A leaf from history: The Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration, issued on November 2, 1917, continues to serve as the base of the world’s most enduring conflict between Israel & Palestine.


In the Balfour Declaration (1917), the British government announced its support for the creation of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The Declaration was included in a letter dated November 2, 1917, from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a prominent member of the British Jewish community, to be forwarded to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. On November 9, 1917, the Declaration’s text was made public in the media.

The Declaration’s opening sentences marked the first time a significant political force had publicly supported Zionism. The phrase “national home” has no meaning in international law and was purposefully ambiguous as to whether a Jewish state was intended. The words “in Palestine” implied that the Jewish national home was not intended to span the entirety of Palestine, as the British administration later affirmed, even if the planned limits of Palestine were not specified. The second half of the Declaration was inserted to appease the policy’s critics, who had argued that it would otherwise harm the standing of the local Palestinian people and promote antisemitism globally by “stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands.” The British Mandate was designed to provide Jews the means to establish self-rule at the expense of Palestinian Arabs, notwithstanding the caveat in the Balfour Declaration that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

Read more: How the State of Israel really came into existence

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Declaration was incorporated into the conditions of the British Mandate over Palestine. The Allied powers’ so-called mandate system gave the winning side of the conflict, which included Bulgaria, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire, dominion over the areas that they had previously ruled. The mandate system’s purpose was to give the victorious side the power to rule the newly formed states until they could become independent. Palestine, however, was unique. The British Mandate’s main goal was to create the conditions for developing a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, despite the fact that Jews at the time made up fewer than 10 percent of the population. The British started facilitating the immigration of European Jews to Palestine as soon as the mission got underway. Between 1922 and 1935, the percentage of Jews in the general population rose from 9 percent to nearly 27 percent.

The Declaration produced a wide range of long-lasting effects. It is seen as a major factor contributing to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is frequently referred to as the most persistent conflict in the world. The question of whether the Declaration went against earlier commitments the British made to the Sharif of Mecca in the McMahon-Hussein correspondence is still up for debate. By permitting Jews to create self-governing organizations like the Jewish Agency to get ready for a state when it came but forbidding Palestinians from doing the same. The Declaration also functioned as a prelude to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba. The War Cabinet had several critics who believed that such a result was likely to occur, but the British government nonetheless decided to make the Declaration. The Jews already had an army that was made up of armed paramilitary organizations trained and developed to fight alongside the British in World War II when the British decided to end their Mandate and transfer the issue of Palestine to the United Nations in 1947.

Read more: The Palestinian tycoon who sued Britain over 1917 declaration

While executing ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arabs, who are frequently mercilessly gunned down by the Israeli army, Israel continues to build its settlements in Palestine. Numerous women and children are among the martyred Palestinians. The United Nations representative for the Middle East stated that 2022 is expected to be the bloodiest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the U.N. started compiling fatality data in 2005.

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