100 years: Israelis, British honor Balfour Declaration, Palestinians protest

Thousands gathered across the Middle East on Thursday to protest the centenary of Britain’s declaration of support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, some being met with military force.

Palestinians display posters of Arthur James Balfour -- reading, in Arabic, "Balfour declaration of the desperate, 100 years of stealing our land" -- during a protest rally marking the 100th anniversary of Britain's Balfour Declaration in Rafah southern Gaza on Thursday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
Palestinians display posters of Arthur James Balfour — reading, in Arabic, “Balfour declaration of the desperate, 100 years of stealing our land” — during a protest rally marking the 100th anniversary of Britain’s Balfour Declaration in Rafah southern Gaza on Thursday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

The so-called Balfour Declaration — in which British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild in 1917 giving support for a Jewish homeland — made way for the future establishment of Israel.
British Prime Minister Theresa May hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to mark the anniversary with a dinner. But supporters of a Palestinian state called for an apology from Britain for its role in what it considers Israeli occupation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement asking Britain to recognize Palestine and offer compensation.

People gathered in Ramallah and outside the British consulate in East Jerusalem to protest the declaration. Students from a Palestinian high school signed a petition delivered to the British consulate.

“In addition to admitting its mistake, it must assume responsibility for the damage that befell the Palestinians as a result of the or the Balfour Declaration and the policies that ensued,” Zakaria Odeh, a 64-year-old protester, told Al Jazeera.

On Wednesday, demonstrators burned an effigy of Balfour in Bethlehem. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters there Thursday.

By Danielle Haynes