Citing Martin Kramer’s essay in Mosaic on the history of the Balfour Declaration, Gil Troy admits the historical importance of the document whose anniversary was celebrated yesterday. But he cautions his fellow Zionists against overselling its significance:
The Jews’ legitimacy as a nation doesn’t depend on one Balfour declaration from 1917—or many of them [as Kramer shows there were]. Jews didn’t need an international permission slip: not in 1917 or even in 1947 from the United Nations, and certainly not today. Such affirmations are welcome. They should help legitimize Zionism. But these documents are window dressing.
No such papers compare with the Bible. They don’t rank with 3,500 years of Jewish ties to the land, which make Jews, as the human-rights activist Irwin Cotler [puts it], the original aboriginal people, still reading the same Bible, speaking the same language, continuing the same culture, on the same land. . . .
I am touchy on this point because our enemies are using the Balfour centennial to reduce the Zionist claims to these 67 words of diplo-speak rather than 3,500 years of nationhood. . . . [D]id Great Britain or the United States need some Balfour-type permit? Like most countries, in the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence these nations seized the moment, emerging proudly, unilaterally, without anyone’s permission—simply asserting their national identities and resulting rights. . . .
Jews don’t need a Balfour green-light when authorities in Abu Dhabi won’t play Israel’s anthem [at an international Judo tournament]. The Israeli champion Tal Flicker started singing “Hatikvah” anyway, without anyone’s permission.