As the U.K. officially commemorates 100 years since the Balfour declaration promised Palestine as “a national home for the Jewish people,” British activists have marched thousands of miles in protest.
Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel, and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride.”
However, for many in the U.K. the colonial-era statement is a source of embarrassment and shame.
Among them are a delegation of protesters who have walked through 11 countries across half a year “to apologize” for their former foreign minister’s fateful words, according to Al-Arabiya.
Monir Aljaghoub, head of the media office for Fatah on Friday shared an image of the group’s arrival in Jerusalem following a journey of “more than 135 days.”
They marched across France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Turkey, Aljaghoub describes, before flying to Jordan and heading across the border to Jericho, then Jerusalem.
Their aim, he says, was to condemn the Balfour declaration, to send a message to their government and the international community and to reject the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
In the image, the activists are holding up a sign in Arabic that reads “we marched for a hundred days in protest against the disastrous Balfour declaration.”
Al-Arabiya reported that some 100 activists then toured the West Bank to view illegal Israeli settlement expansion and meet Palestinians.
The march was organized by the Holy Land Secretariat in Bethlehem. Elias Deis, the head of the department of tourism and education at the Secretariat, told al-Arabiya that they give tours to visiting groups throughout the year to raise awareness about the occupation.
These marchers are not alone in speaking out against the statement. Earlier this year over 13,500 signed a petition for the U.K. government to “openly apologize to the Palestinian people” before it was prematurely closed due to parliamentary elections.
“The colonial policy of Britain between 1917-1948 led to mass displacement of the Palestinian nation,” read the request.
A government response indicated: “The Balfour Declaration is an [sic] historic statement for which HMG [Her Majesty’s government] does not intend to apologize.”
A national demonstration against Balfour’s vow which “laid the foundations for Palestinian dispossession” is planned in London on Nov. 4.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s largest opposition party Labour, has refused to attend an official dinner marking the anniversary on Thursday. May and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be present.
Palestinians have repeatedly asked that Britain apologize for the promise made in a 1917 letter to Lord Rothschild, head of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
On Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah again sought an expression of regret for what he said was a “historical injustice”.
Palestinian officials had previously threatened to take action against Britain in the international courts over the declaration.
In July 2016, then Foreign Minister Riad Malki said that “based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland."