Bloody Balfour Declaration Debacle

One hundred years ago today, a mischievous political promise gave rise to a mischievous political creed:  The Balfour Declaration of 1917.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use its 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 other countries.”

maxresdefault

This short letter amounted to what historian Monroe called ‘one of the worst mistakes in [British] imperial history’, and what novelist Koestler succinctly described as ‘one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third nation.’  Moreover, the only Jew in the British Cabinet, Edwin Montagu correctly objected on the grounds that the Jews were a culture, not a nation.  He rightly refers to Zionism, with deft political understatement, as ‘a mischievous political creed’, even calling the declaration ‘anti-Semitic’, a deftness ignored by Michael Prior who also rightly calls Zionism ‘pernicious’ and a ‘canonical’ ideology on a par with sacred texts.

Nevertheless, the declaration became a major milestone in Zionist history.  Its minimalist content achieving maximum impact for the Allies as nation states determined where their loyalties would lie.  The partition plans for post-War Middle East would significantly favour British interest whilst affording them the authority to carry it out.  On the aspirations of a return to Zion, two views were distinguished and both were achieved at this juncture:

  1.  The hope of a return and
  2.  Constructing a program to achieve it.

The declaration alarmed the Arab world not only by its wording, but because the political apparatus was now in place to achieve it, and this despite the promise that Palestinian residents, who formed ninety percent of the people on the land, would have their civil and religious rights protected.  By 1918, Arab consensus believed the Zionists aimed to take over the country and place them in subjection.  They perceived that civil and religious rights may be protected, but political rights were blatantly omitted, since the territory formerly belonged to a defeated enemy, the Ottomans.  The Arabs were right to be alarmed, for as Sizer demonstrates, not only was the Declaration itself penned by the Zionist Organization on Balfour’s behalf, the author was the same man in the British government who also drafted its response, a Jew – Leopold Amery.  Additionally, as Assistant Secretary to the British War Cabinet, Amery was responsible for establishing the Jewish Legion, ‘the first organized Jewish army for 2,000 years and forerunner of the Israeli Defence Force.’  Sizer then quotes historian Rubinstein who comments that this was ‘possibly the most remarkable example of identity concealment in 20th Century British political history’ because he misled officials as to his sympathy for the Jews.

20140901_124003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldman points out the ignorance of almost everyone, by highlighting the view that many understood Palestine to be uninhabited, and it should therefore be inhabited by Jews, ‘the descendants of the lands’ ancient biblical inhabitants.’  This grave oversight, fostered by idealised notions of a Jewish return contradicted the reports of many visitors to Palestine, who witnessed first-hand the hundreds of thousands of Arab dwellers.  The phrase ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ was now used to claim that the Arabs of Palestine, despite their massive numbers, had no distinct “Palestinian identity”.  But this is a moot point.  Palestine was not empty, be it demographically or politically, as was attested by two unnamed Rabbi’s from Vienna, who visited Palestine in 1898, and reported, ‘The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.’  These two Rabbis knew only too well that Palestine was not only occupied by its indigenous people, but that this also meant that to deny them their national identity would be the first stage of dehumanization that would allow the Western powers and the Zionist movement to ignore their rights.  It would be colonisation and ethnic cleansing of the most nefarious kind.  And so it turned out to be just that!

 

 

We pray for holy peace and reconcilliation:

IMG_0957 (1)

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s