Balfour Declaration Centennial
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Organization, entered into negotiations with British leaders shortly after the start of WWI in an attempt to achieve their recognition of the Jewish people's right to Eretz Israel. In late 1917, following lengthy discussions and after many objections, these efforts came to fruition with the Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government led by Lloyd George. The text of the declaration was sent by Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917, with the request that he forward it to the Zionist Federation. "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". In his book Trial and Error, Weizmann described his feelings when the final draft was approved: "Whilst the Cabinet met to approve the final draft, I waited outside, in case I was needed. Sykes brought me the document and cried: 'Dr. Weizmann, a son is born!' If truth be told, I was not fond of the "baby" at first. This was not what I had expected, but I knew this was a great event... a new chapter had opened before us, filled with new difficulties, but not lacking great moments."
The Balfour Declaration was vague and non-committal in its wording. It did not explicitly promise to establish a state for the Jewish people, nor did it define the borders of the territory designated for the Jews and it imposed various limitations on the realization of its own content. But this Declaration, issued by representatives of the British Empire at the height of its power, was the first recognition of the Jewish people's right to a national homeland. This concept was integrated into the mandate granted to the British Empire by the League of Nations in 1922 and was considered to be the key official step toward achieving a Jewish state in Eretz Israel.
The Balfour Declaration was seen by many Jews as a historic, almost messianic, event that was creating a new future for the Jewish people. Some dated events as being "such and such years since the Balfour Declaration" and marked the date November 2nd with rallies and celebrations. Over the years, and after the British backed away from some of their promises to the Jews, the Balfour Declaration lost some of its glory but nevertheless it remained an influential and meaningful political document. This fact was expressed in the wording of Israel's Declaration of Independence which states that: "the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country... was recognized by the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917".
Description of the Stamp and First Day Cover
The stamp features two sentences.
• The first is from the Balfour Declaration itself:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
• The second sentence appears in Israel's Declaration of Independence (alongside the signatures of the Provisional Council of State members):
"This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home". These sentences appear in the shape of the infinity symbol, expressing the unbreakable bond between these two constitutive documents and the eternalness of the historic connection between the Jewish People and Eretz Israel.
The tab features portraits of Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Lord James Balfour.
The FDC features a graphic adaptation of a postcard marking the Balfour Declaration, (gelatin silver print), Yaacov Ben-Dov (1918).
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem by Elie Posner.