The Balfour Declaration justified all the Zionist dreams and confounded enemies of Zionism who had denounced the leaders as false messiahs, Morris Rothenberg, president of the Zionist Organization of America declared last night at a meeting in the Hotel Astor called to celebrate the seventeenth anniversary of the issuance of the historic document. Events since then have completely vindicated the Zionist philosophy, he declared.
Other speakers were Louis Lipsky, Nathan Straus, George Z. Medalie, Abraham Goldberg and Mrs Edward Jacobs.
Speakers also paid tribute to the late Baron Edmond de Rothschild, veteran Jewish leader and founder of the first modern colonies in Palestine.
The Baron’s work in Palestine, the forerunner of the present flourishing settlements in the Holy Land was extolled by the speakers.
“The issuance of the Balfour Declaration marked the opening of a new epoch in the history of the Jewish people which will be recognized as such in the remotest centuries to come,” Rothenberg said. “I think back of the period when the Declaration was uttered. How utterly barren Jewish life was of any constructive program for the solution of its problems.
WAS ‘MYSTIC HOPE’
“The Zionist movement, though it represented a mystic hope that slumbered in the hearts of millions of Jews throughout the ages had but a handful of active followers. The Zionists were thought to be impractical dreamers and they were disturbers of the peace for many Jews who indulged in pleasant day-dreaming that civilization was marching forward to an all-inclusive liberalism that would bring equality to all peoples, that would sweep aside race prejudice and international antagonisms and bring all civilized human beings within the compass of a common brotherhood.
“We Zionists were thought by them to be false messiahs who were attempting to reconstitute the National life of our people in a land which was no longer fit for human habitation, which was denuded and desolate and in any case no longer available for Jewish colonization.
“The seventeen years since the Balfour Declaration have not only vindicated Zionist belief in the practica possibilities of Jewish settlement in Palestine, but more than that, they have strikingly vindicated Zionist philosophy that ultimate help for the Jewish people essentially could come from the Jewish people concentrating its effort upon the rebuilding of the Jewish National Home. It is an undeniable fact that in less than two decades since the Declaration was issued Zionism had achieved what no other similar historic effort has attained in a similar period.
“What has transpired in Palestine has not only touched the imagination of the world; it has made possible the reception of tens of thousands of Jews, homeless and hopeless, and afforded them the opportunity to take up and piece together again the broken threads of their lives. More than that, it has renewed our faith in the capacity of the Jewish people for a creative and a self-reverent life that shall incorporate Israel’s splendid heritage of culture. There in Palestine though Kings are dead Prophets may live, again.”
The glow and the promise of the Balfour Declaration has been dimmed in the course of years,” Lipsky stated. “The men who followed Balfour in leadership of British affairs lacked his vision, the faith that grew from wisdom and the chivalry that dominated his great personality. They took the Declaration, in which there was embodied â€” as Balfour fervently imagined â€” the fulfillment of a promise and reduced it to a formal contract. This covenant with an ancient people, in which a great empire undertook to right an ancient wrong, became, in the course of time, a source of a struggle in British politics between the spirit of Balfour and the spirit of pettifogging lawyers, seeking merely advantage for their imperial client.