PALESTINE’S government and campaigners united yesterday in condemnation of Prime Minister Theresa May’s “pride” as the centenary of the Balfour Declaration approaches.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki spoke out after Ms May’s “offensive and unacceptable” comments to Parliament on Wednesday.
The PM said: “We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of state of Israel and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride.”
Ms May will host her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at a gala celebratory dinner in London next week. Labour shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry will attend in place of leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is boycotting the event.
“We must also be conscious of the sensitivities that some people do have about the Balfour Declaration and we recognise that there is more work to be done,” Ms May added, restating Britain’s ostensible commitment to a two-state solution to the 50-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The November 2 1917 declaration by British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour stated that Britain would “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
It paved the way for thousands of zionist settlers in Palestine following the first world war and the eventual 1948 foundation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.
Mr Malki condemned Ms May for “boasting” about the declaration, which “wilfully and determinedly disregarded the existence of the Palestinian people and denied their national rights.”
But he said what was “most disturbing is the British Prime Minister’s tone of condescension.”
“Even when attempting to sound mindful of what she called ‘sensitivities,’ Ms May failed to acknowledge the Palestinian people and their suffering or recognise their inalienable right to self-determination, which Israel continues to deny.”
At the time of the declaration the British army was still driving the armies of the Ottoman empire from Palestine, which had already been apportioned to Britain under the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement with France.
Mr Malki called Ms May’s pride in the centenary “a testament to the colonial, racist mentality that exacted injustice and suffering on peoples around the world” which “rationalised Britain’s illegitimate gifting of another people’s homeland” to the zionist movement.
He urged Ms May to admit “Britain’s culpability for this ongoing injustice,” which “runs through the generations and has touched the lives of every Palestinian for the past hundred years.”
The Palestinian Information Ministry also laid into British PM, calling her comments “a continuation of the greatest political crime in human history.”
It said Ms May’s failure to apologise for Balfour’s “black promise” was both a sign of extreme political tendencies and a moral failure on her part.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal echoed the Palestinian condemnation, saying: “The Balfour Declaration was an act of imperialism that laid the foundations for 100 years of dispossession, colonisation and displacement.
“Theresa May should be marking the centenary with sombre reflection of Britain’s role in the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people rather than celebrating at a dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he said.
PSC has called a protest march to Parliament on Saturday November 4 to demand the government “make it right for Palestine.”