UK House of Lords Pays Tribute to 1917 Balfour Declaration That Promised Jewish ‘National Home’ in Palestine
British peers in the House of Lords, the UK’s upper parliamentary chamber, paid tribute to the November 1917 Balfour Declaration in a debate on Wednesday.
In what London’s Jewish News described as “one of the most pro-Israel debates heard in Parliament for years,” several peers spoke of their appreciation for the declaration — in which Britain promised to back the establishment of a “national home” for the Jewish people in Palestine — and their warmth for the State of Israel.
Opening the debate, Lord Turnberg said Israel owed “an enormous debt” to Britain for the Balfour Declaration, which he called “a hopelessly optimistic idea,” which had no legal enforcement until the San Remo conference of post-World War I allies in 1920.
He added: “Britain too has a lot to be grateful for. We should celebrate the fact that we in Britain provided the foundations of a democratic state in a part of the world where democracy is in very short supply.”
The former UK chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, declared: “The Balfour Declaration was a significant moment in history.” He continued: “No people should lack a home, not Palestinians and not Jews — which is why it’s tragic that a century after the Balfour Declaration significant groups still seek to deny the Jewish people a home, among them Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas, two groups that the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has in the past called friends. Friends of violence and terror, yes. Friends of humanity, no.”
“It is shameful that the Jewish people still has to fight for the right to exist in the land that for 33 centuries it has called home,” Sacks added. “Yet constantly threatened though it is by missiles, terror and delegitimization, it has achieved so much in science, medicine, technology and humanitarian aid.”