Remembering Balfour in London, 100 years on

Middle East Monitor reports, ‘ The grey weather did not deter the hundreds of attendees who arrived early on Saturday [7 October]  morning at the British Library in London to attend MEMO’s conference to commemorate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. A heavily subscribed event, the conference took a detailed look at Britain’s role in the creation of Israel, past and present, showcasing an alternative narrative to the celebrations promised by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Attendees were able to purchase books on the Palestinian issue, including those shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2017 and indulge in refreshments before being ushered into the auditorium. They were welcomed by Dr Daud Abdullah, the Director of MEMO, who expressed the importance of recognising the Balfour Declaration for what is was . . . Professor Avi Shlaim, an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, echoed these sentiments in his keynote address, noting that despite the Balfour Declaration being only 67 words long, it had extensive and long-term consequences for the region as a whole. Professor Shlaim gave the audience a broader picture of British foreign policy at the time of the Balfour Declaration, citing the three promises Britain made at the end of the First World War. The first was to pledge to Sharif Hussein of Mecca to establish an independent Arab kingdom, which in the eyes of the Arabs would include Palestine. Britain later denied that this was the case. The second was the Sykes-Picot Agreement that divided the Ottoman Empire, ensuring that Western influence could progress in the region. The third was the Balfour Declaration; a promise Britain had no legal authority to make this promise. The concept of a national home does not exist in international law, he stressed. Shlaim even suggested that there was an anti-Semitic motive behind the Declaration, such that by creating a Jewish homeland, Jews would not have a full right of citizenship in other countries where they lived. His speech continually highlighted how the Zionist project was an exercise in colonial occupation, one that benefited British imperial interests at the time above all else . . .

Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, Dr Victor Kattan, gave a history of how in the late 1930s Britain attempted to push a mandate that would see the rights of Palestinians catered to. In considering what prompted Britain to suddenly attempt this, he pointed to the fact that Muhammad Ali Jinnah of the Indian Muslim League had wanted to bring a court case against the British in the League of Nations in protest of the situation of the Palestinian people. Whilst such attempts were unsuccessful, it was indicative of British fear for being held accountable. Kattan even suggested that it would be possible for Palestine or even an NGO to draft an international claim for the record to the Hague now that they are part of ICC . . .”

For a detailed account, click here.

More from Events

Support Ismail Serageldin

In a recent editorial [14 September 2017], the science journal Nature has drawn attention to the heavy-handed treatment the Egyptian authorities have meted out to an eminent scholar, Ismail Serageldin, instrumental in re-establishing the library of Alexandria. It notes, Next … read more

Hajj Advice

Live Hajj Coverage

The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Saudi Arabia ( has issued the following requirements and recommendations to obtain entry visas for 2017/1438H-Hajj and Umrah seasons: 1.    Yellow fever (A) In accordance with the International Health Regulations 2005, all travelers arriving … read more

Palestine Exhibtion: Popular event

The Palestine Exhibition at Queen Elizabeth II Centre  in  Westminster was filled to the capacity on Saturday, 9th September, the first of a two-day event organised by Friends of Al Aqsa.  A keynote was an address by Professor Tariq Ramadan, … read more

MCB speech on London Bridge atrocity

From MCB Secretary General Haru Khan, at the Press Conference, 4 June 2017 Ladies and gentlemen, Thank you for attending at such short notice. As you can see, we have Muslim community representatives from around the country who have come … read more

Kenan Malik in the Guardian, ‘What  Khalid Masood wreaked on Westminster last week was depraved and shocking. It was not, however, another 7/7. The attacks on the tube and a bus by four suicide bombers on 7 July 2005 were … read more

Solidarity with Adlène Hicheur

UPDATE  Declan Butler reports in Nature, ‘ Particle physicist Adlène Hicheur has not been able to attend scientific meetings since July, when he was mysteriously deported from Brazil and placed under house arrest in the small town of Vienne, in … read more

Justice discharged on Maulana Shakeel?

‘The Claimant, Shakeel Begg, the Chief Imam at Lewisham Islamic Centre (“LIC”), claimed damages against the BBC for libel in respect of a broadcast of the “Sunday Politics” current affairs programme on 3rd November 2013 on BBC1. Mr Begg complained … read more

Fun & Faction

Fly on the wall Downing Street ,Thursday 20 October, 8 a.m. Prime Minister’s breakfast meeting with her PPS. PM: Patch me to Parker. Now. PPS sets up secure line to Thames House: PM for the DG. Now. PM: Parker, have … read more