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.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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

To the Anti-Semite, Jews Aren’t Just One Problem among Many, but the Source of All Problems

While it likely had some ancient antecedents, the blood libel—the myth that Jews murder Christian children and consume their blood as part of a Passover ritual—as we know it began in Norwich, England in 1144. That same city was the location of one of several blood-libel-fueled massacres of Jews in 1190, and researchers have recently concluded that a mass grave found in Norwich contained the bones of the victims. Meir Soloveichik reflects on this discovery:

The popularity of the blood libel, in its very absurdity, captures the essence of anti-Semitism. By taking the tale of the origin of Jewish chosenness—the exodus from Egypt—and turning it into a pernicious plan for annual evildoing, the libel illustrates how, as Robert Nicholson once wrote, hatred of Jews “isn’t just any old hatred or racism. It is a grand anti-myth that turns Jewish chosenness on its head and assigns to the people of Israel responsibility for all the world’s ills.”

The readiness of all today to denounce the massacres of medieval Jewish communities often highlights how, as the writer Dara Horn put it, “people love dead Jews.” The blood libel is not a thing of the past. It is ongoing. The world is all too prepared to bemoan the injustice against Jews in the past and yet all too ready to overlook those who purvey blood libels today.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the successful career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Seth Mandel has noted, . . . the congresswoman has taken rhetorical dishonesty about Israel to entirely new level, linking—like the libelists of old—purported Jewish activity to grievances around the world. Commenting on the situation at the Mexican-American border, she accused, without offering any evidence, Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages. During one debate, standing on the floor of the House next to an image of a dead Palestinian child, she linked Israel’s airstrikes to the naval base in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The bones of murdered Jews may have been exhumed from the soil of the site where the blood libel was born, but what has yet to be exhumed from the present is the blood libel itself. And it is only if we do all we can to identify, and call out, the liars and the libelists that we can honestly hope that the murdered Jews of Norwich will rest in peace.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Commentary

More about: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Blood libel