“I don’t think we celebrate the Balfour declaration. But I think we have to mark it because it was a turning point in the history of that area and the most important way of marking it is to recognize Palestine.”
— Emily Thornberry, UK shadow foreign secretary
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, is calling on the UK to mark the centenary of the Balfour declaration — which called for the creation of a Jewish national homeland — with a formal British recognition of the state of Palestine.
The Balfour declaration was issued on Nov 2, 1917, and took its name from a letter written by Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary, expressing support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” to Lord Rothschild.
Although Israel was not established until three decades later, the declaration is still seen, not least by Israel, as a founding diplomatic initiative for a Jewish state. It is deeply resented by Palestinians.
“I have been here for 11 years and have noticed dramatic changes in the British public’s views on Palestine. That only 14 percent say they wouldn’t want the Palestinian state to receive recognition is an indication of the Palestinian cause worldwide being accepted.”
— Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the UK
A majority of the British public believe the UK should recognize Palestine as a state, according to the results of a new YouGov poll published Monday.
53 percent of respondents said they agree with such a step, as opposed to just 14 percent who disagreed (33 percent said they were “neutral”).
Responding to the poll, Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, said public opinion has been shifting. “I have been here for 11 years and have noticed dramatic changes in the British public’s views on Palestine,” he said.
“That only 14 percent say they wouldn’t want the Palestinian state to receive recognition is an indication of the Palestinian cause worldwide being accepted,” he added.
Manchester University censored the title of a Holocaust survivor’s criticism of Israel and insisted that her campus talk be recorded, after Israeli diplomats said its billing amounted to antisemitic hate speech.
“These events will cause Jewish students to feel uncomfortable on campus and that they are being targeted and harassed for their identity as a people and connection to the Jewish state of Israel.”
—Michael Freeman, Israeli embassy’s counsellor for civil society affairs
“In educational institutions there shouldn’t be any sort of lobbying from foreign governments. You couldn’t imagine [the administration] sitting down with the Saudi embassy for an event about what’s going on in Yemen.”
— Huda Ammori, event organizer
Marika Sherwood, a Jewish survivor of the Budapest ghetto, was due to give a talk in March about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, headlined: “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.”
But after a visit by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, and his civil affairs attaché, university officials banned organizers from using the “unduly provocative” title and set out a range of conditions before it could go ahead.