The Balfour Declaration

A Hundred Years On

A hundred years ago today, while World War I was raging and no one knew which side would win, the British government, led by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, released a declaration bearing the name of Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary. This “Balfour Declaration” promised to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” so long as that did not “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” there. That short document (its crucial paragraph contains 67 words) laid the foundation of modern Israel—but also sowed dragon’s teeth.

Why did the British government do it? Some historians argue that a few cabinet ministers sympathized with the Jews and wanted to help them. Others point out that Lloyd George and Balfour were Christian Zionists, who wanted to facilitate the gathering of Jews in Palestine, a precondition, they believed, for the Second Coming. Still

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