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No mention of Palestine, Minister?

Sept. 18, 2017, midnight

It is with great disappointment and dismay that the Palestinian Mission learnt about Rt Hon Sajid Javid’s utterly biased address to the visiting World Jewish Congress delegation last Monday. The secretary of state for communities and local government should represent all the communities in the United Kingdom including British Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of those expelled from their land in 1948 when Israel was created.

The minister said the United Kingdom will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration ‘with pride’, stating, “Someone said we should apologize for the declaration, to say it was an error of judgement. Of course that’s not going to happen. To apologize for the Balfour Declaration would be to apologize for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.”

The ‘someone’ Mr Javid refers to is President Mahmoud Abbas, obviously someone the minister does not think worth mentioning by name. Also a petition which garnered thousands of signatures from members of the British public, asking for an apology, is not apparently considered of any importance either.

Maybe, the minister’s depth of historical knowledge is a little shaky, as well as his understanding of the current position of his government towards the two-state solution, otherwise he may have framed his words differently or at least mentioned another nation’s right to exist, that of the Palestinians. The Balfour Declaration’s caveat that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities (i.e. the Palestinians who made up over 90% of the population in 1917) proved worthless. Balfour himself would later insist, that the creation of the Jewish state would be of ‘far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land’.

This is the problem with Mr. Javid’s high sounding rhetoric. It is impossible to talk about the Balfour Declaration and about the existence of Israel without mentioning the forceful expulsion of the Palestinians and the overdue creation of a Palestinian state which is very much part of Britain’s unfinished business and its broken promise.

Current official government policy is to espouse the peace process, support resolution 2334 condemning the illegality of Israel’s settlements and support the establishment of a Palestinian state. If Mr Javid was a true friend of Israel, he would not flinch from reminding Israel and pro-Israeli groups about this instead of ignoring the elephant in the room. Maybe, it has more to do with the billions of pounds in trade the UK does with Israel rather than anything else. We, however, urge the minister and the current government to show sensitivity, integrity and moral principles in all it says and does, as the centenary of the Balfour Declaration approaches. The government may not apologize but it should be pro-active in pressuring Israel to end its occupation and it should formerly recognize the Palestinian state. It is time to make it right for Palestine.

Ambassador Manuel Hassassian

Head of the Palestinian Mission/ UK

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