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Britain’s Parliament Debates the Balfour Declaration, Revealing Divides Over Israel in Contemporary Politics

The British Government will neither celebrate the Balfour Declaration nor apologize for it. So responded the UK’s Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, at the close of a special debate on the Balfour Declaration at the British Parliament this morning, criticizing the Balfour Declaration for failing to include a parallel commitment to Palestinian Arab statehood in 1917. “It is fifty years since the Occupation began,” noted the British minister with frustration, arguing that “it is for historians to assess the Declaration” and for “ministers to deal with the today.” “The Occupation of the Palestinian Territories,” he stressed, “is unacceptable and unsustainable.”

The debate was heavily dominated by concern for the “unfinished business” of the two-state solution and punctuated by repeated criticism of Israel’s settlement policies, but nevertheless included numerous supportive interjections by MPs friendly to Israel.

Labour MP Ivan Lewis stressed the importance of the debate in the context of resurgent anti-Semitism—within his own party and across Europe—which “more often than not is linked to hostility to the State of Israel.” He further blasted the “delegitimization of Israel through the rewriting of history, which seeks to deny the legal and moral basis” of Jewish self-determination. His colleague Luciana Berger spoke up for the Labour Party’s historical support for the creation of a Jewish state. A Northern Irish MP recalled following the Six Day War on the radio, admiring Israel as the underdog. And Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly paid tribute to Theodor Herzl for persuading the international community to put an end to “Jewish homelessness.”

Read entire article at Tablet Magazine