This talk will engage in a close reading of two texts that revolutionized modern Jewish history. The first, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, catalyzed expectations of imminent Jewish statehood, but in fact it placed the Zionist movement in a state of dependence upon Britain, whose interests often diverged from the Zionist movement. The second, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, claimed that the Zionists had now attained complete sovereignty, but it also demonstrated the new state’s dependence upon the international community for recognition and support. These two texts help us better understand the extent and limits of Israeli sovereignty throughout the state’s history.
Derek Penslar is the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto and the William Lee Frost Professor of Modern Jewish History at Harvard. Derek’s work encompasses the history of the Jews in modern West and Central Europe, North America, and Israel. Derek’s most recent books are The Origins of the State of Israel 1882-1948: A Documentary History and Jews and the Military: A History. He is currently writing two books: Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (for Yale University Press’ “Jewish Lives” series) and Zionism: An Emotional State (for Rutgers University Press’ “Keywords in Jewish Studies” series). Derek is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and is the incoming President of the American Academy for Jewish Research. He is also an honorary fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford.