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Palestinians hire UK-based law firm to prosecute Britain over 1917 Balfour Declaration

The head of the Palestinian National Independent Assembly says a London-based law firm has been hired to prosecute the British government over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of Israel.

Munib al-Masri said in a Thursday statement that the Sunday decision by the Court of First Instance in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus to declare the document invalid is the first step to suing the British government in the UK for violations committed during its mandate over Palestine.

The Palestinian court also held Britain legally responsible for the consequences of the Balfour Declaration, demanding an apology to the Palestinians.

The lawsuit was filed by Palestinian lawyers in October last year on behalf of the National Assembly of Independents, the International Foundation for the Follow-up of the Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, against the British government.

“Britain and its then foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, from whom the ‘Balfour Declaration’ was issued at the time, neither owned Palestine nor did they have the right to determine the fate of its people,” the court ruled.

Britain’s acts violate “the rules of international law, local laws, international norms and the decisions of the United Nations League and the United Nations during the period of its occupation of the Palestinian territories throughout the period of the British Mandate, including its implementation of the Balfour Declaration,” it said.

The ruling said the declaration deprived “the Palestinian people of their legal, human and political rights, and … their right to self-determination on their Palestinian lands.”

Masri noted that there are plans to prosecute the British government to force it to apologize to the Palestinian people for the calamities that have befallen them as a result of the Balfour Declaration.

He pointed out that the British government had previously apologized to India, Cambodia, and Mau Mau people in Kenya and the State of Cyprus for the massacres it had committed against them.

Masri highlighted that Palestinian people are not inferior to the rest of the world, and have the right to prosecute Britain or whoever causes harm to them and deprives them of their right to self-determination.

The Balfour Declaration came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community. It was published on November 2, 1917.

The declaration was made during World War I (1914-1918), and was included in the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

It is widely seen as the precursor to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, when Zionist armed paramilitary groups, who were trained and created to fight side by side with the British in World War II, forcibly expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland, captured huge swathes of the Arab land, and proclaimed existence of Israel.

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