The Meaning of a Declaration
By Rachel Brynien
The Balfour Declaration - a promise that crowned the vision and statesmanship of Chaim Weizmann - a promise that gave international recognition of the right to realize Herzl’s dream - a promise that gave substance to humanity’s debt to a people in desperate need of it’s home - the promise that was the stepping-stone to statehood.
Looking back on the events of the past ten decades, it seems to me, from the perspective of 70 years of Jewish Statehood, that the Balfour Declaration holds a place of pristine radiance as the catalyst which opened the door to the Jewish Statehood in our time.
It was the Balfour Declaration which transformed the dreams of the “Return to Zion” into an accessible political reality.
It provided the incentives for the development of Palestine and of a self-reliant Yishuv; the establishment of self-governing Jewish institutions in Palestine, economic, educational, cultural, political, and security.
The effects of the Balfour Declaration did not end when Rothschild received the letter. When the League of Nations met in July 1922 to create the Mandate for Palestine, the nations reaffirmed the words written five years previous.
The Mandate states, “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” confirming the power of the original declaration. The words of the Balfour Declaration are repeated in history in order to protect our Jewish rights in our Jewish homeland.
On the 50th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Rose Halprin wrote that “Today, to be pro-Israel is fashionable. But not in 1917 and not for many years thereafter.” 50 years later and we seem to have gone backwards as yet again, it is not fashionable to be pro-Israel. Today, we face the issues of lies and distortions making our opinions on the State of Israel anything but favorable. We face the issues that our Zionist ancestors worked to put to an end.
A declaration is a formal statement that is meant to be long lasting. The Balfour Declaration is a statement that throughout the last 100 years has become a point for people to look back on. It is referenced in new documents because it is a declaration that is meant to last until the end of time. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Although this declaration has been reaffirmed multiple times since its initial announcement, time and time again we see attempts to undermine and discredit it.
The Balfour centennial year saw the birth of the “Make it Right” campaign, targeting the British government,demanding an apology for the “mistake” they made by drafting the Balfour Declaration - the mistake that facilitated Jewish freedom and to express our Judaism in our ancestral homeland. The Balfour Apology Campaign worked to denounce the historic progress in Jewish history, trying to “make right” what was never wronged.
The British Government condemned the campaign stating that they were proud of their role in the creation of the State of Israel. While that statement is powerful, it is not enough to counteract all of those who are working against Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish State.
With antisemitic delegitimization of the Jewish homeland growing stronger each and every day, it is of utmost importance for us to recognize the Balfour Declaration, not only as a piece of our history, but as the precursor of international law.
Our legal right to a Jewish homeland was internationally recognized not only once in 1917, but time and time again, through the League of Nations and the United Nations. This is not something that can now be undone because it is again fashionable to be anti-Israel.
I challenge you to #MakeItRight by sharing with the world why the Balfour Declaration was not a mistake, by following through with the spirit of the declaration and reaffirming our Jewish rights to live free in our ancestral homeland. This is a declaration no political entity can make for us but one we as individuals and as a community must continue to make, supporting and ensuring that the attempts to undo Jewish sovereignty in Israel do not succeed.
Am Yisrael Chai!