The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Courtesy of the Is­raeli Em­bassy

Novem­ber 2, 2017, marks 100 years since the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion, a his­toric state­ment of sym­pa­thy is­sued by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment for the es­tab­lish­ment of a na­tional home for the Jewish peo­ple in the Land of Is­rael. Lord Arthur James Bal­four, the Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary, penned the his­toric let­ter on be­half of the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment, to Lord Lionel Wal­ter Roth­schild, a prom­i­nent leader of Bri­tain’s Jewish com­mu­nity. The Dec­la­ra­tion ex­pressed the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment’s recog­ni­tion of and sup­port for the in­alien­able right of the Jewish peo­ple for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion in their his­tor­i­cal home­land, the Land of Is­rael. The Dec­la­ra­tion was closely co­or­di­nated by Bri­tain with the other great pow­ers, and in­deed well rep­re­sents the will of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at the time. As David Lloyd Ge­orge, Prime Min­is­ter in 1917 later tes­ti­fied: "It [the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion] was pre­pared af­ter much con­sid­er­a­tion, not merely of its pol­icy but of its ac­tual word­ing, by the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Al­lied and As­so­ci­ated coun­tries, in­clud­ing Amer­ica." The spe­cific text of the Dec­la­ra­tion was ap­proved by U.S. Pres­i­dent Wil­son be­fore its pub­li­ca­tion, while the French and Ital­ian Gov­ern­ments pub­licly en­dorsed it on Fe­bru­ary 14 and May 9, 1918 re­spec­tively. This broad in­ter­na­tional en­dorse­ment of Jewish na­tional self-de­ter­mi­na­tion was for­mally rat­i­fied on July 24, 1922, when the League of Na­tions (the pre­cur­sor to the United Na­tions) rec­og­nized the “his­toric con­nec­tion of the Jewish peo­ple” to the Land of Is­rael and ap­pointed Great Bri­tain as Manda­tory power re­spon­si­ble for “the es­tab­lish­ment in Pales­tine of a na­tional home for the Jewish peo­ple.”

The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion rec­og­nized not only the in­alien­able rights of the Jewish peo­ple, but it also stip­u­lated that “noth­ing shall be done which may prej­u­dice the civil and re­li­gious rights of ex­ist­ing non-Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in Pales­tine.” The Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion made clear that sup­port­ing Jewish rights did not pre­clude the rights and lib­er­ties of the Arab side. In sim­i­lar vein, through­out the decades, the Zion­ist dream en­com­passed re­spect for and coexistenc­e with all peo­ple in the re­gion, in­clud­ing the Pales­tinian Arabs. This vi­sion was most clearly out­lined in Is­rael’s Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, which states that all cit­i­zens, ir­re­spec­tive of race, re­li­gion or gen­der, have equal rights. To­day, some 20% of Is­rael’s pop­u­la­tion is com­prised of Arab cit­i­zens, who en­joy full rights and lib­er­ties and serve in prom­i­nent po­si­tions in law, pol­i­tics, medicine and other fields. The Jewish lead­er­ship at the time of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion, as to­day, sought to co­op­er­ate with their Arab neigh­bors. Chaim Weiz­mann, who rep­re­sented the World Zion­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion, and Emir Feisal (one of the most prom­i­nent Arab lead­ers) signed an agree­ment in 1919 to work to­gether to bring about the as­pi­ra­tions of both the Jews and the Arabs of the re­gion. Un­for­tu­nately, this prece­dent did not last long. Through­out the

20th cen­tury, ex­trem­ist Arab lead­ers re­jected Jewish rights, pro­moted an ex­clu­sivist world­view that the land only be­longed to them and en­cour­aged vi­o­lent at­tacks on the Jewish pop­u­la­tion. This re­jec­tion of the le­git­i­mate and in­ter­na­tion­ally-man­dated and rec­og­nized claim of the Jewish peo­ple to a na­tional home­land in the Holy Land is the bedrock – the ground zero - of the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict. Here then lies the ex­pla­na­tion as to why the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion is of such his­toric im­port. Not only is it the first in­ter­na­tion­ally en­dorsed recog­ni­tion of the Jewish peo­ple’s in­alien­able right to re­turn to their an­cient home­land. It is also a sim­ple state­ment of truth, which lays bare the heart of the con­flict, that too many in the Arab world have been wag­ing against Is­rael for too long: the re­fusal to ac­cept the truth of the Jewish peo­ple's con­nec­tion to the land, and the na­tional rights, which ac­crue as a re­sult. All agree that the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion was a mile­stone on the mod­ern jour­ney towards the es­tab­lish­ment of the State of Is­rael. For Is­rael and its friends, its cen­ten­nial is a cause for cel­e­bra­tion and pro­found grat­i­tude to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. For Is­rael's op­po­nents, it is prov­ing to be yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to re­peat the mis­takes of the past and sac­ri­fice the ben­e­fits of co-ex­is­tence and co­op­er­a­tion on the al­tar of a false his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, which brings no ben­e­fit to any­one, least of all the Pales­tini­ans them­selves. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has de­scribed the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion as “one of the most im­por­tant let­ters in his­tory.” Mean­while, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment re­cently stated that, “estab­lish­ing a home­land for the Jewish peo­ple in the land to which they had such strong his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious ties was the right and moral thing to do, par­tic­u­larly against the back­ground of cen­turies of per­se­cu­tion.” As Is­rael – the na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple - marks with grat­i­tude the en­dorse­ment of its na­tional story em­bod­ied in the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion, it looks to its Pales­tinian and Arab neigh­bors with its hand out­stretched in peace and co­op­er­a­tion, urg­ing them to ac­cept, once and for all, the le­git­i­macy of Is­rael's mem­ber­ship of the fam­ily of na­tions. Only thus will the peace we all yearn for be able to come into be­ing.

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