Myth #2: The Idea of a Jewish State Started with the Balfour Declaration

Myth #2: The Idea of a Jewish State Started with the Balfour Declaration

This post is part of the Response to “Hate Mail” from an Israel-Hating Conspiracy Theorist series dealing with many of the biased and flat-out wrong claims made against Israel. Now, on to Claim #2: “the idea that the Jewish state started with the Balfour Declaration, and after WWII Jews started migrating to Palestine”.

The Balfour Declaration was signed in 1917 and it certainly did not “start the idea of a Jewish State.” First off, in the history of the region, since the year 3000 BC there have only been three independent states west of the Jordan River. And all three have been Jewish states. Other than during times of Jewish sovereignty in the region, colonial empires have always controlled the region from afar. These empires all had capital cities outside of the Levant (e.g. Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mamluk, Ottoman or British). The Ottomans themselves controlled the region with very little interruption from 1517 to 1917.

In any event, since the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and their re-naming the region “Syria-Palestina” (after the Jews ancient enemies, the Assyrians and the Philistines) we Jews have been praying on a daily basis to return to Zion and Jerusalem. And to the extent they could, there were always Jews in the Diaspora migrating to the area and Jews have – despite many hardships imposed on them – other than during times of forced exile and ethnic cleansing  – been continuously living in the land of Israel, and in particular in our holiest cities, Jerusalem, Hebron, Tzafat and Tiberias.

My ancestors, for example, moved to Jerusalem in the mid 1800’s; and half the Jews living in Yemen had moved to the land of Israel before 1940. Moreover, our Torah and Talmud specifies that living in the land of Israel is one of our greatest Mitzvot (loosely translated as good deeds). As such, our sages for millennia have taught us us that every Jew who can live in the land of Israel, should.

Religious Zionism is therefore practically as old as Judaism itself. As for political Zionism, it also well predates the signing of the Balfour Declaration, as the First Zionist Congress was in 1897.

In terms of your Jews “migrating to Palestine” claim, as with everything, your “history” is far more fiction, than fact.  It is one propagated by a lot of Israel haters, who want to perpetuate the myth that Israel exists because of the Holocaust, when the reality is sadly that the Holocaust happened because there was no Israel. The Israel haters also like to perpetuate the myth that before WWII there were barely any Jews in the land of Israel and that as Tamika Mallory recently asserted, we just showed up in British controlled Palestine after World War II “needing a place to stay.”  The reality, however, is vastly different. By 1833, Jews were the largest religious group in Jerusalem and by 1844, Jerusalem was a majority Jewish city. As for the rest of the region, the entire area that became the British Mandate for Palestine in 1917, including what is today Jordan, in 1800 was a scarcely-populated, neglected, backwater of the Ottoman Empire, which had barely 350,000 people living in it in 1800, including Muslims, Jews and Christians; and the area west of the Jordan river, had only 275,000 people. Amman, the capital city of Jordan, as late as 1890 wasn’t even Arab. It had 1000 residents in total. All Circassians who didn’t even speak Arabic.

And despite your alternative universe of history, where Jews only started “migrating to Palestine” after WWII (i.e. 1945), history shows there was significant population growth for both Jews and Arabs at the start of the 20th Century and that both Arabs and Jews were migrating to the area in larger numbers starting in the 1880s; and that by 1940, the Jews had taken a neglected backwater province of the Ottoman Empire and transformed it into a land with many revitalized and thriving cities (like Tel-Aviv), a booming agricultural industry, and the best academic institutions in the Middle East.

That is why before the end of WWII, and despite a cap on Jewish immigration (instituted by the British – to try and stop Arab pogroms and riots) – which left millions of Jews to face death at the hands of the Nazis, the Jewish population of British controlled Palestine was 553,000 and the Arab Muslim population was 1,061,000. Notably, just as the British had restricted Jewish immigration west of the Jordan River in the 1930’s, after the British wholly invented a country that had never existed before out of the Palestine Mandate – Jordan in 1921 (out of 77% of the land designated by the League of Nations for the Jewish homeland) – they also made it illegal for Jews to live or move there. As Jordan’s population today is over 70% Arabs who identify as Palestinian, and is a former large part of the Palestine Mandate, you may want to ask yourself why Jordan is not considered a “Palestinian State”? In any event, one thing is certainly clear, as with all the claims by the Israel-haters, the notion that the “idea of a Jewish state only started with the Balfour Declaration” and that Jews only started migrating to Israel after World War II, is pure fiction.

The Balfour Declaration

Balfour Declaration


  1. Suzan

    “And despite your alternative universe of history, where Jews only started “migrating to Palestine” after WWII (i.e. 1945), history shows both Jews and Arabs began migrating to the area in larger numbers in the 1980s. Once called Judea, during this period it was named Palestine by its colonial occupiers.”

    Did you mean to write 1880’s and not 1980’s?

    Thank you for writing these posts. I will find them very useful when responding to people spouting lies. I’m sharing them on FB so others have the information.

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