Middle East, Europe

Blocked Palestine ads lead to censorship charge

London transport body accused of blocking free speech after refusing to carry ad campaign on Balfour Declaration centenary

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal   | 18.10.2017
Blocked Palestine ads lead to censorship charge

London, City of

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal


London’s transport authority has been accused of censorship after refusing to allow adverts about the Palestinian rejection of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 100th anniversary of which falls on Nov. 2.

Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the U.K., accused Transport for London (TFL) of blocking free speech. “Palestinian history is a censored history,” Hassassian said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Balfour Declaration, a document pledging a Middle Eastern homeland to Zionist leader Walter Rothschild, was penned in 1917 by Arthur Balfour who was foreign secretary in then Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s cabinet.

“There has been a 100-year-long cover-up of the British government’s broken promise, in the Balfour declaration, to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians when it gave away their country to another people,” Hassassian said.

“TfL’s decision is not surprising as it is, at best, susceptible to or, at worst, complicit with, all the institutional forces and active lobby groups which continuously work to silence the Palestinian narrative.

“There may be free speech in Britain on every issue under the sun but not on Palestine,” he added.

TfL rejected the adverts because they “did not comply fully with our guidelines,” a spokesman was quoted as saying by local media.

The adverts were due to be part of a campaign called Make It Right, commissioned by the Palestine Mission to the U.K.

They were to show various comparison photos of life in Palestine before and after 1948.

The campaign photos also quoted the declaration’s pledge to non-Jewish communities in the region: “Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last year demanded an apology from the British government for the Balfour Declaration. However, the U.K. government said in April that it would not do so.

It said “establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution”.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu are to attend a London dinner celebrating the centenary of the declaration in November.

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