MANY thanks for publishing an edited version of our piece regarding our concert on September 15. We are happy that this piece overall gives a positive reflection of what was a very successful local event.
However we have concerns that about some changes which have been made by your paper to our original piece. The passage in paragraph 2 “Longing, Belonging and Balfour celebrated the Balfour Declaration” is of particular concern: indeed the use of the word “celebrate” (which was also used as a headline to the online article published before the concert) constitutes a factual inaccuracy as celebrating was emphatically NOT the purpose of organising this event. Our aim, as well as that of our guests Chai For All Ensemble, was to mark the Declaration and reflect on this momentous document with all the gravity befitting the occasion…which is why we had chosen the suitably neutral word “mark” (the concert expressed many narratives from all points of view ).
The Balfour Declaration is celebrated by many in Israel, and more generally by those who support Zionism, as it led to the creation of the Jewish State in 1948. However, for the Palestinian people, who lost everything as a result, there is nothing to celebrate. 100 years on, the dispossession, home demolitions and human rights abuses continue, with little prospect in sight of the Palestinians having their own state. Indeed, as Ambassador Manuel Hassassian (Palestinian Mission in the UK) has pointed out, the idea of “celebrating” their tragedy would “rub salt in the wound for every Palestinian”
Instead of a celebration, this centenary should provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the role of Britain in Palestine between 1917 and 2017: after all the Balfour Declaration kick-started the handing over by the British government of the time, of a land that was not theirs to give away.
This year should instead herald a fresh start for the UK: a time, perhaps to recognise the wrongs of the past, and to finally make things right for the Palestinians after decades of suffering and injustice. An apology by our government would be a good start.
Samiha Abdeldjebar
Bradford on Avon Friends of Palestine