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In the midst of World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote the following letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, of the Zionist Federation in England:

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 favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achieve_ment 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

The three sentences of this document giving international recognition to Zionist aims were the result of three years of diplomatic negotiations reaching out from London to France, Italy, and the U.S. The Balfour Declaration was issued with the support of the French government, and with the backing of Woodrow Wilson, then President of the U.S. Official approval came from France on February 14, 1918; from Italy on May 9, 1918; and from President Wilson in a letter to Stephen S. Wise on August 31, 1918. The U.S. Congress voted in its favor, and President Harding approved the declaration on September 21, 1922. The Balfour Declaration became the basis for a mandate for the creation of Palestine. This mandate was given to Britain by the League of Nations and affirmed on July 24, 1922. The news of the Declaration was received with waves of joy and spontaneous celebrations all over the Jewish world, and today, November 2nd is celebrated as Balfour Day. (See also Zionism.)

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