Corbyn's Balfour boycott is a statement of justice for Palestine among UK political elite

Corbyn's Balfour boycott is a statement of justice for Palestine among UK political elite
For Palestinians, Corbyn boycotting the invitation to the Balfour celebration anniversary shows that not everybody in the UK political elite is proud of this historical document
2 min read
24 Oct, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn has boycotted Balfour Declaration celebrations [Getty]
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has controversially declined an invitation for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration - signed on 2 November 1917 - may have only been less than 130 words, but has changed the course of Palestinians ever since. The declaration had offered a "home for the Jewish people" in what was then the entirety of historical Palestine.

In the declaration, it stated "[it is] 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".

A century later, the descendents of the Palestinians forced out of their homeland before and during the build-up of the state of Israel have still not been able to return to their homes. Around 2 million Palestinians besieged in Gaza. Meanwhile Israeli settlements and a policy of apartheid have drained the life out of the West Bank.

For Palestinians, Corbyn's boycott shows that not everybody in the UK political establishment is proud of the historical Balfour document, which has affected the lives of so many Palestinians to this day. 

Corbyn is no stranger to Palestine. A huge part of his grassroots activism revolved around the issue of Palestine and the Israeli occupation.

Even since he became leader of the opposition in 2015, the Labour manifesto has promised the "immediate recognition" of the state of Palestine should his party govern the UK. 

His decision to decline the Balfour invitation has undoubtedly sparked controversy. Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, described Corbyn's action as "deeply unfortunate". 

"I do think it will not have been amiss for Mr Corbyn to understand that the Jewish community will have taken great heart and great comfort for seeing him attend such an event because it recognises the right of Israel to exist," Goldstein told the Jewish Chronicle

For the Palestinian diaspora in the UK, this means more than a symbolic form of solidarity or a political statement.

The fact that Corbyn has mirrored the views of a great portion of UK public opinion adheres to in the current political position he is in has expanded the debate in more elitist paradigms of British politics and society.