By Cian Molloy - 04 November, 2017
A century ago the British government declared it would facilitiate the creation of a national home for the Jewish people, but that 'nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine'.
On the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which ultimately led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Britain and Ireland’s Catholic and Anglican bishops have jointly called for justice and reconciliation in the Holy Land.
In a joint statement, Bishops Declan Lang of Clifton and the Anglican Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, made reference to the Balfour Project, an organisation that works to encourage justice and reconciliation in the Middle East, and that acknowledges Britain’s past and future responsibilities to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Often when the international media look at problems in the Middle East, the narrative is focussed on the threat to the Israeli state and its citizens. But the two bishops said, “Israel’s security and development are inseparable from the fulfilment of Palestinian aspirations to statehood. We renew our call on the UK government, to recognise the right of the Palestinian people to belong to a state on their own lands, next to the state of Israel. Only justice for both peoples will lead to the reconciliation for which we pray with the Christian Church in the Holy Land.”
Both bishops are regular visitors to the Holy Land and are dedicated to promoting justice and peace for all in Israel and Palestine. In the New Year, Bishop Lang, whose parents are Irish, will return to the Middle East as head of the Holy Land Coordination, a delegation of Bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa. Mandated by the Holy See, the Holy Land Coordination meets every January in the lands of Christ’s Birth, Ministry, Passion and Resurrection. It aims to promote justice and peace, acting in solidarity with the Christian communities there and share in the pastoral life as it experiences extreme political and socio-economic pressure.
The Balfour Declaration is the name given to a two-paragraph letter sent in 1917 by the UK’s Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, a leading member of British Zionism. Balfour wrote to the Jewish grandee, “I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
In its analysis of the problem, the Balfour Project says that while the creation of the Israel in 1948 was a welcome development and the state is recognised by all parties, including the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Israel’s 50 year military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem prevents the Palestinian people from exercising their own equal and inalienable right to self-determination. This Palestinian right to statehood is endorsed by the UN, the EU, and the British and Irish governments.
The Balfour Project says: “This occupation dehumanises both the occupier and the occupied. One people is repressing their neighbouring people, by closing Gaza militarily and transferring 600,000 Israeli settlers illegally into occupied Palestinian territory. Change is urgently needed, delivering equal rights for both peoples.”
For more information see www.balfourproject.org.