A resident of the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday filed a first of its kind lawsuit in a PA court in Ramallah against the British government following the Balfour Declaration.
The Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, was a letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Baron Walter Rothschild stating that “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
In 1922, the League of Nations adopted this position and made the British Mandate “responsible for putting into effect the declaration,” which led to the UN vote in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The lawsuit was filed by tycoon Munib al-Masri, on behalf of the Independent National Forum and the International Institution for the Monitoring of Palestinian Rights.
Public figures, scholars, historians and jurists are listed as plaintiffs in the case accusing the United Kingdom of a “blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and its responsibility for the results of the Balfour Declaration.”
This is a precedent-setting lawsuit that follows the PA’s repeated demanded that Britain withdraw from the Balfour Declaration and apologize for it, which recognizes the right of Jews to a national home.
“Those who are not qualified give to those who are not worthy,” PA leaders have argued in recent years against Britain.
Responding to the demand during the 100th anniversary celebration of declaration, then British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “when some people suggest that we should apologize for this letter, I say ‘absolutely not.’ …We are proud to stand here today…and declare our support for Israel.”
Dozens of journalists and public figures gathered at the entrance to the court in Ramallah to cover the filing of the lawsuit alleging that Britain is responsible for “the source of the suffering of the Palestinian people and the strengthening of the Zionist movement in Palestine.”
“The lawsuit comes 103 years after the invention of the Balfour Declaration, which harmed the Palestinian people as if they were a minority in their homeland that had no rights, and laid the foundations for the establishment of the State of Israel unjustly,” stated that 86-year-old al-Masri.
In 2017, a high-profile Balfour Apology Campaign had launched a petition on the British Parliament website calling on the UK to “openly apologize to the Palestinian people for issuing the Balfour Declaration” ahead of its centenary in November 2017.
Responding to the petition, the British government stated that “the Balfour Declaration is a historic statement for which Her Majesty’s Government does not intend to apologize. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”
The statement also reaffirmed the government’s belief that “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.”
In an address to the Arab League in March 2017, PA head Mahmoud Abbas demanded the UK apologize for granting the Balfour Declaration.
In July 2016, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki asked the Arab League for support in filing a lawsuit against the UK government for publishing the Declaration.
In July 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the PA’s announcement that it intended to sue the UK for the Balfour Declaration, saying that this step clarifies that the root of the conflict is the refusal by the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state in any borders.
“Of course they will fail,” Netanyahu said of the lawsuit.
“After nearly 4,000 years of Jewish history inextricably tied to this land, almost one hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, 68 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, there are people who still deny our strong connection to our land. This shines a light clarifying that the root of the conflict is the refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders, Netanyahu declared.
“It was and remains the heart of this conflict, and until we do not recognize this and tell the nations of the world, ‘Here, this is the root of the conflict, that and the incitement that accompanies it,’ only then – without diagnoses, without prognoses – there is no cure, there is no relief,” he explained.