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Balfour at 100

Lord Balfour, 1925 (Photo: Library of Congress)

November 2 marks a century since the Balfour Declaration, the original communication supporting the land of Israel as a Jewish state. And in the year leading up to this centennial we've all read much about this historic document. But now writing at The Times of Israel, Alan D. Abbey and Benjamin Emmerich explain this long-ago letter's meaning and impact:

The Balfour Declaration emerged at a time of brutal military carnage. Britain and France wished to bring the United States into the Great War and to keep Russia on the battlefield on their side of a bitter struggle against Germany in Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. Foreign Minister Lord Balfour and others believed that American and Russian Jews could wield enough influence over the foreign policies of their respective countries to woo them to the British side.

British leaders such as prime minister Lloyd George and Winston Churchill wanted to help Jewish immigration to Palestine, even as others in Britain favored Arab claims over the land, which at that time was under the rule of the fading and embattled Ottoman Empire.

Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, whose scientific breakthroughs powered British munitions, juggled efforts to charm British policymakers and browbeat influential anti-Zionist British Jews. He was aware that outsized views of Jewish power teetered between sincere Christian Zionism and racist conspiracy theories.

“We hate equally anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism. Both are equally degrading,” Weizmann said.

The declaration is so brief it bears quoting in full:

“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.”

Tags: History , Israel

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