Palestinian leaders to file complaint against Britain for 1917 Balfour Declaration | News | DW | 26.07.2016
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Palestinian leaders to file complaint against Britain for 1917 Balfour Declaration

Palestinian leaders have said they want Britain to make amends for a declaration which they believe opened the door to their loss of homeland to Israel. It is not clear where or to whom it will be made.

"Almost a century has passed since 1917," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told an Arab League meeting.

"On the basis of this promise made by a party which did not possess (the land) to a party undeserving of it, hundreds of thousands of Jews from Europe and elsewhere came to settle in Palestine at the expense of our people, whose ancestors have lived for millennia on the soil of our land," al-Malki said in a speech delivered on behalf of Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott.

It is not clear what concrete results the calls are expected to yield, but since the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court in 2015, they have called for various historical investigations, including into Israel's alleged war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war.

Israeli foreign ministry chief Dore Gold, meanwhile, called the proposal "a desperate effort to delegitimize Israel," on his Twitter account.

The declaration issued on November 2, 1917, by British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour said the British government "view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

It has been seen as a key step towards the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

The agreement officially sanctioned the Zionist movement's aims of taking over what had been the Ottoman-held territory of Palestine. What became known as the Palestinian Mandate came into effect in 1923 and was administered by the British until Israel was formed in 1948.

The declaration was later incorporated into the Sevres peace treaty with the defeated Ottoman Empire. However, the mandate raised questions about contradictions with the terms of the earlier McMahon-Hussein correspondence, which had promised the Arab independence movement control of the Middle East territories "in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif of Mecca." It was widely seen to have been offered in exchange for Palestinian support in defeating the Ottomans in World War I.

The UK government has yet to respond.

jbh/kms (AFP, AP)

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