Josef Olmert

The Balfour Declaration Revisited

99 years ago to the day, Lord Arthur James Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary of the mighty British Empire a letter to Lord Rotschield, a prominent Jewish leader in England, containing only 130 words , but ones which had the potential to change history. Potential as opposed to actual? time to reevaluate , especially in days, when in the House of Lords , a Baroness is hosting a meeting , in which there was a call for Britain to extend an apology to the Palestinian people for this letter/declaration.So many angels through which we can look at these 130 words, analyze and counter analyze them, but here I will contain the discussion to only three of these angels.

First, let us deal with the word ”historic”, a term which widely used to describe the famous letter, and yes, in this case it is the correct definition. The first time, that ANY political power in the world, let alone THE super power of the day, recognized the historic connection between the Jews and their homeland. Both Balfour and his PM at the time, David Lloyd-George were Bible lovers, Christian Zionists, in one way or another, adherents of the Restorationist movement among Protestants in both the US and England which was popular in the 19th Century, calling for the restoration of Jews to their homeland. President John Adams was one of them, later other prominent Americans, such as Herman Melville and others, but the movement was much more mainstream in England where people like Lord Palmerston , the great statesman of the first part of the Century , PM D’israeli, the great statesman of the second, Lord Shaftsbury and many others were actual Zionists. Here is a point not always mentioned; NOT the Balfour Declaration made Zionism, but Zionism, even in its pre-Herzellian version made the Balfour Declaration possible.

So, it is important to emphasize the timeless nature of Zionism , being a sense existing for generation upon generation, just getting a significant boost with this letter. It is important to ever emphasize this point, in face of Marxist claims about the not coincidental timing of the rise of Zionism at the time of overall European colonial expansionism, an argument being readily adopted by the Palestinians. In the infamous covenant of the PLO, the Balfour Declaration is cited as the beginning of the Zionist ”invasion”. We get here another reminder by our enemies as to the role of history in the conflict . We tend to run away from it, they consistently get into it, and the Balfour Declaration, being an expression of an historic truth and reality, rather than the creation of it, is exactly the type of event which we need to refer to in our discourse.That said, here is the second element to be emphasized in this particular article.

The Palestinians demand a British apology for Balfour, not as laughable as may be taken to be. History again and again, this is the battle over the narrative. The truth is, that Britain , for all intents and purposes, did away with the Balfour Declaration, with the White Paper of 17 May 1939, which was a blatant, treacherous violation of the Mandate charter, if not an outright rebuttal of both the contents and spirit of Balfour. This shameful document was the last manifestation of the notorious appeasement policy of the ”people of Munich”, the Chamberlain government of the day. It was a disaster for our people , as the containment of Jewish immigration for 75000 for the years 1939-1944 simply doomed European Jewry at its greatest moment of truth. Britain never deviated from this criminal policy even under the leadership of the great Winston Churchill, and Jews who could otherwise flee Europe to their homeland were prevented from doing so. The criminality of all that, is dramatically displayed by the fact, that through the decoding of ”ultra”, the British government knew about the large-scale massacres of Jews , particularly after the onset of the Nazi invasion to the Soviet Union in June 1941. Here is a point to be remembered; the Balfour Declaration did not deprive the Arabs of their rights, as only 4 years later , the same Winston Churchill gave them the vast majority of historic”Palestine, and the Hashimites established Trans-Jordan , referring to it also as a state from people from the other, West side of ”Palestine”. However, the White Paper, which was a violation of Balfour, deprived Jews of their basic, human right to live!.

And so, we come to the most important historic lesson for us. No declaration, even one full with the greatest of intentions, can do to us , what we can do to ourselves. Jewish power , based on historic rights gave us a part of our homeland back and with it a restoration of our national sovereignty there. We are grateful to Balfour for the declaration, acknowledging our rights, we condemn the appeasers who inflicted on us the calamity of the White Paper and we cherish forever the unstoppable connection between our people and our homeland, and today is a day to doubly remember all that.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina