Nabeel Shaath: Britain Must Atone for its Sins in Palestine
Dr Nabeel Shaath is a member of the PLO Political Committee and Fatah Central Committee, and is a former Palestinian foreign minister.
Over the past few weeks, British diplomats have stated that they are doing all they can to discourage Palestine’s bid for "observer state" status in the UN General Assembly. If this is an official British position, then it is reprehensible, yet not all that surprising.
Ninety-five years ago tomorrow, on November 2, 1917, British imperialism in Palestine began when Lord Balfour, the then British foreign secretary and former prime minister, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild, one of the leaders of the Zionist movement. This letter became known as the "Balfour Declaration".
In that letter, Balfour promised British support for the Zionist programme of establishing a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine. This pledge of support was made without consulting the indigenous Christian and Muslim inhabitants of Palestine, the Palestinian people. And it was made before British troops had even conquered the land.
Balfour, on behalf of Britain, promised Palestine – over which Britain had no legal right – to a people who did not even live there (of the very small community of Palestinian Jews in Palestine in 1917, very few were Zionists). And he did so with the worst of intentions: to discourage Jewish immigration to Britain. No wonder Lord Montagu, the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, opposed the declaration...
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