Balfour Declaration of 1917

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 17, 2022, 9:07

The British issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917, stating that the Jewish people would have a 'national home' in Palestine. The British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed a letter to Lionel Walter Rothschild, who represented the Jewish community. This letter is what we know as the declaration, and it gave the Jews in Palestine, a minority, the right to make it their home. The purpose was to give the Jewish minority an upper hand in building a state for themselves by denying the rights of the Palestinian Arabs.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 came into force during the First World War that took place between 1914 to 1918 after the Ottoman Empire was dissolved. The British mandate for Palestine included the Allied Powers and was focused on colonialism. There was a transfer of power from Germany, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary to the Allied Powers. The victors would rule the emerging states till they were independent.

Why was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 Controversial?

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was considered controversial for the following reasons:

  • It was a declaration made for a non-European country, Palestine, by a European power, Britain. The rights of the majority, the native residents, were disregarded.
  • This was one of the wartime promises the British made. The Arabs were promised freedom from the Ottoman Empire. The French were promised that most of Palestine would have an international administration while the remaining part would have two colonial powers ruling it. Palestine came under British colonialism, and the native residents were denied freedom.
  • The use of the term 'national home' instead of 'state' was vague.

Reasons for Issuing the Balfour Declaration of 1917

Here are some probable reasons for which the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was issued -

  • Controlling Palestine would mean access to Egypt and the Suez Canal
  • Britain joined hands with Zionists so that Jews in Russia and United States would ensure that these two nations supported them during the war
  • Some British Government officials were Zionists and there was a strong connection with the British Government
  • The British Government had sympathy for Jews being oppressed in Europe

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How Did Palestinians React to the Balfour Declaration of 1917?

There was increased tension between the Jews and Palestinians due to a rise in the immigration of Jews. The result was the 1920 Nebi Musa revolt, where five Jews and four Palestinian Arabs were killed.

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How Did The Balfour Declaration of 1917 Affect Palestinians?

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 led to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, where British-trained Zionist armed forces ensured the expulsion of more than 750,000 natives from Palestine. The War Cabinet had predicted this outcome, but that did not prevent the British from issuing this declaration.

While a direct connection between modern-day Palestine and the declaration cannot be established, the British certainly gave the Jewish Minority an unfair advantage and helped them create a state where the Palestinian Arabs were the majority.

When Palestine was transferred to the United Nations in 1947 by the British, a Jewish army had already been created to support the British during World War II. While the Jews were given the power to form a state through self-governing institutions, the Palestinians were deprived of this privilege. The final result was the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 gave the minority Jews in Palestine an upper hand over the majority of Palestinian Arabs. The declaration is considered vague and unfair since the original citizens were denied their rights.

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FAQs on Balfour Declaration

Q1.Why was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 issued?

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was issued to allow the Jews, a minority, to create a national home in Palestine.

Q2. Which powers were involved in the Balfour Declaration of 1917?

Apart from the British, Allied Powers like France were behind the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Q3. What was the Balfour Declaration of 1917?

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a letter written by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lionel Walter Rothschild.

Q4. What did the Balfour Declaration of 1917 lead to?

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 led to the 1948 Palestinian Nakba or ethnic cleansing.