*Co-written with Michal Behagen
Today, those who object to the presence of Jewish people in the Land of Israel are attempting to rewrite history, creating “alternative facts,” claiming that this declaration gave the Jewish people Israel, at the expense of the “Palestinians.” There are demonstrations outside embassies and even a social media campaign with the hashtag #MakeItRight, implying that the Balfour Declaration was wrong and unjust. This narrative is getting traction in the conventional media and being legitimized by repetition.
In this atmosphere, it is important to know a few things. Facts, not feelings. Historical, documented truth, not propaganda.
Here are the 6 things you need to know about the Balfour Declaration:
1. What is the Balfour Declaration?
Named after the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, the Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine (which at the time was part of the Ottoman empire).
The declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 which Balfour sent to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. He requested Lord Rothschild transmit its message to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
The text of the declaration was published in the press on 9 November 1917:
2. The right to settle in the Land of Israel
It is not the Balfour Declaration that granted Jews the right to settle in the Land of Israel. The document that gave us that right is the Bible. The Koran corroborates this, making Muslim objectors to our historical right not only ignorant but also blasphemers against their own religion.
3. The impetus to immigrate to Israel
The Balfour Declaration did not cause Jews to immigrate to Israel. Would that it had!
There was a continuous (albeit small) Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from the time of the destruction of the second Jewish Temple. What is considered the first wave of immigration of Jews returning to Israel began in 1882 and still most of the world’s Jewish population remained in exile. Following the Balfour Declaration, the Land of Israel waited for the Nation of Israel who did not believe the cries of the leaders of the Zionist movement. Unlike the few who understood (Herzl, Jabotinsky, Uri Zvi Greenberg and others), they did not comprehend the gravity of their situation in exile and so they stayed there – until the
(After the furnaces, it was the British themselves who prevented Jews from immigrating to Israel, in complete contradiction to their previous commitment and humanitarian and moral duty.)
4. League of Nations Mandate
The Balfour Declaration is the basis for the League of Nations decision regarding the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in our homeland.
This was one of the functions of the British Mandate (on both banks of the Jordan).
5. International Law
The League of Nations decision is the only valid document in what is called “International Law” regarding the right of any people to this land.
6. When does the Balfour Declaration matter?
The Balfour Declaration is important whenever someone lies, talking about “illegal settlements,” “violations of international law,” or “occupation”.
THAT is the moment when we must raise the Balfour Declaration and say:
We are not here by virtue of international law but by virtue of historical truth.
We are ALSO here in accordance with international law – since the League of Nations adopted the Balfour Declaration – we are here by right. International law did not give us the right to this land, it recognized and reaffirmed our historical right to the land.
For that, Balfour, we thank you.