Chaired by Baroness Jenny Tonge, resolute and charming, the first speaker was the Director of the Palestinian Return Centre, Majed Al-Zeer. He read from a prepared statement which will be published within the next few days.
(‘The Palestinian Return Centre is an independent consultancy focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects of the Palestinian Refugees. The organization offers expert advice on the question of Palestinian Refugees within the context of the Nakba – The catastrophe following the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948 – and serves as an information repository on other related aspects of the Palestine question and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It specializes in the research, analysis, and monitor of issues pertaining to the dispersed Palestinians and their internationally recognized legal right to return.)
The next speaker was Karl Sabbagh, a Palestinian-British writer, journalist and television producer. Drawing on an intimate knowledge of the history of Palestine and those walking the corridors of power at the time he said an apology could only be justified if harm which could have been avoided had been caused by those responsible. Britain is responsible for the agony of the Palestinians and the Balfour Apology Campaign asks the UK government to officially apologise for its past colonial crimes in Palestine and recognising the continuing grave injustice caused to the Palestinians, must act to end it.
The final speaker was Betty Hunter, formerly director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and now it’s’ Honorary President. She spoke with the passion, commitment, knowledge and experience of a seasoned campaigner and reminded us of the importance of the BDS Campaign nationally and internationally.
Professor Yakov Rabkin from the University of Montreal in England to promote his book, What is Modern Israel’ was invited to comment. His thesis is that usually we think of the state of modern Israel, as well as the nineteenth century Zionist movement that led to its founding, as a response to anti-Semitism which grew out of cultural and religious Judaism. Professor Yakov argues that Zionism far from being a natural development of Judaism has its historical and theological roots in Protestant Christianity. While most Jewish people view Zionism as marginal or even heretical, Christian enthusiasm for the Restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land transformed the traditional Judaic yearning for ‘Return,’ a spiritual concept with a very different meaning into a political project. READ HIS BOOK!
Several Haredim wearing PSC badges arrived late and reminded us that for many secular Zionism remains a religious heresy.
The Campaign is launching a petition and 100,000 signatures will secure a debate in Parliament. It is expected that throughout 2017 there will be events to present the reality of Britain’s betrayal of the Palestinians and to counter what is expected to be Israel’s celebration of the Balfour Declaration. Everyone was urged to do everything possible to present Palestine to the wider public and, as Betty Hunter commented, the time was never more ripe as the subject of Palestine is no longer merely a minority interest. The attacks on Gaza saw to that and the charge of anti-Semitism against anyone speaking up for Palestine no longer holds water.
Sumud Palestine must think hard about what part it can play in the Balfour Apology Campaign. Now is not the time to lose momentum but to ramp up our actions and activities.
26 October 2017