Enemies of Israel have characterized the Balfour Declaration—the centenary of which is tomorrow—as “one nation’s promise to another of the land of a third.” Less hostile observers have pointed to the woe caused by Britain’s later abrogation of it. Dore Gold explains why it still matters:
The Balfour Declaration is important because it recognizes the historical bond of the Jewish people to the Holy Land, a bond which existed long before the declaration. What was significant was its public and formal recognition and its incorporation into international law. . . .
The Balfour Declaration is a tremendously important document because it contains world recognition of the historical rights of the Jewish people to a national home. . . Thus, the [League of Nations’ Palestine] Mandate and the Balfour Declaration, upon which the Mandate was based, did not create Jewish historical rights, but rather recognized a pre-existing right.
The Jewish claim to the Holy Land is based on facts, as we may understand from Chaim Weizmann’s language and choice of words when he explained that it was a major historical event. He called the Balfour Declaration an “act of restitution” and emphatically described it as a “unique act of the world’s moral conscience.” Expressing his deep awareness of historical continuity over millennia, he called it “the righting of a historical wrong” and an “act of justice.” . . .
[Precisely for this reason], the tendency to justify Zionism on the basis of the Holocaust is totally misconceived.