Primary Documents - Balfour Declaration, 2 November 1917

Photograph of Arthur Balfour During the First World War, British policy gravitated towards the creation of a Jewish home in Palestine.

This was encouraged, in part, by a wish to motivate Jews in Russia towards the continuation of the Russian war effort, at that time endangered by engulfing revolution: in essence, that an Allied victory (which was taken to include Russia) would lead to the establishment of a Jewish state.  Similarly, it was thought that the declaration would engage the sympathy of American Jews.

The letter, below, issued by the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour (a former Prime Minister), represented the first political recognition of Zionist aims by a major power.  It was instrumental in helping establish the state of Israel 31 years later.

Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

"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."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

"Eggs-a-cook" were boiled eggs sold by Arab street vendors. It was later used by Anzac soldiers when going over the top.

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Primary Docs