THE BALFOUR DECLARATION

Written by Vladimir Moss

THE BALFOUR DECLARATION

 

     One of the most unexpected, but most far-reaching consequences of the war was the establishment, by the British, of a National Homeland for the Jews in Palestine.

 

     The Balfour Declaration, so called after the British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, who published it on November 2, 1917, was one of the most portentous documents in world history, whose consequences are still being played out today – and not only in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It ranged one of the great powers of the time – the power, moreover, that was about to conquer Jerusalem in the following month – in alliance with Zionism, thereby laying the foundation for the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948 and tying in the interests of what is now called “the international community” with the interests of Israel. But, as we shall see, its significance was still greater than that.

 

     “Many different individuals,” writes Peter Mansfield, “contributed to the genesis of the Balfour Declaration. The British Gentiles among them were guided by a remarkable mixture of imperial Realpolitik and romantic/historical feelings. It was a Jewish member of the British government, Herbert Samuel, who in January 1915 first proposed to the cabinet the idea of a Jewish Palestine which would be annexed by the British Empire. But it was not until after David Lloyd George took over the conduct of the war at the end of 1916, as the leader of a National Coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, that the Zionist cause made real headway. The prime minister, a close friend of the Gentile Zionist editor of the Manchester Guardian – C.P. Scott – was an easy convert, as were other members of his cabine – Balfour, the foreign secretary; Lord Milner, the former imperial consul in Africa; and a large group of Foreign Office officials and government advisers which included Sir Mark Sykes. Thse were non-Jews who saw huge advantages in a Jewish Palestine as part of the empire. But underpinning their imperial convictions was the romantic appeal of the return of the Jews to Zion, which, founded on Old Testament Christianity, was part of their Victorian upbringing. (Zionism also had this twin attraction for Churchill, who was not in the cabine tin 1917 but would return to it.) The British cabinet had already veered away from the commitment in the Sykes-Pictor agreement to international control for Palestine. ‘Britain could take care of the Holy Places better than anyone else,’ the prime minister told C.P. Scott, and a French Palestine was ‘not to be thought of’.

 

     “It was ironical, but in the circumstances not surprising, that the only Jew in the cabinet, Mr. Edwin Montagu, secretary of state for India, should also be the most outspoken opponent of the Balfour Declaration. Montague was a member of the highly assimilate Angl-Jewish aristocracy, many of whom feared the effect of Jewish nationalism on their own position. Montagu had his counterpart in other countries – Henry Morgenthau Sr., a former US ambassador to Turkey, was a pronounced anti-Zionist, for example. Nevertheless the British cabinet was convinced that world Jewry was overwhelmingly in favour of Zionism and gave credit to Britain for supporting the cause. It believed that this had helped to bring the United States into the war in April 1917 and to maintain its enthusiasm thereafroter. The British may have had an exaggereated view of the wealth and influence on Washington of American Jews at this period, but it was their belief in these that mattered. Moreover, the Germans were aware of the possibilities to be gained by winning Jewish sympathy, especially among the many American Jews of east-European origin who hated the Russian government. Germany was trying to persuade the Turks in lift their objections to Zionist settlement in Palestine, although so far without success. Finally, it was hoped that Britain’s adoption of Zionism would win over the Russian Jewish socialists who were trying to influence the Kerensky government to take Russia out of the war…”[1]

 

*

 

     Let us look at this story in a little more detail…

 

     The most importance Jewish Zionist was the Manchester chemist (and refugee from Tsarist Russia), Chaim Weizmann. Jonathan Schneer describes his path to power as follows: “Conditions created by the war enabled Chaim Weizmann and his colleagues to work wonders. During 1914-17 they gained access to the elite among British Jews and converted some of them to Zionism. They defeated advocates of Jewish assimilation, such as Lucien Wolf of the Conjoint Committee, whose raison d’être, lobbying the Foreign Office on behalf of foreign Jews, especially Russian and Romanian, had been swept away by the war. They gained entrance to British governing circles and converted some of their most important members too.

 

     “During this period Weizmann and those who worked with him acted as inspired opportunists. Finally they could argue convincingly that a community of interest linked Zionist aspirations with those of the Entente. Zionists wanted the Ottomans out of Palestine; Britain and France wanted them out of the Middle East altogether. Zionists wanted a British protectorate in Palestine; Britain did too (although initially Sir Mark Sykes had bargained it away in negotiations with Georges-Picot of France).

 

     “More generally, Weizmann and his colleagues persuaded powerful men in Britain, France and Italy that support of Zionism would benefit their wartime cause and the peace to follow. ‘International Jewry’ was a powerful if subterranean force, they claimed…, whose goodwill would reap dividends for the Allies. Specifically, they suggested that Jewish finance in America and Jewish influence upon anti-war forces in Russia, could help determine the conflict’s outcome. Weizmann warned the Foreign Office that Germany recognized the potential of Jewish power and had begun to court it already. He advised the Allies to trump their enemy by declaring outright support for Zionism. His arguments worked upon the minds of anti- and philo-Semites alike among the British governing elite, who were desperate for any advantage in the wartime struggle. Eventually, to gain Jewish backing in the war, they promised to support establishment of a homeland for Jews in Palestine…”[2]

 

     “The Balfour Declaration,” wrote the Zionist Jew Samuel Landman in 1936, “originated in the War Office, was consummated in the Foreign Office and is being implemented in the Colonial Office”[3]. This sounds as if it were entirely a British governmental idea; and it is true that without the enthusiastic support of certain Gentile Englishmen in the British government, especially Sir Mark Sykes, Under-Secretary at the War Cabinet and co-author of the famous Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Declaration would probably never have come into being. Nevertheless, the real motors behind the coup were two Russian Zionist Jews living in Britain – Chaim Weizmann and Nathan Sokolow. 

 

     They had an uphill task ahead of them. For until well into the war the British government was not interested in Zionism – and had in any case semi-officially promised Palestine to the Arabs (or so the Arabs were led to believe) in exchange for their support against the Ottomans. Also, the leaders of British Jewry, the “Conjoint Committee” led by Lucien Wolf, who initially had the ear of the government, were fiercely opposed to Zionism since it endangered their goal – secure assimilation within western society. Moreover, the Zionists themselves were divided into the politicals under Weizmann and the practicals or culturals under the Romanian Moses Gaster. The political Zionists were looking to create a Zionist state, while the culturals wanted only to strengthen Jewish culture and the Hebrew language in Palestine and throughout the Diaspora.

 

     In April 1915 an important debate took place between the Zionists and the Assimilationists. “[The Russian Zionist] Tschlenow, in a long introductory speech, pointed out that at the peace conference following the war, even small nationalities such as Finns, Lithuanians and Armenians would ‘put forward their demands, their wishes, their aspirations.’ He then asked his anti-Zionist friends: ‘Shall the Jewish “people”, the Jewish “nation”, be silent?’

 

     “Note here that Wolf, in his written account of the meeting, placed the words ‘people’ and ‘nation’ in quotation marks. Those tiny vertical scratches signalled the profound chasm separating the two camps. Wolf believed that asserting that the Jews constituted a distinct nation would fatally undercut his argument that British Jews really were Jewish Britons. It would deny the possibility of a genuine Jewish assimilation in Britain or anywhere else. It contradicted his liberal assumptions. He refused to make the required assertion…

 

     “... On the crucial issue of Jewish nationality, neither side budged. Consultation and discussions would continue, and memoranda would be written from both sides, but the gulf remained unbridgeable. Henceforth their competition for the ear of the government would grow increasingly fierce. And although Wolf began from the better-established and therefore more advantageous position, Weizmann was an absolute master of the political game…”[4]

 

     The triumph of Weizmann and the Zionists was the result of many factors. One, undoubtedly, was the personal charm of Weizmann himself. According to A.N. Wilson, “the importance of personal charm in history is sometimes forgotten. Chaim Weizmann had it in abundance, and this largely explains Arthur Balfour’s 1917 Declaration.”[5] However, no less important was the particular character of Russian, as opposed to Western Jewry – and the peculiar conjunction of political circumstances in 1914-1917.

 

      Russian Jewry, unlike its West European counterparts, lived as a state within a state, a self-created ghetto, enslaved, not so much by the Russian authorities as by its own rabbinic kahal and the multiplicity of rules imposed on them by the Talmud, seeking no contact with Gentiles and despising them. This Jewish isolationism is recognized by Jews and Gentiles alike[6]. As such, the Russian Jews were naturally drawn to Zionism, to emigration to Palestine and the formation of a state within a state there.

 

     However, Zionism would never have succeeded at this time without the endorsement of the British; and the British, as we have seen, endorsed it primarily because they thought that in this way they could buy the financial support of the American Jews, and especially of the leading American Jewish banker, Jacob Schiff, the head of the New York bank of Kuhn, Loeb & Co. Schiff was a Zionist who financed several Zionist projects in Palestine. He also, like most Zionists, had a visceral hatred of Russian tsarism: in 1904 he had given a huge loan of $200 million to the Japanese in their war with Russia, for which the Japanese gave him several awards, and as a result of which they became among the most fervent believers in the idea that the world was ruled by the Jews... In 1916, in response to Russian requests for a war loan, he made it clear that he would satisfy this request only if the Tsar’s government gave the Jews of Russia full equality immediately.[7]

 

     Later, after the fall of the Tsar, Schiff was to finance Lenin and Trotsky… At the beginning of the war, however, it was by no means certain which side he would back. After all, America did not join the side of the Allies (France, Britain and Russia) until April, 1917: before then she had adopted a posture of strict neutrality. Moreover, there was a powerful minority, the German Americans, whose sympathies were naturally with Germany, and another powerful minority, the Irish Americans, whose feelings (especially after the Dublin Uprising of 1916) were decidedly anti-English. Now Schiff was a German Jew. Therefore it was reasonable to expect that not only his anti-Russianism but also his German roots would incline him towards favouring the Germans.

 

     Another important factor here was the policy adopted by the Russian generals during their retreat through Poland in 1915 of evacuating the Jewish population from the front line areas towards the East on the grounds of their unreliability. There were some grounds for the Russian decision. Apart from the well-known hostility of the Jews to all things Russian, which had led to the murder of thousands of Russians in pogroms since 1881, the largest Jewish organization in Russia, the Bund, had signed Trotsky’s Zimmerwald Manifesto in September, 1915 against the war – an action that contrasted with the strongly patriotic support of almost all Jews in other warring countries for the country in which they lived. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the policy was disastrous. First, it inflicted unjust suffering on many innocent Jews (several hundreds of them were shot as spies). Secondly, it clogged up the transport system in Western Russia, thereby hindering the war effort at a critical time. And thirdly, it for the first time involved the transportation of large numbers of discontented Jews beyond the Pale and into Central and Eastern Russia, thereby raising the revolutionary temperature there.

 

     No less seriously, reports of their ally’s actions in evacuating the Jews eastwards hindered the efforts of the French and the English to raise loans in America. As the French Professor Basch reported from there: “The great point of departure is now religious persecution [in Russia] and it is the two million Jews of America, a million and a half of whom are to be found in New York, and a million and a half of whom are Russian and Polish Jews who have escaped pogroms, who lead the campaign against Russia. The organs of anti-Russian propaganda are the Yiddish-language newspapers..; the popular speakers; the rabbis; and finally the great bankers of Wall Street headed by the greatest financial force of all in America, Jacob H. Schiff….”[8]

 

     Even anti-Zionist Jews like Lucien Wolf recognized that the Allies had to do something to elicit the sympathy of the Jews if they were to offset the Russian factor. “’In any bid for Jewish sympathies today,’ he told Lord Robert Cecil [on December 16, 1915], ‘very serious account must be taken of the Zionist movement. In America the Zionist organizations have lately captured Jewish opinion, and very shortly a great American Jewish Congress will be held virtually under Zionist auspices.’ He wished to make it clear that he himself ‘deplored the Jewish National Movement. ‘To my mind the Jews are not a nationality. I doubt whether they have ever been one in the true sense of the term.’ But he did not doubt that this was ‘the moment for the Allies to declare their policy in regard to Palestine’ and to do so in a spirit that was acceptable to Zionist ears. The Zionists probably recognized that the Allies could not ‘make a Jewish State of a land in which only a comparatively small minority of the inhabitants are Jews’. But Britain and France could say to them ‘that they thoroughly understand and sympathise with Jewish aspirations in regard to Palestine, and that when the destiny of the country came to be considered, those aspirations will be taken into account’. He thought too that assurances of ‘reasonable facilities for immigration and colonisation’, for the establishment of a Jewish University, and for the recognition of Hebrew ‘as one of the vernaculars of the land’ could be given. Were all that done, the Allies, Wolf did not doubt, ‘would sweep the whole of American Jewry into enthusiastic alliance to their cause’. It was true that this still left the question of the political disposition of the country itself open. The Zionists, he had reason to believe, would look forward to Great Britain becoming ‘the mistress of Palestine’. No doubt, as he himself recognized, it might be difficult for the British themselves to touch on the subject in view of the well-established French claims to Syria and the equally well-established French view that Palestine itself was part of ‘Syria’. But again, if the assurances about Britain’s sympathy for Zionism and its willingness to guarantee rights of immigration and settlement in Palestine to Jews that he proposed were proclaimed, the purpose immediately in view, namely the attachment of American Jewry to the Allied cause, would be achieved.”[9]

 

     By March, 1916 the Foreign Office was converted to Wolf’s “Palestine idea”. “The Russians and the French were invited to join Britain in considering ‘an arrangement in regard to Palestine completely satisfactory to Jewish aspirations’. The definition of ‘Jewish aspirations’ Wolf had offered to the Foreign Office, was forwarded to the Allied governments for examination as it stood along with the terms on which the Foreign Office itself proposed that an offer to the Jews be made. Wolf’s terms were modest: ‘In the event of Palestine coming within the sphere of Great Britain or France at the close of the war, the Governments of those Powers will not fail to take account of the historic interest that country possesses for the Jewish community. The Jewish population will be secured in the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, equal political rights with the rest of the population, reasonable towns and colonies inhabited by them as may be shown to be necessary.’

 

     “The Foreign Office, however, wished the French and the Russians to know that they themselves favoured a substantially stronger formulation: ‘We consider… that the scheme might be made far more attractive to the majority of Jews if it held out to them the prospect that when in the course of time Jewish colonies in Palestine grow strong enough to cope with the Arab population they may be allowed to take the management of the internal affairs of Palestine (with the exception of Jerusalem and the Holy Places) into their own hands.’

 

     “The Russian response turned out to be friendly. Sazonov, the foreign minister, told the British ambassador (Buchanan) that Russia welcomed the migration of Jews out of Russia to Palestine or anywhere else. Their only proviso was that the (Christian) Holy Places be placed under an international regime. In contrast, the French response was ferociously negative, first and foremost because it seemed to them that the ‘Palestine Idea’ touched impermissibly, even if only obliquely (but perhaps not unintentionally), on their own strategic and colonial ambitions in the area…”[10]

 

     This Anglo-French rivalry over Palestine recalls the similar struggle at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Napoleon set out to conquer Palestine from Egypt and was foiled by Admiral Nelson’s destruction of his fleet at the battle of the Nile. Now it was a British army under General Allenby that would set out from Egypt to conquer Palestine, thereby threatening French colonial designs in the region. For a while, the British put aside the Palestine Idea so as not to endanger relations with France.

 

    At the same time, however, the British were entertaining a quite different idea that was completely incompatible with the Palestine Idea. Since the outbreak of the war, Arab nationalism had been stirring. It was led by King Hussein, Sharif of Mecca, descendant of the prophet and custodian of the Muslim holy places, who, together with his sons Abdullah and Faisal, was proposing a jihad against the Turkish Sultan.

 

     The British High Commissioner for Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, entered into correspondence with Hussein, hoping to use this Arab nationalist movement in the interests of the Allies. He offered the Arabs independence on the lands they liberated – but not in a very clear manner, because he wanted Palestine in particular to be kept out of the independence agreement. Nevertheless, the publication of two British documents in 1964 makes it clear that Palestine was indeed promised to the Arabs.

 

     Alfred Lilienthal writes: “The third note from Sir Henry expressed pleasure in Hussein’s efforts ‘to gain all Arab tribes to our joint cause and prevent them from giving assistance to our enemies. We leave it to your discretion to choose the most suitable opportunity for the initiation of more decisive measures.’ The last word from the British High Commissioner came on February 12, and the Arab revolt broke out in the Hejaz on June 5, 1916.

 

     “Aided by the entrance of Arab forces [assisted by the British officer Lawrence of Arabia] on their side, the British were able to withstand the German effort to take Aden and blockade the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. ‘Had the result done nothing else than frustrate that combined march of Turks and Germans to Southern Arabia in 1916, we should owe it more than we have paid to this day,’ wrote British archaeologist D.G. Hogarth, of the staff of the Arab Bureau.

 

     “The Arabs drew off considerable Turkish forces that had been aimed against British General Murray in his advance on Palestine. The General noted that ‘there were more Turkish troops fighting against the Arabs’ than there were fighting against him. The Arab contribution to the British victory in the area was termed by General Allenby an ‘invaluable aid’. By repudiating their allegiance with Turkey and throwing in their lot with the Allies in exchange for pledges of independence, the Arabs had redressed the balance in the Middle East.

 

     “In the light of the terror inflicted upon the Arabs by their Turkish overlords in a frenzied effort to suppress the revolution, the contribution must have been considerable. As the countryside rose to aid the Arab forces under Faisal, Arab nationalist leaders were taken from their homes in Damascus, brought to public squares, and hanged. Food was withheld from the people in Palestine and Lebanon, and tens of thousands died of starvation. Everywhere Arab patriots paid with their lives. When Hussein called upon all Muslims to join in the revolt, and Ibn Saud took the lead in the Arabian Peninsual, Jamal Pasha, leader of the Turkish forces, was compelled, to use his own words, ‘to send forces against Husseing which should have been defeating the British on the Canal and capturing Cairo.’

 

     “Had the Arabs been aware of secret diplomatic agreements then being negotiated, it is highly unlikely any revolt would have taken place. Secret exchanges between Russia, Britain, and France resulted, on May 16, 1916, in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, named for the negotiators, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Charles François Picot of France. The spoils of the Ottoman Empire were divided among the three countries (Russia’s share being of no concern here as it fell outside the scope of the Arab world). Under the agreement, France was to receive western Syria with the city of Mosul, while the rest of Mesopotamia (Iraq) from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf went to England. In the desert between there was to be a future Arab state, the northern part under French control and the southern under British domination. Although the French had insisted on all of Greater Syria including Palestine, the British, concerned over Suez and the need for a base near this strategic artery, forced agreement on internationalization of most of the Palestine area while reserving Haifa and Acre in the north for themselves. The ultimate future of areas in which spheres of influence had been demarcated was left undecided…”[11]

 

     In December, 1916, the British acquired a new Prime Minister in Lloyd George and a new Foreign Secretary in Lord Balfour, and the Palestine Idea – which, as noted above, was incompatible with Arab interests, and constituted a betrayal of them - was resurrected…

 

     The decisive factor here was the close friendship between Lloyd George and Weizmann. The two men had in common that neither was English, but both had a passionate belief in the civilizing mission of the British Empire. Together, therefore, they were able to overcome the fear of antagonizing the French that had prevailed heretofore in British government circles. Moreover, Lloyd George was already a Zionist sympathizer. As Simon Sebag Montefiore writes, he “cared greatly about the Jews, and had represented the Zionists as a lawyer ten years earlier. ‘I was taught more in school about the history of the Jews, than about my own land,’ he said.”[12] For there was much sympathy for Zionism in British Protestantism. “’Britain was a Biblical nation,’ wrote Weizmann. ‘Those British statesmen of the old school were genuinely religious. They understood as a reality the concept of the Return. It appealed to their tradition and their faith.’ Along with America, ‘Bible-reading and Bible-thinking England,’ noted one of Lloyd George’s aides, ‘was the only country where the desire of the Jews to return to their ancient homeland’ was regarded ‘as a natural aspiration not to be denied’.”[13]

 

     Other Zionists helped to persuade the sceptics: Sokolow in Paris, Supreme Court Justice Brandeis in Washington. They in turn were helped by a changing political situation in 1917. First, with the fall of the Tsar in February, it was now necessary to secure the support of the newly-emancipated Jews inside Russia, many of whom wanted the Provisional Government to conclude a separate peace with Germany. Secondly, the emancipation of the Jews in Russia removed one of the main obstacles to Schiff wholeheartedly supporting the Allies with his money – and also eased the way for the entry, not only of American money, but also, still more importantly, of American troops, into the war on the Allied side.[14] Thirdly, “approval of Zionism accorded neatly… with what was now the accepted western view of the matter of nationalities. By this stage of the war there was no question at all in either of the major Allied capitals that when the time came for a general political settlement it would be necessary, as Balfour put it to the cabinet on one occasion, to set about ‘the rearranging of the map of Europe in closer agreement with what we rather vaguely call “the principle of nationality’.”[15]

 

     The British bargain with the Zionists was indeed instrumental in bringing the Americans into the war on the Allied side. The Germans fully appreciated the value of this bargain to the Allies. As Ludendorff is alleged to have said to Lord Melchett, the Balfour Declaration was the cleverest thing done by the Allies in the way of propaganda, and he wished Germany had thought of it first...[16]

 

     There was still frantic opposition from anti-Zionist British Jews such as Edwin Montagu (who was a minister), Montefiore, Wolf and others. And among the leading English Gentile sceptics was Lord Curzon. Thus “the matter of the true seriousness and popularity of Zionism, the known poverty of Palestine itself (as Curzon stated: ‘A less propitious seat for the future Jewish race could not be imagined’), and the question of the country’s other inhabitants (Curzon asking: What was to happen to them? Were they to be got rid of?) were all brought up as the cabinet moved towards a decision. Balfour, Sykes providing the arguments, assured his colleagues that the Jews would be able to work out their own salvation there and were anxious to do so. And such anxiety as there was about the fate of the existing Arab population was met by the insertion of a clause affirming that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities’. No one suggested that the political rights of the ‘existing non-Jewish communities’ deserved discussion, let alone assurance…”[17]

 

*

 

     The final draft of the Balfour Declaration was secretly approved by the American president on October 19, 1917, and then approved by the British cabinet on November 2. It read: “His Majesty’s Government views 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 any other country.”

 

     Nobody would have guessed from this statement that the Jews constituted no more than 7% of the population of Palestine (60,000 people), while the “non-Jewish communities” comprised 93% (670,000). The precise meaning of “a national home for the Jewish people” was not clear. Balfour and others later denied that it meant a Jewish state – but that is precisely what the Zionists themselves understood by it.

 

     The American acquiescence in it was also in contradiction with the principle of national self-determination that President Wilson championed at Versailles. But in 1919 he sent Dr. Henry C. King and industrialist Charles R. Crane to investigate the situation on the ground. The King and Crane Commission – which Wilson allowed to be published in December, 1922 – declared: “A ‘national home’ is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish state nor can the erection of such a Jewish state be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing ‘non-Jewish communities’.”[18]

 

     “The Declaration,” writes A.N. Wilson, “was designed to detach Russian Jews from Bolshevism but the very night before it was published, Lenin seized power in St. Petersburg. Had Lenin moved a few days earlier, the Balfour Declaration may never have been issued. Ironically, Zionism, propelled by the energy of Russian Jews – from Weizmann in Whitehall to Ben-Gurion in Jerusalem – and Christian sympathy for their plight, was now cut off from Russian Jewry until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991…”[19]

 

     Meanwhile, the British changed their military commander in the region, which had an immediate positive effect. The new commander, General Allenby, swiftly regained the initiative against the Turkish, German and Austrian troops that opposed him and advanced on Jerusalem. Desperate to retain the support of his Arab allies under Prince Faisal, he suppressed news of the Declaration.[20] But he allowed the Jewish legion under Zhabotinsky to force the passage of the Jordan…[21]

 

     The last Turk left Jerusalem on December 7, the first day of the Jewish feast of Hannukah, which celebrated the Maccabean liberation of Jerusalem in the second century BC. On December 11 Allenby, accompanied by Lawrence of Arabia, entered the city (on foot, as a sign of respect). “We thought we were witnessing the triumph of the last Crusade,” said the American Colonist Bertha Spafford. “A Christian nation had conquered Palestine!”[22] Shortly after Allenby’s conquest of Palestine, Weizmann arrived in Jerusalem as head of a Zionist Commission, determined to put the Balfour Declaration into effect. He was surprised, writes Mansfield, “by how ‘non-Jewish’ Jerusalem and Palestine had become”…[23]

 

     On September 19, 1918 Allenby defeated the Turks at the Battle of Megiddo, and on October 1 the British and Feisal’s Arab army had conquered Damascus. By the end of the month the Ottoman Empire had surrendered to the British on a Dreadnought in Mudros on the Aegean island of Lesbos… At the Versailles peace conference in 1919 , Palestine was made a British mandate territory, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement was amended (by the Franco-British Convention of December 1920) so that the Jewish National Home should comprise the whole of Palestine. The British were now the masters in the Holy Land, and were in a position to put the highly ambiguous provisions of the Balfour Declaration into effect…

 

     At first, the British favoured the Jews. As Lord Balfour himself said a year after the end of the war, “The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabas who now inhabit that ancient land.”[24] However, as Jewish immigration increased towards the end of the 1920s, Arab resentment increased. After the secret Sykes-Picot agreement was published by the Bolsheviks, the Arabs felt, not without reason, that they had been betrayed – King Hussein was never reconciled with the British, and a major riot of Palestinian Arabs took place in 1929. And as Jewish immigration rocketed, the British were forced to reconsider their Zionist policies and adopt a more balanced approach…

 

     For each year, writes Dan Cohn-Sherbok, “there were more than 30,000 arrivals, and in 1935 the number grew to 62,000. In response, in April 1936 a major Arab uprising took place. On 7 July 1937 a commission headed by Lord Peel recommended that Jewish immigration be reduced to 12,000 a year, and restrictions were placed on land purchases. In addition a three-way partition was suggested: the coastal strip, Galilee and the Jezreel valley should be formed into a Jewish state, whereas the Judaean hills, the Negev and Ephraim should be the Arab state. The plan was rejected by the Arabs, and another revolt took place in 1937. In the following year, the Pan-Arab Conference in Cairo adopted a policy whereby all Arab communities pledged that they would take action to prevent further Zionist expansion.

 

     “After the failure of the tripartite plan in London in 1939 the British abandoned the policy of partition. In May 1939 a new White Paper was published stating that only 75,000 more Jews could be admitted over five years, and thereafter none except with Arab agreement…”[25]

 

     The White Paper also, as Vital writes, “pointed to the ambiguity in the expression ‘a national home for the Jewish people’ as the fundamental cause of unrest and hostility between Arabs and Jews. Affirming the 1922 interpretation given by Colonial Secretary Churchill that the government ‘at no time contemplated the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine,’ this White Paper declared ‘it was not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state… This would be contrary to their obligations under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the pact that the Arab population of Palestine should not be made the subjects of a Jewish state against their will.’ The goal was described as an independent Palestine within ten years, in which ‘Arabs and Jews could share in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each are safeguarded.’ In such a Palestinian state, it was envisioned that ‘Jews and Arabs would be as Palestinian as English and Scottish in Britain are British…’”[26]

 

*

 

     However, the real significance of the Balfour Declaration was not only political, but also eschatological – and its eschatological, truly apocalyptic significance was revealed in its timing. Divine Providence drew the attention of all those with eyes to see to this sign of the times when, in one column of newsprint in the London Times for November 9, 1917, there appeared two articles, the one announcing the outbreak of revolution in Petrograd, and the other – the promise of a homeland for the Jews in Palestine (the Balfour declaration). This showed that the two events taking placing thousands of miles apart were different aspects - the internationalist-atheist and nationalist-theist aspects respectively, - of a single event, the Jewish revolution.

 

     In fact, both the Bolshevik and the Zionist revolutionaries came from the same region of Western Russia, often from the same families. Thus Weizmann’s own mother was able to witness Chaim’s triumph in Zionist Jerusalem, and that of another son – in Bolshevik Moscow…[27] As M. Heifetz pointed out, “a part of the Jewish generation goes along the path of Herzl and Zhabotinsky. The other part, unable to withstand the temptation, fills up the band of Lenin and Trotsky and Stalin...”[28]

 

     The events of 1917-18 were only the beginning. With the removal of “him who restrains” the coming of the Antichrist, the Orthodox Christian emperor (II Thessalonians 2.7), and with anti-Christian Jewish power established in both East and West, in both Russia and America and Israel, there was now no earthly power in existence that could stop the onslaught of Jewish power throughout the world – unless the Orthodox empire could be restored.

 

     The last times – as perhaps only the Orthodox Christian Russians and the Orthodox Jews understood, albeit from completely opposing viewpoints - had begun…

 

May 10/23, 2016.

 

 



[1] Mansfield, A History of the Middle East, London: Penguin, 2003, pp. 162-163.

[2] Schneer, The Balfour Declaration, London: Bloomsbury, 2011, pp. 365-366.

[3] Landman, Great Britain, The Jews and Palestine, London: The Zionist Association, 1936; quoted in Vicomte Léon De Poncins, State Secrets, Chulmleigh: Britons Publishing Company, 1975, pp. 9, 11-14.

[4] Schneer, op. cit., pp. 147-151.

[5] Wilson, After the Victorians, London: Hutchinson, 2005, p. 510. See Sir Isaiah Berlin’s hero-worshipping essay, “Chaim Weizmann’s Leadership”, in The Power of Ideas, London: Chatto & Windus, 2000, pp. 186-194.

[6] Thus, on the one hand, Sir Isaiah Berlin writes: “They had, unlike their Western brothers, grown to be a kind of State with a State, with their own political, social, religious and human ideals… They were surrounded by Russian peasants, against whom they felt no hatred, but whom they regarded as a species of lower being with whom their contacts were restricted” (“The Origin of Israel”, in The Power of Ideas, p. 14). On the other hand, M.O. Menshikov, wrote: “The real Ghetto of the Jews is Judaism itself, an old creed that congeals its followers in a serfdom heavier than that of ancient Egypt” (Monthly Review (London), February, 1904; in David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe, 1789-1939, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 535).

[7] S.S. Oldenburg, Tsartstvovanie Imperatora Nikolaia II (The Reign of Emperor Nicholas II), Belgrade, 1939, vol. II, pp. 196-197.

[8] Basch, in Vital, op. cit., p. 664.

[9] Vital, op. cit., pp. 665-666.

[10] Vital, op. cit., p. 671.

[11] Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, New York: Dodd, Mead & co., 1987, pp. 16-18.

[12] Montefiore, Jerusalem: The Biography, London: Phoenix, 2011, p. 494.

[13] Montefiore, op. cit., p. 495.

[14] “During the critical days of 1916 and of the impending defection of Russia, Jewry, as a whole, was against the Czarist regime and had hopes that Germany, if victorious, would in certain circumstances given them Palestine. Several attempts to bring America into the War on the side of the Allies by influencing influential Jewish opinion were made and had failed. Mr. James A. Malcolm, who was already aware of German pre-war efforts to secure a foothold in Palestine through the Zionist Jews and of the abortive Anglo-French démarches at Washington and New York; and knew that Mr. Woodrow Wilson, for good and sufficient reasons, always attached the greatest possible importance to the advice of a very prominent Zionist (Mr. Justice Brandeis, of the US Supreme Court); and was in close touch with Mr. Greenberg, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle (London); and knew that several important Zionist Jewish leaders had already gravitated to London from the Continent on the qui vive awaiting events; and appreciated and realized the depth and strength of Jewish national aspirations; spontaneously took the initiative, to convince first of all Sir Mark Sykes, Under-Secretary to the War Cabinet, and afterwards M. Georges Picot, of the French Embassy in London, and M. Goût of the Quai d’Orsay (Eastern Section), that the best and perhaps the only way (which proved so to be) to induce the American President to come into the War was to secure the co-operation of Zionist Jews by promising them Palestine, and thus enlist and mobilize the hitherto unsuspectedly powerful forces of Zionist Jews in America and elsewhere in favour of the Allies on a quid pro quo contract basis.” (Landman, op. cit.) But Sykes and Picot has already apportioned Palestine to the British!

[15] Vital, op. cit., p. 689.

[16] Landman, op. cit.

[17] Vital, op. cit., pp. 696-67.

[18] Lilienthal, op. cit., p. 31.

[19] Montefiore, op. cit., p. 498.

[20] Wilson, op. cit,, p. 141.

[21] “Jewish Legion”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Legion.

[22] Montefiore, op. cit., p. 504.

[23] Mansfield, op. cit., p. 164.

[24] Mansfield, op. cit., pp. 164-165.

[25] Cohn-Sherbok, Atlas of Jewish History, London: Routledge, 1996, p. 188.

[26] Lilienthal, op. cit., p. 33.

[27] Weitzmann, Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weitzmann, New York: Harper, 1949.

[28] Heifetz, “Nashi Obschie Uroki”, 22, 1980, N 14, p. 162; in Solzhenitsyn, Dvesti let vmeste (Two Hundred Years Together), Moscow, 2001, p. 112.

 

 

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