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We owe Palestinians for flawed carve-up.


BRITAIN still owes Palestinians a country on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which controversially promised the "national home for Jewish people" that was to become Israel.

What for Israelis was a joyous moment, paving the way for the creation of their state after the horrors of the Holocaust, is for Palestinians the woeful decision of Empire Britain to give away their lands in 1917.

So, at just 67 words, the deceptively brief pledge by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild remains the most explosive short letter in the history of international politics.

Britain cannot simply look away and find excuses when, as the world's most formidable colonial power, we picked a side in what for many decades has proved one of the globe's most intractable conflicts.

Opinion's deeply divided within, as well as between, political parties in what frequently descends into shouting matches, with charges of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, levelled by bitter enemies.

Tory PM Theresa May will join, in London, her Israeli opposite number Benjamin Netanyahu to applaud the Balfour Declaration, while Labour its leader Jeremy Corbyn, a consistent supporter of the Palestinian cause, stays away from what his aides dismiss privately as a propaganda stunt. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry will deputise.

The diplomatic goal is an Israel secure in its legitimate borders and a free Palestine, but time's running out for a two-state solution when Israel is grabbing Palestinian land and building illegal settlements.

I've visited Israel and Palestine on four occasions over 30 years and hope is pretty much all that's left. In the Middle East, this is no equal battle when a nuclear-armed Israel controls Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank while blockading a Gaza Strip where conditions are inhuman.

The Islamist group Hamas, which former peace envoy and Labour leader Tony Blair recently admitted should have been engaged rather than shunned, is accused in turn of supporting terrorism and attacked for refusing to recognise Israel.

Winding the clock back is neither possible nor desirable.

Britain can't escape its past and its moral responsibility Israel's entitled to exist, but Palestinians demanding an apology for the Balfour Declaration are also entitled to escape oppression and enjoy a state of their own. The bit of the 67-word statement guaranteeing the rights of "existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" is clearly broken - an inconvenient fact likely to be overlooked this week by celebrants.

Britain, however, cannot escape its past and its moral responsibility.

Britain can't escape its past and its moral responsibility

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Oct 30, 2017
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