One hundred years to the day since Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour pledged the UK’s support for the ‘establishment of a national home for the Jewish people,’ the leaders of yesteryear came together to celebrate the day Britain sold out the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Theresa May was joined in Thursday night’s festivities by her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, former US secretary of state John Kerry, and none-other than former Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair, who has left the Middle East with rather less peace than when he arrived.
You had one job, Tony.
May took the opportunity at the low-key dinner, organized by Balfour 100, to share Britain’s pride in green-lighting Zionist aspirations in the former Ottoman lands of the Eastern Mediterranean. She insisted Britain would not apologize to the indigenous Palestinians, who consider the declaration a betrayal.
Although not legally binding, the 67-word letter issued on November 2, 1917, is widely viewed as having laid the foundations for the state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestinian territories that followed.
Pro-Palestinian groups launched a petition calling for Britain to scrap the celebrations, but May dismissed the calls, saying instead that the letter “gave birth to a most extraordinary country … and finally opened the door to helping make a Jewish homeland a reality.
“Indeed, Balfour wrote explicitly 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.’
“We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel,” she continued.
“We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel.”
Just before the dinner, which was also attended by Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, the Chief Rabbi, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, May and Netanyahu had discussed ways for the two countries to collaborate in fields such as security and innovation.
“Areas like agriculture, health, science, technology and innovation. Israel is the true start-up nation and we are proud to be your partner. We also remain absolutely committed to Israel’s security,” said May.
“For it is only when you witness Israel’s vulnerability that you truly understand the constant danger Israelis face.”
Pointing out the “vulnerability of Israelis,” she said: “So I am clear that we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself. And in a world where Britain and Israel increasingly face the same shared challenges and threats, I am just as clear that our security services will continue to deepen their already excellent co-operation to keep all our people safe.”
Netanyahu praised the UK for galvanizing international support for the Zionist state, saying its formation would not have been possible without it.
“The Balfour Declaration puts Britain on the right side of history in marking that declaration today you are keeping Britain on the right side of history,” Israel’s leader said.
One of the groups that campaigned for a British apology is the Palestinian Return Center (PRC). Its spokesman Pietro Stefanini told RT that the government’s refusal to apologize is an attempt to whitewash its colonial history.
“They said not long ago that they do not intend to apologize and this shows that they are in complete denial over their colonial crimes in Palestine, and they’re still not willing to recognize the huge historical responsibilities they have towards Palestinians for the British occupation of Palestine that led to the mass displacement of the Palestinian nation in 1948.”