Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Why did Britain Issue the Balfour Declaration?

Info: 4869 words (19 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

Reference this

Signed on the 2nd November 1917, the Balfour Declaration was written by the Foreign Secretary James Balfour and it was addressed to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, a Jewish banker. The ultimate goal of the declaration was to provide support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The declaration proved to be controversial and the fact that it is still divisive in the 21st century shows the ever lasting impact of Britain’s involvement in this deep-rooted issue. The main reasons why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was due to own self interest in protecting the Suez Canal and the oilfields in Iraq, to secure Britain’s alliances during the First World War, a response to widespread sympathy for the Jewish population in Britain and a way of keeping out the Jewish population from Britain.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

One reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was to due to the own self interest in protecting the Suez Canal and the oilfields in Iraq. ‘Britain left that the control over Palestine was necessary in order to keep France and Russia from the approaches to Egypt and the Suez Canal’.[1] This illustrates that perhaps the main reason why Britain issued it was for self gain and preserving the Empire. In addition, the Suez Canal ‘was vitally important’ for the ‘supply routes for the British Empire’ as the ‘troops, equipments… minerals and other provisions’ were sent for the ‘British and her allies’.[2] This signifies British self interest because after relentless attacks from the Ottoman Empire in 1915, Britain captured Palestine to create a buffer zone which was a ‘vital economic and military short-cut to the Eastern Empire’ and to protect it from French invasions.[3] The creation of the buffer zone also meant that Britain would have access to Iraq and the oilfields. This helps indicate why Britain issued the Declaration because during the First World War, the ships ran on oil. So the oilfields from Iraq would have been pivotal as an endless source of energy. In addition, Chaim Weizmann, who was a Russian Zionist and was thought to have drafted the Balfour Declaration, stated in a letter to the Manchester Guardian that ‘Britain should encourage a Jewish settlement in Palestine’ as it would ‘form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.’[4] This reveals Britain’s true intention of the issuance of the Declaration and it showed how Britain’s self interest came first, which could also be seen in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916, by which the British saw the French as their main rivals for the territories left by the Ottoman Empire. One of the points from this ‘secret’ agreement was that the Arab states should be ‘protected and recognised.’[5] This shows how contradictory Britain was and it also revealed Britain’s true intentions as it is evident that Britain only made this deal to have territories, the fact that it was kept a secret also strongly supports that it was done in self interest. However, when Britain failed to recognise ‘Arab independence in Palestine’, King Hussein ‘felt betrayed’, reinforcing the idea of self interest as Britain stated previously that it agreed to grant the ‘freedom to the existing population’.[6] The theme of betrayal could also be viewed in the actual document signed by James Balfour. He states that nothing ‘shall be done which may prejudice the …rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine’.[7] This demonstrates how Britain, to an extent, deceived King Hussein as an agreement was made to recognise Arab independence in Palestine, however, when Britain formed a buffer zone to protect the Suez Canal and the endless supply of oil, it dismissed the terms of the secret declaration. In conclusion, a reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was due to self-interest to protect the Suez Canal and the oilfields in Iraq.

As well as protecting British territories, another reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was to secure the alliances during the First World War, to ensure victory against the Germans. With heavy defeats inflicted by the Germans, the British suffered profoundly and knew it was imperative to get America and Russia onside. An example of British failure was the Battle of the Somme in 1916, where on the first day alone, the ‘British suffered more than 57,000 casualties’, and by the end of the battle, the Allies would lose ‘more than 1.5 million men.’[8] This just exuberates how desperate the British were that they sided with the ‘Zionists to rally support among Jews in the United States and Russia’, so that they could ensure ‘victory’.[9] This worked to the Zionists favour as they ‘pushed for the United States to enter the war’ in alliance with the British so that Britain ‘supports’ a Jewish state in Palestine.[10] This could also be viewed in the Public Resolution No. 73 in the 67th Congress, Second Session, whereby America wanted the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in return for helping Britain during World War One. The language used in the Resolution was made clear: that the ‘United States of America favours the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ and that it should be ‘protected’.[11] This specified why Britain issued the Declaration, which was to ensure victory against the Germans and in return for the assistance during the war from the allies, Britain had to support the creation of a state in Palestine for the Jews. Much like the Zionists in America, the Zionist in Russia also appealed to the Jewish population in both the US and Eastern Europe offered Britain an alliance and support during the war ‘in the condition of Britain creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine after winning the war’. [12] In conclusion, the reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was due to the need to secure alliances with America and Russia in order to have victory during the First World War. Nonetheless, the allies requested that Britain should establish a Jewish home in Palestine after winning the war. 

Another reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was because it was used as a way to keep the Jewish population out of Britain. The Alien Act of 1905 is a key example of the anti-Semitic feeling that was felt in Britain, which points to the issuing of the Balfour Declaration. The main aim of the Act was to control the Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. After the assassination of Tsar Alexander III in Russia, the government organised pogroms against the Jewish population, which meant that Britain saw an influx of Jewish immigration from those who tried to escape the attacks. The fact that Arthur Balfour introduced this Act perhaps highlights the motivation behind the issuance of the Balfour Declaration as he wanted to remove the Jewish population and the creation of a state whereby the Jewish population could reside in seemed like a solution. Furthermore, Balfour stated that the ‘Jew should be prevented from arriving in Britain’ as they had taken ‘advantage of the civilisation of this country’.[13] This just reinforces the concept of anti-Jewish sentiment that was felt by the government, which was why Britain issued the Declaration. The fact that the Jews were seen as ‘undesirable’ and ‘alien’ also emphasised the anti-Semitic attitudes.[14] What’s more was that David Lloyd George, who was joint Prime Minister with H. Asquith in 1916, ‘despised the Jews’ and was also ‘scared of them’. [15] He also thought that the Jews ‘had nothing to offer’ apart from ‘clandestine power’. [16] This could also be backed up by Tom Segev’s belief that the Balfour Declaration ‘was the product of neither military nor diplomatic interest, but of prejudice.’[17] Also, what added to the anti-Semitic attitude was the fact that in 1881, it was alleged that Jewish individuals were part of the revolutionary group, named the People’s Will that assassinated Tsar Alexander III. The feeling of revolution was present with the British population in 1917 as the government believed that the Jews that migrated from Russia were revolutionary, which increased the anti-Jewish feeling. In conclusion, the reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was because it was used as a device to keep the Jewish population out of Britain through the adoption of the Alien Act in 1905 and the anti- Semitic attitude that was fostered by the British government and the British people. The Balfour Declaration acted like a solution to the influx of the Jewish immigration from those who tried to flee the persecutions and pogroms in Russia.       

Despite the fact that there was anti-Semitic attitudes that were fostered by the government and the British people, there were some ‘officials in the government’ that were ‘Zionists themselves’, which inevitably meant that there would be a widespread of sympathy for the Jewish population. [18] This meant ‘intense Zionist lobbying’, thus explains why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration.[19] A key member of the British Cabinet in 1917 was Mark Sykes, who served as a war secretariat and had ‘become the most sympathetic towards Zionism’. [20] He was one of the key members that had an active role in the final draft of the Declaration. This just explains how much of an influence the Zionists in the government had for the issuance of the Declaration. The sympathy and influence of the officials can be viewed in the French government with the Cambon letter to Sokolow on 4th July 1917. It stated how the British had ‘devoted [their] efforts … to the development of Jewish colonisation in Palestine.’[21] This also meant that the French government also supported the issuance of the Balfour Declaration as they believed that the Jewish population have been ‘wrongly attacked’, which has caused them to ‘struggle for victory’ and the French government ‘sympathising for the cause’. [22] The language used in the document evoked a sense of compassion for the Jews as they have been wrongfully suffering, so the only solution was to establish a state where the persecution would end and the Jewish population could live peacefully. Another key figure that fought for the issuance of the Balfour Declaration was Chaim Weizmann. Often referred to as the ‘father of political Zionism’, Weizmann was seen as the man who actually ‘wrote the Declaration in a manner that suited Zionist interest’. [23] This exemplifies how much of an influence Zionists were in the government as it showed how much power Weizmann had. What’s more is that he ‘lobbied hard for more than two years to publicly commit Britain to building a state for the Jews in Palestine,’ reinforcing the sympathy and the support that was in the British government for a national home in Palestine. In conclusion, despite the fact that there were anti-Semitic attitudes from the British government, key individuals, such as Weizmann and Sykes in the Cabinet, were heavy Zionist believers, which evoked sympathy and influenced the government, which enabled them to form the Declaration to suit Zionists interest.    

In conclusion, the main reasons why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was down to self interest in protecting the Suez Canal, the oilfields in Iraq whist maintaining the British Empire, the need to secure alliances with Russia and the United States in order to gain victory against the Germans in the First World War, a way of keeping the Jewish population, who were escaping pogroms and persecution in Russia, out of Britain and it was issued because of a widespread sympathy within the British government. I believe that the main reason why Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was simply down to the self interest. By allowing a Jewish state in Palestine, it allowed Britain to protect its territories, like the Suez Canal, whilst strengthening and maintaining the British Empire. The alliances with Russia and the US only occurred because the British needed help to win the war, so it would seem as if Britain looked victorious. Keeping the Jewish population out of Britain by creating Acts seemed to be done in self interest as it meant that Britain could maintain its values and keep the supposed revolutionaries out of Britain.

Bibliography:

Primary sources:

Secondary source:

Books:

  • Shlaim, Avi. Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, revisions, refutations, 2010.                               Chapter One, The Balfour Declaration and its consequences, pg 8.  Published in New York.

Websites:

 


[1] Avi Shlaim. Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, revisions, refutations, 2010. Chapter One, The Balfour Declaration and its consequences, pg 8.  Published in New York.

[2] The campaign in Egypt and Palestine.                                                       https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/the-campaign-in-egypt-and-palestine/  (Last accessed 17th December 2018)

[3] Patrick Bishop. 1st February 2014. Britain’s legacy to the tortured Ottoman Empire.                                      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-one/inside-first-world-war/part-six/10607658/ottoman-empire-first-world-war.html#balfourdeclaration (last accessed 14th December 2018)

[4] Quoted from a letter to the Manchester Guardian in 1914. https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2017/behind-balfour/index.html

[5] The Sykes Picot Agreement 1916.                                                                                http://www.balfourproject.org/the-sykes-picot-agreement/ ( 4th July 2014) (Last accessed 14th December 2018)

[6] Avi Shlaim. Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, revisions, refutations, 2010. Chapter One, The Balfour Declaration and its consequences, pg 8.  Published in New York.

[7] Quoted from the Balfour Declaration https://www.google.com/search?q=the+balfour+declaration&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9zPuWoaDfAhWyqHEKHavBAVoQ_AUIDigB&biw=1366&bih=608#imgrc=samDqtmBZPyOfM:

[8] The Battle of the Somme. History.com Editors. Publisher: A&E Television Networks. November 12th 2009. (Last accessed 15th December 2018) https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/battle-of-the-somme

[9] Zena Tahhan. More than a century on: The Balfour Declaration explained. 2nd November 2018. (Last accessed 15th December 2018) https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/10/100-years-balfour-declaration-explained-171028055805843.html

[10] Who wrote the Balfour Declaration and why: the World War One connection. Published on 4th October 2017. (Last accessed on 15th December 2018)                                                                                 https://israelpalestinenews.org/wrote-balfour-declaration-world-war-connection/

[11] The Public Resolution No.73 in the 67th Congress, Second Session.                https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/u-s-congress-endores-the-balfour-declaration

[12] Vivan Padhi (Last accessed 15th December 2018) https://www.academia.edu/7895403/Why_did_the_British_issue_the_Balfour_Declaration_How_important_was_this_to_the

[13] Brian Klug. 8th July 2013. (Last accessed 16th December 2018)                                  http://www.balfourproject.org/the-other-arthur-balfour-protector-of-the-jews/

[14] Ibid

[15] Avi Shlaim. Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, revisions, refutations, 2010. Chapter One, The Balfour Declaration and its consequences, pg 22.  Published in New York.

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid

[18] Zena Tahhan. More than a century on: The Balfour Declaration explained. 2nd November 2018. (Last accessed 16th December 2018) https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/10/100-years-balfour-declaration-explained-171028055805843.html

[19] Ibid

[20] Mark Sykes: Balfour 100. (Last accessed 16th December 2018)                 http://www.balfour100.com/biography/1st-draft-mark-sykes/

[21] Quoted from the Cambon letter to Sokolow on 4th July 1917                    http://www.balfourproject.org/french-support-for-the-zionist-cause/

[22] Ibid

[23] Zena Tahhan. Who was behind the Balfour Declaration? (Last accessed 16th December 2018)  https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2017/behind-balfour/index.html

 

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: