November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
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.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
“This letter isn’t an official letter but rather a private one. That is already clearly apparent from the heading ‘My dear Sir!’ Besides, it doesn’t say a word about your having been taken on as a surveyor, rather it refers only in general terms to the lordly services, and even then the phrasing isn’t binding, since you have merely been taken on ‘as you know,’ in other worlds the burden of proving that you’ve been taken on rests with you. Lastly, you’re referred exclusively to me, the chairman, who, as your immediate superior, will provide you with all further particulars, and that has, of course, already been largely taken care of. All this is utterly clear to anyone who is capable of reading official letters and therefore better still at reading unofficial ones; that you, a stranger, cannot make this out doesn’t surprise me. All in all, the letter merely means that Klamm intends to look after you personally, should you be accepted into the lordly services.”
“Chairman,” said K. “you interpret the letter so well that all that’s finally left is a signature on a blank sheet of paper…”
“That is a misunderstanding,” said the chairman, “the significance of the letter hasn’t escaped me nor am I disparaging it with my interpretation, quite the contrary. A private letter from Klamm has far greater significance than would an official letter, but not the significance you give it.”
—The Castle, by Franz Kafka