On November 2, the Balfour Declaration was 91 years old. Although seemingly irrelevant in today's political scenery, it was the crucial first official recognition of Jewish national aspirations, much disparaged even unto this day.
Although the declaration itself had little legal status, it was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine, adopted unanimously by the League of Nations in the San Remo Resolution of 1920. This lent Zionism an international legitimacy enjoyed by few national movements before or since.
Perhaps most astonishing today, the leader of the Arab movement, King Faisal, supported the declaration when it was referred to in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919.
Although many have since attempted to deny the central nature of the document and its relationship to the Mandate, that's not how its British drafters saw things. In fact, as stated in the 1937 Royal Commission Report, "the primary purpose of the Mandate, as expressed in its preamble and its articles, is to promote the establishment of the Jewish National Home."
The initial drafts of the Balfour Declaration spoke of the desire "that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people." Clearly, Palestine as a whole was intended to become this Jewish national home.
The final draft was altered to contain the proviso, "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."
The final declaration was altered at the behest of Edwin Samuel Montagu, an influential anti-Zionist Jew and secretary of state for India, who was concerned that the declaration as it stood could result in increased anti-Semitism. Montagu was also concerned that the declaration would make it harder for him to deal with Indian Muslims. ...
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