Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Month of activity - part 1

November 2nd is the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 where then foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild declaring Britain's support for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. 

One of the problems with this pledge of support is that Britain promised the same land three times.  Prior to this declaration in 1915 letters between Sir Henry McMahon, representative of the British Government, and Sherif Hussayn of Mecca show that Britain had also promised independence to Arab nations in return for assistance in overthrowing the Ottoman empire because Turkey had allied with Germany.  In 1916 the Arab Revolt had indeed resulted in the overthrowing.  Not only did British government representatives 'promise' the land to both Arab and Jewish nations they also entered into the Sykes-Picot agreement with France in 1916 in secret decided Britain and France would carve up the area between them after the Ottoman empire collapsed.  The seeds for so many years of colonisation, conflict and suffering are laid.  Please note the sentence of condition of support which says "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing communities in Palestine" ummm...did anyone else notice that this part appears to have been overlooked?
November 5th was annual fundraising dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel for Al Quds Medical education foundation.  This is a dinner and auction attended by many doctors, surgeons and medical professionals some of whom are Palestinians training and working in UK and some are British doctors who have volunteered, trained and travelled in Palestine.  There was an auction at the end of a good meal and speeches with art work, furniture, traditional clothing sold off to raise funds.  The Foundation pays for Palestinian med students to finish specialist training and for international doctors to travel to Palestine to take part in examination procedures.

Speaking was Haneen Zouabi who was one of our shipmates on the Mavi Marmara and a member of the Israeli Knesset.  It was good to see her with her bright indomitable spirit - within the previous two weeks she had been shot at and hit with rubber bullets during a peaceful demonstration in Umm Al-Fahm against a far-right Jewish march of supporters of the banned Kach party that advocate driving Arab citizens out of all of Israel and the Occuppied Territories.  She stood up and spoke about how despite being an Israeli citizen she is Palestinian and this is what was not expected of Palestinian-Israelis.  Israel she said expected that Palestinian citizens of Israel might forsake or forget their relationship with the Palestinian diaspora, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and that this is not the case.  This is why she said she was on the Mavi Marmara - expressing solidarity with her people in Gaza.  She said it was a strange feeling to be standing in the opulent surroundings of the Grosvenor Hotel having come from deprived areas of Israel where Palestinians live.  She mentioned the discriminatory laws of Israel against the Palestinian minority who live there and said that the Palestinians were asking only for their civil and human rights - most recently the idea of requiring all citiziens to swear allegiance to a Jewish state .  Palestinians she said were willing to accept the colonisers in Palestine in peace but that they must have their rights and the rights of those Palestinian refugees who want to return.

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