UK Labour Official Uses Balfour Celebration to Promote Palestinian Issues

A Labour Party representative’s comments appear to contradict the spirit of the Balfour Declaration’s centenary celebration.

Emily Thornberry, UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, will be attending the exclusive dinner being held this week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.  Thornberry will be there in place of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who declined to attend.

Corbyn’s snub was a quiet one, as he has not commented on his non-arrival. Thornberry, meanwhile, provided comments to the Middle East Eye (MEE), a news outlet owned by a former a senior employee of Al Jazeera. In an interview with MEE, “I don’t think we celebrate the Balfour Declaration but I think we have to mark it because I think it was a turning point in the history of that area and I think the most important way of marking it is to recognize Palestine. The British government have said they will do, it’s just a question of when the time is right and it seems to me this is the time.”

Thornberry stated that she is both a member of Friends of Israel and Friends of Palestine as a British politician who is in favor of a two-state solution. However, she only castigated the Israeli side, for “losing its way,” and blamed Israel for building settlements, requiring security checkpoints and other policies that make a Palestinian state “unviable.”

Veteran British commentator Melanie Phillips reacted to Thornberry’s interview by saying, “The fact that she paid the usual lip-service to ‘two viable secure safe states’ cuts no ice whatsoever. If she believes that the original commitment by the British government to restoring the Jewish people to their own rightful homeland is not something to be celebrated in itself, the deep hostility to Israel as a Jewish state that this inescapably implies vitiates any pious backing for ‘two viable states’ side by side.’”

It should be noted that Thornberry also attended last month’s annual Labour Friends of Israel reception in Corbyn’s stead. She used that speaking opportunity to call for recognition of a Palestinian state as well.

By: Batya Jerenberg, United with Israel