On Tuesday 5th March at 12pm, British Consul General Sir Vincent Fean met with Birzeit University President Khalil Hindi to discuss the opinions of Birzeit students regarding the UK-Israel relationship and its impact on the Palestinian people. Fean was also slated to give a lecture at 1pm, which he cancelled when Birzeit students gathered to protest his presence as a representative of the British government.
The students state that their protest was not directed at the individual, who was unharmed, but at the British government, which has failed to fulfil its self-proclaimed duty to support the Palestinian people.
Following the First World War, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was the first step that Britain took to use its ‘best endeavours’ to create a ‘Jewish National Home’ inside the state of Palestine. This was duly supported by what is commonly known as the British Mandate, which states, under Article 2:
‘The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.’ (Emphasis added)
The students would like to draw attention to initial leaning of the British Government in favour of Israel, and its continued support (through, among other events, the Suez Crisis) of that country.
Although under the British Mandate, the British government was responsible for ‘safeguarding the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants of Palestine’ their continued failure to support Palestine has always been a contentious issue within the country – especially coupled with the British government’s failure to vote in favour of supporting a Palestinian State at the recent UN vote, choosing instead to abstain.
The British government’s unconditional material support of the Israeli regime – through arms sales, for example – renders irrelevant any piecemeal attempts to provide humanitarian aid to Palestine; indeed, it is ongoing military aid to Israel that sustains the humanitarian crisis in Palestine. Only severing trade and “security” relations with Israel would tackle the root of the crisis facing Palestinians – a crisis that is fundamentally political in nature, not humanitarian.
The students of Birzeit University’s Right to Education Campaign call on the British Government to:
- Support the Palestinian people in their struggle to uphold their most basic human rights;
- Apologise for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, acknowledging its devastating and ongoing impact on the Palestinian people;
- Impose economic and military sanctions on the state of Israel until it complies with international law.
 The League of Nations, The Palestine Mandate, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/palmanda.asp#art20