Commemorating one hundred years of the Balfour Declaration

Commemorating one hundred years of the Balfour Declaration

The road to the rebirth of the State of Israel

The World War I, or also known as the Great War, as one of the largest wars in all history, was still raging in 1917. More than 70 million military personnel from the world power alliances were mobilized. The war was also one of the deadliest conflicts ever and paved the way for major political changes.

The Balfour Declaration proved to be one of the documents that changed the history of millions of people. It was a letter dated November 2, 1917, from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, who was a leader of the British Jewish community. The short typed letter stated:

His Majesty’s government view with favour 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, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The letter that came to be known as the Balfour Declaration did not deal with Jewish statehood, immigration, land purchase or the boundaries of the region of Palestine. The purpose of the letter was to begin the process for a Jewish national home.

In July 1922, when the League of Nations announced the terms of “Britain’s Mandate for Palestine,” it gave prominence to the Balfour Declaration, stating that the Mandate should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration about the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.

In January 1919, an agreement was reached between the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and the Arab leader Emir Feisal, stating “…to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a larger scale, and to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. The Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights, and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.”

A month later in Paris, Weizmann presented the essence of the agreement to the Allied Supreme Council. The meaning of the words Jewish national home was discussed in length. The Supreme Council wanted to know if such a nationality would involve eventual statehood. Chaim Weizmann responded:

“Later on, when the Jews formed the large majority, they would be ripe to establish such a Government as would answer to the state of the development of the country and to their ideals.”

(References: “Mandate for Palestine” and Martin Gilbert─”From the Balfour Declaration to the Palestine Mandate”)