Nearing Centennial, Lord Balfour Descendant Proud of Family Support for Jewish Homeland

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Nearing Centennial, Lord Balfour Descendant Proud of Family Support for Jewish Homeland

“Deliver us, Hashem our God, and gather us from among the nations, to acclaim Your holy name, to glory in Your praise.” Psalms 106:47 (The Israel Bible™)

By: Eliana Rudee

In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, British and Israeli senior officials convened in Jerusalem this week to discuss the past, present, and future of British-Israeli relations.

The Balfour Declaration was a British government public statement, issued Nov. 2, 1917, that offered support for the establishment of a “national home” in Palestine for the Jewish people. The declaration is credited with galvanizing popular support for Zionism.

During the conference, dubbed “From Balfour to Brexit” and held Sept. 13 and 14 to inaugurate the new Jerusalem-based Sir Naim Dangoor Centre for UK-Israel Relations, Lord Roderick Balfour, the 5th Earl of Balfour – and great-great nephew of former Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour – reminisced fondly about the “family folklore” of his ancestor’s “very important letter.”


Portrait of Lord Balfour and his famous declaration. (Wikimedia Commons)

Speakers at the conference, among them former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Israeli Ambassador to Britain Mark Regev, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, focused on the history and future of British-Israeli relations. They also discussed the possible political and historical implications of Britain’s upcoming exit from the European Union as mandated by last year’s so-called Brexit vote.

Jonathan Freedland, columnist for The Guardian and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series “The Long View,” spoke of the legacy of the Balfour Declaration from a British-Jewish perspective. He maintained it is “mostly talked about by people who would seek to criticize or doubt Israel’s right to exist, because there are people who wish to cast Israel as an imperialist project.”

Freedland suggested Britain’s Jewish community likely would adopt a muted approach to the declaration’s 100th anniversary. British Jews, he said, “would rather talk about the U.N. vote of 1947 because U.N. votes give a legitimacy that stands in today’s perspective compared to a British decision with origins of an imperial whim of Sir Mark Sykes.”

He was referring to the Sykes-Picot treaty that divided up much of the former Ottoman Empire’s Middle East holdings into modern states. “The idea of imperialist Britain and France sitting with a pen and a map – this is not the history of national liberation Jews would like to invoke,” Freedland added.