Balfour’s Message

Published November 03, 2006, issue of November 03, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

This Thursday, November 2, marked the 89th anniversary of the historic Balfour Declaration, the British government statement that marked the first international recognition of the goals of Zionism. It was a simple letter, addressed from the British foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to a Jewish community leader, Lord Rothschild, expressing sympathy with the goal of Jewish national return to the Land of Israel. But since Britain was just weeks away from capturing the territory from the Turks, it was a statement with teeth.

“His Majesty’s Government,” Balfour wrote, “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.”

Israel’s opponents have argued ever since that Britain had no moral authority, as a conqueror, to grant rights in Palestine to Jews or anyone else. But five years after Balfour’s letter, its spirit was written into international law by the League of Nations in its mandate to Britain to administer Palestine as a dual Jewish and Arab national home. A quarter-century after that, in November 1947, the United Nations ordered the creation of Palestinian Arab and Jewish states living side by side. That might have settled things. But it did not.

Nine decades later, the job is half-done. Jewish national rights have been achieved in the sovereign state of Israel. Israel has a booming economy, a seat at the United Nations, cultural institutions of world renown and, not least, a powerful army.

Still unfulfilled is the other half of the deal: a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Indeed, the world has yet to agree on the very meaning of Balfour’s “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” On the contrary, the conflict over that question seems to be growing more poisonous with time, threatening to undermine Balfour’s signal achievement, the granting of international legitimacy to Jewish nationhood.

It’s past time to sit down, hammer out a deal and finish the job.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.