Palestinians protest on Balfour anniversary
RAMALLAH - Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah on Thursday to protest on the 100th anniversary of Britain's Balfour Declaration, which helped lead to Israel's creation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas used the occasion to denounce the declaration, writing in a newspaper opinion piece that "the creation of a homeland for one people resulted in the dispossession and continuing persecution of another".
Several Palestinian leaders have called on Britain to apologise for the 67-word declaration that said it viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
At Thursday's protest, signs said "the promise of he who doesn't own to those who don't deserve" -- a common expression in Arabic for the Balfour Declaration.
Some protesters held black flags calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed the right to return, as they marched from Ramallah's Arafat Square to a nearby British cultural office.
"Balfour promised to establish the Israeli entity and its result is everything the Palestinian people still suffer from today, such as displacement, destruction and pain," said Abu Haitham Amro, 70, who was carrying a Palestinian flag.
The Balfour Declaration is celebrated among Israelis, who see it as a major step toward the founding of their state in 1948 at a time when Jews were facing persecution in Europe.
But the war preceding Israel's creation in 1948 also led to some 750,000 Palestinians fleeing and being ethnically cleansed from their homes in a violent campaign by Zionist terror groups -- what they call the "Nakba", or catastrophe.
In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War. It has since annexed east Jerusalem and the occupation of the West Bank continues. The occupation and annexation of land intended for a Palestinian state has never been recognized by the international community, and hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are greatly diminishing.
"The Palestinians say that the Balfour Declaration was a tragedy. It wasn't a tragedy," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, widely seen as a champion of Israel's illegal settlement project on occupied land, said Wednesday before departing for London where he is marking the anniversary.
"What's been tragic is their refusal to accept this 100 years later. I hope they change their mind, because if they do they can move forward finally to making peace between our two peoples."
Abbas wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper: "We have endorsed the two-state solution for the past 30 years, a solution that becomes increasingly impossible with every passing day."
"As long as the state of Israel continues to be celebrated and rewarded, rather than held accountable to universal standards for its continued violations of international law, it will have no incentive to end the occupation," he added, referring in particular to Israeli settlement building.