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10.6.5 Balfour Declaration 1917
Arthur Balfour letter to Walter Rothschild including the text of the Balfour Declaration
Arthur Balfour was the British foreign secretary. He wrote this letter containing the Balfour Declaration (the second paragraph, in quotation marks) to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. Balfour asked Rothschild to send this declaration to the Zionist Federation, a group belonging to the movement among Jews to set up a homeland for the Jews in the ancient land of Israel or Canaan, known at that time as Palestine, or somewhere else in the Middle East (Southwest Asia). Map 3 in Student Handout 10.6B shows the area of Palestine, which is the same area that Britain and France planned to put under international administration in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The British made this declaration because they wanted the support of Jews living in the United States and Europe for the Allied Powers. How did the Balfour Declaration contradict McMahon’s promises to Husayn?
This letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Rothschild contains the Balfour Declaration, which was also published in the British newspaper The Times on November 9, 1917. The British were negotiating with leaders of the Zionist movement because they hoped that US Jews would urge the US government to enter the war on the Allied side and that German Jews would help undermine the government of Germany. Students should understand that the British did try to guarantee rights for the Arab Muslim and Christian populations of Palestine, and that the British were fully aware that Arabs would be angry. McMahon had promised this area to the Arab kingdom proposed by Husayn.
November 2nd, 1917
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 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."
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour