In November 2, 1917, British government foreign minister James Balfour wrote a public letter to the eminent British Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, informing him of His Majesty’s government’s support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine. This letter became the famous Balfour Declaration (“Promise of Balfour” in Arabic) and was immediately influential in the post-war events including the “mandate” system created by the Treaty of Versailles, entrusting to Britain the Palestinian administration that worked both the Arabs than for the Jewish inhabitants. At the time of the declaration, Palestine was an Ottoman region and the Jews were the minority. The Balfour Declaration skillfully used the “national home” in contrast to “state” in an attempt to confuse international law that had no reference to the previous one. Furthermore, this term has not provided a defined area or limit which is the cause of the current border disputes.
The background of this statement has been the subject of controversy as various sources seem to disagree. The first view is that the British government was mostly Zionist and most people sympathized with Jews, while another view suggests that Britain wanted a solution to the “Jewish problem” by giving them Palestine. However, there are general points to agreements like the British government that was sympathetic to the persecution of Jews in Europe; lobbying and links between the British government and the Zionist community; to get support among Jews in the United States and Russia who could have had the power to influence their governments to support the war, Britain had to side with the Zionists;
In the 1800s, the Ottoman separatist governor Muhammad Ali of Egypt occupied Syria and Palestine while France served as protector of Catholics in the area and in the Middle East. On the other hand, Russia’s influence in the region revolved around protecting Eastern Orthodoxy, as a result, Britain had no sphere of influence and therefore, with the help of evangelical Christians, supported the global migration of Jews in Palestine. The emergence of Zionism and the outbreak of the First World War have only accelerated the return of the Jews that the Ottoman rule had limited for a long time. In November 9, 1914, four days after declaring war on the Ottoman Empire, the British government began to discuss Zionism and the annexation of Palestine to obtain Jewish support in the war and after. Furthermore, Britain supported Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of the Mecca revolt against the Ottoman Empire in exchange for Arab independence, except for specific regions that could have included Palestine. With the change in the British government, the new government favored the partition of the Ottoman Empire after winning the war. This Zionist and British project received the support of important actors, including the Pope, before drafting the brief statement. With the change in the British government, the new government favored the partition of the Ottoman Empire after winning the war. This Zionist and British project received the support of important actors, including the Pope, before drafting the brief statement. With the change in the British government, the new government favored the partition of the Ottoman Empire after winning the war. This Zionist and British project received the support of important actors, including the Pope, before drafting the brief statement.
Reaction and consequences
This declaration galvanized Zionism around the world while distributing the publication in many countries.
The Muslims and Palestinian Christians who made up 90% of the population opposed the declaration. They believed that Europe was going beyond the limits of the decision concerning a non-European territory, and that it ignored the presence of the inhabitants of that territory.
Arab leaders, including the Sharif of Mecca, saw the declaration as a British betrayal because they had war agreements. Britain had previously promised the independence of the Arabs from the Ottoman Empire and had also promised France that most of Palestine would be under international administration.
Impact of the Balfour declaration
Historians believe that the declaration was the precursor to the 1948 conflict known as the Palestinian Nakba when Britain trained and armed Zionist groups that expelled some 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland. This declaration created a favorable environment for the Jewish minority to gain power and create its own state at the expense of the natives. Britain transferred Palestine to the UN in 1947 when the Jews already had a strong army and autonomous institutions, while the Palestinians could not have the same. This situation paved the way for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by 1948. The Balfour Declaration also had unintended consequences such as the emergence of a Jewish state and “original sin” which is a constant conflict between Israel and the world Arabic.