A court case has begun in Egyptian courts to sue the UK for the Balfour Declaration and the subsequent suffering of the Palestinian people.
On Monday, a South Cairo Court adjourned to 18 May a case submitted by the ‘Popular Palestinian Campaign to Sue the United Kingdom’, which hopes to “restore the right of the Palestinian people to their land, robbed from them in the infamous Balfour Declaration”.
“The UK simply granted a new home for Jews without any rights for Palestinians,” leader of the campaign Dr Awani Selim Habet told Daily News Egypt. “We first submitted the case with the Egyptian courts in November 2013 to challenge the UK over the Balfour Declaration, and to hold the country responsible for the subsequent Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people. Today, the court ruled they have jurisdiction over the case.”
The 1917 Balfour Declaration was a letter from the UK’s then-Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to the Zionist movement in Britain. In the letter, he stated the government “favour[s] the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.
Despite Balfour’s statement that the rights of Palestinians should not be harmed, the subsequent transfer of the Jewish diaspora to Palestine resulted in the collapse of Palestinian communities, massacre, and displacement.
The case is directed against the British Prime Minister, but, after today’s ruling, Habet says the movement plans to include other countries including France, Germany, Italy, the US, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the United Nations in the case.
The lawsuit calls on the defendants to recognise their responsibility for the suffering and loss of the Palestinian people, and in this regard pay symbolic compensation to the Palestinian people of EGP 1m.
“We want return and compensation,” Habet told Daily News Egypt, referring to the campaign to give long displaced Palestinian communities the right of return to family homes on land now claimed by Israel.
“We will escalate this case through the [UN] International Court of Justice and launch similar cases in other countries,” He added.
“One of the reasons for this case is that the UK claims to be the vanguard of freedoms, this is a test to prove if they are really a democracy supporting country or not,” Habet continued.
A British Embassy spokesperson told Daily News Egypt: “We are aware of media reports concerning this case, but we did not receive any formal notification.”
The spokesperson also denied they sent any legal representative to Monday’s court session.
“Britain is proud of the role it has played over many years pursuing peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Egyptians should be in no doubt about Britain’s enduring commitment to this goal,” the spokesperson said.
According to Habet, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has informed the additional countries of the potential legal case against them. Attempts by Daily News Egypt for a Foreign Ministry comment were unanswered.
The Popular Palestinian Campaign to Sue the United Kingdom claims to have branches and affiliates in 21 countries, including the UK.
“We will not allow another one hundred year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration,” Habet said. He continued that, on the coming anniversary this year, the movement plans to hold protests in front of every UK foreign embassy.
In April, Palestine was admitted to the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority has stated they hope to take Israel to court for war crimes they hold the government responsible for.