100 Years on the Balfour Declaration

Palestinians around the world are marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2, 1917. The declaration turned the Zionist aim of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine into a reality when Britain publicly pledged to establish a “national home for the Jewish people.”

The Balfour Declaration was letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to a figurehead of the British Jewish Community; Lionel Walter Rothschild. Through this letter, Balfour laid the foundation for the formation of a “national home for the Jews”.

Balfour told Rothschild in the letter “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

The Declaration came after three years of negotiations between the British government and the World Zionist Organization. The Zionists were able to convince Britain to establish “a national home for the Jewish people,” who would be the safeguards of Britain’s imperial interests in the Middle East.

As a result, 1917 was the day when the British colonial mandate started. The so-called mandate system, set up by the Allied powers, was a thinly veiled form of colonialism and occupation. The British allowed Jews to establish self-governing institutions, such as the Jewish Agency, to prepare themselves for a future state, while the Palestinians were forbidden from doing so - paving the way for the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.