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*Editor’s Note: This is the tenth installment in the most recent series of articles from Jewish Press Online contributor, Alex Grobman, PhD  

Allen Z. Hertz, formerly senior advisor in the Privy Council Office serving Canada’s Prime Minister and the federal cabinet, suggests we should consider why those drafting the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo declaration didn’t use the words “establishment of Palestine as the national home for the Jewish people” or “establishment of Palestine as national home for the Jewish people.” They were not chosen, he contends, “Because the British government “never intended to give the Jewish People all of historic Palestine i.e. the whole territory both east and west of the Jordan River. The Balfour Declaration and the San Remo treaty were drafted to reflect the intention that there would be the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, but not that all of Palestine would be created as the national home for the Jewish people.” [1] 


The League of Nations handed international trusteeships to the French and British to prepare those liberated from the Turks for independence. From 1922, Transjordan had been under the authority of the British High Commissioner in Jerusalem. In 1946, Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, the second of three sons of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca, became the ruler. In keeping with British policy regarding Transjordan, all of the Jewish National Home conditions were explicitly excluded from all of Transjordan.  [2]   

The policy of the Balfour Declaration and the terms to implement its provisions were written into law in the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine by the members of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922, and in the Anglo-American Palestine Convention of 1924. The preamble of the Mandate states that the primary Allied Powers had agreed: “Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” [3] Though the United States was not yet a member of the League of Nations, the American government did not want Palestine disposed of without its approval. America had contributed its military, weapons and funding to secure the victory which resulted in the Turks ceding their rights to Palestine. [4] 

The British and the Council of the League acknowledged on June 30, 1922, a joint resolution (the Lodge Fish Resolution) of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in the area of Palestine – anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea:  “Favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. 

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and sites in Palestine shall be adequately protected.” [5]  

On February 1, 1944 Robert F. Wagner, one of the “most important members of the US Senate to support Zionist aspirations in Palestine,” and one of the “leading figures of liberalism during the era of the New Deal,” joined Senator Robert Taft, “one of the most powerful and prominent Republican members of the senate to sponsor the “Wagner-Taft Resolution,” which read, “That the United States avail its good offices and take appropriate measures to the end that the doors of Palestine shall be opened for free entry of Jews into the country, and there shall be full opportunity for colonization so the Jewish people may ultimately constitute Palestine as a free and Jewish commonwealth.” [6]   

Taft’s co-sponsorship, and the support of the Republican Party, were significant, asserts historian Jeffrey Herf, “because it undermined efforts made by the British government , the State Department , the Pentagon, and US intelligence officials to associate Zionism with the Soviet Union and communism in the early years of the cold war.” In proclaiming the resolution, Wagner mentioned the obligation to “right the tragic plight of the Jews of the Old World and help them rebuild their ancestral homeland where they may live as freemen and useful citizens.”  [7] 

He recalled the Congressional Joint Resolution of 1922 offering American support to the Balfour Declaration. Throughout World War I and thereafter, Allied governments had hoped the creation of a “Jewish homeland would solve an age-old problem,” and that “the disgraceful era of economic and social persecution of the Jews of Europe would terminate, and that once again, this people, from whom we derive our Christianity, our basic literature and basic laws, among many contributions, would once again be allowed to work out their salvation and freedom.” [8]. 

The Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate  

The Balfour Declaration and the Mandate deliberately make no mention of recognizing Palestinian Arabs as a separate and distinct people with their own national rights. The indigenous people were regarded as residents whose political identity was connected to the larger Arab nation that was divided between 1920 and 1924 by the League of Nations into several states controlled by superpowers: Iraq and Transjordan were under the British, Lebanon and Syria under French rule, and Saudi Arabia was as a separate, autonomous entity. [9]  

The British were quite clear. The post-World War I settlement created a new British jurisdiction called “The Palestine Mandate,” which consisted of Transjordan (Eastern Palestine) and a national home for the Jewish people (Western Palestine). Palestine was not a state but the name of a geographical area. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to select Palestinian Arab representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, they adopted the following resolution: “We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.” [10]  “Syria will never agree to handling over this integral part of their country [Palestine] to Jews,” Emir Feisal, who was King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, informed Field Marshall Viscount Edmund Allenby, who served ad High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan in 1920. [11]  

Article 2 of the Mandate declares: 

The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self -governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion. [12]  

In article 6 of the Mandate it states: 

The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, “close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.” [13]  

The Balfour Declaration “did not ‘give Palestine to the Jews.’ It recognized that there existed already a historic Jewish right, not to but in the country; and it promised to assist the Jewish people in its development in such a way that the other rights in the country were not to be endangered. It equally did not ‘give away what belonged to the Arab people;’ for it had already refused to recognize, also on historical grounds, that the Arab claim to be exclusive owners of the country was justified.” [14]  

The mandate to administer Palestine did not confer on the British sovereignty to her, explained jurist Sir Elihu Lauterpacht. “Indeed,” he said, “it was one of the fundamental elements in, and prime objects of, the Mandate system that the administering authority should not be sovereign, but should possess only those powers granted by the Mandate and in the exercise of them should be subject to the supervision of the League [of Nations.]” [15]  


[1] Email from Allen Hertz to author (January 28, 2014). 

[2] Martin Gilbert, Exile and Return (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1978), 132; Simon H. Rifkind, et. al. The Basic Equities of the Palestine Problem (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 27-28; Eli E. Hertz, Reply (New York: Myths and Facts, 2005; Yosef Gorny, Zionism and the Arabs, 1882—1948: A Study of Ideology (New York: Oxford, 1987): 82; Michael J. Cohen, The Origins and Evolution of the Arab Israeli Conflict (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1987), 64-65; S. Ilan Troen, Imagining Zion: Dreams, Designs, and Realities in a Century of Jewish Settlement (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2003), 44. 

[3] Rifkind, op.cit. 27-28. 

[4] Ibid. 28. 

[5] Ibid. 28; for letters and statements of support from members of the American War Congress in support of Jewish national aspirations, see, The American War Congress and Zionism: Statement by Members of the American War Congress on the Jewish National Movement (New York: Zionist Organization of America, 1919); Reuben Fink, America and Palestine (New York: American Zionist Emergency Council, 1944); Moshe Davis, With Eyes Toward Zion: Scholars Colloquium on America-Holy Land Studies (New York: Arno Press, 1977). 

[6] Jeffrey Herf, Israel’s Moment: International Support and Opposition for Establishing the Jewish State, 1945-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 25-26 . 

[7] Ibid. 27. 

[8] Ibid; Reinhold Niebuhr, “Our Stake in the State of Israel,” The New Republic (February 4, 1957): 9-12. 

[9] Eli E. Hertz, Reply (New York: Myths and Facts, 2005), 24. See Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion Volume 2 (London: Frank Cass and Company, 1977), 81-82. Richard H.S. Crossman, “The Balfour Declaration 1917-1967,” Midstream (December 1967): 21-28. 

[10] Ibid; Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, Middle East Diary 1917-1956 (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959), 75. 

[11] Rohan Butler and J.P.T. Bury, Eds. Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939 First Series Volume XIII (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1963), 285; see also Meinertzhagen, op.cit. 75-76. 


[13] Ibid. 

[14] Reverend James Parkes, Whose Land? (New York: Penguin Books, 1970), 257; The Arabs had a different perspective, see Palestine: A Study if Jewish, Arab, and British Policies Esco Foundation for Palestine, Inc. Volume One (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947), 616-617. 

[15] Elihu Lauterpacht, Jerusalem and the Holy Places (London: ‎ Anglo-Israel Association, 1968), 13. 

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Dr. Alex Grobman is the senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He has an MA and PhD in contemporary Jewish history from The Hebrew university of Jerusalem. He lives in Jerusalem.