Palestinians protest Balfour Declaration on 100th anniversary | News | DW | 02.11.2017
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Palestinians protest Balfour Declaration on 100th anniversary

A century after the UK endorsed a Jewish "home" in Palestine, protesters in Ramallah and other cities asked for an apology from London. Israeli PM Netanyahu rebuked the criticism at a commemorative dinner in the UK.

Around 3,000 people marched through the streets of Ramallah to the British Consulate on Thursday to protest the Balfour Declaration, with similar protests reported in Nablus, Gaza and Jerusalem. 

The demonstrations marked the centenary of a 1917 document that would lead to the creation of the state of Israel.

Read more: Is Balfour Declaration still important to the Middle East?

What is the Balfour Declaration?

  • A 67-word letter written by then-British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour.
  • It declared sympathy with "Jewish Zionist aspirations" and "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
  • It served as the basis for the British Mandate of Palestine.
  • Israel regards the letter as the first international recognition of the Jewish people's desire to return to their historic homeland.
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Palestinians protest Balfour Declaration on centenary

What did the protesters say?

Palestinians denounce the document as the first move toward the creation of Israel in 1948 and the long and bloody conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land.

  • Protesters carried banners reading "100 years of dispossession," "A promise from those who don't own to those who are not entitled" and "Your promise is going to fail ... and our right will win."
  • Palestinians demanded Britain apologize for "its historic mistake and rectify it."
  • In east Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinians held a sit-in in front of the British Consulate, handing letters to diplomats.

Read more: Palestinian leaders to file complaint against Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

Child lifts up a banner reading UK gov't shuld hang its head in shame... (Reuters/M. Torokman)

Palestinians accuse the UK of promising land that was not theirs to give

Netanyahu visits London to celebrate

Israel sees Britain as providing the supporting role in a heroic and pioneering mission by early settlers to return Jews to their ancestral home. The Israeli parliament is set to hold a special commemorative session next week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in London for a working lunch with UK counterpart Theresa May, before a special "Balfour centenary dinner." He was also set to meet UK foreign minister Boris Johnson.

Ahead of the trip, Netanyahu described the event as "a very important centenary."

"I very much appreciate this gesture by the prime minister of Britain and the government of Great Britain," he told reporters.

"The Palestinians say that the Balfour Declaration was a tragedy," Netanyahu said. "It wasn't a tragedy. What's been tragic is their refusal to accept this 100 years later."

dj/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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