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Balfour and the Declaration
|Created||2 Nov 1917|
|Signatories||Arthur James Balfour|
|Purpose||Confirming support from the British government for the establishment in Palestine of a "national home" for the Jewish people|
The Balfour Declaration was a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:
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.
The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on 9 November 1917. The "Balfour Declaration" was later incorporated into both the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, and the Mandate for Palestine. The original document is kept at the British Library.
The Sharif of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi and other Arab leaders considered the Declaration a violation of previous agreements made in the McMahon-Hussein correspondence. Palestine is not explicitly mentioned in the correspondence, and territories which were not purely Arab were excluded by McMahon and Hussein, although historically Palestine had always formed part of Syria. The Arabs, taking Palestine to be overwhelmingly Arab, claimed the declaration was in contrast to the letters, which promised the Arab independence movement control of the Middle East territories "in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif of Mecca" in exchange for revolting against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The British claimed that the McMahon letters did not apply to Palestine, therefore the Declaration could not be a violation of the previous agreement. The issuance of the Declaration had many long lasting consequences, and was a key moment in the lead-up to the Arab–Israeli conflict, often referred to as the world's "most intractable conflict".
- 1 Background
- 2 Motivation for the Declaration
- 3 Drafting
- 4 Reaction to the Declaration
- 5 Longer term impact
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Citations
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
The background of British support for an increased Jewish presence in Palestine, though idealistically embedded in 19th-century evangelical Christian feelings that the country should play a role in the Advent of the Millennium and Christ's Second Coming, was primarily linked to geopolitical calculations. Early British political support was precipitated in the 1830s and 1840s as a result of the Eastern Crisis after Muhammad Ali occupied Syria and Palestine. With the geopolitical shakeup occasioned by the outbreak of World War I, the earlier calculations, that had lapsed for some time—Theodor Herzl's own attempts earlier to obtain international support for his project had failed—led to a renewal of strategic assessments and political bargaining regarding the Middle and Far East.
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Zionism arose in the late 19th century in reaction to anti-Semitic and exclusionary nationalist movements in Europe.[a][b] Romantic nationalism in 19th century Central and Eastern Europe had helped to set off the Haskalah or "Jewish Enlightenment", creating a split in the Jewish community between those who saw Judaism as their religion, and those who saw it as their ethnicity or nation.[a] The 1881-84 Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire encouraged the growth of the latter identity, resulting in the formation of the Hovevei Zion pioneer organizations and the publication of Leon Pinsker's Autoemancipation.[a]
In 1896, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist living in Austria-Hungary, published Der Judenstaat ("The Jews' State" or "The State of the Jews"), in which he asserted that the only solution to the "Jewish Question" in Europe, including growing antisemitism, was the establishment of a state for the Jews. This marked the emergence of political Zionism. A year later, Herzl founded the Zionist Organization (ZO), which at its first congress called for "the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law". Proposed measures to attain that goal included the promotion of Jewish settlement there, the organisation of Jews in the diaspora, the strengthening of Jewish feeling and consciousness, and preparatory steps to attain those necessary governmental grants. Herzl died in 1904 without the political standing that was required to carry out his agenda of a Jewish home in Palestine.
Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, later President of the World Zionist Organisation, began living in the UK in 1904 and met Balfour during his 1905-06 election campaign in a session arranged by Charles Dreyfus, his Jewish constituency representative.[c]
During the first meeting between Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann's objections were to the 1903 Uganda Scheme. The scheme, which had been proposed to Herzl by Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain following his trip to East Africa earlier in the year,[d] had been subsequently voted down following Herzl's death by the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905,[e] after two years of heated debate in the Zionist Organization. According to Weizmann's memoir, the conversation went as follows:
- "Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" He sat up, looked at me, and answered: "But Dr. Weizmann, we have London." "That is true," I said, "but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh." He ... said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: "Are there many Jews who think like you?" I answered: "I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves." ... To this he said: "If that is so you will one day be a force." Shortly before I withdrew, Balfour said: "It is curious. The Jews I meet are quite different." I answered: "Mr. Balfour, you meet the wrong kind of Jews".
World War I
Following Britain's declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, Weizmann's efforts picked up speed.[f] On 10 December 1914 he met with the British cabinet member Herbert Samuel, a Zionist,[f] who believed Weizmann's demands were too modest.[g] Two days later, Weizmann met Balfour again, for the first time since 1906.[h]
A month later, Herbert Samuel circulated a memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine to his cabinet colleagues. The memorandum stated that "I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be much the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire". It was the first time in an official record that enlisting the support of Jews as a war measure was proposed.
Many further discussions followed, including a meeting between Lloyd-George and Weizmann in 1916, of which Lloyd-George described in his War Memoirs that Weizmann: "... explained his aspirations as to the repatriation of the Jews to the sacred land they had made famous. That was the fount and origin of the famous declaration about the National Home for the Jews in Palestine... As soon as I became Prime Minister I talked the whole matter over with Mr Balfour, who was then Foreign Secretary."
Other British commitments
In 1915 the British High Commissioner to Egypt, Henry McMahon, had exchanged letters with Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, in which he had promised Hussein control of Arab lands with the exception of "portions of Syria" lying to the west of "the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo".[i] Palestine lay to the southwest of the Damascus and wasn't explicitly mentioned. After the war the extent of the coastal exclusion was hotly disputed.
Lord Grey had been the Foreign Secretary during the McMahon-Hussein negotiations. Speaking in the House of Lords on 27 March 1923, he made it clear that he entertained serious doubts as to the validity of the British government's interpretation of the pledges which he, as foreign secretary, had caused to be given to Hussein in 1915. He called for all of the secret engagements regarding Palestine to be made public. Many of the relevant documents in the National Archives were later declassified and published. Among them were the minutes of a Cabinet Eastern Committee meeting, chaired by Lord Curzon, which was held on 5 December 1918. Balfour was in attendance. The minutes revealed that in laying out the government's position Curzon had explained that: "Palestine was included in the areas as to which Great Britain pledged itself that they should be Arab and independent in the future." Palestine is not explicitly mentioned in the correspondence, and territories which were not purely Arab were excluded by McMahon and Hussein, although historically Palestine had always formed part of Syria. The Arabs, taking Palestine to be overwhelmingly Arab, claimed the declaration was in contrast to the letters, which promised the Arab independence movement control of the Middle East territories "in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif of Mecca" in exchange for revolting against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The British claimed that the McMahon letters did not apply to Palestine, therefore the Declaration could not be a violation of the previous agreement.
On the basis of McMahon's assurances, the Arab Revolt began on 5 June 1916. However, in May 1916 the governments of the United Kingdom, France and Russia also secretly concluded the Sykes–Picot Agreement, which defined their proposed spheres of influence and control in Western Asia should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. This agreement divided many Arab territories into British- and French-administered areas and allowed for the internationalisation of Palestine. Hussein learned of the agreement when it was leaked by the new Soviet government in December 1917, but was satisfied by two disingenuous telegrams from Sir Reginald Wingate, High Commissioner of Egypt, assuring him that the British government's commitments to the Arabs were still valid and that the Sykes-Picot Agreement was not a formal treaty. Following the publication of the Declaration the British had dispatched Commander David George Hogarth to see Hussein in January 1918 bearing the message that the "political and economic freedom" of the Palestinian population was not in question. Hogarth reported that Hussein "would not accept an independent Jewish State in Palestine, nor was I instructed to warn him that such a state was contemplated by Great Britain". Continuing Arab disquiet over Allied intentions also led during 1918 to the British Declaration to the Seven and the Anglo-French Declaration, the latter promising "the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations."
The agreement proposed that an "international administration" would be established in an area shaded brown on the agreement's map, which was later to become Palestine, and that the form of the administration would be confirmed after consultation with both Russia and Hussein. Three months prior to the agreement of the memorandum, Sykes has been approached with a plan by Herbert Samuel in the form of a memorandum which Sykes thought prudent to commit to memory.[j] Sykes commented to Samuel on the boundaries marked on a map attached to the memorandum, noting that the exclusion of Hebron and the "East of the Jordan" there would be less to discuss with the Muslim community.[k]
Motivation for the Declaration
Progress of the War in late 1917
The decision to release the declaration was taken by the British War Cabinet on 31 October 1917. This followed discussion at four War Cabinet meetings (including the 31 October meeting) over the space of the previous two months.
During the discussions, the wider war was in a period of stalemate. On the Western Front the tide would first turn in favour of the Central Powers in spring 1918, before decisively turning in favour of the Allies from July 1918 onwards. Although the US had declared war on Germany in the spring of 1917, they would not suffer their first casualties until 2 November 1917, by which point President Wilson would still be hoping to avoid the dispatch of large contingents of troops into the war. The Russian forces were known to be distracted by the ongoing Russian Revolution and the growing support for the Bolshevik faction, but Alexander Kerensky's Russian Republic had remained in the war, and would only withdraw after the final stage in the revolution on 7 November 1917. In the Middle Eastern theatre, there had been an ongoing stalemate in Southern Palestine since April 1917, and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign would not make any substantial progress until 31 October 1917.
War Cabinet discussions
In order to aid the discussions, the Cabinet Secretariat solicited interministerial clarification as well as the views of President Woodrow Wilson, six Zionist leaders and three non-Zionist Jews. Excerpts from the minutes of these four meetings provide a description of the primary factors that the War Cabinet had considered:
- 3 September 1917: "With reference to a suggestion that the matter might be postponed, the Acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs pointed out that this was a question on which the Foreign Office had been very strongly pressed for a long time past. There was a very strong and enthusiastic organisation, more particularly in the United States, who were zealous in this matter, and his belief was that it would be of most substantial assistance to the Allies to have the earnestness and enthusiasm of these people enlisted on our side. To do nothing was to risk a direct breach with them, and it was necessary to face this situation."
- 4 October 1917: "...the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated that the German Government were making great efforts to capture the sympathy of the Zionist Movement. This Movement, though opposed by a number of wealthy Jews in this country, had behind it the support of a majority of Jews, at all events in Russia and America, and possibly in other countries... Mr. Balfour then read a very sympathetic declaration by the French Government which had been conveyed to the Zionists, and he stated that he knew that President Wilson was extremely favourable to the Movement."
- 25 October 1917: "...the Secretary mentioned that he was being pressed by the Foreign Office to bring forward the question of Zionism, an early settlement of which was regarded as of great importance."
- 31 October 1917: "The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated that he gathered that everyone was now agreed that, from a purely diplomatic and political point of view, it was desirable that some declaration favourable to the aspirations of the Jewish nationalists should now be made. The vast majority of Jews in Russia and America, as, indeed, all over the world, now appeared to be favourable to Zionism. If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal, we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America."
The decision to release the declaration was driven by geopolitical calculations, some visible in Lloyd George's list of nine factors motivating his decision as Prime Minister to release the declaration, not least of which the view that a Jewish presence in Palestine would strengthen Britain's position on the Suez Canal and reinforce the route to Great Britain's imperial dominion in India.
Weizmann had argued that one consequence of such a public commitment by Great Britain, making the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, one of the Allies' war aims, was that it would have three effects: it would swing Russia to maintain pressure on Germany's Eastern Front, since Jews had been prominent in the March Revolution of 1917. It would rally the large Jewish community in the United States to press for greater funding for the American war effort, underway since April of that year; and, lastly, that it would undermine German Jewish support for Kaiser Wilhelm II. Some historians argue that British government's decision reflected what James Gelvin calls 'patrician anti-Semitism' in the overestimation of Jewish power in both the United States and Russia.
Gelvin cites at least three reasons for why the British government chose to support Zionist aspirations. Issuing the Balfour Declaration would appeal to two of Woodrow Wilson's closest advisors, who were avid Zionists.[l] Jonathan Schneer agrees.[m]
The cabinet believed that expressing support would appeal to Jews in Germany and America, and help the war effort; they also hoped to encourage support from the large Jewish population in Russia.
American Zionism was still in its relative infancy; in 1914 the Zionist Federation had a small budget of c.$5,000 and only 12,000 members, despite an American Jewish population of three million.[n] However, the Zionist organizations had recently succeeded in a show of force within the American Jewish community in arranging a Jewish congress to debate the Jewish problem as a whole.[o] This impacted British and French government estimates of the balance of power within the American Jewish public.[p]
In addition, the British intended to preempt the expected French pressure for an international administration.[q]
David Lloyd George, who was Prime Minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration, told the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937 that the Declaration was made "due to propagandist reasons." Citing the position of the Allied and Associated Powers in the ongoing war, Lloyd George shared this conclusion.[r] In his Memoirs, published in 1939, Lloyd George further elucidated his position.[s]
Authors and evolution of the draft
Under the new Conservative government which took power in October 1922, attempts were made to identify the background to the drafting. In December 1922, Sir John Evelyn Shuckburgh of the new Middle East department of the Foreign Office discovered that the correspondence prior to the declaration was not available in the Colonial Office, 'although Foreign Office papers were understood to have been lengthy and to have covered a considerable period'. A Foreign Office note in a Cabinet Paper from January 1923 stated that:
little is known of how the policy represented by the Declaration was first given form. Four, or perhaps five men were chiefly concerned in the labour – the Earl of Balfour, the late Sir Mark Sykes, and Messrs. Weizmann and Sokolow, with perhaps Lord Rothschild as a figure in the background. Negotiations seem to have been mainly oral and by means of private notes and memoranda of which only the scantiest records seem to be available.[t]
Declassification of Government archives have allowed modern scholarship to piece together the choreography of the drafting of the declaration. In his widely cited 1961 book, Leonard Stein published four previous drafts of the declaration. Stein illustrated the evolution of the drafting from the original proposal by the Zionist Organization, followed by various iterations. Subsequent authors have debated as to who the "primary author" really was. In his posthumously published 1981 book The Anglo-American Establishment, Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley explained his view that the primary author of the declaration was Alfred, Lord Milner,[u] and more recently, William D. Rubinstein, Professor of Modern History at Aberystwyth University, Wales, wrote that Conservative politician and pro-Zionist Leo Amery, as Assistant Secretary to the British war cabinet in 1917, was the main author of the Balfour Declaration.
|Lord Rothschild draft
18 July 1917
|1. His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people.
2. His Majesty's Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation.
|His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will be ready to consider any suggestions on the subject which the Zionist Organisation may desire to lay before them.|
|His Majesty's Government accepts the principle that every opportunity should be afforded for the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object and will be ready to consider any suggestions on the subject which the Zionist organisations may desire to lay before them.||His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that
4 October 1917
|His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish race, and will use its 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 in any other country by such Jews who are fully contented with their existing nationality.||His Majesty's Government
|Final draft||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.||His Majesty’s Government view
Jewish national home vs. Jewish state
The term "national home" in the Declaration was intentionally ambiguous. For example, the phrase 'national homeland' had no legal value or precedent in international law,[v] so its meaning was thus unclear when compared to other terms such as 'state'.[v] The choice of stating such a homeland would be found 'in Palestine' rather than 'of Palestine' was also no accident.[v] Explication of the wording has been sought in the correspondence leading to the final version of the declaration. The phrase "national home" was intentionally used instead of "state" because of opposition to the Zionist program within the British Cabinet.[v] Following discussion of the initial draft the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Sykes, met with the Zionist negotiators to clarify their aims. His official report back to the Cabinet categorically stated that the Zionists did not want "to set up a Jewish Republic or any other form of state in Palestine immediately" but rather preferred some form of protectorate as provided in the Palestine Mandate. In approving the Balfour Declaration, Leopold Amery, one of the Secretaries to the British War Cabinet of 1917–18, testified under oath to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in January 1946 from his personal knowledge that:
The phrase "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people" was intended and understood by all concerned to mean at the time of the Balfour Declaration that Palestine would ultimately become a "Jewish Commonwealth" or a "Jewish State", if only Jews came and settled there in sufficient numbers.
David Lloyd George, who was Prime Minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration, told the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937 that it was intended that Palestine may become a Jewish Commonwealth if and when Jews "had become a definite majority of the inhabitants":
The idea was, and this was the interpretation put upon it at the time, that a Jewish State was not to be set up immediately by the Peace Treaty without reference to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants. On the other hand, it was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunity afforded them by the idea of a national home and had become a definite majority of the inhabitants, then Palestine would thus become a Jewish Commonwealth.
Both the Zionist Organization and the British government devoted efforts to denying that a state was the intention over the following decades, including in Winston Churchill's 1922 White Paper.[w] However, in private, many British officials agreed with the interpretation of the Zionists that a state would be established when a Jewish majority was achieved; in particular, at a private meeting on 22 July 1922 at Balfour's home, both Balfour and Lloyd-George admitted that an eventual Jewish state had always been their intention.
The initial draft of the declaration, contained in a letter sent by Rothschild to Balfour, referred to the principle "that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people." In the final text, the word that was replaced with in to avoid committing the entirety of Palestine to this purpose.
Civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine
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This was described as part of a "double undertaking" by Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald in an April 1930 speech in the House of Commons and repeated in the Passfield white paper and MacDonald's 1931 letter to Chaim Weizmann. It was described as a "twofold duty" by the Permanent Mandates Commission in 1924.
In an August 1919 memo discussing the Covenant of the League of Nations, Balfour wrote: “The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” (Lewis 2009, p. 163)
Rights and political status of Jews in other countries
The original drafts of Rothschild, Balfour and Milner did not include the commitment that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish communities. These changes came about partly as the result of the urgings of Edwin Samuel Montagu, an influential anti-Zionist Jew and Secretary of State for India. Montagu, the only Jewish member of the British cabinet, voiced his opposition by declaring:
The policy of His Majesty's Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country of the world.
Lord Rothschild took exception to the new proviso on the basis that it presupposed the possibility of a danger to non-Zionists, which he denied.
At San Remo, as shown in the transcript of the San Remo meeting on the evening of 24 April, the French proposed adding to the savings clause so that it would save for non-Jewish communities their "political rights" as well as their civil and religious rights. The French proposal was rejected.
Reaction to the Declaration
The text of the letter was published in the press one week after it was signed, on 9 November 1917.
The publication of the intent galvanized Zionism, which finally had obtained an official charter. In the ongoing Sinai and Palestine Campaign, both Gaza and Jaffa fell within several days. Once under British military occupation, large transfers of funds were possible, and a major effort began to drain the marshy land of the Valley of Jezreel, whose redemption as the breadbasket of Palestine became the priority of the Third Aliyah settlers, mainly from Eastern Europe.
Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, the principal Zionist leaders based in London, had asked for the reconstitution of Palestine as "the" Jewish national home. As such, the declaration fell short of Zionist expectations.
The declaration spurred an extraordinary increase in adherents of American Zionism; in 1914 the 200 American Zionist societies comprised a total of 7,500 members, which grew to 30,000 members in 600 societies in 1918 and 149,000 members in 1919.[p]
In August 1919, Balfour approved Weizmann's request to name the first post-war settlement in Mandatory Palestine, "Balfouria", in his honor. It was intended to be a model settlement for future American Jewish activity in Palestine.
A delegation of the Muslim-Christian Association, headed by Musa al-Husayni, expressed public disapproval on 3 November 1918, one day after the Zionist Commission parade marking the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. They handed a petition signed by more than 100 notables to Ronald Storrs, the OETA military governor:
We have noticed yesterday a large crowd of Jews carrying banners and over-running the streets shouting words which hurt the feeling and wound the soul. They pretend with open voice that Palestine, which is the Holy Land of our fathers and the graveyard of our ancestors, which has been inhabited by the Arabs for long ages, who loved it and died in defending it, is now a national home for them... We Arabs, Muslim and Christian, have always sympathized profoundly with the persecuted Jews and their misfortunes in other countries... but there is wide difference between such sympathy and the acceptance of such a nation...ruling over us and disposing of our affairs.
The group also protested the carrying of new "white and blue banners with two inverted triangles in the middle", drawing the attention of the British authorities to the serious consequences of any political implications in raising the banners.
Balfour's stance was seen as a betrayal of British understandings with Arabs. Later that month, on the first anniversary of the occupation of Jaffa by the British, the Muslim-Christian Association sent a lengthy memorandum and petition to the military governor protesting once more any formation of a Jewish state.
Response by Central Powers
Immediately following the publication of the declaration Germany entered negotiations with Turkey to put forward counter proposals. A German-Jewish Society was formed: Vereinigung jüdischer Organisationen Deutschlands zur Wahrung der Rechte der Juden des Ostens (V.J.O.D.) and in January 1918 the Turkish Grand Vizier, Talaat, issued a statement which promised legislation by which "all justifiable wishes of the Jews in Palestine would be able to find their fulfilment".
Evolution of British opinion
In October 1919, Lord Curzon succeeded Balfour as Foreign Secretary. Curzon had opposed the Declaration prior to its publication and therefore determined to pursue a policy in line with its "narrower and more prudent rather than the wider interpretation". Following Bonar Law's appointment as Prime Minister in late 1922, Curzon wrote to Bonar Law that he regarded the Balfour Declaration as "the worst" of Britain's Middle East commitments and "a striking contradiction of our publicly declared principles."
In August 1920, the report of the Palin Commission, the first in a long line of Commissions of Inquiry on the question of Palestine during the Mandate period, noted that "The Balfour Declaration... is undoubtedly the starting point of the whole trouble". The conclusion of the report mentioned the Balfour Declaration three times, stating that "the causes of the alienation and exasperation of the feelings of the population of Palestine" included:
- Inability to reconcile the Allies' declared policy of self-determination with the Balfour Declaration, giving rise to a sense of betrayal and intense anxiety for their future;
- Misapprehension of the true meaning of the Balfour Declaration and forgetfulness of the guarantees determined therein, due to the loose rhetoric of politicians and the exaggerated statements and writings of interested persons, chiefly Zionists; and
- Zionist indiscretion and aggression, since the Balfour Declaration aggravating such fears.
British public and government opinion became increasingly less favourable to the commitment that had been made to Zionist policy. In February 1922, Winston Churchill telegraphed Herbert Samuel asking for cuts in expenditure and noting:
In both Houses of Parliament there is growing movement of hostility, against Zionist policy in Palestine, which will be stimulated by recent Northcliffe articles. I do not attach undue importance to this movement, but it is increasingly difficult to meet the argument that it is unfair to ask the British taxpayer, already overwhelmed with taxation, to bear the cost of imposing on Palestine an unpopular policy.
Following the issuance of the Churchill White Paper in June 1922, the House of Lords rejected a Palestine Mandate which incorporated the Balfour Declaration by 60 votes to 25, following a motion issued by Lord Islington. The vote proved to be solely symbolic as it was subsequently overruled by a vote in the House of Commons following a variety of promises made by Churchill.
Longer term impact
The declaration had two indirect consequences, the emergence of a Jewish state and a chronic state of conflict between Arabs and Jews throughout the Middle East. Starting in 1920, the Intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine broke out, which widened into the regional Arab–Israeli conflict, primarily from 1948-73 but extending in a more limited manner to 2006, and finally became the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the ongoing local conflict which also began in 1948 and whose primary phase began following the 1964 foundation of the PLO. The Arab–Israeli conflict is often referred to as the world's "most intractable conflict".
Jonathan Schneer's 2010 study concluded that because the buildup to the declaration was characterized by "contradictions, deceptions, misinterpretations, and wishful thinking", the declaration sowed dragon's teeth and "produced a murderous harvest, and we go on harvesting even today."[x] The foundational stone for modern Israel had been laid, but the prediction that this would lay the groundwork for harmonious Arab-Jewish cooperation proved to be wishful thinking.
The implementation of the declaration fed a disenchantment among the Arabs that alienated them from the British Mandatory Authorities. Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi has argued that following the Balfour Declaration there ensued "what amounts to a hundred years of war against the Palestinian people."
- LeVine and Mossberg describe this as follows: "The parents of Zionism were not Judaism and tradition, but anti-Semitism and nationalism. The ideals of the French Revolution spread slowly across Europe, finally reaching the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire and helping to set off the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment. This engendered a permanent split in the Jewish world, between those who held to a halachic or religious-centric vision of their identity and those who adopted in part the racial rhetoric of the time and made the Jewish people into a nation. This was helped along by the wave of pogroms in Eastern Europe that set two million Jews to flight; most wound up in America, but some chose Palestine. A driving force behind this was the Hovevei Zion movement, which worked from 1882 to develop a Hebrew identity that was distinct from Judaism as a religion."
- Gelvin wrote: "The fact that Palestinian nationalism developed later than Zionism and indeed in response to it does not in any way diminish the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism or make it less valid than Zionism. All nationalisms arise in opposition to some "other". Why else would there be the need to specify who you are? And all nationalisms are defined by what they oppose. As we have seen, Zionism itself arose in reaction to anti-Semitic and exclusionary nationalist movements in Europe. It would be perverse to judge Zionism as somehow less valid than European anti-Semitism or those nationalisms. Furthermore, Zionism itself was also defined by its opposition to the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants of the region. Both the "conquest of land" and the "conquest of labor" slogans that became central to the dominant strain of Zionism in the Yishuv originated as a result of the Zionist confrontation with the Palestinian "other"."
- Defries wrote that: "Balfour had, at the least, acquiesced in Chamberlain's earlier efforts to assist the Jews in finding a territory to establish a Jewish settlement. According to his biographer he was interested enough in Zionism at the end of 1905 to allow his Jewish constituency party chairman, Charles Dreyfus, to organise a meeting with Weizmann. It is possible that he was intrigued by the rejection by the Zionist Congress of the 'Uganda' offer. It is unlikely that Balfour was 'converted' to Zionism by this encounter despite this view being propounded by Weizmann and endorsed by Balfour’s biographer. Balfour had just resigned as prime minister when he met Weizmann. Despite his subsequent dramatic defeat at the polls by the Liberals and his ultimate resignation as Party leader in 1911, he was to stage a renaissance politically. His advice was sought by the Liberal administration on matters of defence and with the outbreak of the First World War his opinion was in even greater demand. In December 1914 Weizmann met Balfour again."
- Rovner wrote that: "In the spring of 1903 the fastidiously dressed sixty-six-year-old secretary was fresh from a trip to British possessions in Africa... Whatever the genesis of the idea, Chamberlain received Herzl in his office just weeks after the Kishinev pogroms. He fixed Herzl in his monocle and offered his help. "I have seen a land for you on my travels," Chamberlain told him, "and that’s Uganda. It’s not on the coast, but farther inland the climate becomes excellent even for Europeans… [a]nd I thought to myself that would he a land for Dr. Herzl." "
- Rovner wrote that: "On the afternoon of the fourth day of the Congress a weary Nordau brought three resolutions before the delegates: (1) that the Zionist Organization direct all future settlement efforts solely to Palestine; (2) that the Zionist Organization thank the British government for its other of an autonomous territory in East Africa; and (3) that only those Jews who declare their allegiance to the Basel Program may become members of the Zionist Organization." Zangwill objected… When Nordau insisted on the Congress’s right to pass the resolutions regardless, Zangwill was outraged. "You will be charged before the bar of history," he challenged Nordau… From approximately 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 30, 1905, a Zionist would henceforth he defined as someone who adhered to the Basel Program and the only "authentic interpretation" of that program restricted settlement activity exclusively to Palestine. Zangwill and his supporters could not accept Nordau’s "authentic interpretation" which they believed would lead to an abandonment of the Jewish masses and of Herzl’s vision. One territorialist claimed that Ussishkin’s voting bloc had in fact "buried political Zionism"."
- Weizmann wrote in his memoirs that: "The entry of Turkey into the fray and the remarks made by the Premier in his Guildhall speech were an additional impulse towards proceeding with the reconnoitring work at a higher speed... An opportunity offered itself to discuss the Jewish problems with Mr. C.P. Scott (Editor of the Manchester Guardian)… Mr. Scott, who has, I believe, given the whole problem a very careful and sympathetic attention, was good enough to promise that he would talk to Mr. Lloyd George on the subject… As it happened, Mr. Lloyd George, having several engagements for the week suggested that I should see Mr. Herbert Samuel, and an interview took place at his office. [Footnote: 10 Dec. 1914]"
- Weizmann wrote in his memoirs that: "He believed that my demands were too modest, that big things would have to be done in Palestine; he himself would move and would expect Jewry to move immediately the military situation was cleared up… The Jews would have to bring sacrifices and he was prepared to do so. At this point I ventured to ask in which way the plans of Mr. Samuel were more ambitious than mine. Mr. Samuel preferred not to enter into a discussion of his plans, as he would like to keep them ‘liquid’, but he suggested that the Jews would have to build railways, harbours, a university, a network of schools, etc… He also thinks that perhaps the Temple may be rebuilt, as a symbol of Jewish unity, of course, in a modernised form."
- Weizmann wrote in his memoirs that: "On the suggestion of Baron James, I went to see Sir Philip Magnus with whom I had a lengthy conversation, and he expressed his willingness to cooperate, provided that great discretion was used… I asked Sir Philip his opinion of the advisability of seeing Mr. Balfour, and he thought that an interview with Mr. Balfour would be of very great interest and value… At one of my visits to London I wrote to Mr. Balfour and got an appointment with him on Saturday the same week at 12 o’clock in his house.[Footnote: 12 Dec. 1914] I spoke to him practically in the same strain as I did to Mr. Samuel, but the whole turn of our conversation was more academic than practical."
- See the original 25 October 1915 letter here. George Antonius − who had been the first to publish the correspondence in full − described this letter as: "by far the most important in the whole correspondence, and may perhaps be regarded as the most important international document in the history of the Arab national movement... is still invoked as the main piece of evidence on which the Arabs accuse Great Britain of having broken faith with them."
- In reference to a 27 February 1916 letter, Kamel quotes: "'I read the memorandum', clarified Sykes to Samuel shortly before departing for Russia, 'and have committed it to memory'"
- Sanders quotes Sykes's letter as follows: "By excluding Hebron and the East of the Jordan there is less to discuss with the Moslems, as the Mosque of Omar then becomes the only matter of vital importance to discuss with them and further does away with any contact with the bedouins, who never cross the river except on business. I imagine that the principal object of Zionism is the realization of the ideal of an existing centre of nationality rather than boundaries or extent of territory. The moment I return I will let you know how things stand at Pd."
- The British did not know quite what to make of President Woodrow Wilson and his conviction (before America's entrance into the war) that the way to end hostilities was for both sides to accept "peace without victory." Two of Wilson's closest advisors, Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, were avid Zionists. How better to shore up an uncertain ally than by endorsing Zionist aims? The British adopted similar thinking when it came to the Russians, who were in the midst of their revolution. Several of the most prominent revolutionaries, including Leon Trotsky, were of Jewish descent. Why not see if they could be persuaded to keep Russia in the war by appealing to their latent Jewishness and giving them another reason to continue the fight? ... These include not only those already mentioned but also Britain's desire to attract Jewish financial resources.
- Thus the view from Whitehall early in 1916: If defeat was not imminent, neither was victory; and the outcome of the war of attrition on the Western Front could not be predicted. The colossal forces in a death-grip across Europe and in Eurasia appeared to have canceled each other out. Only the addition of significant new forces on one side or the other seemed likely to tip the scale. Britain's willingness, beginning early in 1916, to explore seriously some kind of arrangement with "world Jewry" or "Great Jewry" must be understood in this context.
- Brysac and Meyer wrote: "As the lawyer and historian David Fromkin has shrewdly noted, out of an estimated three million Jews living in the United States in 1914, a mere twelve thousand belonged to an amateurishly led Zionist Federation, which claimed but five hundred members in New York. Its annual budget prior to 1914 never exceeded $5,200, and the largest single gift it received totalled $200."
- Reinharz described this as follows: "At the Zionist Emergency Conference in August 1914, Poalei-Zion demanded the convening of a Jewish congress which would debate the Jewish problem as a whole... During a year of fruitless discussions, the AJC would only agree only to a limited convention of specific organizations, rather than a congress based on democratic elections. In March 1916, therefore, the Zionists invited a number of other organizations to set up a congress. The internal strife among American Jewry, which had been so widely feared, broke out in full force... The elections were held in June, two months after the United States had entered the war; 325,000 voted, 75,000 of whom were from the Zionist workers' camp. This was an impressive demonstration of the ability of the immigrant Zionists to rally massive support. Immediately after came President Wilson's suggestion to Wise not to hold the congress while the war was on, and the opening session was thus postponed from September 2, 1917, until "peace negotiations will be in prospect". The PZCs acceptance of the deferment again aroused the ire of supporters of the congress, who described it as a degrading surrender."
- Reinharz wrote: "British and French estimates of the balance of power in the American Jewish public were greatly affected by this success in the struggle for a congress. It was a victory for Zionists under the leadership of close advisers to the Wilson Administration, such as Brandeis and Frankfurter, against the desires of the bankers from Wall Street, the AJC, and the National Workers' Committee. It spurred an impressive growth in organized membership: from 7,500 in 200 Zionist societies in 1914 to 30,000 in 600 societies in 1918. One year later, the number of members reached 149,000. In addition, the FAZ and the PZC collected millions of dollars during the war years. This demonstration of support for Zionism among the masses of American Jews played a vital role in the British considerations which led to the Balfour Declaration. The American Government (or, at least, the State Department), which did not particularly want to support the Declaration, did so almost in spite of itself – apparently because of the growing strength of Zionists in the United States."
- Grainger writes: "It was later lauded as a great humanitarian gesture and condemned as a wicked plot, but the preceding Cabinet discussions about it show that it was the product of hard-headed political calculation… It was argued that such a declaration would encourage support for the Allies in the United States and in Russia, the two countries in the world which had very large Jewish populations. But behind it all was the knowledge that, if Britain promoted such a policy, it would necessarily be up to her to implement it, and this would in turn mean that she would have to exercise political control over Palestine. One aim of the Balfour Declaration was thus to freeze out France (and anyone else) from any post-war presence in Palestine." and Barr writes: "To ward off the inevitable French pressure for an international administration once Palestine had been conquered, the British government now made its support for Zionism public."
- In this critical situation it was believed that Jewish sympathy or the reverse would make a substantial difference one way or the other to the Allied cause. In particular Jewish sympathy would confirm the support of American Jewry, and would make it more difficult for Germany to reduce her military commitments and improve her economic position on the eastern front... The Zionist leaders gave us a definite promise that, if the Allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause. They kept their word.
- The Balfour Declaration represented the convinced policy of all parties in our country and also in America, but the launching of it in 1917 was due, as I have said, to propagandist reasons.... The Zionist Movement was exceptionally strong in Russia and America.... It was believed, also, that such a declaration would have a potent influence upon world Jewry outside Russia, and secure for the Entente the aid of Jewish financial interests. In America, their aid in this respect would have a special value when the Allies had almost exhausted the gold and marketable securities available for American purchases. Such were the chief considerations which, in 1917, impelled the British Government towards making a contract with Jewry.
- Full text of note included CO 733/58, Secret Cabinet Paper CP 60 (23), 'Palestine and the Balfour Declaration, January 1923. FO unofficial note added 'little referring to the Balfour Declaration among such papers as have been preserved'. Shuckburgh's memo asserts that 'as the official records are silent, it can only be assumed that such discussions as had taken place were of an informal and private character'.
- Quigley wrote that: "This declaration, which is always known as the Balfour Declaration, should rather be called "the Milner Declaration," since Milner was the actual draftsman and was, apparently, its chief supporter in the War Cabinet. This fact was not made public until 21 July 1937. At that time Ormsby-Gore, speaking for the government in Commons, said, "The draft as originally put up by Lord Balfour was not the final draft approved by the War Cabinet. The particular draft assented to by the War Cabinet and afterwards by the Allied Governments and by the United States...and finally embodied in the Mandate, happens to have been drafted by Lord Milner. The actual final draft had to be issued in the name of the Foreign Secretary, but the actual draftsman was Lord Milner."
- Gelvin wrote that: "The words of the Balfour Declaration were carefully chosen. It was no accident that the declaration contains the phrase "in Palestine" rather than "of Palestine", nor was it an accident that the foreign office would use the words "national home" rather than the more precise "state" - in spite of the fact that "national home" has no precedent or standing in international law. And what exactly do "view with favour" and "use their best endeavours" mean? The seeming ambiguities of the declaration reflect debates not only within the British government but within the British Zionist and jewish communities as well."
- See the report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, UN Document A/364, 3 September 1947
- Schneer wrote that: "Because it was unpredictable and characterized by contradictions, deceptions, misinterpretations, and wishful thinking, the lead-up to the Balfour Declaration sowed dragon's teeth. It produced a murderous harvest, and we go on harvesting even today"
- Lewis 2014, p. 380.
- Liebreich 2004, p. 8-9.
- LeVine & Mossberg 2014, p. 211.
- Gelvin 2014, p. 93.
- Rhett 2015, p. 107-8.
- Bunt & Cleveland 2010, p. 456.
- Weizmann 1949, p. 93-109.
- Defries 2014, p. 51.
- Rovner 2014, p. 51-52.
- Rovner 2014, p. 81.
- Rovner 2014, p. 51-81.
- Weizmann 1949, p. 111.
- Schneer 2010, p. 32.
- Weizmann 1983, p. 122.
- Weizmann 1983, p. 122b.
- Weizmann 1983, p. 126.
- Kamel 2015, p. 106.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 83.
- Lloyd George 1939, p. 724-734.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 65.
- Antonius 1938, p. 169.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 65-70.
- Report of a Committee Set Up To Consider Certain Correspondence Between Sir Henry McMahon and The Sharif of Mecca Archived 30 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
- Primarily following the Public Records Act 1958
- Ingrams 2009, p. 48: Ingrams cites the UK Archive files PRO CAB 27/24
- Paul G Pierpaoli Jr. in Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Roberts (eds.), The Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military History, ABC-CLIO, 2008 p.672.
- Schneer 2010, p. 75-86.
- Khouri 1985, p. 8–10
- Huneidi 2001, p. 66.
- Report of a Committee Set up to Consider Certain Correspondence Between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sharif of Mecca in 1915 and 1916, UNISPAL, Annex A, paragraph 19.
- Kamel 2015, p. 109.
- Sanders 1984, p. 347.
- Hurewitz 1979, p. 102.
- Zieger 2001, p. 97-8.
- Zieger 2001, p. 91.
- Zieger 2001, p. 58.
- Zieger 2001, p. 188-189.
- Grainger 2006, p. 81-108.
- Grainger 2006, p. 109-114.
- Hurewitz 1979, p. 103.
- Hurewitz 1979, p. 104.
- Hurewitz 1979, p. 105.
- Hurewitz 1979, p. 106.
- Gelvin 2014, p. 82ff.
- Gresh, Alain; Vidal, Dominique (2004). The New A-Z of the Middle East (2 ed.). I.B.Tauris. p. 42. ISBN 9781860643262.
- Tim Watts, 'The Balfour Declaration,' in Spencer C. Tucker, Priscilla Roberts (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, The: A Political, Social, and Military History: A Political, Social, and Military History, ABC-CLIO, 2008 p.190.
- Gelvin 2014, p. 82-83.
- Schneer 2010, p. 152.
- Wall Street Journal review of Jonathan Shneer, Balfour Declaration "As Mr. Schneer documents, the declaration was, among much else, part of a campaign to foster world-wide Jewish support for the Allied war effort, not least in the U.S."
- Ingrams 2009, p. 16.
- Brysac & Meyer 2009, p. 115.
- Reinharz 1988, p. 131-145.
- Grainger 2006, p. 178.
- Barr 2011, p. 60.
- Palestine Royal Commission Report, Cmd 5479, 1937, pp23–24.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 61-64.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 256: "The 'most comprehensive explanation' of the origin of the Balfour Declaration the Foreign Office was able to provide was contained in a small 'unofficial' note of Jan 1923 affirming that..."
- Stein 1961, p. 664: "Appendix: Successive drafts and final text of the Balfour Declaration"
- Quigley 1981, p. 169.
- William D. Rubinstein (2000). "The Secret of Leopold Amery". Historical Research. Institute of Historical Research. 73 (181, June 2000): 175–196. doi:10.1111/1468-2281.00102.
- Halpern 1987, p. 163.
- Wikisource:Palin Report
- Makovsky, Michael (2007). Churchill's Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft. Yale University Press. p. 76. ISBN 0-300-11609-8.
The definition of "national home" was left intentionally ambiguous.
- Strawson, John (2010). Partitioning Palestine: Legal Fundamentalism in the Palestinian–Israeli Conflict. London: Penguin Books. p. 33. ISBN 9780745323244.
- The Palestine Yearbook of International Law 1984. Martinus Nijhoff. 1997. p. 48. ISBN 9789041103383.
- Mansfield, Peter (1992). The Arabs. London: Penguin Books. pp. 176–77.
- Gilmour 1996, p. 64.
- Meinertzhagen, Richard (1959). Middle East Diary, 1917-1956. Cresset Press. p. 104.
L.G. and A.J.B both said that by the Declaration they always meant an eventual Jewish State
- Stein 1961, p. 470.
- Prime Minister's Statement: HC Deb 03 April 1930 vol 237 cc1466-7
- League of Nations. PERMANENT MANDATES COMMISSION. Report on the Work of the Fifth (Extraordinary) Session of the Commission (held at Geneva from October 23rd to November 6th, 1924)
- Memorandum by Mr. Balfour (Paris) respecting Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, 132187/2117/44A, August 11, 1919
- Makdisi 2010, p. 239.
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- Schneer 2010, p. 342.
- Rafael N. Rosenzweig, The Economic Consequences of Zionism, BRILL, 1989 pp.25-28.
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- Wasserstein 1991, p. 31.
- Wasserstein 1991, p. 32; Wasserstein quotes Storrs to OETA headquarters, 4 Nov. 1918 (ISA 2/140/4A)
- Huneidi 2001, p. 32
- Huneidi 2001, p. 32a, Huneidi cites: 'Petition from the Moslem-Christian Association in Jaffa, to the Military Governor, on the occasion of the First Anniversary of British Entry into Jaffa', 16 November 1918, Zu'aytir papers pp. 7–8
- MacMunn, Lieut.-General Sir George (1928) Military Operations. Egypt and Palestine. From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917. HMSO. Pages 219,220.
- Gilmour 1996, p. 66; Gilmour quotes: Curzon to Allenby, 16 July 1920, CP 112/799
- Gilmour 1996, p. 67; Gilmour quotes: Curzon to Bonar Law, 14 December 1922, Bonar Law Papers, 111/12/46
- Huneidi 2001, p. 35.
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- Defries 2014, p. 103.
- Huneidi 2001, p. 57, Huneidi cites: CO 733/18, Churchill to Samuel, Telegram, Private and Personal, 25 February 1922
- Huneidi 2001, p. 58.
- Palestine Mandate, HL Deb 21 June 1922 vol 50 cc994-1033 (outcome of the vote cc1033 on next page)
- Colonial Office, Hansard, HC Deb 04 July 1922 vol 156 cc221-343 (outcome of the vote cc343)
- Chris Rice, quoted in Munayer Salim J, Loden Lisa, Through My Enemy's Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine, quote: "The Palestinian-Israeli divide may be the most intractable conflict of our time."
- Virginia Page Fortna, Peace Time: Cease-fire Agreements and the Durability of Peace, page 67, "Britain's contradictory promises to Arabs and Jews during World War I sowed the seeds of what would become the international community's most intractable conflict later in the century."
- Avner Falk, Fratricide in the Holy Land: A Psychoanalytic View of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Chapter 1, page 8, "Most experts agree that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most intractable conflict in our world, yet very few scholars have produced any psychological explanation—let alone a satisfactory one—of this conflict's intractability"
- Schneer 2010, p. 370.
- Review: ‘The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict’, Jim Miles, April 4, 2012, "The conclusion reached by Schneer, stated twice, "Because it was unpredictable and characterized by contradictions, deceptions, misinterpretations, and wishful thinking, the lead-up to the Balfour Declaration sowed dragon's teeth…. It produced a murderous harvest, and we go on harvesting even today.""
- Schneer 2010, p. 361.
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- Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 26 May 2005, "The birth of modern Israel: A scrap of paper that changed history"
- Theodore Herzl and Rev. William Hechler and the Zionist Beginnings
- Brandeis, Wilson and the Reverend who changed history, Jerry Klinger