Palestinians protest on Balfour centenary as Netanyahu visits London

Small demonstration in Dublin with May set to address Britain’s role in creation of Israel


Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets in protest across the West Bank marking a century since the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s promise to create a Jewish home in what is now Israel.

In Ramallah, some 3,000 protesters marched from the city centre to the British Consulate, with many waving black flags and banners with slogans such as “100 years of dispossession”. Smaller demonstrations took place in east Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank.

In Dublin, a protest took place outside the British embassy on Merrion Road.

Rawada Odeh, a demonstrator in Jerusalem, said she was protesting because Balfour promised a home to the Zionists while neglecting that there is a “Palestinian population here in our land”. “The land does not belong to Balfour,” she said. “We are Palestinians, and we are living here and we are following our issue till we succeed.”

The 1917 declaration served as the basis for the British Mandate of Palestine, which was approved in 1920 by the League of Nations. The following decades saw a spike in the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine as Zionist state institutions took root. With that came increased friction with the Arab population.

Israel views the pledge as the first international recognition granted to the Jewish people’s desire to return to its historic homeland. It sees Britain as having played a supporting role in a narrative dominated by the determination, heroism and pioneering spirit of the early settlers who fought to build the state.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu marked the anniversary in London at a dinner attended by prime minister Theresa May.

At the dinner, Ms May was expected to say: “We are proud of our pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel. 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.

“I believe it demands of us today a renewed resolve to support a lasting peace that is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians – and in the interests of us all . . . A peace deal that must be based on a two-state solution, with a secure and prosperous Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”

The Palestinians see the Balfour declaration as the original sin, a harbinger of their “nakba”, or catastrophe, the mass displacement that resulted from the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948. That refugee crisis reverberates across the region today, and the Palestinians have cast Israel, through the declaration and its imperialist British patrons, as a colonial enterprise. – AP