Human Rights

Balfour Declaration at 100: From Ramallah to Pretoria

From Ramallah to Pretoria, rallies held to condemn British document that set the stage for the occupation of Palestine.

Signatures of Palestinian school students were presented to the British consulate in East Jerusalem [Reuters]

People in various parts of the world have staged protests on the centenary of Britain's Balfour Declaration, which promised a homeland for the Jewish people and paved the way for the occupation of Palestine.

Thousands gathered in Ramallah, administrative capital of the occupied Palestinian territories, on Thursday to march to the British cultural centre, according to official Palestinian media.

A statement from the office of President Mahmoud Abbas called for an apology from Britain, recognition of Palestine and compensation for the Palestinian people in political, moral and material terms.

"Here in Ramallah, for Palestinians, this declaration is seen very much as the moment a hundred years of disposition, displacement and occupation began," Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Ramallah, said.

Dozens of others gathered in a separate protest outside the British consulate in occupied East Jerusalem.

A hundred thousand signatures and hundreds of letters from Palestinian high school students were presented to the British consulate in occupied East Jerusalem, according to Sawsan Safadi, an official from the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

The letters expressed the students' feelings about the legacy of the declaration.

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Khadija Khalaf, a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student from East Jerusalem, was among the protesters who carried the letters.

"We came here holding signatures of 100,000 students from the schools of Palestine protesting against the Balfour promise," Khalaf told Al Jazeera.

"After 100 years, we the Palestinians have not taken our rights. We hope that they hear our voices as children."

Protesters shouted slogans such as "Down with the Brits" and "Justice, power, freedom: Our state is Palestinian".

"In addition to admitting its mistake, it must assume responsibility for the damage that befell the Palestinians as a result of the Balfour Declaration and the policies that ensued," Zakaria Odeh, a 64-year-old protester, told Al Jazeera.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria[Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

Protest in Pretoria

In Pretoria, South Africa, hundreds gathered outside the Israeli embassy in a protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, organised by the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF).

Protesters, dressed in the characteristic red T-shirts of the EFF, held placards with slogans calling for an end to "Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" and a halt to attacks on the Gaza Strip, as they danced and sang outside the heavily guarded embassy.

"Away with apartheid Israel, away," the crowd shouted.

Julius Malema, leader of the EFF, urged the crowd to look beyond their own context and to consider the plight of the Palestinians.

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He also called for a one-state solution where Jews and Palestinians could live in peace.

Malema made an impassioned appeal to South Africans to stop working with Israel, even asking South Africans to stop travelling to the country in solidarity with Palestine.

"We asking all South Africans to stop doing business with Israel, to stop visiting Israel. We are returning the favour to the people of Palestine who stood with us," Malema said to loud cheers.

"We call for the release of Marwan Barghouti, who is in sitting in Israeli jail, in quite the same way that Nelson Mandela was in jail for all those years," Zaakirah Vadi, communications officer for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, an anti-apartheid organisation, told the crowd.

Roads around the embassy were closed off, and police had closed the entrance to the building.

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Many South Africans see the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the policies applied there as similar to apartheid, the institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination implemented by the white minority in their country until 1991.

In Ankara, the Turkish capital, dozens of members of the Anatolian Youth Association, a conservative organisation, marked the Balfour Declaration centenary with slogans and placards.

At Sakarya University in northwest Turkey, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an aid group, led protesters in a rally.

Azad Essa and Ibrahim Husseini contributed to this report

Source: Al Jazeera News