In a 67-word statement composed 100 years ago, Britain endorsed the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East, triggering a process that would culminate in the creation of Israel - and with it one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
On Thursday British and Israeli leaders will commemorate the centenary of that statement, known as the Balfour Declaration after the foreign minister who penned it, with a banquet in the gilded halls of London’s Lancaster House mansion.
But as Prime Minister Theresa May and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu dine, protesters in London and the Palestinian Territories will gather to demand that Britain acknowledge the suffering they say the declaration has caused to Palestinian people, and recognise their claim to statehood.
“The reason it is getting so much attention is because the conflict which it launched … is still very much in existence and there is a sense, particularly on the Palestinian side, of continuing injustice,” said Ian Black, an academic at the London School of Economics.
“It really is an issue which is alive and toxic and bitterly divisive.”
While Israel reveres Arthur Balfour, naming streets and a Tel Aviv school after him, Palestinians decry his declaration as a promise by Britain to hand over land it did not own.