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The Balfour Declaration

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Foreign Office,
November 2nd, 1917.

Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, 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".
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely
Arthur James Balfour

In the late 1800s, due mostly to a burgeoning Zionist movement in Europe, a number of settlements were are already established in Eretz Israel (then called Palestine.) This was done with the intent of eventually forming a Jewish state there. During the late 19th century, the Zionist movement developed in Europe, dedicated to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Jews in Europe had been subjected to violent pogroms, so this compelled many Jews living there to emigrate and settle in Palestine, which at the time was occupied by the British. The British did not want the Jews to establish a state there and even made a suggestion that the Jews who wanted a homeland of their own do so in Africa, in Uganda.

In November of 1917, Arthur James Balfour, who held the position of British Foreign Secretary sent a letter to the Jewish leader Lord Lionel Rothschild. The letter reads above.
 

This statement, on behalf of the British government, ran in the Times of London newspaper a week later. This letter would put into motion the process that would eventually lead to the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel (The Land of Israel), or as known then Palestine. At a later date, Woodrow Wilson approved this declaration, as did the French and Italian governments.
 

This was all very problematic as the leaders in the Arab world were led to believe that they would be granted an independent Arab state. It was the British who then governed Palestine after World War I had seen the end of the Ottoman Empire.

From Łosice, Poland * --

"In the years 1916‑17, in spite of the war, new political ideas were presented to the youth within the shtetl of Łosice. Under the impression of those who had experienced the war, things were being said in Łosicer households about Eretz-Israel as the home for the tortured Jewish people. In those days, we had five people: Gedalia Lewin, Herszel  Karcz, Mele Grynberg, Rachel Szinkarz, and the writer of the ideals, Abraham Pinkus, who founded and established in Łosice the first Zionist organization under the name of Agudath H'Zionism. Everyone was encouraged to enlist six friends for the organization. We quickly rented a place at Yancze‑Pini's house, on the Bialer Street. To remember the day of the Balfour Declaration of Nov.2,1917, we organized a demonstration which Łosice had seldom seen before. I still remember the picture: a hundred men, boys and girls, marched, worry free, and in perfect rows. Brasz wore the blue and white banner, Nisan Plat (Szyia Bodnik's son). The crowd sang a variety of Zionist songs. We marched around the entire square and stopped next to Ajzikl Beker's house. There, from the balcony, the dentist Fokler gave a speech. He spoke of his exile and his suffering, and the outlook for freedom in their own country, Eretz Israel. There were shouts "Long Live Balfour!  "Long Live the State of Israel". That shtetl had not seen such a demonstration. For weeks, the Zionist demonstration was the one voice of all speeches."
 

--photo courtesy of Wikipedia and the Library of Congress.
* --From Losice, Poland Yizkor Book, pp. 74-80, "The Zionist Movement," by Abraham Pinkus, translated by Viktor Lewin.

 


 



 

 


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