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1917. 2 Nov The Balfour Declaration was a letter sent to Lord Walter Rothschild by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declaring support for the establishment of a ‘national home for the Jewish people’ in what was to become the British Mandate of Palestine. It was the first official declaration of political support for Jewish independence and is viewed by some as paving the way for the legal foundations of the modern State of Israel as evidenced by the level of international diplomacy that went into securing the letter. In the context of WWI which was still raging at the time, it offered Britain the opportunity for a stake in the Middle East in the expected wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It also marked one of the first major successes of the political Zionist movement which had officially been established with the First Zionist Congress in 1897.

Given that the Balfour Declaration was not a unilateral document on behalf of the British but rather something which had been agreed upon privately by allied diplomats before it was issued, it is viewed as the beginning of a legal process, which involved the San Remo conference of 1920 where the Declaration was officially adopted by the allied powers and latter, the creation of the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922.

The implementation of the Declaration was not without its failings. It provided for the safeguarding of the rights of the residents of Palestine saying ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. In the run up to WWII that the British wanted to placate the Arab leadership in the Mandate. They issued a White Paper limiting Jewish immigration to the Mandate to fifteen thousand every year for five years, ultimately refusing entry to thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe, many of whom would tragically die in the Holocaust.

Palistine; Israel Balfour Declaration; Jews; Judaism; History (general); United Kingdom
 
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