Palestinian UK envoy accepts failure in bid for Balfour apology

Manuel Hassassian says eight-month campaign to get British government to say sorry for backing a Jewish homeland has been futile


The Palestinian representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, has acknowledged  his complete lack of success in getting the UK government to apologise for the Balfour Declaration.

But he insisted that marking or celebrating the declaration was “an insult to the Palestinian people”.

Speaking at a conference on Middle East Peace at King’s College London, Dr Hassassian said: “I have been campaigning for the last eight months,  I have spoken with the Foreign Minister, Parliament… nothing. They are adamant. No apologies for the Palestinians, and no recognition of the Palestinian state”.

He claimed that the British government saw the declaration as “an important historic document of the colonial power of the United Kingdom” and that they felt “they owed it to the Jews who were persecuted in Europe. At the expense of diasporising [sic] an entire nation [the Palestinians] and taking over the land.

“Who is Britain, with a piece of letter (sic) that signed this territory and diasporises [sic] one million people, and brings Jewish Aliyah from all over the world to come and live in Palestine”.

The Balfour Declaration, which was written in 1917 and addressed to Lord Rothschild, expressed Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

“His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.

It also said that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.

A subsequent UN partition plan was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs, with the secretary-general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, saying at the time that they would sweep the Jews “into the sea”.

During his talk, Dr Hassassian claimed that Palestine was more democratic than Israel, and that it was Israel’s fault that there had been no Palestinian elections since 2005. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has held this position for over 11 years, despite being originally elected to a four-year term.

Dr Hassassian also said that he was not a representative of the Palestinian Authority in the UK, but rather of the Palestine Liberation Organisation – the PLO.

He said that he had been against the Oslo Agreement of 1993, calling it “a dismal failure; it legitimised Israeli Occupation of the West Bank”.

The conference was held by the Centre for the Study of International Peace and Security. As well as Dr Hassassian, it included Lord Turnberg, the president of the Britain-Israel All Party Parliamentary Group, and James Sorene, CEO of BICOM.

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