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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Balfour Declaration: Why It Was So Important

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                     

Finally the Jews had the answer they had worked so hard for.  Britain was for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jews.  Arthur James, Lord Balfour (1848-1930) was a British statesman and philosopher who was head of the government with which Herzl negotiated with in 1902-1903.  Later he was very impressed b Chaim Weizmann and his Zionist philosophy.  He was foreign secretary in 1917 when he issued the Balfour Declaration, an official statement from Britain.

                                                                                    Foreign Office
                                 November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
           I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet.

        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.  

       I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

                           Arthur James Balfour

                           The Balfour Declaration

 This statement finally came about as the result of many long negotiations started by Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow and others shortly after the start of World War I.  Supporting this was Herbert Samuel, Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz, the Haham Moses Gaster and others.  There was a lot of discussion on two things;  the formula of the Declaration and its timing.    The final decision of the British government was expedited by Balfour's visit to the US  in the spring of 1917 when he met with President Wilson who supported the efforts of the American Zionists who were headed by Brandeis.  

There were British Jews who were afraid that this would endanger the Jews in all countries.  This opposition made the government more cautious, and the wording submitted to recognize Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people and for providing a "Jewish National Colonizing Corporation" for the resettlement and economic development of the country was not accepted.  

When the Declaration had been approved by the British cabinet, it was sent to Lord Walter Rothschild who was asked to take it to the Zionist Federation. On April 24, 1920, it was decided by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers at the conference in San Remo that Britain should administer Palestine and be responsible for the implementation of the Balfour Declaration.  

In 1921, Transjordan was detached from the area covered by the British Mandate for Palestine and made a separate Emirate under Abdullah (1882-1951).  First he was an Emir, and then made himself king of Transjordan.  He was the 2nd son of Hussein, sherif of Mecca, so he was from Saudi Arabia.  It was his support of Britain during WWI that led to his nomination as ruler of Transjordan in 1923.  He was credited with a moderate attitude toward Zionism and had negotiated with Chaim Weizmann in 1922, but invaded Israel in 1948 anyway.  His attempts to reach an understanding with Israel were nullified by the growing influence of the Palestinian Arabs, and he was assassinated in Jerusalem allegedly at the instance of the Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini, the person who had gone to Germany and had met with Adolf Hitler.    . 

 It was approved by other Allied governments and incorporated into the Mandate in 1922.  According to Article II the Mandatory Power was responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative, and economic conditions as would secure the establishment of the Jewish national home and the development of self-governing institutions;  also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.  

Other articles provided for the facilitation of Jewish immigration by the Mandatory Power, while ensuring the rights and status of the other sections of the community, and for encouraging settlement of the Jews on the land, including unrequired state and wastelands; for enacting a national laws to enable Jews taking up their residence in Palestine to acquire Palestine citizenship;  the recognition of English, Arabic and Hebrew as the official languages of Palestine; and the recognition of the holy days of the respective communities as legal days of rest.  

Article 25 delimits the borders of the country, excluding Transjordan from Palestine. King Abdullah had  renamed it the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1946.  The Palestine Mandate ended on May 15, 1948 with the withdrawal of the British administration.  This is the day Israel was then declared a state with the blessing of the vote in the United Nations.  Right away King Abdullah fought against the new Israel and took over the Arab area of Palestine which was Judah, Samaria and east Jerusalem.  

What the Arab King Abdullah had taken that was to be part of the Jewish Homeland was lost to Israel by his grandson, Hussein, in the Six Day War when all the Arabs had attacked Israel and lost, much to their surprise.  Hussein, born in 1935, succeeded to the throne in 1952.  He removed British officers from his Arab Legion in 1956 and signed a pact with Egypt and Syria but later refrained from joining the fighting during the Sinai Campaign.  His army had to retreat from Eastern Palestine when defeated in 1967.  Then he was threatened by Arab terrorist organizations with whom he had a major showdown in September 1970 with Black September.  In 1988 he renounced claims to the West Bank in view of Arab decisions that the PLO was the rightful authority.  

Transjordan had been the home of some of the 12 tribes of Israel back in c1200 BCE.   Reuben , Gad and half of Manasseh were cattle-keeping tribes and had settled there.  King David (1010-970 BCE)  later had conquered the whole land of what came to be called Transjordan including the rich copper mines of the Arabah.  His son, King Solomon (961-920 BCE)  had lost them or only held temporarily.  W Ammon was held by a Jewish family, the Tobiads for a time.  Then after the destruction of the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, it was rebuilt in 538-515 BCE.   The Edomites moved into southern Judah and their place was taken by the Nabateans.   Greek towns were established in hellenistic days. 

In the Byzantine days (70-637 CE) , Transjordan began to decline which was accelerated by the Arab conquest of Mohammad (570-620 CE) .  From the 8th to the 19th centuries, it was mostly left to the Bedouins to occupy except when the crusaders established themselves in Oultre Jourdain.  The first Crusade was in 1096-9.  This is when attacks were made on Jews living in Northern France and especially in the Rhineland where massacres occurred in cites of Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Cologne, etc and other places where Jews had found refuge from the Roman attack in Judah.  Jerusalem was taken by them in 1099 and in that Jews and Karaites were massacred.   Crusades went on with the last being in 1320 with attacks on Jews in southern France and northern Spain.  

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
update: 11:20am


Nadene Goldfoot said...

Political Rights in Palestine

"Neither customary international law nor the United Nations Charter acknowledges that every group of people [Palestinian Arabs included] claiming to be a nation has the right to a state of its own." [1]

31 October, 2013 | Eli E. Hertz
The Mandate for Palestine, a legally binding document under international law, clearly differentiates between political rights - referring to Jewish self-determination as an emerging polity - and civil and religious rights, referring to guarantees of equal personal freedoms to non-Jewish residents as individuals and within select communities. Not once are Arabs as a people mentioned in the Mandate for Palestine. At no point in the entire document is there any granting of political rights to non-Jewish entities (i.e., Arabs). Article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine explicitly states that the Mandatory should:

"Be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion."

Political rights to self-determination as a polity for Arabs were guaranteed by the League of Nations in four other mandates - in Lebanon and Syria [The French Mandate], Iraq and later Trans-Jordan [The British Mandate]. Political rights in Palestine were granted to Jews only.

International law expert Professor Eugene V. Rostow, examining the claim for Arab Palestinian self-determination on the basis of law, concluded:

"The mandate implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rights in the area in favor of the Jews; the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development, in acknowledgment of the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land. Lord Curzon, who was then the British Foreign Minister, made this reading of the mandate explicit. There remains simply the theory that the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have an inherent 'natural law' claim to the area."


[1][1] See Eugene V. Rostow, The Future of Palestine, Institute for National Strategic Studies, November 1993. Professor Rostow was Sterling Professor of Law and Public Affairs Emeritus at Yale University and served as the Dean of Yale Law School (1955-66); Distinguished Research Professor of Law and Diplomacy, National Defense University; Adjunct Fellow, American Enterprise Institute. In 1967, as U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, he became a key draftee of UN Resolution 242. See also his article: "Are Israel's Settlements Legal?" The New Republic, October 21, 1991.

Nadene Goldfoot said...

The above passed on to me from Denise Bremridge nee Goldfoot, my 3rd cousin.Yes, international historians and lawyers such as Rostow, agree with this.