By Larry Gordon
It was 1917 and the British wanted out of Palestine. The Balfour Declaration issued that year said it all in one paragraph that is as accurate today as it was nearly a century ago. That is, except for the deception, revisionism, spin, and mistruths that dominate today’s international arena and pronouncements that emanate from the corrupted environment of the United Nations.
So just take a look at where we are today. Israel, the Jewish State, or, if you prefer, the State of the Jews, wants to enter a law onto the books that Israel is officially the nation-state of the Jews. That is an understanding and, yes, another declaration that the land of Israel—with its extraordinary and sterling democratic character, its freedoms for all peoples—still has a special connection to the Jewish people. Fair-minded and honest people cannot deny this. That is, except for the majority of the world that believes with conviction that Israel is both an invader and occupier.
The international designs for the Holy Land are contained in one paragraph written by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour. What has become known as the definitive document on Palestine was communicated by Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
Dated November 2 of that year, it stated: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours 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.”
The original catalyst for the Balfour thought process may certainly have been Theodore Herzl’s publication of his famed declaration in Der Judenstaat (The Jew State) in 1896, in which Herzl argued that the only answer to European anti-Semitism was the establishment of a separate state for the Jews.
The idea did not mean that this new state necessarily had to be developed or created in what we know today as Eretz Yisrael or the land of Israel. During the first meeting between Mr. Balfour and Chaim Weizmann of the Jewish Agency in 1906, Balfour inquired of Weizmann whether there were any objections to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda rather than in Palestine. According to Mr. Weizmann’s memoir, the conversation went as follows:
“Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?” He sat up, looked at me, and answered: “But Dr. Weizmann we have London.” “That is true,” I said, “but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh.” He said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: “Are there many Jews that think like you?” I answered, “I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves.” To this Balfour responded, “If this is so, you will one day be a force.”
This is the encapsulated version of the history of the evolution of modern Israel. Authorities at the time saw that there was an injustice, an imbalance, that involved the world’s Jews, even in this period prior to the World Wars.
We can now jump ahead 100 years and say that what was done legally and properly back then cannot and should not be undone by revising the reality or trying to undo the history of Israel.
The last 20 years since the Oslo Accords were hatched have featured an international cat-and-mouse game that has revolved around the meaning of a few words and phrases constructed by diplomats and attorneys. Most of the UN and other related pronouncements have departed significantly from the original design of the Balfour Declaration.
In those days, even prior to the ravages of the Holocaust, Britain, without much objection from European capitals, saw justice and rightness in finally bringing about for the approval of the world community the marriage between Jews and Israel. The European leaders in those days were fairly religious men who read the Bible and accepted the ancient ties between the Jews and their land.
Now, however, after failing to defeat Israel militarily and through terror, the present plan is to undermine the Jewish State through diplomatic machinations and deceptions.
Let’s visit the idea that settlements in Judea and Samaria are, as the State Department calls them, illegitimate. As Israel’s former ambassador to Canada and an expert on international law, Alan Baker, has written and said, there is no basis in international law to consider East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria illegal by any standards of the law.
While Jordan occupied these territories from 1948 to their liberation in 1967, the international community never recognized the Jordanian presence on these lands. Therefore, by law, these territories cannot be considered occupied as the world is wont to declare them without any proper thought process. Under the best and most exaggerated circumstances, the so-called international community can only possibly consider these areas to be “disputed” territories.
The one item that the failed negotiations process has revealed is the Arab refusal to make room—either geographically or conceptually—for a recognized Jewish State in the land of Israel. So now, all Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to do is enact into law the idea of the uniqueness of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
To insist that this is not possible and will cause non-Jewish populations to be discriminated against is absurd. The facts don’t support this contention, and there is a simple way of illustrating this. Prior to 1967, when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and the holy sites, including the Western Wall, Jews were not allowed to visit these areas. After 1967 and Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, there has been consistent and unfettered access to the holy sites for all religions without incident, except for Arab provocations to violence on occasion.
To further complicate the situation, the left-leaning members of the Knesset oppose the “Israel as the Jewish State” legislation. And that is not because they believe Israel is not the Jewish state. These positions are taken largely for political reasons and in an effort to unseat Mr. Netanyahu and hopefully swing themselves into power.
What is the number-one item that is on the Knesset opposition’s agenda should they be victorious? It is a peace treaty with the Palestinians. That is the same leadership of the West Bank and Gaza that insist on throwing Jews out of their homes and refusing to recognize a Jewish State in any part of the land. This they call peace, and none seem curious or disturbed by the contradictory tones. Now with the government voting on Wednesday to dissolve itself and go to new elections in March, Israel stands a chance to put together a strong right-wing government that does not appear to the world as being so split, dazed, and confused about what a Jewish State should really look like.
So maybe it’s time to get back to basics and dust off the Balfour Declaration, push the critics aside, and finally declare Israel the state of the Jewish people, stand up to our enemies, come across strong, and move on from there.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Larry Gordon