Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Balfour Declaration Was Issued 95 Years Ago --
In 1925 Balfour Arrived to See the Jewish State in Formation
--Updated from last year's posting

Balfour's reception in Tel Aviv (April 1925)
The government of Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration 95 years ago this week, on November 2, 1917.  The document in effect served as the birth certificate for a Jewish national home.

British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour's declaration was in the form of a letter to a leader of the British Jewish community.  It stated: 

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. 
Balfour speaking at the founding of Hebrew University. Behind him sit Chaim Weizmann and Chief
Rabbi Avraham Kook

The British Army had just captured Be’er Sheva (October 31) after months of trying to break through the Ottoman army’s Gaza-Be’er Sheva defense line. The British goal was to push north and capture Jerusalem by Christmas.  

In April 1925, Lord Balfour arrived in Palestine to lay the cornerstone for Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus.  He was received as a hero in Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion. 

Balfour about to lay the Hebrew University cornerstone


The three British giants of Palestine attending the 1925
opening of Hebrew University, from left to right: Lord Allenby 
(commander of British forces in Palestine 1917), 
Lord Balfour, and Sir Herbert Samuel, first British High
 Commissioner of the Mandate

Balfour visiting "Jewish Colony" 1925

Balfour welcomed by the Rishon LeZion Jewish
community and here

In the Arab community his visit was marked with black flags and a commercial strike.

Arab commercial strike in reaction to Balfour's visit (1925)


Black flags flying on Arab house

Would the State of Israel have come into being without the Balfour Declaration in 1917?  Perhaps. The Jews' return to Zion was well under way -- well before the Holocaust. The building of an infrastructure for a state had begun.

But, the Balfour Declaration laid the legal and political foundation for the state's acceptance by the world community, as explained by writer Michael Freund in the Jerusalem Post:
When the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, approved the Mandate for Palestine in July 1922, it formally incorporated the Balfour Declaration. In the preamble, it stated that, "the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The Mandate, which was approved by more than 50 member nations, also noted "the historical connections of the Jewish people with Palestine."
Unfortunately, some of the pictures presented here were already in stages of disintegration when they were digitalized by the Library of Congress. They are presented without cropping the damaged sections.

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