The Balfour Declaration
The 2nd of November 1917 AD
The reasons why the British government of 1917 should have come up with the Balfour Declaration promising support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine are shrouded in mystery and controversy to this day.
The declaration was made in the form of a letter sent by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to the leading Jewish figure in Britain, Lord Rothschild, on November 2 1917. Lloyd George , the Prime Minister, later claimed to have been the driving force, characteristically twisting the truth. Though Balfour signed the letter it was probably written by Lord Milner rather than Balfour himself. And, though there were Zionist sympathisers in the government, a rather less honourable motive – seeking Jewish support for the British war effort as a quid pro quo – was probably behind it, though gratitude for the work of industrial chemist and Zionist pioneer Chaim Weizmann (facilitating production of explosives) was also in the background.
“Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” ran part of the declaration, though how this balance was to be achieved the very brief letter failed to clarify. The well-intentioned if naive action by Lloyd George’s cabinet does, however, contrast well with those of Neville Chamberlain ’s spineless government in 1939, when it was dropped under pressure from Arab states.
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