The Legal Veracity of the Balfour Declaration

Amb. Alan Baker

Copy of the Balfour Declaration sent to Lord Walter Rothschild, November 2, 1917

With the 2017 centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration,1 which acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to their national homeland in Palestine, the international community is witnessing a highly orchestrated attempt by the Arab League and the Palestinian leadership to question its legal veracity.

This campaign is one of the means of manipulation of the international community used by the Palestinian leadership to cast doubt and undermine the historic and legal basis and rights of the Jews in the area.

Sadly, and completely at odds with history and international law, this campaign appears to be receiving support from other countries.

In the context of the Balfour Declaration centenary, the Palestinian leadership called on the Arab League at its September 2016 summit meeting in Nouakchott, Mauritania, to institute “an international criminal case for the crime committed against our nation by the UK for issuing the Balfour Declaration.”2

The Palestinian leadership launched a “Balfour Apology Campaign” with a disturbing statement to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2016, in which Mahmoud Abbas stated:

100 years have passed since the notorious Balfour Declaration, by which Britain gave, without any right, authority or consent from anyone, the land of Palestine to another people.3

Abbas went on to formally demand an apology from the UK for issuing the Balfour Declaration.4

In October 2016, the UK-based “Palestinian Return Centre,” a group affiliated with the Hamas terror organization and acknowledged by the UN as an official NGO (non-government organization), hosted a public seminar in the British House of Lords, condemning the Balfour Declaration and reiterating the call for a British apology.

Was the Declaration Legal?

This campaign has given rise to a number of questions regarding the legal veracity of the Balfour Declaration and its continued relevance and status today in the context of the Israel-Palestinian dispute.

Perhaps the basic question is the legally binding nature of the document, since it was clearly not, in and of itself, an international agreement, but a letter acknowledging and declaring a national commitment by the British government, issued by the British Foreign Secretary to the Jewish leadership of the day in Palestine.

The following points sum up the international legal status of the document:

  1. International law and practice have consistently recognized and accepted unilateral declarations officially issued, considered binding as far as the government is concerned.
  2. This practice was recently codified by the International Law Commission in its 2006 “Guiding Principles applicable to unilateral declarations of States capable of creating legal obligations.”5
  3. Citing several examples of unilateral declarations issued over the years by heads of state and foreign ministers as indicative of their authors’ intention to commit themselves internationally. The International Law Commission determined that such public declarations create legal obligations to be respected by other states.
  4. The legal effect of a declaration is determined by its content, the factual circumstances in which it was made and the reactions to which it gave rise. The historic circumstances prevalent in 1917, the clear intention of Britain in issuing the Declaration, as well as the subject-matter of the Declaration – establishing a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine – are all indicative of the intention that the Declaration would be considered binding.

On March 28, 1921, British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill was challenged over the Balfour Declaration by a former mayor of Jerusalem, Mousa Kazim el Husseini. Churchill responded:

Our position in this country is based upon the events of the war, ratified, as they have been, by the treaties signed by the victorious Powers. I thought, when listening to your statements, that it seemed that the Arabs of Palestine had overthrown the Turkish Government. That is the reverse of the true facts. It has been the armies of Britain which have liberated these regions.

Winston Churchill in doorway receiving Mousa Kasim Pasha el Husseini at reception at Government House, Jerusalem. Emir Abdullah of Jordan stands on the left behind Mrs. Churchill. (Library of Congress)

5. The fourth principle states “a unilateral declaration binds the State internationally only if it is made by authority vested with the power to do so. By virtue of their functions, heads of State, heads of Government and ministers for foreign affairs are competent to formulate such declarations.” As such, the Balfour Declaration, issued by the British Foreign Secretary, clearly represents the formal and official authority of the British government and voiced a very precise intention of the British government as to the character and governance of Palestine.

6. The International Law Commission principles endorse the obligatory nature of unilateral declaration once accepted by other states. Since the Balfour Declaration was subsequently incorporated by the international community into binding international treaties, and as such accepted by states, its obligatory character became all the more evident. By the same token, having created legal obligations, such a declaration cannot be arbitrarily revoked.
The subsequent incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into international multilateral instruments further solidified its internationally binding nature. This is evidenced in the following instruments:

  1. In the San Remo Declaration, dated April 25, 1920,6 the Allied Powers – Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, together with the United States as a neutral observer and the Jewish leadership in Palestine – confirmed the pledge contained in the Balfour Declaration concerning the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.

It was agreed to include in the League of Nations mandate the following provision:

The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, 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.

2. The League of Nations Mandate, dated July 24, 1922, entrusted to Great Britain the powers of Mandatory over the territory of Palestine.7

The Council of the League of Nations, composed of Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan as permanent members, and Belgium, Brazil, Greece, and Spain as non-permanent members, stated in the preambular provisions:

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 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, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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; and

Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.

The Mandate was subsequently approved by all 52 members of the League of Nations.

3. UN Charter, Article 80

Recognizing the need to ensure the continuation of the rights derived from the Mandate, even after the expiry of the League of Nations in 1946, Article 80 of the UN Charter, often referred to as the “Palestine Clause,” states in the context of the International Trusteeship System:

…nothing in this Chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.8

This article was drafted further to representations by the Jewish leadership at the San Francisco conference, in order to protect both the existing rights of states, as well as those of “any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.”

In light of the above, there can be absolutely no doubt that the 1917 Balfour Declaration was a legally binding document, properly issued by the authorized representative of the British government, conveying a clear intention regarding the rights of the Jewish People to territory of Palestine, and subsequently accepted and adopted by the international community in the framework of international treaties.

* * *

Notes

1 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/balfour.html

2 https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/07/26/mahmoud-abbas-seeks-to-sue-uk-over-balfour-declaration-calls-on-arab-league-for-help/

https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/UNISPAL.NSF/47D4E277B48D9D3685256DDC00612265/ABF18E1D5FEF29278525803600658A0C

4 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-assembly-israel-palestinians-idUSKCN11S2CZ

5 http://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/commentaries/9_9_2006.pdf

6 http://www.cfr.org/israel/san-remo-resolution/p15248

7 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/palmanda.asp

8 http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-xii/index.html

Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.


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Israel’s president invites Royal Family to Israel for Balfour Declaration centenary

Reuven Rivlin extended the Royal invite to mark 100-years since Britain formally issued support for a Jewish state

By Stephen Oryszczuk

The Prince of Wales visiting his grandmother on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Princess Alice of Greece’s, final resting place in Jerusalem for the first time. @ClarenceHouse/PA

Israel’s president has invited the Royal Family to visit Israel to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.

President Reuven Rivlin conveyed the message to visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, saying: “This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the UK.”
During the two men’s meeting in Jerusalem, Rivlin added: “We will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and I am greatly honoured to extend an official invitation to the Royal family to visit Israel to mark this event.”
Last year, Prince Charles travelled to Jerusalem for the funeral of Rivlin’s predecessor Shimon Peres, where he met Israel’s current president after the service.
Were the Queen and Prince Philip to visit, it is likely that they would attend the grave of Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who was recognised as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem for sheltering Jewish refugees in Athens. She is buried at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “We would sincerely hope that the invitation from the President of Israel is welcomed and accepted by those who advise the Royal Family on foreign visits.”
Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush said: “It is not only high time but well beyond time for a Royal visit to Israel. I have been extremely proactive in advocating that a visit should happen.”


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Alan Dershowitz: Israel Does Not Cause Antisemitism

By Alan Dershowitz: In a recent letter to the New York Times, the current Earl of Balfour, Roderick Balfour, argued that it is Israel’s fault that there is “growing anti-Semitism around the world.” Balfour — who is a descendant of Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary who wrote the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago — wrote the following: “the increasing inability of Israel to address [the condition of Palestinians], coupled with the expansion into Arab territory of the Jewish settlements, are major factors in growing anti-Semitism around the world.” He argued further that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “owes it to the millions of Jews around the world” who suffer antisemitism, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This well-intentioned but benighted view is particularly ironic, in light of the fact that the Balfour Declaration had, as one of its purposes, to end antisemitism around the world by creating a homeland for the Jewish people. But now the scion of Lord Balfour is arguing that it is Israel that is causing antisemitism.

Roderick Balfour’s views are simply wrong, both as a matter of fact and as a matter of morality. Anyone who hates Jews “around the world” because they disagree with the policy of Israel would be ready to hate Jews on the basis of any pretext. Modern-day antisemites, unlike their forbears, need to find excuses for their hatred, and anti-Zionism has become the excuse de jure.

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To prove the point, let us consider other countries: Has there been growing anti-Chinese feelings around the world as the result of China’s occupation of Tibet? Is there growing hatred of Americans of Turkish background because of Turkey’s unwillingness to end the conflict in Cyprus? Do Europeans of Russian background suffer bigotry because of Russia’s invasion of Crimea? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no. If Jews are the only group that suffers because of controversial policies by Israel, then the onus lies on the antisemites rather than on the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Moreover, Benjamin Netanyahu’s responsibility is to the safety and security of Israelis. Even if it were true that antisemitism is increasing as the result of Israeli policies, no Israeli policy should ever be decided based on the reaction of bigots around the world. Antisemitism, the oldest of bigotries, will persist as long as it is seen to be justified by apologists like Roderick Balfour. Though Balfour does not explicitly justify antisemitism, the entire thrust of his letter is that Jew-hatred is at least understandable in light of Israel’s policies.

Balfour doesn’t say a word about the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel’s repeated offers of statehood. From 1938 through 2008, the Palestinians have been offered and have repeatedly rejected agreements that would have given them statehood. Even today, the Palestinian leadership refuses to accept Netanyahu’s offer to sit down and negotiate a final status agreement without any pre-conditions. Nor does Balfour mention Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists groups that constantly threaten Israel, along with Iran’s publicly declared determination to destroy the state that Lord Balfour helped to create.

It’s all Israel’s fault, according to Balfour, and the resulting increase in antisemitism is Israel’s fault, as well.

Roderick Balfour ends his letter by essentially joining the boycott movement against Israel. He has declared his unwillingness to participate in the Centenary Celebration of the Balfour Declaration, until and unless Israel takes unilateral action to end the conflict. So be it. I am confident that the author of the Balfour Declaration would have willingly participated in this celebration, recognizing that no country in history has ever contributed more to the world – in terms of medical, technological, environmental and other innovations — in so short a period of time (69 years) than has Israel. Nor has any country, faced with comparable threats, ever been more generous in its offers of peace, more committed to the Rule of Law or more protective of civilians who are used as human shields by those who attack its own civilians.

So let the Celebration of the Balfour Declaration go forward without the participation of Roderick Balfour. Let Israel continue to offer a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Palestinians. And let the Palestinians finally come to the bargaining table, and recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in the way that the Balfour Declaration intended.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School, and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter. This article was previously published by the Gatestone Institute.

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We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

By Yaffa Abadi: It is a scary and somewhat daunting phrase that captures the truth about many aspects of interpersonal relationships. When it comes to the Jewish people as a unit, this too rings true. Most of the time our own worst enemy is, in fact, ourselves.

As the century mark of the Balfour Declaration is coming along, I have become engrossed in researching the process that led to the Declaration and what we can learn from it up until today. To me, this seems like a prime example where the Jews of the diaspora came together as a unit to fight for the continued existence of the Jewish people. But, as my research expands, a certain name keeps coming up. A thorn in the rosebush of this Jewish unity.

His name was Edwin Montague and in my mind, he represents one the biggest problems facing world jewry to this very day. Montague was the single Jew working in the British Cabinet during World War One and his family was one of the most prominent and influential families in British and Jewish affairs. With such a seemingly large influence in the secular world, you would assume that obviously this was a huge positive for the Jews at the time. One foot in the door of British politics!

Think again.

Montague was one of the most staunch anti-Zionists around, making it his life’s work to resist Zionist endeavors. In his writings, he makes his views clear, claiming ‘Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom.

His attitude towards the Zionist movement came to life when he used his influence to try put an end to one of the most important letters leading up to the establishment of Israel and what led me to Montague in the first place – the Balfour Declaration. He tried his very best to stop this meaningful Declaration from being accepted. However when he saw that this was not possible, he was sure to add phrases that blurred the lines and added a sense of ambiguity about the nature of the homeland that the Jewish people would eventually receive.

Montague is an example in history that parallels some of the biggest threats we have today. From the anti-Israel Neturei Karta ‘a group of Orthodox Jews which rejects Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel. based off of their supposed religious ideals, to extreme left movements such as J Street who parade as Zionist organisations but whose actions, such as drawing parallels between Israel and Hamas and constantly condemning Israel’s protective efforts, proves it to be another Jewish movement that can act as a magnet to anti-Zionists.

While the size of movements such as these may not be large, any sort of threat coming from within our own people is something the Jewish Nation has suffered from the most throughout our history as a nation.

Going back to ancient times, we are reminded of the story of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa. A petty argument between these two Jewish men which led to the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash (temple). This cruel destruction of our most Holy temple did not begin from an outer force, but rather from the hatred that was bred within the Jewish community.

It is strikingly clear that while, as Jews living in Israel, we face many threats from outer forces, one of our worst enemies is none other than ourselves. From the biblical times, seen throughout our history and highlighted with Montague’s involvement in the Balfour declaration, this threat of Jews against Israel is very real still today and must be countered by remaining loyal and united even in the face of our differences.

Let us learn from our mistakes, and take action to ensure the continuity of our people. Let us look forward to celebrating the century mark of the Balfour Declaration as a symbol where our unity as a Jewish nation overcame all.

People take part in the 51st annual Israel parade in Manhattan, New York May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

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Lord Rothschild discusses cousin’s crucial role in ‘miracle’ Balfour Declaration

Speaking ahead of the 67-word letter’s centenary, Jacob Rothschild describes the historic declaration which paved the way for Israel’s existence

By Stephen Oryszczuk: The current and fourth Lord Rothschild has described the Balfour Declaration that helped pave the way for the creation of Israel as a “miracle” and revealed new details about his cousin Dorothea’s crucial role.

Speaking ahead of the 67-word letter’s centenary, they are his first ever public comments on the show of support from then-foreign secretary Lord Balfour to the second Lord Rothschild, his eccentric uncle Walter, and were made in a rare TV interview with former Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub as part of the Balfour 100 project.

Jacob Rothschild, 80, head of the family’s banking dynasty, said the declaration of support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine went through five drafts before finally being penned on 2 November 1917, adding: “It was the greatest event in Jewish life for thousands of years, a miracle… It took 3,000 years to get to this.”

The way it was achieved was extraordinary, he said. “It was the most incredible piece of opportunism. You had an impoverished would-be scientist, Chaim Weizmann, who somehow gets to England, meets a few people, including members of my family, seduces them, he has such charm and conviction, he gets to Balfour, and unbelievably, he persuades Lord Balfour, and Lloyd George, the prime minister, and most of the ministers, that this idea of a national home for Jews should be allowed to take place. I mean it’s so, so unlikely.”

Lord Rothschild

The letter “changed the course of history for the Middle East and the Jewish people,” said Taub, who interviewed Rothschild at Waddeston Manor in Buckinghamshire, a country pile bequeathed to the nation by the family in 1957, where the Declaration is kept.

It was written to Walter Rothschild, a naturalist and collector, who was first and foremost interested in ornithology (the study of birds), said Jacob, and a “deeply eccentric man who rode around Tring Park on giant tortoises and whose carriage was pulled by zebras.

Walter only became interested in Zionism in later life, but Rothschild said he had been “deeply committed to Israel since the 1960s and have been there every year since”.

However, he said his family at the time was divided on the idea of Israel, noting that some members “didn’t think it was a good thing that this national home be established there”.

He also revealed for the first time the role of his cousin Dorothy de Rothschild, who acted as a critical go-between while still in her teens. Describing her as “devoted to Israel,” Rothschild said: “What she did, which was crucially important, was to connect Weizmann to the British establishment, and extraordinarily, she told Weizmann how to integrate, how to insert himself into British establishment life, which he learned very quickly.”

Her letters, which are stored at Waddeston, detail her later dealings with a range of Zionist leaders, and her advice on the organisation of the Zionist Conference, and Rothschild said she had a profound effect on him, introducing him to Israel and the family’s philanthropic foundation in 1962.


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Balfour Descendant Touts 2-State Solution, Marking 1917 Edict’s Centennial

By Tamara Zieve

Descendant of signatory of Balfour Declaration sends special message to conference, which marks 100 years since historic letter sent.

Windsor – The 5th earl of Balfour Roderick Balfour expressed hope that a two-state solution could be achieved this year, as he conveyed pride in his family’s legacy, the centenary of which was celebrated at Limmud FSU in Windsor this weekend.

The Balfour Declaration, dated November 2, 1917, was sent by Lord Roderick Balfour’s relative, former British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild. It expressed Britain’s support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Israel.

The text of the letter was incorporated into the Treaty of Sevres with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.

“I am very honored to hear that an element of your symposium will be a commemoration of the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration,” Balfour said in a special message to the conference, which was read out during a festive gala on Saturday night.

An exhibition about the Balfour Declaration was displayed throughout the event (the first Limmud FSU ever to be held in Europe), which drew some 700 Russian-speaking Jews to the UK from more than 20 European countries for three days of intensive Jewish learning.

“My family is very proud of the importance to Jewish people everywhere of this initiative by the British government of the day,” the letter read. “The relevance to you all here today is that the imperative for it stemmed from the appalling Russian pogroms at the turn of the 20th century. Thus, and this what we are most proud of, the declaration was first and foremost a humanitarian act trying repatriate a talented but much-persecuted people to the land of the original Judaic roots.”

In October, a campaign was launched at an event hosted at the British Parliament’s House of Lords, calling on the UK to apologize for the declaration. A petition for a British apology and compensation for the Palestinians garnered only 1,278 supporters, failing to meet the 10,000 signatures in six months required to merit a response from the Parliament. Balfour described blaming the declaration for political turmoil in the Middle East as “over-simplistic.”

“The borders imposed by Sykes-Picot were never going to be fit for purpose and nobody in 1917 could have foreseen the Holocaust or the extraordinarily high birth rate among the Palestinians in recent decades,” his letter read.

“How much more we could celebrate the centenary if we saw a two-state solution emerge this year, which in effect would bring closure on one of the central tenets of the declaration,” he concluded.

During the event, Limmud FSU bestowed an Honorary Balfour Declaration Award upon Board of Deputies of British Jews President Jonathan Arkush for his contributions to British Jewry.

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Roderick Balfour was the great-grandson of Lord Balfour.


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The Balfour Declaration: How British PM Theresa May Got It Wrong

How can one small statement, get it so wrong! I am obviously pleased to see the British Prime Minister stand up for Israel and for the historic Balfour Declaration against the ridiculous rantings of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, calling to sue Britain for having issued the Declaration.

However, language is important. At the Annual Conservative Friends of Israel luncheon on December 12th, Prime Minister Theresa May declared her pride in:

creating a homeland for the Jewish people.

You see, herein lies a major reason for Israel’s problems on the stage of public opinion. The wording.

First of all “people” should be capitalized. We are not just a collection of random people who happen to be Jews – we are The Jewish People.

Second, Israel is not “A homeland FOR” the Jewish People — it is “THE homeland OF” the Jewish People. In other words, it could not have been anywhere else but where it is.

And finally, our homeland was not CREATED by the Balfour Declaration — it was RECOGNIZED by the Balfour Declaration. This bears repeating: our ancient homeland was recognized, not created, by Balfour; and its re-establishment was achieved by all that followed Balfour’s letter.

When you cement into people’s consciousness a certain interpretation of events, as represented so simply by the statement issued by PM May, you make it hard for people, insufficiently knowledgeable about Israeli and Middle Eastern history, to understand the rationale behind Israel’s struggle today against those who want to destroy her. Many do not understand that Jews from around the world are branches of the same Israelite tree.

The roots of that tree are deep in the soil of the Land of Israel and archaeological research on the land keeps uncovering the depth and breadth of these roots. Multiple branches were broken off and, while some stayed close to the trunk of the tree, most were sent whirling off in all directions all around the globe until finally the winds started blowing back toward the Land of Israel. Balfour recognized all of this and officially declared that Palestine was Jewish.

In concession to those Arabs who also lived on that land (let us for now put aside the fact that many of them gravitated to the area after the Jews started working it), over half of Palestine was given to the Arabs and called “Jordan”.

Britain can be proud, therefore, of its part in the re-establishing of Israel, as a modern state, on the lands of our ancient Jewish Homeland. Just let them word it correctly from now on. OK?


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British PM hails ‘remarkable, tolerant’ Israel, slams anti-Semitism in Labour

In speech to Conservative Friends of Israel, Theresa May calls Balfour Declaration ‘one of the most important letters in history’

In a speech overflowing with praise and support, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday hailed the State of Israel as “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance,” said UK ties with Israel were “crucial,” promised to raise the bilateral trade relationship to new heights, and described the Balfour Declaration as “one of the most important letters in history.”

In an address to her Conservative Party’s Friends of Israel, May also castigated the opposition Labour Party for “turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism.”

The speech at a CFI luncheon, which received a standing ovation from the 800 guests, underlined May’s ongoing support of Israel, maintaining the approach of successive Conservative prime ministers — and contrasting with the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn, a relentless critic of the Jewish state.

As the UK forges “a new role for itself on the world stage,” in the wake of its decision to leave the European Union, May said it would seek to be “open, outward-looking, optimistic” and that “Israel will be crucial to us as we do that.” This, she said, was “because I believe our two countries have a great deal in common. As the (Israeli) ambassador Mark Regev said, we have common values; we work together, on health, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, technology; and we can help each other achieve our aims.”

May firmly rebutted the so-called BDS movement against Israel, declaring: “I couldn’t be clearer: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is wrong, it is unacceptable, and this party and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to it.”

She said she planned to “take our trading and investing relationship with Israel to the next level,” and noted that several ministers would visit Israel in the coming year.

Ahead of 2017’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the establishment of modern Israel, May said the UK was entering a “special time,” and highlighted that the Declaration was signed by a Conservative foreign secretary, Arthur James Balfour. “It is one of the most important letters in history,” she declared. “It demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. And it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride.”

The Balfour Declaration (Wikipedia)

Addressing concerns about anti-Semitism in the UK, the prime minister said it “has no place in politics and no place in this country… It is unacceptable that there is anti-Semitism in this country. It is even worse that incidents are reportedly on the rise. And it is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics.”

May announced that the UK was now adopting an internationally backed charity’s formal definition of anti-Semitism in a “ground-breaking step towards eradicating anti-Semitism.” (The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s, IHRA, an intergovernmental organization backed by 31 countries, agreed to a definition in May it hopes will become widely adopted globally.)

This move, she said, means that “there will be one definition of anti-Semitism — in essence, language or behavior that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews. And anyone guilty of that will be called out on it.”

British opposition Labour party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (C) sits in the audience ahead of the Labour leadership announcement, during the Labour Party Leadership Conference in Liverpool on September 24, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF

In reference to Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who recently sang ‘Am Yisrael Hai’ (The People of Israel Live) at a Labour Friends of Israel lunch, May said “no amount of karaoke can make up for turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism.” She added: “No matter what Labour say — or sing — they cannot ignore what has been happening in their party.”

Unlike Corbyn, Watson is a staunch supporter of Israel, and recently visited at the head of a Labour Friends delegation.

May called Israel a “remarkable country,” and elaborated: “We have, in Israel, a thriving democracy, a beacon of tolerance, an engine of enterprise, and an example to the rest of the world about how to overcome adversity and defying disadvantages”.

Recalling her visit to Israel in 2014 as home secretary, she said that “seeing isn’t just believing; it is understanding, acknowledging and appreciating… It is only when you walk through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv that you see a country where people of all religions and sexualities are free and equal in the eyes of the law… It is only when you travel across the country that you realize it is only the size of Wales — and appreciate even more the impact it has on the world.”

She added: “And it is only when you witness Israel’s vulnerability that you see the constant danger Israelis face, as I did during my visit, when the bodies of the murdered teenagers, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, were discovered.”

May noted with pleasure that CFI has “already taken 34 of the 74 Conservative MPs elected in 2015 to Israel.”

Turning to the recent decision to freeze a portion of aid that Britain gives to the Palestinian Authority pending an investigation into allegations that the PA is paying salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists, May promised that “no British taxpayers’ money will be used to make payments to terrorists or their families.” Every penny of aid must be “spent in the right places and in the right way.”

She said the UK was also looking into allocating greater funds for peaceful coexistence projects in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Regarding the peace process, May said the way to achieve a two-state solution is for “the two sides to sit down together, without preconditions.”

She also praised the UK’s Jewish community: “We should be so proud of the contribution Britain’s Jewish community’s made to our country. From business to the arts, public services to education, that contribution is exemplary,” she said.


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Netanyahu denounces campaign to apologise for Balfour Declaration

Israel’s prime minister dismissed calls for Britain to say sorry for supporting the establishment of a Jewish state as ‘amazing’

Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the campaign in the UK for an apology for the Balfour Declaration – suggesting it was driven not by territorial dispute but by the very existence of the Jewish state.

The Israeli prime minister’s comments to the Jewish News came as Anglo-Jewry gears up to mark the centenary of Britain’s historic pledge and just weeks after the House of Lords launch of a campaign to push for an apology for the 1917 declaration – which he dismissed as “amazing”.

Addressing the second Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem, he said: “The Balfour declaration recognised this land as the home of the Jewish people which obviously had consequences later down the line.

“But if the Palestinians are challenging 100 years later even the idea that the Jewish people have a home here you know they’re not really gung-ho on a state – a nation state for the Jewish people. It’s very revealing about the true source of this ensuring conflict.

“It’s not about territory, even though that’s an issue. It’s not about settlements, even though that’s an issue – it’s not the issue. It was never and is still not about the Palestinian state. It was always about the Jewish state. The fact there was a challenge to the Balfour declaration 100 years later tells us we haven’t come very far.”

In a tweet, Justin Cohen said:
“In answer to my question, @netanyahu denounces campaign for UK apology over Balfour Declaration as ‘amazing’ #JMS2016

Although the premier didn’t say what he will do for the centenary, Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK and the PM’s former spokesman, has previously spoken of bilateral plans to mark the occasion. A programme of events is also being finalised by the Balfour 100 Committee, comprising dozens of Jewish community and Israel organisations.

Netanyahu also used the summit to rubbish claims that Israel is facing increasing international isolation – insisting the opposite is the case.

With a diary comprising 250 meetings with presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers this year, he said: “The great powers of Asia, Africa and Latin America, they’re all coming to Israel. It’s happening at an unbelievable pace. I wish we had a little isolation because I could use the time.”

He said warmer relations were being driven by cooperation on tackling terrorism, Israel’s technological prowess and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – claiming he encourages visiting leaders to host direct talks without preconditions.

“Israel has all of a sudden become a cyber security and digital health power. We have a car industry all of a sudden. All of these countries understand that not only to protect themselves against terrorism but to seize the future – everything is becoming technologies – and Israel is a global force in technology.” He predicted that “it’s only a matter of time before this bilateral change is going to be reflected in the way countries vote in the UN”.


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A Reevaluation of the Balfour Declaration

by Ashley Perry

Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration, 1917

On November 2, the Balfour Declaration was 91 years old. Although seemingly irrelevant in today’s political scenery, it was the crucial first official recognition of Jewish national aspirations, much disparaged even unto this day.

Although the declaration itself had little legal status, it was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine, adopted unanimously by the League of Nations in the San Remo Resolution of 1920. This lent Zionism an international legitimacy enjoyed by few national movements before or since. Perhaps most astonishing today, the leader of the Arab movement, King Faisal, supported the declaration when it was referred to in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919.

Although many have since attempted to deny the central nature of the document and its relationship to the Mandate, that’s not how its British drafters saw things. In fact, as stated in the 1937 Royal Commission Report, “the primary purpose of the Mandate, as expressed in its preamble and its articles, is to promote the establishment of the Jewish National Home.

“The initial drafts of the Balfour Declaration spoke of the desire “that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people.” Clearly, Palestine as a whole was intended to become this Jewish national home.

Edwin Samuel Montagu

Edwin Samuel Montagu

“The final declaration was altered at the behest of Edwin Samuel Montagu, an influential anti-Zionist Jew and secretary of state for India, who was concerned that the declaration as it stood could result in increased anti-Semitism. Montagu was also concerned that the declaration would make it harder for him to deal with Indian Muslims.

Many have argued that the term “Jewish national home” falls short of Zionist aspirations, and suggest that the declaration never meant to encourage the creation of a state. This interpretation fails because the major players in the drafting of the agreement thought otherwise.

It would have been diplomatically impossible for the British government to promise a state at that time, primarily because the territory was not even in its hands. The term national home was used as a first step on the path to statehood. Lloyd George, who was prime minister at the time, laid the onus for the transforming of a national home to a state on the Jews themselves.

“It was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunities afforded them by the idea of a national home, and had become a definite majority… then Palestine would thus become a Jewish commonwealth.”

General Smuts, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet when the declaration was published, said in 1919 that he could see “in generations to come, a great Jewish state rising there once more.” Influential figures like Lord Robert Cecil in 1917, Sir Herbert Samuel in 1919 and Winston Churchill in 1920 also spoke about the resulting Jewish state.

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Jewish demonstration against White Paper in Jerusalem in 1939

Churchill also told the Royal Commission regarding the Palestine White Paper of 1922, for which he had been responsible, that those who felt the Balfour Declaration or the Palestine Mandate precluded a Jewish state were mistaken. “There is nothing in it,” the commission found, “to prohibit the ultimate establishment of a Jewish state, and Mr. Churchill himself has told us in evidence that no such prohibition was intended.

“There are also those who look at the language of the declaration and the Mandate to claim that they give equal weight to Jewish national aspirations and the rights of various non-Jewish communities. This is erroneous simply because the main purpose of both the declaration and the Mandate, as expressed above, was to “promote the establishment of the Jewish National Home.

“Nonetheless, during the early days of the Mandate there were voices in the British government which felt an equal obligation to the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. Many politicians wished to ensure that the Arab population was placated. This was rebutted by those who felt that not only was this incorrect, but that the text of the Mandate made Britain “responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home.”

The wording clearly points to active intervention on the part of Britain.

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Sir Herbert Samuel (L) and Winston Churchill (R) planting a tree on Mt. Scopus in Mandatory Palestine, c. 1921. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, no known restrictions)

“Merely to sit still,” wrote Churchill, “and avoid friction with the Arabs and safeguard their civil and religious rights and to abandon the positive exertion for the establishment of the Jewish National Home would not be a faithful interpretation of the Mandate.

“Possibly the greatest argument is the fact that the text describing the rights of “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” appeared only in the preamble of the British Mandate; the actual text was replete with references to actions that would be taken to ensure the rise of a Jewish national home. The British administration was required to “facilitate” Jewish immigration, and “encourage” the settlement of Jews on the land.

There can be no denying that the Balfour Declaration was unique, not only in Jewish history, but possibly in the history of national movements. For a short period, all the major powers, the leader of the Arab world and most interested parties created a mechanism to fulfill the Zionist dream.

This should not be overlooked or understated as Zionism fights an enduring battle for legitimacy. Few national movements in the world have such a legal declaration in their arsenal. The writer is editor for the Middle East Strategic Information. Published in Middle East Strategic Information on 02/11/2008 and sent to MPs and members of the House of Lords.

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Ashley Perry, editor of the Middle East Strategic Information project makes the case that the Balfour Declaration represented the definite intention of the British Government to create a Jewish state and that in the Mandate for Palestine this intention gained international backing.

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