Britain is proud to have played a key part in the establishment of the modern Jewish State and the document that started that process, the Balfour Declaration, needs no apology from the nation that framed it 100 years ago.
That is the UK Foreign Office response to the continuing call by the Palestinian Return Center rights group for the UK to apologize for the document and pay reparations to those it says are affected by it.
In February, the group launched a petition on the British Parliament website calling on Britain to “openly apologise to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration. The colonial policy of Britain between 1917-1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation.”
The petition called for a two-state solution and for negotiations conducted directly between Israel and the Palestinians, “but with appropriate support from the international community.”
The UK Foreign Office has responded to the petition, which has so far gained some 13,400 online signatures. If the petition passes 100,000 signatures by May 3, it will be debated in Parliament.
According to Reuters, Palestinian leaders said on Tuesday Britain had rejected their request for an apology in a written letter to the (Palestinian) Foreign Ministry.
“The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG (her Majesty’s Government) does not intend to apologise,” the response began. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”
“The Declaration was written in a world of competing imperial powers, in the midst of the First World War and in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire,” the statement continued. “In that context, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.
“Much has happened since 1917. We recognise that the Declaration should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination. However, the important thing now is to look forward and establish security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through a lasting peace.”
Britain will recognize the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration with celebrations in November together with Israeli officials.
British Prime Minister Theresa May last year hailed it as an expression of the “UK’s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
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