Thousands march through London to oppose Balfour Declaration

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Pro-Palestine marchers were met by dozens of pro-Israel protesters who attempted to stop the march

Pro-Palestine demonstrators march down a street in central London (MEE/Areeb Ullah)
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Monday 6 November 2017 21:28 UTC
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LONDON, UK-Thousands of people marched through London on Saturday to call on Britain to apologise for the Balfour Declaration. 

The demonstration came as UK Prime Minister Theresa May this week celebrated the centenary of the controversial 1917 document which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. 

Organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestinian Forum in Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain, protesters marched through the heart of London from outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to Parliament Square in Westminster. 

The Balfour Declaration, which is dated 7 November 1917, is a 67-word letter from Balfour, the foreign secretary of David Lloyd George’s British government, to Walter Rothschild, the leader of the British Jewish community, which is considered by Zionists to indicate British support for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, which was then under the control of the Ottoman Empire.

While Israel reveres Arthur Balfour, naming streets and a Tel Aviv school after him, Palestinians decry his declaration as a promise by Britain to hand over land it did not own, which led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the eviction of many Palestinians from their lands.



Pro-Israel demonstrators attempt to counter the pro-Palestine demonstraiton (MEE/Areeb Ullah)

Some of the signs held at the London march included hundreds of "Free Palestine" placards and home-made signs aimed at Balfour.

Maureen Bennett, 74, travelled from Fishguard in southwest Wales to attend the protest. 

"The Palestinians have no freedom at all and the UK is responsible for this," Bennett told Middle East Eye. 

"Palestinian farmers have to go through Israeli checkpoints to tend to their land while Palestinian women have babies at checkpoints. 

"The world is doing nothing and it just makes me want to cry"

The Pro-Palestinian protest, however, was met by pro-Israeli protestors in Oxford Street, who held the march up for more than half an hour. 

Police attempted to intervene and stop the pro-Israeli demonstrators from marching in front of the Palestine demonstration. 

But the police failed to stop the pro-Israeli activists and escorted them from Oxford Street to Westminster Bridge, where they marched in front of the pro-Palestine protest. 

Hundreds of police officers were also deployed to separate the two protests as they marched through London. 

Tony Phillips, who marched with the pro-Israel marchers, told MEE that he joined the demonstration to support the Balfour declaration. 

"I am here to support the Balfour declaration and counter what I see as lies used to demonise the state of Israel," the 57-year old heating engineer told MEE. 

"Doesn't need to be violent, and I don't see any harm in controversy."

Among the speakers at the pro-Palestine rally in Westminster were representatives from numerous trade unions and other pro-Palestine organisations who supported the march. 

The rally also showed a video message from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.



Pro-Palestine demonstrators in London (MEE/Areeb Ullah)

Other notable figures who addressed the rally included film director Ken Loach and Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti,

Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti addressed the rally and said:

"The Balfour declaration founded the racist regime of apartheid and is being implemented in Jerusalem, in the West Bank and Gaza and that is why we must stop it. 

Other protests to decry the declaration took place across the West Bank and the Middle East over the last week. 

Earlier this week in London, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the British government for what he said was a failure to fully implement Balfour's promise by keeping parts of historical Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - under Arab control.