The Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration

On November 2, 1917 the British Government declared it was in favour of the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine. This declaration lay the basis for the ‘British Mandate for Palestine Mandate’ (San Remo, 1920)

See also Zionism

The Balfour Declaration – Jews and Gentiles work Together

Influential Christians: The mid-late 19th century saw a great move of God amongst leading Protestants and Jews. Protestant leaders like Bishop J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon taught about the restoration of Jews to their biblical homeland, as seen in Bible prophecy. As Bible scholars, they longed for the Second Coming of Christ, but they realized from prophecy that before that can happen the Jews must be drawn back ‘home’. Such Christian teaching greatly influenced the British Government of the time.

Theodor Herzel – an Influential Jew: Around the same time, Theodor Herzel (1860-1904) saw the antisemitism around him and the need for a Jewish State. Herzel, an Austrian Jewish journalist, is credited as the father of political Zionism since he was a secular, non-Hebrew speaking, cosmopolitan intellectual who proposed a secular/political solution to the Jewish problem.
So with the help of his friend Rev W. Hechler (an Anglican clergyman, crusader against antisemitism, and follower of Ryle and Spurgeon), they birthed so-called ‘political Zionism’. Because of his Christian beliefs, Hechler was one of the first so-called ‘Christian Zionists’ (see later).

Balfour Declaration
Arthur Balfour. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Weizmann and Balfour: The early 20th century saw more Jew-Gentile collaboration. Chaim Weizmann (a Jew and biochemist) came to England in 1904 and soon became a leader among British Zionists. In January 1906 Weizmann met Arthur Balfour (pictured), a UK politician and former Prime Minister, and persuaded him to look to Jerusalem for the Jewish capital and to Palestine for the Jewish homeland. Being an evangelical Christian, Balfour found the spiritual side of Zionism appealing. But he took no political steps in this direction until 1917, when he was British Foreign Secretary under British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Lloyd George, who had an evangelical upbringing, made the decision to publicly support Zionism. No doubt this was backed by most of the war cabinet in 1917 since most were evangelical Christians! That said, it seems there were also political motives. Lloyd George saw that British dominance in Palestine (a land bridge between the crucial territories of India and Egypt) was as an essential post-war goal.

The Balfour Declaration: Prompted by government support and Zionist leaders like Weizmann, Balfour wrote a public letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann. Rothschild was head of the English branch of the Jewish banking family. This historic letter became known as the Balfour Declaration. It reads:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor 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 [November 2, 1917]

This letter laid the foundations for the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine.

The Effect of the Balfour Declaration

The British Mandate for Palestine: The 1920 San Remo Conference met to decide the future of the former territories of the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire. It divided the old Ottoman province of Syria into two, and the southern half (Palestine) was ‘mandated’ to Great Britain. The ‘British Mandate for Palestine’ was formalized by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922, link, link. The Council agreed that the Mandatory (the British Government) should be responsible for putting into effect the Balfour Declaration made by the British Government on November 2, 1917. Put simply, the mandate entrusted Britain with the temporary administration of Palestine.

Palestinian Refugees: The Council also endorsed the Balfour Declaration statement protecting the existing non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. To quote:

… it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …

So given the legal protection, why Palestinian refugees today? The honest answer is that it is the result of poor Arab leadership, who rejected the declared Jewish State in 1948 and immediately invaded Israel. More…

The Law Today: When the League of Nations was dissolved in 1946 the mandate was incorporated into Article 80 of the United Nations Charter. So this Charter implicitly recognizes the League of Nations ‘Mandate for Palestine’. Put simply, Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people, and still stands today. Palestine is still the mandated home of the Jewish people. The final mandate redefined the boundary of Palestine as west of the river Jordan, including Judea and Samaria (an area now called the West Bank). The area east of the Jordan was called ‘Transjordan’, which subsequently became Jordan. So the Jews could settle anywhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. To date, this is the last legally binding document regarding the West Bank and Gaza.


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