Protesters slam UK policy on Israel at Balfour ‘celebration’ event

Wed, 2017-11-08 21:01

LONDON: With chants, speeches and banner-waving, pro-Palestine protesters lambasted the UK government’s Middle East policies outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, where a “celebration” of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration was being held.
As the UK’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel finds herself in hot water over an unofficial trip to Israel last summer, the British government’s historic support of the Jewish state was the subject of much criticism from protesters at the demonstration on Tuesday evening.
“Britain has been the cause of a catastrophe for the Palestinian people for 100 years now and we should say no to it,” said Lara Jamil, who attended the protest with the Revolutionary Communist Group, one of the organizations coordinating the action.
The rally outside Royal Albert Hall was in protest against a concert celebrating the centenary of the the Balfour Declaration. The 67-word statement issued in 1917 lent official British support to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
“People have come to celebrate the dispossession of another people’s lands,” said Damian, a lorry driver and pro-Palestine activist. “They’re going to be in there singing, dancing, drinking wine,” he said, shaking his head.
Wearing traditional keffiyeh scarfs and waving flags, demonstrators chanted into bullhorns under the watchful eye of a dozen police officers, some of whom took pictures of the demonstrators.
Protester Jillian Brown said that the British government should pressure Israel to stop human rights abuses in Palestine. The public should hold the UK government responsible, she added, and “know where their MPs are and what they’re doing.” The, reference, she clarified, centered on Patel, who is facing calls to resign after it emerged this week that she had met with high-ranking officials on an undisclosed trip to Israel.
But a handful of counter-protesters, waving Star of David flags, said the UK’s support for Israel was worthy of celebration. “I’m sticking up for Israel and I’m sticking up for the British government who made the right decision to issue the Balfour Declaration,” explained Jonathan Fitter, who stood facing the pro-Palestine group with an Israeli banner.
Many of the pro-Israel protesters said they supported a two-state solution. “I want a Jewish state with security and I want to see a Palestinian state as well, without violence,” said Sue Hadden. The Balfour Declaration, she said, was the first step toward Jewish self-determination. “I think it’s really important to celebrate that,” she added.
But some protesters on the Palestinian side pointed out that the British government had not fulfilled the entirety of the Balfour Declaration, which called for upholding the rights of the local non-Jewish population.
“They more than fulfilled half their promise even though they had no right to promise it, and they completely neglected the second half of the promise,” said Hilary Wise, a retired university lecturer who works with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. “The Palestinians have been suffering ever since, there has been increasing, cumulative dispossession.”
Aspersions were cast by some passersby as the protesters chanted “Freedom for Palestine” into the bullhorn. “Rot in hell! You lost,” said a man, running his finger threateningly across his throat, as he crossed the protest and continued down the street.

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