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UK refuses to apologize for Balfour Declaration, Palestinians threaten to sue

April 25, 2017 11:28 P.M. (Updated: April 26, 2017 11:16 A.M.)
Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 29, 2012 after the General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. (AFP/Abbas Momani, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian ambassador to the UK said on Tuesday that the UK would not apologize for the Balfour Declaration, which contributed to the establishment of an Israeli state, as the 100th commemoration of the signing of the document is marked this year.

Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian conveyed the news to Voice of Palestine radio that the UK government has officially refused an apology for the 1917 document which supported establishing a Jewish state on what would become British Mandate Palestine.

Hassassian also confirmed that the UK would hold celebrations, along with the Israeli government, during the centennial anniversary of the document on Nov. 2, despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging the UK not to celebrate the document during the recent Arab Summit in Jordan and encouraging the government to officially apologize to Palestinians instead.

Palestinian leaders have continued to issue threats of suing the UK government over the declaration, with Hassassian reportedly saying that there were a “number of attorneys in the UK” who have already begun taking steps to sue the government.

“If the UK backs down, apologizes to the Palestinian people and recognizes the state of Palestine, the issue of suing the UK will be cancelled,” official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Hassassian as saying.

Israeli media reported that the British Foreign Office had said that while the UK government would not apologize for the document, it “should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination.”

Meanwhile, more than 11,000 people as of April 12 signed a petition calling on the British government to formally apologize for the Balfour Declaration.

“The Balfour Declaration of 1917 clearly prejudiced the rights of Palestinian people and sealed their fate, leading to untold suffering. Since then, seven million Palestinian refugees, more than half the Palestinian population, have had to endure this historic injustice, a blatant denial of their human rights,” the petition reads.

Nearly a century ago, a letter sent from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a British Jewish leader, declared British support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Palestinians have since viewed the declaration as paving the way for the creation of the state of Israel at the expense of the land's original inhabitants.

The declaration was made before the British had wrested control of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and was not made public until several years after the World War I, in 1920.

By that time, Britain had been formally granted a mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations, and was struggling with its contradictory obligations of "rewarding" Arabs for their support during the war, while also fulfilling their pledge to create a Jewish state.

After World War II, British forces withdrew from Palestine, leaving it in the hands of the newly created United Nations, which favored partition, particularly as evidence slowly emerged of the vast scale of the Holocaust in Europe.

The decision led to the 1948 war between Arab nations, including Palestinians, and Jewish immigrants, ultimately resulting in the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes inside its borders, an event known as the Nakba among Palestinians.
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