This month (November 2017), we mark the anniversaries of two pivotal milestones in Jewish history: the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which declared the British government’s endorsement of the creation of a nation-state for the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland, and the 70th anniversary of the passage of U.N. resolution 181, in which a majority of U.N. member states approved of a plan to create that nation-state, which became the State of Israel.
B’nai B’rith International is celebrating both anniversaries, organizing an event at the Knesset on the Balfour Declaration and co-sponsoring with the Permanent Mission of Israel to the U.N. and other Jewish organizations an event at the original site of the passage of resolution 181.
At B’nai B’rith, we take pride in our historical role in both events. See B’nai B’rith Magazine’s latest issue for background on the role of B’nai B’rith leaders in the Balfour Declaration. B’nai B’rith was active in the U.N. from its founding, attending the 1945 San Francisco conference and gaining accreditation as an NGO in 1947. A key moment in B’nai B’rith history is the intervention of B’nai B’rith President Frank Goldman and B’nai B’rith lodge member Eddie Jacobson with U.S. President Harry Truman, which led to the U.S. decision to support partition. And, B’nai B’rith has had an active presence in Israel since 1888, helping to build the state.
As these important anniversaries arrive, it’s important to celebrate and reflect on the advocacy efforts that led to these key moments in history. We also need to realize that, as important as these events were, they did not in themselves create the State of Israel. That job was done by the Zionist pioneers that settled the land, the leaders of the Yishuv (the Jewish government in waiting in pre-state Israel), the Haganah and other armed groups (and later, the IDF) that defended the nascent state, and the support of the Jewish community outside of Israel. Balfour and 181 did, however, give vital international recognition and legitimacy to Zionism at critical times to the development of the eventual State of Israel.
The Palestinians would do well to finally reckon with this history and with the fact that Israel is here to stay. Instead, the Palestinians are still battling the battles of the past — demanding that the current British government renounce the Balfour Declaration (the United Kingdom forthrightly refused to do so). At the U.N., the date of 181’s passage (Nov. 29) has been turned into the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” whereby the U.N. delegations of countries hostile to Israel make incendiary speeches that few people outside of the U.N. building pay any attention to and resolutions are voted upon that do not bring the region closer to peace and only serve to discredit the U.N. The U.N.’s anti-Israel bureaucratic machinery also recently hosted an event attacking the Balfour Declaration.
While some delegations at the U.N. mourn, we in the Jewish community will continue to celebrate our return to sovereignty in the land of our ancestors and pledge to rededicate ourselves to the cause. Israel grows stronger economically, culturally, technologically and militarily, as a diverse democracy with flourishing diplomatic opportunities in countries throughout the world while the Palestinians play games at the U.N. When the Palestinians realize that seeking to delegitimize and isolate Israel via international institutions and/or seeking to destroy Israel with military force or terrorism will not lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, perhaps they will start to negotiate in earnest with Israel on a true, meaningful peace.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Click here to view more of his additional content.
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