Balfour Declaration Issued


Sets wheels in motion for Jewish state

This today in law enforcement history segment is going to take a turn from law enforcement to focus on an event that, over a hundred years later, is making a significant impact on the world today.  The Israeli – Palestinian conflict has its roots in a document written on November 2, 1917.

The Balfour Declaration was a letter written from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader in Britian’s Jewish Community.  The letter was written with the approval of Prime Minister David Lloyd-George after conferring with France and the United States.  The letter simply read;

“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 was a victory for the Zionist movement.  The declaration was issued as the British were fighting in World War I against the forces of the Ottoman Empire in southern Palestine.  The war was still very much in doubt as America was just ramping up its overseas forces (the first American battlefield casualties also occurred on this date).  Britain and her Allies hoped to garner support in the region against the Ottomans. 

The declaration was met with jubilation in many Jewish Communities around the world.  It was the first concrete step to the establishment of the State of Israel.  Although vague, it set the intention of the eventual victors to create a Jewish State. 

In Arab communities the declaration was seen as being in conflict with promises that the British Government had made to them.  In 1916, the British Government had exchanged correspondence with Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, promising Arab autonomy after the war over a large swath of the region in exchange for support against the Ottoman Empire.  These promises were poorly defined in both degree and geography, but many Arabs felt the Balfour Declaration promised the same land to two peoples. 

Regardless of the interpretation of these documents, the path was set for the establishment of Israel.  It would take decades and the horrors of the Holocaust to see that dream realized.  In 1948, Israel was established as an independent state.  Lord Rothschild never saw his goal accomplished.  He died in 1937. 

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