a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday.
It said in the monthly Health Access Barriers for patients in the occupied Palestinian territory covering the month of January that the three patients were denied permits to cross Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing with Israel to reach healthcare in January. The 16-year-old child with haematologic disease had an appointment in Istishari Hospital in Ramallah and the two adults, aged between 40-60 years, with cancer had appointments in Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.
According to the WHO report, 720 (males: 369; females: 351) or 76% of the 950 patient applications to cross Beit Hanoun/Erez in January were approved, an 8% increase compared to the approval rate of 68% for 2020.
It said 49% of the approved applications were female patients; a fifth (22%) were for children under 18; and a fifth (22%) for patients aged 60 years or older.
A total of 227 (males: 137; females: 90) patient applications, or 24% of the total, were delayed access to care, receiving no definitive response to their application by the date of their hospital appointment, with 23% (52 applications) were for children under the age of 18; 69% (156 applications) for patients aged 18-60 years and 8% (19 applications) for patients over 60 years of old.
A third (34%) of those delayed had appointments for cancer care (oncology); 15% for ophthalmology; 11% for haematology; 7% for cardiology, and 4% for orthopaedics. The remaining 29% were for 16 other specialties.
Of the delayed applications 52% (118) were for appointments in East Jerusalem hospitals, 32% for the West Bank and 15% for Israeli hospitals. Most delayed applications (187 or 82%) were ‘under study’ at the time of appointment.
In January, 5 (4 male; 1 female) patients between the age of 40-60 were requested for security interrogation by Israeli services as a prerequisite to processing their permit applications. Two patients had appointments in oncology, one for haematology, one for general surgery, and one for ophthalmology. By the end of January, one patient was approved, one was denied, and three remained pending.
The Health Liaison Office submitted 1,149 companion permit applications to Israeli authorities to accompany patients in January.
These applications include parents or other companions applying to accompany children. Patients are eligible to apply to Israeli authorities for one companion to accompany them for health care outside the Gaza Strip.
In January, 536 companion permit applications (47% of the total) were approved, 24 applications (2%) were denied and the remaining 589 (51%) were delayed, receiving no definitive response by the time of the patient’s appointment. The companion permit approval rate in January (47%) was similar to the monthly average in 2020.
Data showed that close to a quarter (23%) of patients crossed Beit Hanoun/Erez checkpoint in January without a companion.