Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem gathered Thursday outside the British consulate in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to demand the UK apologize for a British declaration that 100 years ago called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine.
The protest centered around roughly a dozen school girls who arrived at the consulate to deliver thousands of letters written by Palestinian students, demanding Britain apologize for the Balfour Deceleration.
The declaration is seen as a precursor to Israel’s creation in 1948, and the anniversary is a joyous occasion for Israelis. Palestinians, however, say it led to hundreds of thousands fleeing or being forced from their homes in the 1948 War of Independence, and have protested the centennial celebrations.
The protest — though it was publicized by the combined official media of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority and the PA’s Fatah ruling party Fatah — was only attended by some 70 people.
The event in Jerusalem was one in a series of protests planned by the Palestinian leadership throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and also in Tel Aviv.
Hundreds attended a Balfour Declaration protest in the center of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.
“We came to oppose the continuation of the injustice caused by the Balfour Declaration,” the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, told The Times of Israel
He described as an “injustice” the British government’s plans to mark the centennial with a celebratory dinner Thursday night in London, to be attended by the leaders of Israel and Britain, saying it was a “denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.”
“We are here so the whole world, including and most importantly Britain, hears about [this oppression]. It is unacceptable for this oppression to come from Britain or anywhere else. We also want to affirm, with God’s permission, that all of our rights to this land will not be relinquished, despite all the unjust political decisions, conspiracies, and international biases,” the mufti concluded.
The protesters held black flags that said the Balfour deceleration was “the crime of the century.”
Also on the flags was a man wearing a kefiyeh and hoisting a large key above his head, through which ran the word, “returning,” referring to the Palestinian refugees and their descendants around the world who say they want to return.
“Listen, British: Jerusalem is Arabic,” the crowd chanted.
“Freedom is the right of our Palestinian state, from water to water,” the crowd yelled, referring to the historic borders of Palestine between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Sinan, an East Jerusalemite who didn’t want to reveal his last name, said the chant didn’t wasn’t an expression of a desire to destroy the State of Israel, but merely something “historic.”
“All the world must know that we want our state along the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said, adding that he didn’t care about West Jerusalem because “it’s new.”
He demanded that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration.
Britain, along with most of the international community, backs a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as a capital for the Palestinians and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, though Israel considers the whole city its “united capital.”
Doctor Da’ud, who also didn’t want to give his real name, said it was unlikely the British government would do anything for the Palestinians, but that the people of Britain might help.
“If there will be no justice in this world, then war will continue. I want to live peacefully, and the only way to do this is to sit together and make peace,” Da’ud said.
Writing in the British daily The Guardian on Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas argued that the Balfour Declaration was responsible for setting off a century of tragic events for the Palestinians. He called on Britain to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, saying such a move would “go some way towards fulfilling the political rights of the Palestinian people.”
AFP contributed to this report.