One hundred years ago, on this day in November 1917, the British government, through its minister of foreign affairs, Alfred Balfour, made a fateful promise to the Zionist movement to establish a “Jewish homeland in Palestine,” leading to the establishment of the Zionist occupation state on the land of Palestine in 1948 and the struggle that continues in Palestine to this day.
Britain, the greatest imperial power of the time, wove conspiracies during and after World War I to divide the region of al-Sham – what it would later term the “Middle East” – and control it. After Sherif Hussein was promised an Arab emirate in the region in 1915, Britain then proceeded to carve up the land with its ally France in 1916 in the Sykes-Picot Treaty, setting forth the lines of division. One year later in 1917, the Balfour declaration was released to serve the goals of the Zionist movement, which had been launched 20 years prior at its founding conference of 1897.
For 30 years after the Balfour Declaration, Britain supported a Jewish influx to Palestine directed by the Zionist movement and supported its policies of appropriating and looting Palestinian land and seeking to change the demographic situation, and then the killing and displacement of the indigenous population of Palestine, leading to the “withdrawal” of the British mandate and the declaration of the Zionist state through the Palestinian Nakba, the great and catastrophically brutal ethnic cleansing.
The Balfour Declaration is not simply an event of the past or a lesson from a history curriculum. It is the reality of occupation and colonization on the land of Palestine and the reality of millions of Palestinian refugees deprived of their basic rights in exile and diaspora. The continuing Zionist policies of expansion, settlement, repression and the Judaization of Jerusalem is the legacy of this promise. The strength that the Zionist movement derived from this promise and Britain continues to be reflected in its support today by the imperialist powers, led by the United States and European countries.
Britain must be held accountable today for the Balfour Declaration, as a prerequisite for the freedom of Palestine. Britain’s insistence on celebrating the centenary of the Balfour Declaration rather than admitting its guilt and apologizing to the Palestinian people reflects its imperial arrogance. As Zionism continues to seize Palestinian land with the support of imperialist powers and their allies in the region, we declare that we will tear up this promise and render it null and void and establish a democratic Palestine on the entire land of Palestine.
We, Palestinians in diaspora and Palestinian refugees in Europe and all over the world, will not recognize the illegitimate theft of the land of Palestine or the institutions created through its expropriation. We will not recognize its legitimacy or normalize it. We will continue to escalate our efforts to boycott Israel in all of our countries of residence at all levels – economic, political, military, diplomatic and cultural – and we will struggle to establish a free Palestine and the return of rights and the land to their true owners, the Palestinian people. Freedom for Palestine and total boycott of Zionism!
Union of Palestinian Communities and Institutions – Europe
2 November 2017