Balfour Declaration

Introduction

Within the torrent of 24 hours news cycle, facebook postings, video clips uploaded to youtube it is excusable to miss important anniversaries.

 

Legacy Timeline

The bible is full of symbolic and actual time markers.

Abraham was told his progeny will endure 400 years of hardship in strange land.

Jeremiah was forewarned that missed observance of the Lord’s sabbath translated to 70 years in Babylon.

Daniel implored God as to whether the 70 year return to Jerusalem promised to Jeremiah will hold.

Modern Timeline

Balfour Declaration

1917 Declaration

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The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government during World War I announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population. It read:

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 declaration was contained in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

The British War Cabinet began to consider the future of Palestine immediately following their declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914. During the lead up to the declaration, the wider war had reached a stalemate, with two of Britain’s Allies and Associated Powers not fully engaged: the United States had yet to suffer a casualty, and the Russians were distracted by internal upheaval.

The opening words of the declaration represented the first expression of public support for Zionism by a major political power. The term “national home” had no precedent in international law, and was intentionally vague as to whether a Jewish state was contemplated. The intended boundaries of Palestine were not specified, and the British government later confirmed that the words “in Palestine” meant that the Jewish national home was not intended to cover all of Palestine. The second half of the declaration was added to satisfy opponents of the policy, who had claimed that it would otherwise prejudice the position of the local population of Palestine and encourage anti semitism against Jews worldwide. Whilst the declaration called for political rights in Palestine for Jews, rights for the Palestinian Arabs, who comprised the vast majority of the local population, were limited to the civil and religious spheres. The British government acknowledged in 1939 that the local population’s views should have been taken into account, and recognized in 2017 that the declaration should have called for protection of the Palestinian Arabs’ political rights.

 

Early British support

Early British political support for an increased Jewish presence in the region of Palestine was based upon geopolitical calculations.

This support began in the early 1840s and was led by Lord Palmerston, following the occupation of Syria and Palestine by separatist Ottoman governor Muhammad Ali of Egypt.

French influence had grown in Palestine and the wider Middle East as protector of the Catholic communities began to grow, just as Russian influence had grown as protector of the Eastern Orthodox in the same regions. This left Britain without a sphere of influence, and thus a need to find or create their own regional “protégés”.

These political considerations were supported by a sympathetic evangelical Christian sentiment towards the “restoration of the Jews” to Palestine among elements of the mid-19th-century British political elite – most notably Lord Shaftesbury.

The British Foreign Office actively encouraged Jewish emigration to Palestine, exemplified by Charles Henry Churchill’s 1841–1842 exhortations to Moses Montefiore, the leader of the British Jewish community.

Such efforts were premature, and did not succeed; only 24,000 Jews were living in Palestine on the eve of the emergence of Zionism within the world’s Jewish communities in the last two decades of the 19th century.

With the geopolitical shakeup occasioned by the outbreak of World War I, the earlier calculations, which had lapsed for some time, led to a renewal of strategic assessments and political bargaining over the Middle and Far East.

Zionism arose in the late 19th century in reaction to anti-Semitic and exclusionary nationalist movements in Europe.

Romantic nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe had helped to set off the Haskalah, or “Jewish Enlightenment“, creating a split in the Jewish community between those who saw Judaism as their religion and those who saw it as their ethnicity or nation.

The 1881–1884 anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire encouraged the growth of the latter identity, resulting in the formation of the Hovevei Zion pioneer organizations, the publication of Leon Pinsker’s Auto Emancipation, and the first major wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine – retrospectively named the “First Aliyah“.

 

 

Ottoman Palestine

The year 1916 marked four centuries since Palestine had become part of the Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire.  For most of this period, the Jewish population represented a small minority, approximately 3% of the total, with Muslims representing the largest segment of the population, and Christians the second.

The Turks began to apply restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine in late 1882, in response to the start of the First Aliyah earlier that year.

Although this immigration was creating a certain amount of tension with the local population, mainly among the merchant and notable classes, in 1901 the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman central government) gave Jews the same rights as Arabs to buy land in Palestine and the percentage of Jews in the population rose to 7% by 1914.

At the same time, with growing distrust of the Young Turks – Turkish nationalists who had taken control of the Empire in 1908 – and the Second Aliyah, Arab nationalism was on the rise, and in Palestine anti-Zionism was a unifying characteristic.

Historians do not know whether these strengthening forces would still have ultimately resulted in conflict in the absence of the Balfour Declaration.

Independence Day – 1948

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Independence Day is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date 5 Iyar in that year, Yom Ha’atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date each year.

The day of the week it falls on being the decisive factor. Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.

In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening.  The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut will take place on 18-19 April 2018.

Independence Day is founded on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership headed by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948. The mood outside of Ben-Gurion’s home just prior to the declaration was joyous:

“The Jews of Palestine … were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind’s largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world’s Jews, that people was returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state.”

Independence was declared eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948.

 

Scripture

Jeremiah

Serve 70 Years in Babylon

This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. ( Jeremiah 25:11-12 )

Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles

…’For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.…  ( Daniel 9:1-2)

Daniel

Daniel 70 years in Babylon

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years ( Daniel 9:1-2)

Daniel 70 weeks

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“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.

“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.

“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” ( Daniel 9:24-27 )

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

…So also, when you see these things taking place, you will know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.  ( Luke 21:31-32 )

The words “this generation will not pass away” has led many to try to pinpoint the FigTree.

In identifying the seeding of the fig tree it could be easier to add a generation.

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