Balfour: Seeds of Discord – The letter that led to the founding of Israel | Al-Jazeera documentary

In November 1917, Britain’s Balfour Declaration opened the door to the founding of Israel 30 years later. And it has had a major impact on the Middle East. The British government issued a public statement that contained a letter from Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. He forwarded it to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It began, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and was the first public statement of support for Zionism by a major political power.

Key Points

  • The Sykes-Picot Agreement divided the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire between France and Britain, with Palestine being put under International Administration.
  • Zionism, the movement supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was not discussed in the agreement.
  • The British government initially did not support Zionism, but later saw it as a possible partner in justifying renegotiations of their agreement with France.
  • Kim vitman, a Russian-born chemist and prominent Zionist, became a key figure in the British government’s decision to support Zionism.
  • Vitman convinced leading British figures that the Jewish community was a vast subterranean influence and that offering them Palestine would win their support for the war effort.
  • The British government’s support for Zionism was motivated by a desire to win the war and secure their empire, rather than a genuine interest in the ideals of Zionism.
Balfour Declaration as published in The Times, 9 November 1917

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