Palestinians Fume After UK Gov’t Rules Out Apology For Jewish Homeland Declaration

By Patrick Goodenough | April 26, 2017 | 4:44 AM EDT

Activists seek signatures in Britain for a petition calling for an official apology for the 1917 Balfour Declaration. The government has now said it has no intention of doing so. (Photo: Balfour Apology Campaign)

(CNSNews.com) – A Palestinian campaign to secure an official British apology for the 100-year-old Balfour Declaration has hit a wall, with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government saying it has no intention to do so.

“We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a written response to a petition calling on the government “to openly apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration.”

In the context of the time, the FCO said, “establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”

In response, Palestinian envoy in London Manuel Hassassian reaffirmed plans by Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to sue Britain in an international court, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported Tuesday.

Hassassian said the legal action would only not go ahead if Britain backs down, apologizes to Palestinians for the 1917 declaration and recognizes the “state of Palestine.”

The lawsuit plan was first raised by P.A. delegates at an Arab League meeting in Mauritania last July.  At a Palestinian solidarity event at the U.N. four months later, Abbas letter by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour voiced government support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in the area known as Palestine – then a part of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire, but soon to be entrusted as a mandate to Britain by the League of Nations.

In 1948, the State of Israel was declared in the area in line with a U.N. General Assembly resolution, and the British mandate ended. Palestinian Arab leaders rejected the U.N. “partition plan” and, rather than establish an Arab state alongside Israel, joined five Arab armies in what the head of the Arab League described as “a war of annihilation” against the Jewish state.

The British government has invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to attend events commemorating the Balfour Declaration centenary in November this year.

The “Balfour apology campaign” was spearheaded in Britain by the Palestinian Return Center (PRC), a U.N.-recognized non-governmental organization which denies Israeli accusations of having ties to the terrorist group Hamas.

As of Wednesday, its petition on a U.K. government website had obtained a little more than 13,500 signatures – far below the 100,000 required by a May 3 deadline for the House of Commons to debate the issue.

The PRC-led campaign reacted sharply to the government’s response to its petition, calling it “humiliating, arrogant and emphasizing the British government unconditional endorsement to the brutality of the Israeli governments against the Palestinian people.”

The campaign described as “alarming” the reference in the government statement to the Jews’ “strong historical and religious ties” to the land in question, saying that would “only fuel the conflict as it gives religious motivation for the creation of Israel.”

After the P.A. raised the Balfour issue at the Arab League meeting in Mauritania, then-Israeli foreign ministry director-general Dore Gold said the initiative “demonstrates yet again the continuing refusal of the Palestinian side to recognize the legitimate and indigenous connection of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.”

Gold argued that the Balfour Declaration had not created the historical rights of the Jews to their homeland, but rather “recognized pre-existing rights that the Jewish people never conceded.”

Many Jews argue those rights go back thousands of years, pointing to profuse historical and archeological evidence – and to the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly last September, Netanyahu suggested that if the Palestinians plan to sue Britain over the Balfour Declaration they could go back even further in history.

“The Palestinians may just as well sue Iran for the Cyrus Declaration, which enabled the Jews to rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem 2,500 years ago,” he said. “Come to think of it, why not a Palestinian class action suit against Abraham for buying that plot of land in Hebron where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people were buried 4,000 years ago?”

In similar vein, Jonathan Feldstein, an Israeli non-profit professional living in Efrat, south of Jerusalem, offered another proposal in response to Abbas’ initiative launch.

“If the Palestinians are preparing to sue the U.K.,” he commented in a Facebook post, “they may as well sue God, because it’s not the U.K. that gave us the Land.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow