In three prior issues, we have analyzed the miracles which Hashem performed to aid the establishment of the State of Israel. We will continue to analyze these miracles in this issue.
The Miracle of England’s Balfour Declaration and its League of Nations Ratification
Just as it seems a great deal more reasonable to argue that God played a major role in the United Nations’ establishment of Israel, so too it seems far more reasonable to conclude that Hashem manipulated events and people to assure that the British government would issue the Balfour Decla ration and the League of Nations would ratify it in 1922.
On November 2, 1917, Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued the following policy statement:
“His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours 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.”
Balfour’s Declaration gained the standing of international law when it was ratified by the League of Nations in 1922. The Balfour Declaration paved the way for fairly large scale Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael from 1920 to 1939, thus setting a precedent and paving the way for the United Nations to vote for the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine in 1947.
Historians endeavor to discover the motivation of Great Britain to issue this document. Some of the explanations defy reason, including the explanation that Britain wanted to curry favor with American Jewry to convince the American government to enter World War One, as well as the explanation that Britain wanted to curry favor with Russian Jewry to keep Russia in the war. This was an error of the highest magnitude as Jews in the United States at that time were hardly a potent political force to affect the course of American government policy. The persecuted and downtrodden Jews of Russia were in even less of a position to affect their government’s course of action in the Great War.
More likely of an explanation is that Balfour and Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister at the time, were in a Bible-centered mindset which made them hospitable to the idea of reestablishing a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael. The timing of the Balfour Declaration, coming before the discovery of large scale deposits of oil in Arab countries in the 1920’s and before the emergence in 1919 of a British Foreign Office that was hostile to Zionism was also most favorable to the adoption of the Balfour Declaration.
However, even this explanation cannot account for the continuing support for the enforcement of the Balfour Declaration by Balfour’s successor as British Foreign Secretary, stridently anti–Zionist George Curzon, who took office in 1919. Curzon, who had been opposed to the Balfour Declaration from the start, explained his implementation of the Balfour Declaration due to the importance of honoring Great Britain’s commitments even when he was disturbed that the commitment was originally made.
Nonetheless, this reason is inadequate, as explained by the noted writer Connor Cruise O’Brien in his classic history of Zionism entitled The Siege (p.150). O’Brien writes that Curzon did not similarly honor other commitments made by the British government such as the Sykes-Picot agreement to the French and the McMahon letter to Arab leaders. Yet the staunchly anti-Zionist Curzon honored the commitment the British government made to the Zionists.
Connor Cruise O’Brien makes the following poignant observation (p. 152):
“If a Zionist, of the pious sort, were to tell me that the true explanation of this phenomenon was that God had decided that it was time for His people to come home, I should no doubt express polite skepticism. But if the same pious Zionist were then to ask me whether I can discern any material interests, for the British Government’s reinforcement of the Balfour Declaration, in the circumstances of the early twenties, I should have to say that I can’t find any such explanation.”
O’Brien concludes his discussion (p. 153-155) noting the following:
“Efforts were made at the time to show that the Balfour Declaration was, or was not, in conformity with the Covenant of the League of Nations. What mattered far more was that it felt to be in conformity with a far older covenant, between God and the Jews, over Eretz Israel.”
Thus, just as the considerably more reasonable interpretation of the UN partition vote is to note that it was the work of Hashem, it is the far more reasonable approach to understand Britain’s issuance and enforcement of the Balfour Declaration as a result of subtle divine influence.
Rav Meir Simchah of Dvinsk, the author of the Or Samei’ach and the Meshech Chochmah, certainly perceived the Balfour Declaration and its subsequent ratification by the League of Nations as an act very much influenced by Hashem. The following is the letter he wrote in the wake of the League of Nations’ ratification (printed in Torat Eretz Yisrael: The Teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohein Kook, p.234):
“In this century, the rays of light shine forth with a great awakening through the channels of the great men of action such as Montefiore and those like him; and from the rabbis, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh (Kalisher) from Talyron, and Rabbi Eliahu (Guttmacher) from Gridetz, to build and to develop Jerusalem, and to remove its desolation, almost to the extent which the enthusiasts have widened the cause. Many rabbis stood in opposition, and even many rabbis who praised the matter in their hearts, put their hands to their mouths, in fear of the enthusiast zeal, and in fear of the Three Oaths which Hashem made the daughters of Jerusalem swear. Now, however, Divine providence has brought together the League of intelligent Nations in San Remo, and a dictate was established that the Land of Israel shall be for the Jewish people. Since the fear of the Oaths has been removed with the permission of the nations, the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel arises, a mitzvah equal to all of the other precepts in the Torah, and this mitzvah returns to its place. It is a mitzvah on everyone to help with all of their power to observe this mitzvah, and if Hashem, may His Name be blessed, will allow this to come about, and if the matter will increase and expand, then surely it is a matter which stands at the zenith of the universe.”
This article concludes our discussion of Hashem’s miracles in the political side of the establishment of the State of Israel. Next week, we will begin our discussion about Hashem’s involvement with military matters during Israel’s War of Independence.
 We have noted in previous issues that timing is a means of detecting God’s subtle manipulation of world events.
 O’Brien argues that the power of the Bible held sway over Curzon as well as Balfour and Lloyd George. He writes, interestingly, “Zionism has shown a capacity to make its opponents do some very strange things.” One must ask, however, why this is so. We argue that it is the divine manipulation of Zionism’s opponents much in the same manner as it was the divine manipulation which caused Par’oh to act in ways counter to his and his country’s best interest (as noted by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in his celebrated essay “Kol Dodi Dofeik.”)
 This refers to the “Jewish century” in the count from Creation