On November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, signed a letter that would change the face of the Middle East. It was a document that became the cornerstone for the establishment of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to her land – the Balfour Declaration.
The short, 67-word letter that Lord Balfour wrote to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, had far-reaching effects on the state of Israel and the Middle East that still impact the region today.
The Balfour Declaration reads…
“Foreign Office “November 2nd, 1917 “Dear Lord Rothschild,
“I have much pleasure in conveying to you. on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.
“I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
“Yours, “Arthur James Balfour” *
The Cause behind the Balfour Declaration
There are various suggested reasons as to why Arthur Balfour wrote the document…
To gain Support during World War I – Some suggest it was Britain's way of siding with the Zionists to gain the support of Jews in the United States and Russia in hopes of keeping them in WWI until victory was won.
To Secure the Strong connection between Zionists and Britain's Government – Other reasons point to securing the strong connection between the Jewish communities that desired to return to their land and the British government. In fact, some of the British officials were part of these communities, making the connection not only political but also personal.
To Show Compassion toward the Persecuted – Jews were under intense persecution in Europe during this time. The Balfour Declaration, while unable to turn back the hands of time, was able to acknowledge the injustice and declare that something must be done.
The Diaspora | The Balfour Declaration Speaks to the Wrongs Committed in History
The Jewish state ended in 70 AD when the Romans began driving them out of their homeland in which they had lived for more than 1,000 years. Diaspora means “scattered.”
Although this was a time of scattering, they had been exiled even before this period…
- The Assyrian Exile, approximately 720 BC – The inhabitants of Israel were scattered throughout the Middle East.
- Babylonian Exile, 597 BC – The inhabitants of Israel were allowed to remain as a community but in Babylon, not Israel. Others fled to Egypt.
Was the United States in Favor of the Balfour Declaration of 1917?
Britain is generally regarded as responsible for the Balfour Declaration. Still, we also must make a note of the United States' approval to the giving of land, the return of Israel, and the act of humanity.
In September 1917, British officials wanted to obtain President Woodrow Wilson's views on the document before the letter was declared. On October 4, just one month before the Balfour Declaration was officially made, President Wilson confirmed his favor regarding the movement to give Israel a national homeland.
What Was the International Recognition regarding the Balfour Declaration of 1917?
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was given international legitimacy when the League of Nations incorporated it in the Mandate for Palestine. This document specifically referred to the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the moral validity of reconstituting their National Home in that country. The Mandate for Palestine was adopted and signed by 52 nations on July 24, 1922.
The United States, which was not part of the League of nations at this time, also officially adopted a resolution in the U.S. Congress, and signed by President Harding, endorsing the Balfour Declaration on September 21, 1922. Support was reiterated in favor of the Balfour Declaration by President Hoover in 1932 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.
How Is the Balfour Declaration Still Making an Impact?
The Balfour Declaration, as mentioned, is a remarkable story of humanity. Although some will argue that it created injustice for Israel's neighbors.
But think about this:
- Jews have been unjustly persecuted throughout history.
- Jews were in need of refuge and a place to call home to escape persecution.
- Israel was legally given a homeland
- Israel has attempted a number of peace negotiations with her neighbors.
- Israel is the only nation whose right to exist is questioned.
- Israel, a nation the size of New Jersey, is surrounded by the threat of terrorism regularly.
- Israel has been attacked by her neighbors on numerous occasions.
- Israel has continued to contribute to technological advances for the betterment of the world.
- Israel continues to be an ally to the United States that provides military intelligence to protect our borders better.
- And the list goes on and on…
The Balfour Declaration is what put all of this into motion. It is still making an impact today, both for Israel and the United States.
While some view it as controversial, you have to ask yourself…
- How is an act of humanity controversial
- How is giving a nation under persecution a safe place of refuge controversial?
- How is helping an American ally thrive controversial?
The explanation is simple. The controversy surrounding Israel, or the Balfour Declaration, is illogical. The nation of Israel was lawfully established and must be recognized. Because if it isn't, history, such as the events of the Holocaust, is doomed to repeat itself.
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