Palestinians Welcome Corbyn’s Balfour Celebration Snub

Palestinians Welcome Corbyn’s Balfour Celebration SnubPalestinians Welcome Corbyn’s Balfour Celebration Snub

Palestinians in the UK have welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s decision not to attend events organized by a pro-Israel group celebrating the Balfour Declaration centenary.

A long-term critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, the leader of the opposition Labour Party has not yet explained his reasons for not attending “About Balfour 100”—a series of countrywide events in October and November marking the occasion including lectures, dinners, film screenings, and Jewish religious services.

November 2 marks 100 years since the declaration.

Ben Jamal, the director of the UK-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, told Al Jazeera that others should follow Corbyn’s example.

“It’s highly appropriate that Jeremy Corbyn has refused the invite and shameful that any British politician would consider participating in an event that celebrates the declaration,” he said, describing the Balfour statement as an “act of imperialism by which Britain disregarded the rights, wishes, and claims of the Palestinian people who made up nearly 90% of the population of Palestine in 1917”.

Jamal’s roots stretch back to West Beit-ul-Moqaddass but his family was forced out of the city by Zionist militias in 1948, and his relatives were thereafter scattered across the region.

His great-uncle, Shibli Jamal, was secretary of a delegation of Palestinians which unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate the revocation of the Balfour Declaration with Winston Churchill, who was then secretary of state for the colonies.

Pro-Palestinian groups have pressured Britain to apologize for the 1917 declaration, which promised the Zionist movement a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine.

Foreign office officials have previously told Al Jazeera that the British government considers the declaration a “historical statement” and one it would not apologize for.

Supporters of the Zionist movement commemorate the declaration by then-British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour as the first step in the eventual creation of Israel.

However, for Palestinians, the declaration represents the moment an imperial power promised their land away to another people.

They hold Balfour responsible for their subsequent expulsion, displacement, and occupation.

According to Jamal, the declaration and subsequent British occupation of Palestine created the “framework” for dispossessing Palestinians that continues to this day.

“For Palestinians, Balfour was an action of betrayal and its anniversary should prompt somber reflection on a shameful episode in British history,” said Jamal.

“To celebrate is to reinforce the message to Palestinians that their rights are still regarded as second class.”

Although Corbyn has refused to justify his decision, he has in the past unequivocally condemned Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

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