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Dolly Rothschild

Oct 30,2017 - Last updated at Oct 30,2017

Today, is the centennial of “Balfour Declaration”, which was contained in a letter sent that day from the then British foreign minister Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild.

Upon its publication, the Zionist movement, led by Chaim Weizmann, was jubilant, considering the declaration as a major stepping stone towards the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

On the other hand, Palestinians and Arabs at large saw it as a “promise by those who do not have to those who are unentitled”.

Until the date the declaration was issued, there were continuous efforts in the UK, as early as 1840, to encourage Jewish migration to Palestine.

In 1890, Theodore Herzl, a Jewish journalist of Swiss nationality, published an article calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the “promised land”.

In 1904, Chaim Weizmann emigrated from Switzerland to the UK as the head of the Zionist Federation and met with Arthur Balfour to convince Britain of the idea.

In the early 20th Century, the International Zionist Movement, headed by Weizmann began coordination with the influential Rothschild family.  James Rothschild met a young lady who was infatuated with him. The 17-year-old girl was called Mathilde Dorothy Pinto; educated at home and speaking both English and French, she also came from an endowed family.

Her father was a French businessman and her mother was the daughter of Levi Cohen, whose father was a rich man in Egypt who acted as a consultant to the Egyptian Khedive.

In mid 19th century, the family moved to France, and then to England. James, who married Dorothy, was the politician among the Rothschilds. His ardent wife helped him in his campaign. She was the one who arranged for his meeting with Weizmann.

When her husband joined the British army and went to Palestine, she managed his political affairs and was one of the people pressing the UK government to issue the Balfour Declaration.

After World War I, she accompanied her husband to the US and Canada to widen support for Israel.

Dorothy, or Dolly as she was called, was instrumental in soliciting the Rothschilds to build Jewish colonies in Palestine. Their funds helped build the Hebrew University, the Israeli Kennecott Building and Israel’s High Court of Justice in Jerusalem. This charity activity picked up momentum after Dolly’s husband’s death in 1957.

She died at the age of 93, in 1988, after winning lots of accolades. A colony is named after her as well.

This “contribution” to the Balfour Declaration and its aftermath is not known to many Arabs.

The attempts of British historians to vindicate the UK’s position are not gaining support. The British turned their back to promises they had made to Sherif Hussain Bin Ali. They also helped create Israel in the best way they could.

Most of the hesitant steps towards the fulfilment of the declaration were instigated by the Jews of Europe who believed that Judaism was a religion and not a national identity. When those were defeated, the Zionist Federation had a field day.  Yet, the declaration did not call for the creation of a Jewish state, nor did it allow the promised homeland in Palestine to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities. Yet, even with that, civil and religious rights of the Palestinians are violated until today.


Although obstinate, Tony Blair finally came forward after a long rejection and admitted his intolerable mistake in Iraq. It is about time that the UK came forward as well to atone for its historical atrocity and admit its guilt in issuing that declaration.

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