FAQs

For information on our upcoming events, click here.
For more on the history, click here.
For recordings of our past webinars and online conferences, click here.
To read about our Peace Advocacy Fellowships Programme, click here

WHAT PEOPLE ASK ABOUT THE BALFOUR PROJECT

1. Why the name?

A small group of British people asked themselves how their country would mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration (2017). They called their research, reflections and advocacy the Balfour Project. They are not apologists for Balfour. The name has stuck, and gained currency.  In 2017 the Balfour Project was incorporated as a Scottish charity, in its present form.

2. Are you asking for a Government apology for the Balfour Declaration?

No. The Project advocates change now in Government policy, not an apology for the past. We seek to raise awareness of the deliberately ambiguous Balfour Declaration’s intentions and consequences; particularly Britain’s failure to implement the undertaking that the civil and religious rights of the Arab population in Palestine would be safeguarded. In 1917 the  Declaration acknowledged the political/national rights of the minority Jewish community in Palestine, and signally failed to acknowledge the political/national rights of the majority Palestinian Arab community. That failure is evident; its legacy is still felt today. The implementation of the Declaration (in the Mandate document, ratified in 1922) was also a breach of the Covenant of the League of Nations (Article 22) under which Britain assumed “a sacred trust of civilisation” to ensure the “well-being and development” of the Palestinians – ie to help them prepare for independence.

3. Are you pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli?

Our concern is for both Palestinians and Israelis. Israel’s conduct of the 1967 Occupation is in breach of its responsibilities under international law and UN Security Council resolutions. The Occupation promotes neither peace nor security for Israelis or Palestinians.  Neither people can have true peace unless the other has peace, too – a peace built on justice, equity and mutual security. We work with partners to raise awareness and to persuade the British Government to act to advance peace, justice and equality for all.

4. Are you against the state of Israel?

No. We uphold Israel’s right to exist. We also uphold the right of the Palestinian people to equality, self-determination and independence, with borders on pre-June 1967 lines. Both rights are clearly sustained in international law. Peace and justice are inseparable.

5. Are you antisemitic?

No. We strongly condemn antisemitism, and all forms of racism. Please see our policy on racism here.  We support the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism. The text of that Declaration is here.

6. Who is behind the Balfour Project?

A network of British individuals who seek to promote a deeper awareness in Britain of our country’s historical involvement in the Middle East, and in particular Palestine/Israel, advocating equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis.

7. How are you funded?

The Balfour Project charity’s Patrons, Trustees, Executive Committee and Advisory Forum are volunteers who mainly fund their own expenses. Our events and running costs are financed by registration fees and donations – mainly donations.

8. Won’t talking about the past just stir up old wounds?

It is the way you talk about the past that heals or opens up wounds. By focusing on Britain’s historical role, as well as its current and future role, the Balfour Project seeks to put the narratives of Jews and Palestinians in context, to create the space for each group to share its own story, to listen to the story of the other, and to acknowledge the rights and obligations of each party – essential for peace.  Our main focus is on Britain’s significant role, past, present and future.

9. What are your main activities?

The charity’s aims are educational. With education and awareness-raising comes advocacy, to uphold international law and promote equal rights.

For information on our upcoming events, click here.
For recordings of our past webinars and online conferences, click here.
To read about our Peace Advocacy Fellowships Programme, click here

Please click here for a list of the Project’s patrons and trustees.

10. What are you hoping to achieve?

Greater public, Parliamentary and Government awareness of Britain’s role in the region in the first half of the last century and the impact of Britain’s attitude and actions today. We believe that we British should, individually and collectively:

  • acknowledge where British policy towards Palestine was marked by duplicity, denial and racism;
  • accept responsibility for the consequences which followed;
  • aspire to integrity in our nation’s current and future relations with Palestinians, Jews and all peoples, and
  • uphold the rule of law in all our dealings, without fear or favour.

    11. How should British people respond if their forebears were not involved in this history?

Much was done in our name. The past cannot be changed – but we can all learn from it, and seek to do better, regardless of whether our forebears were involved. We are not bystanders. Where once Britain exercised power, now we can and should exert influence for peace with justice and equality under the rule of law.

12. How can taking responsibility for the past make a difference now?

Victims of injustice remember it long after the perpetrators have forgotten. Britain was a party to injustice, and has a duty both to acknowledge as much, and to do better. That requires courage, and political will. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou:

‘History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.’

13. If the 2-state solution is dead, why argue for U.K. recognition of the state of Palestine on pre-June 1967 lines?

Israel is recognised as a member state of the United Nations on the basis of its pre-1967 boundaries. International Law and a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) recognise the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – i.e. Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank – as the territorial basis for Palestinian self-determination and a future Palestinian state. In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly granted Palestine the status of non-member observer State.
The 2-state solution envisages two adjacent sovereign democratic states, Palestine and Israel, the borders of which could be adjusted through negotiation, but only with the agreement of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Whether a two-state solution is practically possible or not, is irrelevant. Recognition of the State of Palestine would reaffirm the right of Palestinians to self-determination, and the territorial basis of a future state. It would create greater parity between the two parties, for example affirming Palestine’s right to refer cases to the International Criminal Court.

14. Do you support one state with equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of creed or ethnic origin?

In law, the creation of one state can only result from a democratic decision of Palestinians and of Israelis to renounce their separate sovereignties and merge them in a single state. A unilateral decision by Israel to annex all or any part of the OPT (East Jerusalem was annexed illegally in 1967) would be illegal under International Law.

15. There are two competing narratives about Israel/Palestine. Which one do you believe?

Israel celebrates the events of 1948 for the birth of the state of Israel, whilst Palestinians commemorate the Nakba as marking their dispossession and loss of homeland. It is for historians, using documentary and other evidence, to describe those events accurately and assign responsibility for the actions taken by all sides.
The basis for a political settlement has to be International Law and UNSCR; national narratives, though an important part of each people’s identity, are not the subject of negotiation.

16. Is Israel is an “Apartheid state”?

Apartheid was designated a crime against humanity in Article 7 of the Rome Statute in 2002. The ‘crime of apartheid’ was described as  “inhumane acts …… committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”. Recent reports by human rights NGOs B’tselem and Human Rights Watch in 2021 and Amnesty International in 2022 have analysed the practices of the Israeli government which privilege Jewish Israelis over Palestinians within Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and concluded that in the OPT those practices meet all the criteria to qualify as the crime of apartheid. The term “apartheid state” has no legal definition.

 17. Is Israel perpetrating ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank?

There is no legal definition of ethnic cleansing, but aspects of what is commonly understood by the term were held by a UN Commission of Experts to “… constitute crimes against humanity …, be assimilated to specific war crimes”. or fall ”within the meaning of the Genocide Convention.” The purpose and result of Israel’s settlement project (seizure of Palestinian land for military purposes, national parks, settlement infrastructure including roads, settlement expansion and new settlements, facilitation of settler violence against Palestinians and their property, discriminatory planning policies, house demolitions and forced transfer of Palestinians) demonstrably lead to  Palestinians being squeezed out of East Jerusalem. and in the rest of the West Bank Palestinians being confined in the small and more densely populated Palestinian enclaves of Areas A and B, to the benefit in both areas of Jewish Israelis.

18. Do you support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)?

BDS is a non-violent movement initiated by members of Palestinian civil society to campaign globally under the strapline “freedom, justice, equality”, for Palestinian human rights and an end to the occupation. It calls for international solidarity from individuals, businesses and governments; putting pressure on Israel to comply with International Law, through consumer boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions against businesses or institutions that are complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.
Opponents of BDS often seek to label the movement as antisemitic, but The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which is commended by the Balfour Project, says “BDS is not, in and of itself, antisemitic”.

19. How can I be involved with the Balfour Project?

  • First and foremost, we hope people will learn more about this history and Britain’s role. Our website is a great place to start.
  • Write to us at info@balfourproject.org.
  • Join our free monthly webinars with guest speakers independent of the Balfour Project – details here.
  • Become a Friend of the Balfour Project charity through regular giving, however small. The link to become a Friend is here.
  • If you are willing to spread the word in your community, we can help with speakers and information material. Please contact us by email at info@balfourproject.org.
  • Teachers are among our favourite people, helping our young students to think critically. Our website signposts teachers to a wide range of relevant educational materials and resources. Please contact us if you have a specific question.
  • We welcome creative ideas to raise awareness of British responsibility, leading to action for the common good.
  • If you are at a U.K. university, why not apply to become a Balfour Project Peace Advocacy Fellow? Details are here.

For information on our upcoming events, click here.
For more on the history, click here.
For recordings of our past webinars and online conferences, click here.
To read about our Peace Advocacy Fellowships Programme, click here