The Balfour Declaration

By Deane Barker

The actual letter which contained the declaration.

This was a 1917 letter from the British Foreign Secretary (their Secretary of State, basically) to a leader of the British Jewish community which expressed support for a Jewish homeland in the area of (then) Palestine.

It was the first open acceptance and validation of Zionism.

The letter was both genuine and calculated. The Britsh Prime Minister at the time believed in Zionism, but the letter was also an attempt to rally the Jewish diaspora behind the allied powers during World War 1.

Its form was simply a short statement:

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.

Informal as it seemed, it carried the full weight of the British government behind it, having been approved by Parliament. And it was very carefully worded – note the ambiguous phrase “national home” rather than simply “state” or “country.”

Why I Looked It Up

It came up a lot in Kingmakers. From that book, I learned about how much the British were involved in the establishment of the Middle East we know today.

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