Auction 48
Rare and Important Items

Lot Number 112

First Drafts of the Israeli Declaration of Independence – Written by Lawyer Mordechai Beham

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250,000$$500,000 - $1,000,000$
Lot Number 112

First Drafts of the Israeli Declaration of Independence – Written by Lawyer Mordechai Beham

Drafts of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, written by the lawyer Mordechai Beham, who was requested by Minister of Justice Felix Rosenblüth (Pinchas Rosen) to compose a proclamation pointing out the chain of events leading to the establishment of independent rule and determining that the provisional government has assumed the authority and responsibility for the administration of the state. Tel-Aviv, April 1948. Offered here are five documents: 1. Three pages handwritten by Beham, in English, titled "The Declaration of Independence". In this draft, known as the "Verses Draft", Beham copied sources which he considered appropriate to be used as a basis for the declaration (quotes from the American declaration of independence, a verse from the Book of Deuteronomy, a few words from the English Bill of Rights and comments about the UN Partition Plan). 2. Three pages handwritten by Beham, in English, titled "Declaration of a Jewish State". On the upper left corner Beham wrote in Hebrew "to type". In this draft, known as the "English Draft", Beham copied the quotes from the "verses draft" and adapted them for the Hebrew declaration. 3. Three pages handwritten by Beham, in Hebrew, titled "Declaration of a Jewish State". On the upper left corner Beham wrote "Secret, first proposal, 27.4.1948". This draft, known as the "Hebrew Draft", was written between Saturday night, April 24, and Tuesday morning, April 27, 1948, and it consists of a literal translation of the English draft, as well as a new adaptation, written on the same draft and on an additional piece of paper, with deletions and additions. 4. Two typewritten pages, titled "Declaration of a Jewish State". In this document, known as the official "First Draft" Beham typed the "Hebrew Draft" and submitted it to the Legal Department of the Provisional State Council. Several corrections by hand. 5. A typewritten page, titled "Memorandum regarding the declaration of a Jewish state". This page, known as the "Beham Memorandum", was attached to the "first draft" (document no. 4) when it was submitted to the Legal Department of the Provisional State Council. In this document Beham clarified whatever he considered subject to further explanation as far as the wording of the draft was concerned. Mordechai Beham (1915-1987), an Eretz-Israeli lawyer, was 33 years of age when he composed the declaration. Beham was born in the Ukraine; a few years later, he moved with his parents to Berlin, and at the age of 9 his family immigrated to Eretz Israel. Beham was educated in Secular-Bourgeois institutes, first in the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jerusalem and then in the Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium in Tel-Aviv. As soon as Beham graduated he left for England and studied Law in the London University. Returning to Eretz-Israel he started working for the legal service of the British Mandategovernment, where he worked most of time, until the period mentioned herewith. During these years, his father, Yehudah, managed a very successful law firm in Tel-Aviv, was acquainted with industrialists and public figures, and fulfilled a central role in the Legal Council established by the Yishuv a short time before the establishment of the state of Israel to prepare legislation for the future Jewish State. When the task of writing the Declaration of Independence was assigned to Beham by the Minister of Justice Felix Rosenblüth (Pinchas Rosen), he was sworn to secrecy. On Saturday, April 24, 1948, he revealed his secret during a family lunch. Following his family’s advice, he went to the nearby home of Rabbi Dr. Shalom Zvi (Harry) Davidowitz, an American conservative rabbi, a military chaplain in the American army and a PhD in Humanities. The Verses Draft was written by Beham in English, inspired by the American declaration of independence and it is of a religious orientation (one outstanding expression used by Beham in the draft is “Tsur Israel” – Rock of Israel - which appears in the final version of the declaration as well). Beham later added some historic, political and moral arguments to the draft, and translated it into Hebrew. In the “memorandum” which Beham attached to the first draft, he noted that “the declaration was composed assuming that one should not only rely on the decisions of the UN and the League of Nations, but also on the historic rights of the Jewish people in light of the Law of Nations.[…] The three fathers of the people of Israel [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] are mentioned by name on purpose, since they were promised to keep Eretz Israel as mentioned in the bible. […] The last paragraph of the introduction, just as the declaration itself, is inspired by the American declaration of independence, relating to legal aspects and to the virtues of an independent state”. The significance of the draft written by Beham lies in the way he chose to describe the chain of events leading to the establishment of the state of Israel. Beham was the one to make the initial decision - maintained, patially, in the following drafts - as to how to outline the Zionist narrative, where to establish its beginning and which historic events to mention. Beham did not only present the International political resolutions (the Balfour Declaration, the U.N. partition resolution) as justification for the establishment of the Jewish state, but placed them in historical and ethical context: “and whereas the opinion of mankind as expressed in the Balfour Declaration… recognized the historical connection of the Jewish People and Eretz Israel… and whereas following the extermination of one third of our People at the hands of the enemies of mankind since the outbreak of WW II, the United Nations General Assembly has decided to end the British Mandate and to establish an independent Jewish state in Eretz Israel […] and whereas the Jewish People had never given up the right to reestablish its State in the Holy Land…”. In doing so, Beham created a rich document, connecting various legal, political, moral and historical arguments. The drafts offered here reflect the moral and formative decisions which Beham took as far as the wording of the declaration is concerned, and mainly to the course of events which he outlined, depicting the historic events which led to the establishment of a Jewish state. The drafts were the basis to the official “Declaration of Independence”, declared by David Ben-Gurion three weeks later. Enclosed: two photographs of Beham from 1939; photograph of Beham with some members of the Provisional Government (ca. 1948); two original envelopes, of the law firms “Beham and Beham” and “Beham and Spielmann” in which the drafts were placed (written on one: ‘first proposal [of] the declaration of independence of the Jewish state” and on the other envelope: “first draft of the declaration of independence 27.4.48”). Lot of [9] leaves, size and condition vary, folding marks, stains, marks from paper clips and staples, creases. Tears at the margins of some documents. Literature: 1. “Early Drafts of the Declaration of Independence” (Hebrew), by Prof. Yoram Shachar (TAU Law Review 26-1, November 2002, pp. 523-600). 2. Jefferson Goes East: The American Origins of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, by Prof. Yoram Shachar (Theoretical Inquiries in Law, 10.2, 2009, pp.589-618). Provenance: Estate of Mordechai Beham.

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250,000$$500,000 - $1,000,000$

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