Hundred years after creating Israel, Britain nowhere near remorseful
While Britain came some distance close to apologising for its brutal imperial past and atoning for its invasion of Iraq, Palestine remains a stark exception.
The seminal moment in Britain's role was the Balfour Declaration, a promise by then UK Foreign Minister Arthur Balfur in 1917 to help establish a homeland for Zionist European Jews in Palestine, then a province of the Muslim Ottoman Empire shortly before its occupation by Britain.
Although the declaration stated “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," Britain would in subsequent years do little to fulfill this part of the promise.
The rest is history, and the British-enabled Zionist colonisation of Palestine culminates with the Nakba, or the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.
|Britain's lack of contrition has been made clear by reports suggesting a member of the British Royal Family, possibly Prince Charles or Queen Elizabeth herself, intends to make an unprecedented visit to Israel|
Britain's lack of contrition has been made clear by reports suggesting a member of the British Royal Family, possibly Prince Charles or Queen Elizabeth herself, intends to make an unprecedented visit to Israel to attend the centenary of the Balfour Declaration later this year.
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Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli President, extended the invitation via Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week.
The current Conservative government is particularly unapologetic about its chuminess with the world's only remaining apartheid regime and its role in creating it, despite the support of vast segments of British public opinion for Palestinian rights and a boycott of Israel until its occupation is ended.
In December, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for celebrating the Balfour Declaration with 'pride'.
Speaking at the Conservative Friends of Israel conference, she vowed to take the UK-Israel relationship “to the next level”.
At the same event, May suggested there would be a new definition for 'anti-Semitism', perhaps to include criticism of Israel and support for the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement against it.
From the perspectives of Palestinians, Britain should apologise for rather than celebrate its role.
"The fact is that Britain has not even recognised Palestine as a state following the October 2014 Parliamentary vote requesting the government to do so. Add to this that 2017 also marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and other Arab land and Israel’s refusal to end this, and it is obvious that any reasonable person would say that a “celebration” of the Balfour Declaration would be completely inappropriate," wrote Kamel Hawwash, from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
In remarks to The Independent, Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said:
"It is grossly inappropriate for the royal family to make an official visit to Israel 100 years after the Balfour declaration.
The consequences of this dispossession are still experienced by Palestinians today, whether living as unequal citizens within the state of Israel, as refugees or under military occupation.
The British government should be reflecting on its complicity in these events, offering an apology to the Palestinian people and putting pressure on Israel to abide by international law."