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The Balfour Declaration Is Important Because It Recognizes Something Already There

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.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Balfour Declaration, British Mandate, Chaim Weizmann, International Law, Israel & Zionism

Israel’s Success Has Surprised Everyone

April 20 2018

On the eve of Israel’s decision to declare statehood, 70 years ago, the CIA estimated that a Jewish state couldn’t hold off its Arab enemies for more than two years, while the famed Haganah commander Yigael Yadin told David Ben-Gurion that their chances of victory were fifty-fifty. Daniel Gordis describes just how wildly the country has managed to outpace expectations:

In 1948, there were some 650,000 Jews in Israel, who represented about 5 percent of the world’s Jews. Today, Israel’s Jewish population has grown ten-fold and stands at about 6.8 million people. Some 43 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel; this population overtook American Jews several years ago and is now the world’s largest Jewish community. . . .

Beyond mere survival, the other challenge that the young Jewish state faced was feeding and housing the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were flocking to its borders. At times, financial collapse seemed imminent. Food was rationed and black markets developed. Israel had virtually no heavy machinery for building the infrastructure that it desperately needed. Until Germany paid Holocaust reparations, the young state’s financial condition was perilous.

Today, that worry also feels like a relic from another time. Israel is not only a significant military power, but also a formidable economic machine. A worldwide center for technology that has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any country other than the U.S., Israel’s economy barely hiccupped in 2008. The shekel, its currency, is strong. Like other countries, Israel has a worrisome income gap between rich and poor, but fears of an economic collapse have vanished.

Israel has become an important cultural center, vastly disproportionately for a country whose population approximates that of New York City. When the five finalists for the Man Booker literary prize were announced last year, two were Israelis who write in Hebrew: David Grossman and Amos Oz. Grossman won. . . . Today, Americans and Europeans alike wait hungrily for new episodes of Israeli shows like Fauda, while others (like Homeland and The A-Word) have been remade into American and British series.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Israelis are fully conscious—and deeply proud—of the fact that their country has exceeded the ambitions of the men and women who founded it seven decades ago.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli Independence Day, Israeli literature, Israeli society