What was the impact of the Balfour Declaration?
The Balfour Declaration laid the foundation for Jewish-Arab enmity that is now posing a major threat to the world peace. Issued on November 2, 1917 by Great Britain, the Declaration gave international recognition to the Zionist movement and promised them a Jewish state in the land of Palestine. The Jews in Palestine were around ten percent of its entire population before the Balfour Declaration. It allowed massive migration of Jews from all parts of the world and eventually paved way for the formation of the State of Israel.
The Balfour Declaration can be regarded as the biggest diplomatic triumph for Zionist goals in the Middle East. Lord Rothschild and British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour were the key persons behind this document which was communicated to the leaders of The Zionist Movement in the form of letters. However, they have always been criticized for interpreting wrong meaning of the Declaration. Balfour wrote:
“His majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
Several historians argue that the Balfour Declaration did not have the words “Jewish state” or “Israel” but it rather favored “home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It was also not clear that if “Jewish people” referred only to the existing Jewish population in Palestine or the Jews living around the world. Another major criticism that Jews faced was that they dishonor the declaration by violating the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”
The British cabinet which approved the Balfour Declaration is often criticized for supporting another European settler colonial movement through this document. It was evident from the events afterwards, especially World War II, that Britain and other countries used it as much to their own advantage as did the Zionists. Another criticism for the Declaration is that it overlooked the ground realities of the region and failed to lay out a practical plan for both the Jews and Palestinians. It lent unjust support to the Zionist cause and ruined the future of generations of Palestinians, who will always consider it as the first move that created decades-long conflict in their land. The impact of the Balfour Declaration is further explained here:
- The Balfour Declaration led to mass emigration of Jews during the period between the world wars, thus resulting in the dispossession and exile of the Palestinian people from their own land.
- It gave a legitimate ground to Zionism which did not gained mass acceptance till then, even within the Jews around the world. It resulted in the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel after thirty years, which used force and violence to displace a large proportion of the indigenous Arab population from Palestine.
- It contradicted the Husayn-McMahon correspondence of 1915-16 and thus developed the Arab resentment towards the West which continues even today.
- The reactions of Palestinian Arabs towards the Balfour Declaration were justified because it encouraged occupancy of their land by the people who had no right to it. They opposed the Declaration on the grounds that it went against their rights and wishes and decided their fate without keeping them in the loop. Thus, the Balfour declaration marked a beginning of unrest in the Middle East and intensified the Palestinian conflict.
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