Looking back at the Balfour Declaration

Dr. Joseph Frager,

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Dr. Joseph Frager
The writer is a leading American pro-Israel activist who sponsors and coordinates many Zionist events. He is clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases) at the Einstein School of Medicine as well as a practicing physician.

Nothing happens  in a vacuum. The Balfour Declaration which turns 100 on Nov. 2nd had a lot of help. Regardless, it was an immense turning point in modern Jewish History. One could start with Theodore Herzl's famous First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland 1897 which set the stage for the Balfour Declaration.

It is not a coincidence that we just celebrated in August 120 years since Herzl's great achievement. One could then move to various events in World War I including the formation of the "Zion Mule Corps" of six hundred Jewish refugees who fought through the whole of the ill fated Gallipoli Campain by the Allies 1915-1916(also known as the Dardanelles Campaign in what is now modern Turkey) under the command of a soldier most sympathetic towards the Jews and Zionism, Colonel John Henry Patterson. This unit was disbanded but formed the Jewish Legion in Palestine. The British who were appalled by the losses (including this latter Campaign) sustained against the Germans were eager for success somewhere in the the war. The British turned their focus to the Middle East to achieve victory.

In June 1917 General Allenby took over the Egyptian command. Preparations were made then to take over Palestine and control the Suez Canal which he did. The British government which had dealings with Herzl and the Zionists wanted to make a pronouncement of its policy in Palestine in parallel with Zionist ambitions. It is a lesson for eternity how the Activists of that time had such a profound effect on policy and decision making. The "establishment" Jewish Groups actually opposed the pronouncement by the British of the Balfour Declaration and any such policy shifts in parallel with the Zionists who were lobbying for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. The Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo Jewish Association were opposed for fear it would stimulate and precipitate Anti-Semitism. Then Chaim Weizmann (born 1874) and Nachum Sokolow (born 1860) stepped in to overcome their Jewish detractors.

They were in constant communication with Louis D. Brandeis (born 1856) in America who was the head of the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs. One key British official said, "Its clear Her Majesty's Government were mainly concerned how Russia was to be kept in the ranks of the Allies" and as for America "it was supposed American opinion might be favorably influenced if the return of the Jews to Palestine became a purpose of British Policy." Arthur Balfour the British Foreign Secretary the scion of both Scottish mercantile wealth and English aristocracy entered the picture. He was a philosopher, postmaster, enthusiastic tennis player, who never married whose favorite expression was "nothing matters much and very little matters at all."

  David Lloyd George said that history would remember Balfour, "like the scent on a pocket handkerchief." How very wrong David Lloyd George was. Because of Balfour's relationship with Chaim Weizmann and the Balfour Declaration he is remembered as one of the heroes of mankind. Weizmann wrote about England at the time, "Britain was a Biblical Nation." David Lloyd George who became Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who later became Prime Minister and Arthur Balfour who described the Jews as "the most gifted race mankind has known since Fifth century BCE Greece" were all Bible believing Christians. Balfour declared "I'm a Zionist" and it may be that Zionism became his only real political passion. Another cabinet minister Sir Mark Sykes was convinced that Britain needed "the friendship of the Jews of the world" in order to win World War I.

On Nov. 9th Balfour issued his Declaration addressed to Lord Rothschild (dated Nov. 2nd.1917) which proclaimed: "His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People..." The Balfour Declaration could be called the Lloyd George Declaration since he was Prime Minister and pushed hard to possess Palestine. He said, "Oh, we must grab that." He was not going to share it with France or anyone else. Lloyd George's obsession with Palestine and his need for a victory over the Turks after the great loss in the Gallipoli Campaign all made the Balfour Declaration a reality. There are many valuable lessons.

One of the most important documents ever was formulated by a small group of Bible Believers inspired by essentially one man, Chaim Weizmann in the throes and torment of World War I. World War I was the necessary backdrop for the world stage to be reset. Thank G-d there were Activist Zionists starting with Theodore Herzl clamoring for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Had it not been for the so called "Activists" the Balfour Declaration would never have come into being. Thank G-d it did.come into being. Thank G-d it did.