Tag Archives: Israel

Remembering History: Balfour Declaration (2 Nov 1917)

A letter written by Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour on 2 Nov 1917 to Baron Walter Rothschild expressing Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine would lead to the Balfour Declaration and setting the stage for the eventual creation of the state of Israel. World War 1 was in a stalemate and disagreements between the allies over the course of the war were growing. Efforts to defeat Turkey had also failed thus far. Russia was a big issue as well with the Czar being toppled. The current leadership kept the war against Germany against growing opposition to it. The revelation of the Zimmerman Telegram in March 1917 finally prompted the United States to declare war on Germany but their troops were still very far off.

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George publicly supported Zionism (a movement to support the creation of a Jewish state). Lloyd George was supported by other leaders and hoped that such a formal declaration would gain support from Jewish supporters in neutral countries. And it was hoped gain support both in Russia and the United States. Lloyd George also knew that after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British would dominate Palestine and that was crucial to Britain. It was an important land bridge between India and Egypt, a post-war goal they wanted to control. So, establishing a Zionist state there under their protection would accomplish this goal.

It was not without opposition that held it up. Obviously, anti-Semites opposed it because they hated the Jews and had no desire to give them any state of their own. Some Jews opposed it as threatening the status of Jews in both Europe and the United States. There were also fears of violence against the Jews being encouraged by this declaration. However, the declaration did get the approval for France, Italy, the United States, and even the Vatican. The letter sent to Baron Rothschild stated:

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 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.

Aftermath

The Treaty of Versailles (1919) established a mandate system. Britain was temporarily given administration of Palestine and to work with both Jewish and Arab inhabitants in that area. Many Arabs there and elsewhere were not happy with the idea of a Jewish state and felt cheated by the British who had promised them their own nations. As the Jewish population increased, violence between Jews and Arabs increased. This led to instability and delays in establishing a Jewish state. In the aftermath of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust revealed, international support for Zionism led to the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948. However, there are those that oppose the Balfour Declaration to this day and seek its recission.

Sources:

Balfour Declaration (History.com)

Balfour Declaration: Text of the Declaration (Jewish Virtual Library)

Reflections on the Balfour Declaration (JewishPress.com)

 

 

Remembering History: Adolf Eichmann Sentenced to Death

SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, 1942
Public Domain (Wikimedia)

On 15 Dec 1961, an Israeli War Crimes Tribunal sentenced Adolf Eichmann to death. Eichmann joined the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) in November 1932. The SS were an elite organization that had broad powers of authority (policing and intelligence) and enforcement of antisemitic policies. Eichmann rose within the SS and in 1938 was sent to Austria after Germany annexed it. In Vienna, he was given the task of ridding the Jews. After setting up an efficient deportation system, he was sent to Prague to do the same thing. Then he was sent back to Berlin to help run the Jewish section of the SS central security office in Berlin.

He was also part of the now infamous Wannsee Conference in January 1942. The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior government officials from government ministries and the SS to discuss the coordination of the “total solution of the Jewish question” as ordered by Reichmarschall Herman Göring. This order was given to SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich who headed the Reich Main Security Office. The decision had been made to eliminate Jews and would need the assistance of many government agencies in order for it to be done. Eichmann was given the task to coordinate the major aspects of this program from identifying Jews, assembling them, and transporting them to the Nazi death camps. Eichmann proved to be ruthlessly efficient in carrying out this task.

He was captured by U.S. troops after the war but escaped in 1946 before the Nuremberg trials began. Using an assumed name, he traveled in Europe and the Middle East before arriving in Argentina in 1950. Israel was informed in 1957 by a German prosecutor that Eichmann was in Argentina. Agents from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, were sent to Argentina and located him in 1960. He was found living in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires using the name Richard Klement.

Using the 150th anniversary of Argentina’s revolution against Spain in May 1960, the Mossad used this as an opportunity to send more agents to Argentina. Believing that Argentina would not extradite him, it was decided to abduct him and bring him to Israel for trial. On 11 May 1960, Mossad agents abducted him as was walking home from the bus stop to home on Garabaldi Street. He was disguised as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head trauma in an accident (he was in fact drugged to prevent him from attempting escape). He arrived in Tel Aviv and three days later Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced Eichmann was in Israeli custody.

Argentina did protest but Israel charged Eichmann with 15 crimes against humanity. His trial was covered on live television. He claimed he was following orders but the judges disagreed finding him guilty of all counts on 15 December 1961. He would be executed by hanging on 31 May 1962 and was cremated with his ashes thrown into the sea.

Notes

  1. SS-Obergruppenführer was equivalent to Lieutenant General in the American and British armies.

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