A letter from a former British Prime Minister led ultimately to the formation of the State of Israel, the only country in the Middle East to guarantee ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’.
AFTER the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, the region known then as Syria came under British control through the ‘Mandate for Palestine’.
The Mandate drew on the so-called ‘Balfour Declaration’ of 1917, a letter, dated 2nd November, from government minister Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a leading London banker and former MP for Aylesbury.
Balfour, a former Prime Minister, expressed the Government’s support for ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’, so long as the rights of others were not affected.
At first there was strong opposition in the region and in Europe, but gradually the horror of Jewish persecution around the world came to light.
All other considerations were eclipsed. The British Mandate formally ended at midnight on 14th May 1948, and in accordance with United Nations Resolution 181(II), David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the establishment of an independent State of Israel.*
* Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) is celebrated on or near to 5th of Iyar, which fell in 1948 on May 14.