Arab League demands that UK apologize for Balfour Declaration

Britain already refused to apologize in 2017 on the 100th anniversary of the document affirming Jewish rights to Israel, then called Palestine.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Arab League revisited an old grievance Tuesday when it called on the United Kingdom to apologize for the issuance 104 years ago of the Balfour Declaration, Xinhua News reported Wednesday.

The union of Arabic-speaking African and Asian countries said that Britain should “correct the historical mistake and bear its legal and ethical responsibility towards the Palestinian people.”

The historic document, its statement claimed, “was the beginning of the Palestinian tragedy that caused compulsory deportation of the real owners of lands, while most heinous crimes have been going against the Palestinian people.”

The League also called for Britain to now recognize alongside Israel the “state of Palestine” in the area of the Palestinian Authority (PA), with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Included among the 22 states in the League are all the Arab countries who have either made peace or normalized relations with Israel – Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen, Morocco and Sudan.

Read  UK sends surveillance drones to Gaza

The League’s demand echoed the Joint List’s MK Osama Saadi, who on Tuesday denounced the “cursed Balfour Declaration” from the Knesset podium.

The Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government on November 2, 1917 during World War I announcing its formal support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in what was then the enemy-held Ottoman Empire territory of Palestine. It was written by Foreign Secretary, later Lord, Arthur Balfour, in close consultation with leading British Zionists Lord Lionel Rothschild and Chaim Weizmann, who eventually became the first president of Israel.

It was the first time a major world power had declared it was in favor of giving Jews some kind of control in their ancient homeland, even though the Declaration intentionally left vague if an actual state was intended. It also specifically called for doing nothing “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

This isn’t the first time such an expression of regret has been called for. In 2017, with the centenary celebration of the document in both Israel and England, the Palestinians and their supporters demanded that the British apologize. Ramallah also demanded financial compensation, besides recognition for their “state.”

Read  UK sends surveillance drones to Gaza

PA President Mahmoud Abbas wrote an op-ed for a British paper, The Guardian, in which he vilified Israel, refused to recognize any Jewish connection to the land, and said that Britain should “recognize” the “mistake” of the Declaration with “humility and courage.”

The UK Foreign Office refused, saying, “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG (her Majesty’s Government) does not intend to apologize. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel.”