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Adjournment Speech: Lee on the Balfour Declaration

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 15 Nov 2017

On Tuesday 14th of November, 2017, Lee gave the following speech in the Senate. 

One hundred years ago, Britain, responsible for so much death and destruction in its colonial zeal, sowed the seeds of Palestinian dispossession of the Nakba, the impact of which is still being felt by everyone living inside the borders of historic Palestine and around the world. The Balfour Declaration, delivered to Lord Rothschild of the British Zionist Federation 100 years ago, was a moment in history that is still unbelievable. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote:

There was never anything like it: an empire promising a land that it had not yet conquered to a people not living there, without asking the inhabitants.

Historians, such as Ilan Pappe, have shown that the Zionist leaders understood 'the promise' meant the country as a whole. This also meant that the Zionist leaders had no intention of honouring the partition plan, which was also a violation of the rights of Palestinian people. From the moment Lord Balfour penned those 67 words to the implementation of Ben-Gurion's Plan D, which started the 'ethnic cleansing' of the land of Palestine, the intention of the Zionist leaders was to colonise the whole of Palestine. Today 78 per cent of historic Palestine is colonised and the remaining 22 per cent is under Israeli occupation. Today there are over nine million Palestinians living as second-class citizens inside Israeli borders, under military occupation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank or living as refugees in surrounding Arab countries and in the wider diaspora. All of these Palestinians have been personally impacted by the violent dispossession of their homes and lands that began in 1948, and none have been granted the right of return. If you are Palestinian, you can't return to your land.

Decades of human rights violations, war crimes and deaths on all sides can all be attributed to the arrogance of the colonial British at the hand of Lord Arthur Balfour. This year, the Palestinian people called on the British government to recognise and apologise for the 100 years of destruction and dispossession instigated by the declaration. It is unfortunate that not only did Britain fail to recognise their hand in the Palestinian Nakba but also British Prime Minister Theresa May attended a gala dinner celebrating the declaration, saying that Britain is 'proud of her pioneering role in the creation of the State of Israel'. The centenary came and went without an apology from Britain. But that should come as no surprise. The lack of recognition of the genocide that was perpetrated by British colonisers on this land and indeed around the world in so many other countries still remains unrecognised. Talking of a resolution between Israel and Palestine, or indeed talking of recognition in this country, without first recognising the history and cause of the problem can never result in a just peace—and surely peace with justice should be the starting point for any negotiations.

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