Tag Archives: Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration 100

2 November 2017 marks the centenary of the letter sent by Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, to Lord Rothschild, setting out the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This Balfour Declaration could be seen as constituting a first step in achieving the objective of political Zionism that had been outlined by the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, namely “Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.”

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The motives behind this decision were various. Aside from a belief in the righteousness of the Zionist cause, it has been suggested that British leaders hoped the declaration would help gain Jewish support for the allies in neutral countries, such as in the United States of America or Russia.  Great Britain and France were mired in a stalemate with Germany on the western front by 1917 and all efforts to defeat the Turks had failed.  They feared that the war might be fought to a draw.  Lloyd George also had come to see British dominance in Palestine as an essential post-war aim and felt that the establishment of a Zionist state, under its protection, would accomplish this.

The text of the declaration reads as follows:

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 endeavors 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,

Arthur James Balfour

Among the Special Collections, the collection MS 144 contains papers relating to the Balfour Committee, formed for the purpose of convening a conference of Anglo-Jewry to consider means of furthering the policy laid down in the Balfour Declaration. The collection contains a book of committee minutes, dating from 17 Dec 1917 – 26 Oct 1918; correspondence of A.M.Hyamson, honorary secretary of the committee, 1917-18, including correspondence with Dr Israel Abrahams; together with statements for the press, drafts of heads of scheme, and copies of memoranda, including proposals for Jewish settlement of Palestine, some signed by members of the committee.

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Reflections on war and warfare: Week 42 (15 – 21 December 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, until recently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

16 December 1914 The German Navy shell British towns
The attack by the German Navy on the north east seaport towns of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby caused public outrage. Rich’s early estimate of 100 killed and wounded is modest; there were 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The Royal Navy was criticised of the for failing to prevent the attack and “Remember Scarborough” was used in army recruitment posters.

“The war has come to England. Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby shelled by German warships this morning. Over 100 killed and wounded!”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich


17 December 1942 United Nations proclamation about the Holocaust
On 17 December 1942, the joint declaration by Members of the United Nations, or a statement by the American and British governments on behalf of the allied powers, was issued relating to extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, read this statement to the House of Commons.  The UN statement was made in response to a document The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland addressed to the allied governments by the Polish government-in-exile.

“Two important news items: The United Nations proclamation about the murder of Jews by Germans. The H[ouse] of C[ommons] stood when Eden announced it. (J. de Rothschild spoke for the Jews and the 8th army’s flanking movement).”

MS 168 AJ 217/38 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 December 1942


19 December 1851 The continuous nature of hostilities

“The colony … is quiet …. No signs of submission are however apparent in any of the chiefs and the war seems as far from its termination as at the commencement of the hostilities.”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 19 December 1851


20 December 1917 Division following the Balfour Declaration
The League of British Jews was founded in November 1917, shortly after British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour wrote a letter – later known as the “Balfour Declaration” – stating that the British Government would support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  The LBJ aimed to oppose the idea that Jews constituted a political nation. At the time of writing, the British Army had occupied Palestine and Stein was serving in the Palestine Military Administration.

“I have looked at the papers rescued by the League of British Jews and must say I am not much impressed with them. Some of the more violent attendees of the Zionist Leaders certainly have been rather hurtful to English-born Jews, whose English feelings they, having been brought aboard, are naturally unable to appreciate.”

MS 170 AJ244/119 Letter from Leonard Stein to his family