UK re­jects call for apol­ogy over Bal­four

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

THE BRI­TISH gov­ern­ment has said that it will not say sorry for the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion — the doc­u­ment signed in 1917 by For­eign Sec­re­tary Lord Bal­four that sig­nalled UK sup­port for a Jewish home­land.

Calls by anti-Is­rael ac­tivists for an apol­ogy have in­ten­si­fied in the run-up to the 100th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the Dec­la­ra­tion later this year, with an on­line pe­ti­tion to the gov­ern­ment at­tract­ing 13,528 sig­na­tures.

But the For­eign Of­fice said this week: “The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion is an his­toric state­ment and one that the UK gov­ern­ment will not be apol­o­gis­ing for.

“We recog­nise the sen­si­tiv­i­ties many peo­ple have about the dec­la­ra­tion and the events that have taken place in the re­gion since 1917, and so the UK gov­ern­ment will be mark­ing the cen­te­nary in an ap­pro­pri­ate and bal­anced man­ner.

“Our fo­cus re­mains on en­cour­ag­ing the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans to take steps which bring them closer to peace. We con­tinue to sup­port the prin­ci­ple of a Jewish home­land and the mod­ern state of Is­rael, just as we sup­port the crit­i­cal ob­jec­tive of a vi­able and sov­er­eign Pales­tinian State.”

Pales­tine was un­der Bri­tish rule when the then For­eign Sec­re­tary Arthur Bal­four out­lined the UK’s sup­port in a let­ter to Lord Roth­schild, a leader of the Bri­tish Jewish com­mu­nity.

In the 1917 doc­u­ment, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment de­clared that it viewed “with favour the es­tab­lish­ment in Pales­tine of a na­tional home for the Jewish peo­ple” and added that “noth­ing shall be done which may prej­u­dice the civil and re­li­gious rights of ex­ist­ing non-Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in Pales­tine”.

Jonathan Arkush, pres­i­dent of the Board of Deputies, praised the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion, say­ing: “We wel­come the gov­ern­ment’s strong, prin­ci­pled stance on the cen­te­nary of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion and its clear mes­sage to any would-be party-poop­ers.”

Manuel Has­sas­sian, head of the Pales­tinian mis­sion in the UK, said un­less the gov­ern­ment re­versed its po­si­tion, the Pales­tinian Author­ity would take le­gal ac­tion.

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