Thousands march over Balfour betrayal
by New Worker correspondent
THOUSANDS of supporters of Palestinian human rights marched through London last Saturday to mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration — a document that paved the way for the establishment of the state of Israel and the beginning of a genocidal war against the indigenous people of Palestine.
The march and rally were organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PCS), Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB), Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Stop the War Coalition (STW) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).
It was supported by Unite the Union, UNISON, National Education Union- NUT Section, GMB, ASLEF, RMT, FBU, UCU, PCS, CWU; and Europal Forum, CND, Pax Christi, APCUK, Kairos UK, Friends of Sabeel UK, ICAHD UK, Olive, Amos Trust, APCUK and Muslim Voice.
The Balfour Declaration was written by Britain’s then Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on 2nd November 1917. It was a defining document in which the British government stated its support for the establishment of a national home for Jewish people in Palestine.
Prime Minister Theresa May last Thursday welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a commemorative dinner, expressing Britain’s pride in the document.
But last Saturday’s march expressed deep shame at Britain’s imperialist role in creating a future of displacement, homelessness and ethnic cleansing on the people of Palestine. Placards on the march declared: “Theresa May, shame on you”.
The march was held up for an hour as a small but noisy group of Zionist supporters of Israel staged a counter protest, accusing the marchers of anti-Semitism. They have forgotten that before the creation of Israel in 1948, Zionism was regarded as an anti-Semitic trend mostly supported by Christian imperialists who wanted the Jewish people living in their own countries to go somewhere else.
There were plenty of progressive Jewish organisations, such as the Jewish Socialist Group and Jews for Justice for Palestine on the main march.
The march began in Grosvenor Square outside the United States embassy with speeches.
Rajab Shamlakh, from the Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK, spoke about Theresa May: “She’s proud to celebrate the Balfour Declaration... is she proud to celebrate ethnic cleansing? Apartheid? And the oppression of human rights? This government should feel shame, not pride.”
The march made its way through Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, along Whitehall and with a pause as it passed Downing Street to a rally in Parliament Square.
Banners proclaimed: “100 years of injustice”, “Free Palestine” and “Israel is a terror state”. Many carried outline maps showing the erosion of Palestinian land by Israel over the last half century so that it is now just one-fifth of what it was at the creation of Israel — and what is left is disappearing fast under new illegal Israeli settlements.
The policy of the Israeli government is for Palestine to disappear, along with its culture, language and history. It has defied numerous United Nations resolutions because it has the total backing of the USA — and Britain.
In spite of economic crises, the USA continues to give Israel billions of dollars every year along with weapons so that the Israeli state can act as an agent of the US government in the Middle East.
At the rally in Parliament Square, speakers included Dr Mustafa Barghouti, Ken Loach, Andy Slaughter MP, Matt Wrack general secretary FBU, Margaret McKee president UNISON, John Pilger, Senator Paul Gavan Sinn Féin, and many others.
Glyn Secker, from the campaign group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, told the crowd: “These criticisms are not and cannot be anti-Semitic — they are to assert basic human and Jewish values.”
Describing Palestine as “the world’s biggest prison” and a “psychological torture chamber”, Secker said: “Netanyahu you do not speak for me, nor for hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world who identify with your victims.”
A video of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was also played to the crowd, which burst into energetic chants of “Ohh, Jeremy Corbyn”.
Ismail Patel, founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, said that the message to the Government from Saturday’s march was clear. “First and foremost, apologise for the Balfour Declaration,” he said.
“Secondly, recognise the state of Palestine today. Third, continue with BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] until Palestine is free.“My friends, take this message home and keep working until Palestine is free,” he added, to rapturous chants of “free, free Palestine”.