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On November 2, 1917, Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour writes an important letter to Britain’s most illustrious Jewish citizen, Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, expressing the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The letter would eventually become known as the Balfour Declaration.
Britain’s support for the Zionist movement came from its concerns regarding the direction of the First World War. Aside from a genuine belief in the righteousness of Zionism, held by Lloyd George among others, Britain’s leaders hoped that a statement supporting Zionism would help gain Jewish support for the Allies.
On November 2, Balfour sent his letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann, stating that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The influence of the Balfour Declaration on the course of post-war events was immediate: According to the “mandate” system created by the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Britain was entrusted with the administration of Palestine, with the understanding that it would work on behalf of both its Jewish and Arab inhabitants.
A Document Of Evil Intent: The Balfour Declaration Of 1917
- During the First World War, British policy became gradually committed to the idea of establishing a Jewish home in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael). After discussions in the British Cabinet, and consultation with Zionist leaders, the decision was made known in the form of a letter by Arthur James Lord Balfour to Lord Rothschild. The letter represents the first political recognition of Zionist aims by a Great Power.
November 2nd, 1917
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.
How the world wrote Palestine's history
A memorandum prepared by cabinet minister Herbert Samuel in January 1915, two months after the British declared war on the Ottoman Empire. In the memo, Samuel pointed out what he saw as the benefits and strategic interests associated with Britain annexing Palestine. By building a Jewish state there, Samuel argued that England would be able to “fulfil in yet another sphere her historic part of civiliser of the backward countries”.
The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence
In a series of letters exchanged between Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, and Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, the former promised to offer the Arabs independence if they revolted against the Ottoman Empire. The letters were the subject of heated debate after the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement were made public. The Arabs believed that the British violated the terms of the letters, while the British argued that Palestine was never part of the agreement.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret agreement between Great Britain and France, named after its two negotiators, Francois Georges-Picot of France and Sir Mark Sykes of Britain. The agreement divided areas of the Arab world between the two countries, in anticipation of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement put historic Palestine under British and international rule.
The Balfour Declaration was a letter written by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour on behalf of Britain's government, promising the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. The letter was addressed to British Jewish community leader, Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild. The letter affirmed that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”, without any mention of political rights.
Declaration to the Seven
This declaration was made by Britain to seven Arab leaders residing in Egypt. The declaration promised that the “future governments of those territories [under British rule including historical Palestine] should be based upon the principle of consent of the governed”.
The letter was written by David Hogarth, head of Britain's Arab Bureau in Cairo, to Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca. It was written in response to Hussein's inquiry about the Balfour Declaration. It confirmed that in Palestine, “no people shall be subject to another”, and that the leaders of the Zionist project intended friendship and co-operation with the Arabs.
Written a month after the Hogarth message, the Bassett Letter was a formal British letter sent to Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, regarding his inquiry about the Sykes-Picot Agreement. In the letter, Britain denied the agreement, calling it a Turkish invention to cause distrust between the Arabs and the British. The letter also affirmed Britain’s commitment to the liberation of Arabs from Turkish oppression.
The King–Crane Commission
King-Crane was an extensive official report conducted by the US government to determine the sentiments of the people living in Greater Syria and other areas after the demise of the Ottoman Empire. The report concluded that the wishes of the inhabitants of Syria, including Palestine, was to create a united and completely independent Syria and reject the British Mandate. It also showed that the inhabitants did not support the Zionist project, adding that the Zionist project was unjust and could only come about through force and that Zionists’ claim to the land as an ancient right could “hardly be seriously considered”. It recommended an American Mandate and said that a greatly reduced Zionist programme should be attempted with limited Jewish immigration and abandonment of the Jewish commonwealth idea.
San Remo conference
The San Remo conference was a meeting of four main WWI allied powers: Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan. The conference passed mandates for Ottoman Empire areas, including Palestine. It confirmed what had been promised in the Balfour Declaration, without any mention of political rights for the inhabitants of Palestine.
This was a British inquiry into the Jerusalem riots that occurred in April 1920. The report concluded that the crisis was mainly the responsibility of Zionists, noting that the reasons for Arabs’ unrest included their concerns over the “inability to reconcile the Allies' declared policy of self-determination with the Balfour Declaration.”
Churchill White Paper
The Churchill paper was prepared by the British government in response to the Jaffa riots in 1921. The report provided the British government’s interpretation of the Balfour Declaration. It confirmed that Palestine should not be converted into a Jewish national home rather, a home for Jews should be founded “in Palestine”, confirming Palestinians’ right of self-government. The paper also suggested the reduction of Jewish immigration. However, it confirmed that Jewish immigration was a “right” based on their “ancient historic connection” to the land.
The Palestine Mandate
The Palestine Mandate was the official League of Nations document approving the British Mandate for Palestine. The purpose of the mandate was to place the country under advanced political, administrative and economic care of the British, as well as to secure the establishment of the Jewish national home. While the mandate did not specify facilitating a Palestinian state, it stipulated that no Palestinian territory should be “placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power”. It also stated that Jews who decided to permanently reside in Palestine would acquire Palestinian citizenship.
Passfield white paper
The Passfield white paper was written in response to the 1929 riots, affirming that Jewish immigration was disturbing the economy and should be greatly reduced. It reiterated what was mentioned in Churchill’s white paper - that it was not the intention of Britain to impose a Jewish nationality upon Palestinians rather, it was to integrate Jews into the Palestinian community.
The Passfield paper was met by a strong reaction from Zionist organisations demanding a British explanation. Ramsay MacDonald, prime minister at the time, wrote the letter to Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist organisation, explaining Britain’s policy in Palestine. It reaffirmed Britain's commitment to Jewish immigration and land purchase, despite the recommendations made in the Passfield paper.
Peel Commission Report
The Peel Commission was a formal British report investigating the reasons for the disturbances in Palestine in 1936. The report concluded that the Palestine Mandate was no longer effective and must be replaced. This was the first time a partition plan was proposed as a solution, with one part of the land assigned to the Arabs and the other to the Jews.
The White Paper
Following the failure to reach an agreement between Arabs and Zionists in the London Conference of 1939, Britain announced its new policy in Palestine for the following 10 years. Firstly, it stated that the promise in the Balfour Declaration had been fulfilled, with the Jewish population reaching 450,000 in Palestine, and reaffirmed that it was never Britain’s intention to create a Jewish state in Palestine. Secondly, the paper confirmed that the mandate would end in 1948 and be replaced by a Palestinian state governed by both Jews and Arabs. Thirdly, the paper announced that Jewish immigration would be limited in the following five years and stopped afterwards.
Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry Report
The report was prepared jointly by the US and Britain to examine the conditions in Palestine under the British Mandate. The report concluded that Palestine should neither be a Jewish state nor an Arab state, and recommended a new trusteeship with the purpose of creating a self-ruling government in Palestine, with both Arabs and Jews involved. It also asserted that Jewish immigration should be pushed forward, with 100,000 more immigrants admitted into Palestine.
Statement of Information Relating to Acts of Violence
Following the British Operation Agatha, which cracked down on Jewish insurgencies in Palestine, the statement of information was a British white paper investigating the events. The paper concluded that the Jewish insurgencies had links with the Jewish Agency, the formal Palestinian branch of the Zionist Organization.
US Position on Palestine Question to the UN
A statement by Herschel V Johnson, US deputy representative to the UN, outlined the US position with regards to the question of Palestine. It stated that the US was supportive of continued Jewish immigration and a partition plan, with certain amendments. For example, the US believed that Jaffa should be part of the Arab state, since it was an Arab city.
UN General Assembly Resolution 181
UN General Assembly Resolution 181 was the resolution that adopted the partition plan for Palestine. The resolution recommended the withdrawal of Britain and the termination of the mandate, leaving behind two states in the county: Arab and Jewish.
US Position on the Palestine Problem
In March 1948, Warren R Austin, US ambassador to the UN and representative at the Security Council, provided a statement regarding the US position on the Palestine issue. It stated that if Britain withdrew from Palestine in May 1948 as planned, it would leave behind chaos and possible violence. Therefore, the US recommended a temporary trusteeship for Palestine to be established under the Trusteeship Council of the UN to maintain peace and to afford the Jews and Arabs a chance to reach a peaceful agreement.
American trusteeship proposal
US President Harry Truman suggested in an official statement that while the US believed in the partition plan, it was concerned that it would not be implemented peacefully. He proposed an American trusteeship programme until the country was in a position to make a peaceful transition.
Declaration of Israel's independence
A day before the withdrawal of Britain from Palestine, David Ben-Gurion, the executive head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the independence of a Jewish state to be called Israel. The declaration affirmed Israel’s preparedness for the implementation of UN Resolution 181.
Progress Report of the UN Mediator on Palestine
The UN mediator on Palestine prepared a progress report following his mediation efforts after the outbreak of the 1948 war in Palestine. The report discussed the UN-mediated truce agreements in June and July 1948 between the Jews and the Arabs. It also asserted the right of return for displaced Palestinians.
UN General Assembly Resolution 194
UN Resolution 194, adopted in December 1948, established a Conciliation Commission, which was tasked with facilitating peace. The resolution also affirmed Palestinians’ right of return. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis were given an opportunity to vote on the resolution.
UN Security Council Resolution 242
Following the Six-Day War, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, requesting Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the war. The resolution advocated for a just settlement of the refugee problem.
The Palestinian National Charter
First announced in 1964 and later expanded in 1968, the Palestinian National Charter was the covenant of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The charter stated that the boundaries of Palestine were the boundaries it had during the British Mandate. The Charter also considered the establishment of the state of Israel and the partition plan to be entirely illegal, and the Balfour Declaration to be null and void. The Charter was changed after the 1993 Oslo Accord.
UN Security Council Resolution 338
Following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338, encouraging all parties to enter into a cease-fire. It also called for the implementation of Resolution 282, requesting Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Camp David Accords
A peace agreement between Egypt and Israel that was mediated by the US, this deal provided a framework for the establishment of a self-governing authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The agreement was signed without the participation of a Palestinian authority and was rejected by the UN in General Assembly Resolution 33/28.
UN Security Council Resolution 478
Resolution 478 was adopted by the UN Security Council, rejecting Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as the “complete and united” capital of Israel. The resolution considered the claim illegal and a serious violation of international law.
The Oslo Accords represented the first direct Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement. In the accords, Palestinian representatives recognised the state of Israel and its right to exist, and Israel recognised the PLO as the sole legitimate representative body of the Palestinian people, affirming their right to self-government. The accords also included the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Oslo was followed by many peace talks on issues regarding Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements and Jerusalem.
The Arab Peace Initiative was a Saudi-led initiative to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The initiative called for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, reaching a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, and accepting the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. In turn, the Arabs would consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and establish normal relations with Israel.
Palestine attains non-member observer state status
In 2012, the State of Palestine received non-member observer State status in the UN. This was the first official international recognition of the Palestinian state.
Statement from UK Foreign Office
The UK Foreign office issued a statement noting: “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the state of Israel. The declaration was written in a world of competing imperial powers, in the midst of the First World War and in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire. In that context, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution. Much has happened since 1917. We recognise that the declaration should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination. However, the important thing now is to look forward and establish security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through a lasting peace.”
How to read a word cloud
The size of each word represents the number of times it was used in each document. It does not represent the main keywords or ideas. The purpose of the visualisation is to show the change in language over the past 100 years.
Healing the Wounds of History: Looking at the Balfour Declaration with New Eyes
This was our first Anniversary Conference, the 96 th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration – as near as possible to Balfour Day on November 2 nd . There was enormous interest in the event, and bookings had to be closed at 114 The venue itself was welcoming and we are so grateful for all assistance we received from Initiatives of Change. We began with a light buffet supper which offered the possibility of good conversations with the very welcome diversity of participants. These included, (apart from the team and speakers), Palestinian supporters. Palestinian and Israeli students from the Olive Tree Programme at City University, London with their professor, several other academics from several universities representatives from Independent Jewish Voices, the New Israel Fund, other Jewish organisations and at least 2 Rabbis, as well as other clergy and members of the House of Lords – so a good mixture.
Dr Monica Spooner opened the Conference with the story of the emergence of the Balfour Project and its aims. These are to contribute to justice and peace in Israel/Palestine by encouraging Britain to take responsibility for past actions, namely, that, in giving a homeland to the Jews in 1917, we broke our promise to respect the rights of the indigenous people, namely the Palestinians.
The first speaker, Tony Klug, spoke stirringly to the question “Are we trapped by our own narratives?” He began by demonstrating that everyone becomes a player in this seemingly intractable conflict, where what passes for objective analysis masks partisan agenda. He urged empathetic understanding of key protagonists on both sides of the conflict. This demands moving out of our comfort zones and exclusive adherence to one narrative.
Since the core of the issue is that a homeland was given to the Jewish people because of centuries of discrimination, the Palestinians paying the price with being dispossessed of their own land, (the core reasons being anti-Semitism at home and imperialism abroad), he then asked – where does this all lead?
Despite the Algiers Agreement in 1988 as to a 2-State Solution, the Israeli government still seems intent on encroachment on Palestinian land unless something happens, Tony Klug would expect a 3 rd Intifada. Here is the point at which the EU and UK should step in assertively demanding change. Arab States too might show what normal relations with Israel might look like. We should believe that what we imagine could become a reality!
The second speaker, Dr Sahar Huneidi – see website for biography – speaking about ‘Balfour Policy in 1922-23. New insights into old controversies’ pointed out some anomalies about the Declaration from the perspective of 1922.
” When the Balfour Declaration , which promised a ‘national home’ for the Jews in Palestine was issued by the Foreign Office in November 1917, it was not clear what the declaration intended or what the policy contained in it would eventually lead to. Being a mere letter of intent, it was left for the passage of time to show what would come out of the BD.
Her talk focussed not on the Balfour Declaration itself, but on interpretations of it five years after it was issued, when a new Conservative government -opposed to Zionist policy- came to power in 1922 and delved deep into the origins of the Balfour Declaration.
She argued that more than the declaration itself, it was the interpretations of the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office that were destined to influence future developments, as the government’s pro- Zionist policy was shaken from its very foundations.
Three key events that influenced this debate:
1) The discovery in 1922 by the Colonial Office that no written records existed in either Colonial Office or Foreign Office files on the early history of the Balfour Declaration.
2) A memorandum by William Ormsby-Gore on 24 December 1922 reciting from memory what he remembered of the earlier history of the Balfour Declaration.
3) The outcome of the debate following this memo and the final decision about the government’s future policy in Palestine in light of the role played by the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office.
Professor Ilan Pappé in a talk titled “Perfidious Albion” The British Legacy in Palestine – which many participants thought was very inspiring – revealed that British involvement in the Middle East and Palestine specifically can be traced back to the explorations of the 4 th century Empress Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, followed by the 11 th century Crusaders. Then came 17 th century millenarianism with the idea that “the local people are not good enough – we need new people!” All 3 elements – the will, the power and the resources – came together to get Palestine for the Jewish people. And the Balfour Declaration represented this moment as well as a continuation of British imperial policy of replacing indigenous people with others, deemed superior!
But he traced this thinking back further. Shaftesbury’s role in the rise of Christian Zionism is well-known –but not so well-known is his influence over Palmerston, his father-in-law, with whom he dined in 1840, after which Palmerston became an advocate of Jewish Restoration. Various other key moments were highlighted, including in 1903, when historical movements from the past coalesced into a moment to facilitate a Jewish narrative of return. His thrust was that there was already powerful British support for the Jewish return before even the rise of Zionism! Weizmann’s role in facilitating the Balfour Declaration is well known. But Pappé made two more striking points. After the Balfour Declaration several key people actually visited Palestine for the first time, including Mark Sykes: the latter changed his mind completely on seeing the people of Palestine and regretted what he had written.
His final point – which was crucial- was that even in this room – and Britain in general – there was great support for the Palestinians: yet, in general, we have not succeeded with politicians and policy makers in gaining support for Palestine. Not much has changed in this respect since the 19 th century.
These three inspiring speeches were followed by a discussion on the theme of ‘Marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration with acknowledgement, pardon and integrity.’ This was chaired by Sharon Alsoodani, Education Director of One Voice in Britain. The questions were wide-ranging but time did not allow an in-depth follow-up. In the final remarks Mary Grey appealed that the crucial importance of Britain’s part in the continuing suffering and conflict in Palestine-Israel –one of the stresses of Ilan Pappé’s talk, should not go unmarked in the Balfour centenary celebrations.
Introduction Monica Spooner
Dr Tony Klug: ‘Looking to the Balfour Centenary:
Are we Trapped by our own Narratives?’
Dr Tony Klug has been writing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for over forty years. His PhD thesis was on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank between the wars of 1967 and 1973. He has been co-chair of the Council for Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue and vice-chair of theArab-Jewish Forum. For many years, he was a senior official at Amnesty International. Currently he is a special advisor on the Middle East to the Oxford Research Group.
Dr Sahar Huneidi – ‘Balfour Policy in 1922-23. New insights into old controversies’
Professor Ilan Pappé ‘Perfidious Albion? The British Legacy in Palestine’
Professor Ilan Pappé is the Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at
the University of Exeter and a fellow in its Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies. Born in Haifa in 1954, Pappé graduated from the Hebrew University in 1978 and received a D. Phil from the University of Oxford in 1984. He taught in the University of Haifa until 2006 before moving to Exeter. His books include Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1988) A History of Modern Palestine One Land, Two Peoples (2003) The Modern Middle East (third ed. 2013) and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006)
Panel discussion: Healing the wounds of History where now?chaired by Sharon Alsoodani,
‘Marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration with acknowledgement, pardon and integrity’
In A 125-Word, 100-Year-Old Letter, Lawrence of Arabia Saw the Israel-Hamas Wars Coming
Col. T. E. Lawrence fought in the Arabian desert beside men he loved, leading an army of divided Arab tribes across Transjordan — mostly today’s Jordan — to expel the Ottoman Empire. His army of Arabs had two goals: to pull the people of Arabia out from under Ottoman control while soaking up Ottoman troops that might otherwise be sent to the World War I trenches in France to fight with Germany. When he made promises of postwar freedom to the Arabs, he meant it.
Lawrence — known to generations of movie fans as Lawrence of Arabia — was devastated when he found out Britain would not keep the promises he had made in the nation’s name in Palestine. He lobbied British Parliament for the rest of his life on behalf of Palestine but died heartbroken.
Lawrence’s broken promises echo today in the scenes of rockets over Israel this month, as Palestinian Hamas fighters clash with the Israeli army. Though more than a century of grievances and fightings now overlay the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at its heart is the same question Lawrence set to solve — who shall live in Palestine? While Lawrence was telling the Arabian tribes that it would be them, leaders in London thought it should be England, in order to keep major trading lines open to Egypt and the Middle East.
To that end came a one-page document written deep inside the British government in 1917: The Balfour Declaration.
The Balfour Declaration is a 125-word letter sent in November 1917 from British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a leader in the Anglo-Jewish community in London. Written at the height of World War I’s carnage, the letter was circulated through British Parliament and marked the British government’s signal of support for the Jewish community that sought a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration was the first indication that the British government would side against Lawrence and the Arabs at the end of World War I. Britain was guilty of trading its sweet promises of independence for the cold language of the Sykes-Picot Agreement signed in 1916. The document divided the Middle East between Britain and France, ensuring Palestine was part of the British Empire’s newly acquired spoils of war. At the end of World War I, the victorious allies transferred control of Palestine from the losing Ottomans to the winning British.
During the British occupation of Palestine, which lasted through World War II until the establishment of Israel, Jews in the territory celebrated Balfour Day on the letter’s anniversary, while Arabs there came to mark the occasion with violent protests.
The Balfour Declaration has been widely criticized by historians and government officials alike for its role in dividing established communities and backpedaling on British promises to Arabs — an issue Col. Lawrence did his best not to let Parliament forget after the war was over.
It also figured prominently 30 years later in a CIA white paper published in 1947 on the consequences of partitioning Palestine to create a state of Israel. Declassified in 2013, the paper begins:
“Armed hostilities between Jews and Arabs will break out if the UN General Assembly accepts the plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states as recommended by the UN Special Committee on Palestine.
“Inflamed by nationalism and religious fervor, Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Transjordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as Palestine are determined to fight against any force, or combination of forces, which attempts to set up a Jewish state in Palestine.”
A ceasefire was announced last weekend between Israel and Hamas in the conflict that, today, spans generations but whose roots can be traced to 125 words written more than a century ago.
Balfour Declaration letter written - HISTORY
People have really binary interpretations of history. The Brits produced two completely contradictory declarations about the fate of Israel, and rather than treat the subject as complex and buffeted by events, other nations, and the acts of the people involved, there's an urge to instead distill it to one note written decades earlier.
Balfour was important, but the Brits were not Hell-bent on insuring Israel would be a Jewish state. They were going to do whatever they thought was in their best interest and if that was to tell the Jewish residents of the area to fark off they would have happily done so, as is demonstrated by the 1939 White Paper.
It's what enables you to go to first base without having to put the ball in play.
Super Chronic: And the batter was awarded first base.
vygramul: People have really binary interpretations of history. The Brits produced two completely contradictory declarations about the fate of Israel, and rather than treat the subject as complex and buffeted by events, other nations, and the acts of the people involved, there's an urge to instead distill it to one note written decades earlier.
Three. Balfour, Sykes-Picot, and promises to the Hashemites by TE Lawrence. All of which they did without actually controlling Jerusalem at the time. Which was probably key. You can easily sell your neighbor's house to as many people as you want. But they get a little more hard-nosed when the house is in your name.
ZMugg: Handsome B. Wonderful: What's a Balfour? It's what enables you to go to first base without having to put the ball in play.
It's what enables you to go to first base without having to put the ball in play.
If she's got four balls, getting to first base isn't all its cracked up to be.
Super Chronic: And the batter was awarded first base.
Thanks, Submitter! I wasn't aware of this 1917 letter about Palestine. This factoid helps enlighten more of the Israeli history.
Arkanaut: Beware of Brits bearing maps.
And don't stay at the King David Hotel.
Arkanaut: Beware of Brits bearing maps.
Beware of Yanks bearing Spam.
Antiaircraft gun of WWII vintage.
I am Tom Joad's Complete Lack of Surprise: Arkanaut: Beware of Brits bearing maps. And don't stay at the King David Hotel.
And don't stay at the King David Hotel.
Well, ya know, things that go "boom":
". Chaim Weizmann was the British chemist made most famous by the war he was widely credited with saving Britain by producing acetone for making cordite. In his memoirs Lloyd George extolled him as the great scientist of the war, whose justified reward was the Balfour Declaration. "
Who wrote the Balfour Declaration and why: The World War I Connection
(L-R) Chaim Weizmann, future president of Israel, with Louis Brandeis, US Supreme Court Justice, in Palestine, 1919. The two were instrumental in obtaining the Balfour Declaration, a British document that many feel was a critical step in the establishment of Israel. Zionists’ promise that they would get the U.S. to join Britain in “the Great War” was the enticement.
Most analysts consider WWI a pointless conflict that resulted from diplomatic entanglements rather than some travesty of justice or aggression. Yet, it was catastrophic to a generation of Europeans, killing 14 million people.[i]
The United States joined this unnecessary war a few years into the hostilities, costing many American lives, even though the U.S. was not party to the alliances that had drawn other nations into the fray. This even though Americans had been strongly opposed to entering the war and Woodrow Wilson had won the presidency with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”[ii]
President Wilson changed course in 1917 and plunged the U.S. into that tragic European conflict. Approximately 320,000 Americans were killed or injured.[iii] Over 1,200 American citizens who opposed the war were rounded up and imprisoned, some for years.[iv]
A number or reasons were publicly given for Wilson‘s change of heart, including Germany‘s submarine warfare, Germany’s sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania,[v] and a diplomatic debacle known as the Zimmerman Telegram episode.[vi] Historians also add pro-British propaganda and economic reasons to the list of causes, and most suggest that a number of factors were at play.
While Americans today are aware of many of these facts, few know that Zionism appears to have been one of those factors. [Zionism was a political movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine. When this movement began, in the late 1800s, the population of Palestine was 96 percent Muslim and Christian. The large majority of Jews around the world were not Zionists.]
Diverse documentary evidence shows that Zionists pushed for the U.S. to enter the war on Britain’s side as part of a deal to gain British support for their colonization of Palestine.
From the very beginning of their movement, Zionists realized that if they were to succeed in their goal of creating a Jewish state on land that was already inhabited by non-Jews, they needed backing from one of the “great powers.”[vii] They tried the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine at the time, but were turned down (although they were told that Jews could settle throughout other parts of the Ottoman empire and become Turkish citizens).[viii]
They then turned to Britain, which was also initially less than enthusiastic. Famous English Middle East experts such as Gertrude Bell pointed out that Palestine was Arab and that Jerusalem was sacred to all three major monotheistic faiths.[ix]
Future British Foreign Minister Lord George Curzon similarly stated that Palestine was already inhabited by half a million Arabs who would “not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the latter.”[x]
However, once the British were embroiled in World War I, and particularly during 1916, a disastrous year for the Allies in which there were 60,000 British casualties in one day alone,[xi] Zionists were able to play a winning card. While they previously had appealed to religious or idealistic arguments, now Zionist leaders could add a particularly powerful motivator: telling the British government that Zionists in the U.S. would push America to enter the war on the side of the British, if the British promised to support a Jewish home in Palestine afterward.[xii]
British soldiers, Battle of the Somme. British suffered 60,000 casualties in the first day of the battle.
In 1917 British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour issued a letter to Zionist leader Lord Rothschild. Known as the Balfour Declaration, this letter promised that Britain would “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
The letter then qualified this somewhat by stating that it should be “clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The “non-Jewish communities” were 92 percent of Palestine’s population at that time,[xiii] vigorous Zionist immigration efforts having slightly expanded the percentage of Jews living in Palestine by then.
The letter, while officially signed by British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour, had been in process for two years and had gone through a number of edits by British and American Zionists and British officials.[xiv] As Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow later wrote, “[e]very idea born in London was tested by the Zionist Organization in America, and every suggestion in America received the most careful attention in London.”[xv]
Sokolow wrote that British Zionists were helped, “above all, by American Zionists. Between London, New York, and Washington there was constant communication, either by telegraph, or by personal visit, and as a result there was perfect unity among the Zionists of both hemispheres.” Sokolow particularly praised “the beneficent personal influence of the Honourable Louis D. Brandeis, Judge of the Supreme Court.”[xvi]
The final version of the Declaration was actually written by Leopold Amery, a British official who, it came out later, was a secret and fervent Zionist.[xvii]
Horace Kallen, founder of the Parushim, taught at Princeton, University of Wisconsin, and the New School
It appears that the idea for such a declaration had been originally promoted by Parushim founder Horace Kallen. [The Parushim was a secret Zionist society described by professor Sarah Schmidt and U.S. author Peter Grose for more information and citations see Weir’s book.]
Author Peter Grose reports, “The idea had come to [the British] from an unlikely source. In November 1915, long before the United States was involved in the war, the fertile brain of Horace Kallen… had come up with the idea of an Allied statement supporting in whatever veiled way was deemed necessary, Jewish national rights in Palestine.”
Grose writes that Kallen suggested the idea to a well-connected British friend who would pass the idea along. According to Kallen, such a statement “would give a natural outlet for the spontaneous pro-English, French, and Italian sympathies of the Jewish masses.” Kallen told his friend that this would help break down America’s neutrality, which Kallen knew was the aim of British diplomacy, desperate to bring the U.S. into the war on its side.
Grose writes: “Kallen‘s idea lit a spark of interest in Whitehall.”[xviii]
While the “Balfour Declaration” was a less than ringing endorsement of Zionism, Zionists considered it a major breakthrough, because it cracked open a door that they would later force wider and wider open. In fact, many credit this as a key factor in the creation of Israel.[xix]
These Balfour-WWI negotiations are referred to in various documents.
Samuel Landman, secretary of the World Zionist Organization, described them in detail in a 1936 article in World Jewry. He explained that a secret “gentleman’s agreement” had been made in 1916 between the British government and Zionist leaders:
After an understanding had been arrived at between Sir Mark Sykes and [Zionists] Weizmann and Sokolow, it was resolved to send a secret message to Justice Brandeis that the British Cabinet would help the Jews to gain Palestine in return for active Jewish sympathy and for support in the USA for the Allied cause, so as to bring about a radical pro-Ally tendency in the United States.[xx]
Landman wrote that once the British had agreed to help the Zionists, this information was communicated to the press, which he reported rapidly began to favor the U.S. joining the war on the side of Britain.[xxi]
Landman claimed that Zionists had fulfilled their side of the contract and that it was “Jewish help that brought U.S.A. into the war on the side of the Allies,” thus causing the defeat of Germany.[xxii] He went on to state that this had “rankled” in Germany ever since and “contributed in no small measure to the prominence which anti-Semitism occupies in the Nazi programme.”
British Colonial Secretary Lord Cavendish also wrote about this agreement and its result in a 1923 memorandum to the British Cabinet, stating:
British Prime Minister Lloyd George with Leopold Amery, Jan. 1, 1918. (Amery was a secret and fervent Zionist.)
“The object [of the Balfour Declaration] was to enlist the sympathies on the Allied side of influential Jews and Jewish organizations all over the world… [and] it is arguable that the negotiations with the Zionists…did in fact have considerable effect in advancing the date at which the United States government intervened in the war.”[xxiii]
Former British Prime Minister Lloyd George similarly referred to the deal, telling a British commission in 1935:
“Zionist leaders gave us a definite promise that, if the Allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause. They kept their word.”[xxiv]
Brandeis University professor and author Frank E. Manuel reported that Lloyd George had testified in 1937 “that stimulating the war effort of American Jews was one of the major motives which, during a harrowing period in the European war, actuated members of the cabinet in finally casting their votes for the Declaration.”[xxv]
American career Foreign Service Officer Evan M. Wilson, who had served as Minister-Consul General in Jerusalem, also described this arrangement in his book Decision on Palestine. He wrote that the Balfour declaration “…was given to the Jews largely for the purpose of enlisting Jewish support in the war and of forestalling a similar promise by the Central Powers [Britain’s enemies in World War I]”.[xxvi]
The official biographer of Lloyd George, author Malcolm Thomson, stated that the “determining factor” in the decision to issue the Balfour Declaration was the “scheme for engaging by some such concession the support of American Zionists for the allied cause in the first world war.”[xxvii]
Similarly, Zionist historian Naomi Cohen calls the Balfour Declaration a “wartime measure,” and writes: “Its immediate object was to capture Jewish sympathy, especially in the United States, for the Allies and to shore up England’s strategic interests in the Near East.” The Declaration was pushed, she writes, “by leading Zionists in England and by Brandeis, who intervened with President Wilson.”[xxviii]
Future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion speaking at 19th Zionist Congress, Lucerne, Switzerland, 1935. Ben-Gurion wrote: “American Jewry had a considerable part, knowingly or not, in the achievement of the Balfour Declaration.”
Finally, David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, wrote in 1939:
“To a certain extent America had played a decisive role in the First World War, and American Jewry had a considerable part, knowingly or not, in the achievement of the Balfour Declaration.”[xxix]
[Most Jews in the U.S and elsewhere, including in Palestine itself, were not Zionists, and some strenuously opposed Zionism. See the book for more information on this.]
The influence of Brandeis and other Zionists in the U.S. had enabled Zionists to form an alliance with Britain, one of the world’s great powers, a remarkable achievement for a non-state group and a measure of Zionists’ by-then immense power. As historian Kolsky states, the Zionist movement was now “an important force in international politics.”[xxx]
[Future Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Abba Eban later wrote that the Balfour Declaration stood alone as “the decisive diplomatic victory of the Jewish people in modern history.”]
American Zionists may also have played a role in preventing an early peace with the Ottoman Empire.[xxxi]
In May 1917 American Secretary of State Robert Lansing received a report that the Ottomans were extremely weary of the war and that it might be possible to induce them to break with Germany and make a separate peace with Britain.[xxxii]
Such a peace would have helped in Britain’s effort to win the war (victory was still far from ensured), but it would have prevented Britain from acquiring Palestine and enabling a Jewish state.[xxxiii]
Future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter worked to prevent an early peace to the war. Frankfurter often worked secretly with Brandeis, who had procured a professorship for Frankfurter at Harvard (see book for details.)
The State Department considered a separate Ottoman peace a long shot, but decided to send an emissary to pursue the possibility. Felix Frankfurter became part of the delegation and ultimately persuaded the delegation’s leader, former Ambassador Henry J. Morgenthau, to abandon the effort.[xxxiv]
US State Department officials considered that Zionists had worked to scuttle this potentially peace-making mission and were unhappy about it.[xxxv] Zionists often construed such displeasure at their actions as evidence of American diplomats’ “anti-Semitism.”
The footnotes below contain further information:
A number of links provided in the book’s citations now seem to be broken, so we have added archived versions where possible.
[iii] Over 116,000 Americans died and about 204,000 were injured.
[iv] Wilson‘s Espionage and Sedition Acts resulted in the jailing 1,200 American citizens.
“Walter C. Matthey of Iowa was sentenced to a year in jail for applauding an anticonscription speech. Walter Heynacher of South Dakota was sentenced to five years in Leavenworth for telling a younger man that ‘it was foolishness to send our boys over there to get killed by the thousands, all for the sake of Wall Street.’…Abraham Sugarman of Sibley County, Minnesota, was sentenced to three years in Leavenworth for arguing that the draft was unconstitutional and remarking, ‘This is supposed to be a free country. Like Hell it is.’”
Bill Kauffman, Ain’t My America: the Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-imperialism (New York: Metropolitan, 2008), 74.
One of the songs that helped recruit Americans to fight in the war, “Over There,” was written by George M. Cohan, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for it in 1940, when America was about to join another world war.
[v] The fact that the Lusitania was carrying munitions, a charge made by Germany at the time and since corroborated by divers going to the wreck, was largely suppressed for many years.
Few people are aware that the Lusitania was being used by the British as a high-speed munitions carrier. On her final voyage she was carrying even more contraband than usual, including eighteen cases of fuses for various caliber artillery shells and a large consignment of gun-cotton, an explosive used in the manufacture of propellant charges for big-gun shells. (“Deadly Cargo” http://www.lusitania.net/deadlycargo.htm)
Germany had warned Americans not to ride on the Lusitania. The Library of Congress reports: “The German Embassy published a warning in some newspapers to tell passengers that travel on Allied ships is “at their own risk.” The Lusitania is mentioned specifically in some of the discussion about the warning in the week leading up to its departure.” (“Topics in Chronicling America – Sinking of the Lusitania.” Sinking of the Lusitania. Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/lusitania.html.
For a discussion of events leading up to the U.S. entry into the war see Windchy, Eugene G. “Chapter 12 World War I (1917 to 1918).” Twelve American Wars: Nine of Them Avoidable. Bloomington, IN: IUniverse, 2014 According to Wilson’s top advisor, even after the Lusitania sinking, 90 percent of Americans were opposed to entering the war.
[vi] Some intriguing articles speculate that Zionists might have played a role in making the Zimmerman note public. While the article is speculative, the editors called it “…an original and very plausible explanation of a major event in world history for which no previous rationale has ever seemed satisfactory.”
[viii] John W. Mulhall, CSP, America and the Founding of Israel: an Investigation of the Morality of America’s Role (Los Angeles: Deshon, 1995), 50.
Hala Fattah, “Sultan Abdul-Hamid and the Zionist Colonization of Palestine: A Case Study,” accessed January 1, 2014,
[ix] Paul Rich, ed., Iraq and Gertrude Bell‘s The Arab of Mesopotamia (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2008), 150.
This was a sadly deft prognosis. Writing of Jerusalem in the early 1960s, the American Consul General in Jerusalem found: “I think I can safely make the general comment that in present-day Israel… the Arabs are very much of ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’” for the dominant Israelis.
Evan M. Wilson, Jerusalem, Key to Peace (Washington: Middle East Institute, 1970), 33.
A number of other British officials also opposed Zionism. Charles Glass writes: “The only Jewish member of the British cabinet, Edwin Samuel Montagu, the secretary of state for India, argued against issuing the Declaration. Montagu called Zionism “a mischievous political creed” and wrote that, in favouring it, “the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-semitic.” David Alexander, president of the Board of British Jews, Claude Montefiore, president of the Anglo-Jewish Association, and most Orthodox rabbis also opposed the Zionist enterprise. They insisted that they had as much right as any Christian to live and prosper in Britain, and they did not want Weizmann, however Anglophile his tastes, telling them to settle in the Judean desert or to till the orange groves of Jaffa. The other opponents of a British protectorate for the Zionists in Palestine were George Nathaniel Curzon, leader of the Lords and a member of the war cabinet, and the senior British military commanders in the Middle East, Lieutenant-General Sir Walter Congreve and General Gilbert Clayton. The generals contended that it was unnecessary to use Palestine as a route to Iraq’s oil and thought that the establishment of the protectorate would waste imperial resources better deployed elsewhere.”
[xi] The BBC history of the Battle of the Somme reports that on the first day alone Britain sustained 60,000 casualties, of whom 20,000 were already dead by the end of the day 60 percent of all officers involved had been killed. The battle went on for four and a half months.
[xii] A number of authors refer to this see the following citations.
One was William Yale in The Near East: A Modern History (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1968), 266-270.
Yale, a descendant of the founder of Yale University, was an authority on the Middle East who had worked for the State Department in a number of roles in the Middle East, including as a member of the King Crane Commission, and worked for many years as a professor of history.
“Guide to the William Yale Papers, 1916-1972,” University of New Hampshire Library, accessed on January 1, 2014, http://www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/william-yale.
Yale writes: “…the Zionists in England set about winning British support for Zionism. This the English Zionists successfully did by the end of 1916. It was an amazing achievement which required great skill, unfaltering energy, and determination. The methods by which the conquest of the British government was made were diverse and of necessity in some cases devious.”
He writes, “The Zionists in England well understood that British leaders would have to be approached on the basis of their interests and ideas,” and notes, “The means used were adapted admirably to the personal outlook and characteristics of the men to be influenced.”
Some were “persuaded that Zionism was a fulfillment of Old and New Testament prophesies.” Zionists also appealed to “the idealisms of many [British],” convincing them that this was a solution to anti-Semitism and could be an “atonement by Christian Europe for its long persecution of the Jews.”
Some top officials had to be persuaded “that Zionism was a noble and righteous cause of significance to the welfare of the world as well as to that of the Jewish people.”
Others were to be convinced that “by backing Zionism world-wide enthusiastic Jewish support for the allied cause could be assured.” Yale notes that in 1916 “the Allied cause was far from bright” and quotes a Zionist leader’s statements that Zionists worked to persuade British officials that “the best and perhaps the only way (which proved to be so) to induce the American President to come into the war was to secure the cooperation of Zionist Jews by promising them Palestine, and thus enlist and mobilise the hitherto unsuspectedly powerful forces of Zionist Jews in America and elsewhere in favor of the Allies on a quid pro quo contract basis. Thus, as will be seen, the Zionists, having carried out their part, and greatly helped to bring America in, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was but the public confirmation of the necessarily secret ‘gentlemen’s’ agreement of 1916…”
Yale states that once “inner circles of the British government had been captured by the Zionists,” they turned their efforts to obtain French, Italian, and American acquiescence to the Zionist program.
In 1903, Zionists retained future Prime Minister Lloyd George‘s law firm.
For a detailed discussion of the Lusitania incident and other aspects of the U.S. entry into WWI see John Cornelius, “The Hidden History of the Balfour Declaration,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2005, 44-50. Print. Online at http://www.wrmea.com/component/content/article/278-2005-november/8356-special-report-the-hidden-history-of-the-balfour-declaration.html.
[xiii] McCarthy, Population of Palestine, 26.
[xiv] J.M.N. Jeffries, Palestine: The Reality, reprint ed (London: Longman, Greens, and Co, 1939), 172.
“Drafts for it travelled back and forth, within England or over the Ocean, to be scrutinized by some two score draftsmen half-cooperating, half competing with one another…”
Jeffries also reports that American Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen Wise wrote, “The Balfour Declaration was in process of making for nearly two years.”
[xv] Jeffries, Palestine: The Reality, 172. (Jeffries quotes Nahum Sokolow‘s History of Zionism)
[xvi] Nahum Sokolow, History of Zionism (1600-1918) with an Introduction by the Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M.P., vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1919), 79-80. Online at https://archive.org/details/historyofzionism02sokouoft.
Some of those involved in drafting the text were Brandeis, Frankfurter, and Wise. See:
“Along with Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, [Rabbi Stephen] Wise helped write the Balfour Declaration of 1917.” – Boxerman, Burton A. The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. By Anne Cipriano Venzon. New York: Routledge, 2012. 800:
Rabbi Stephen “Wise acted as an important intermediary to President Woodrow Wilson and Colonel Edward House from 1916-1919, when, with Louis D. Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, he helped formulate the text of the Balfour Declaration of 1917.” – A Finding Aid to the Stephen S. Wise Collection. 1893-1969. Manuscript Collection No. 49. AmericanJewishArchives.org. The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, http://americanjewisharchives.org/collections/ms0049/:
William D. Rubinstein, “The Secret of Leopold Amery,” History Today 49 (February 1999). Online at http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/amery.html
According to his publisher, Macmillan, “William D. Rubinstein is Professor of Modern History at the University of Aberystwyth, UK and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has published widely on modern British history and on modern Jewish history, and was President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 2002-2004. His works include A History of the Jews in the English-Speaking World: Great Britain (Palgrave Macmillan 1996), The Myth of Rescue (1997), and Israel, the Jews and the West: The Fall and Rise of Antisemitism (2008).”
Amery, who had kept his Jewish roots secret, worked for Zionism in a number of ways. As a pro-Israel writer Daphne Anson reports:
“As assistant military secretary to the Secretary of State for War, Amery played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Jewish Legion, consisting of three battalions of Jewish soldiers who served, under Britain’s aegis, in Palestine during the First World War and were the forerunners of the IDF. ‘I seem to have had my finger in the pie, not only of the Balfour Declaration, but of the genesis of the present Israeli Army’, he notes proudly.
“As Dominions Secretary (1925-29) he had responsibility for the Palestine Mandate, robustly supporting the growth and development of the Yishuv – Weizman recalled Amery‘s ‘unstinting encouragement and support’ and that Amery ‘realized the importance of a Jewish Palestine in the British imperial scheme of things more than anyone else. He also had much insight into the intrinsic fineness of the Zionist movement’. In 1937, shortly after testifying before the Peel Commission on the future of Palestine, Amery helped to organise a dinner in tribute to the wartime Jewish Legion at which his friend Jabotinsky was guest of honour. Amery became an increasingly vociferous critic of the British government’s dilution of its commitments to the Jews of Palestine in order to appease the Arabs, and fulminated in the Commons against the notorious White Paper of 1939, which set at 75,000 the maximum number of Jews to be admitted to Palestine over the ensuing five years. ‘I have rarely risen with a greater sense of indignation and shame or made a speech which I am more content to look back upon’, he remembered. And he became an arch-critic of Chamberlain and Appeasement.”
Daphne Anson, “The Mosque-Founder’s Nephew who drafted the Balfour Declaration – Leopold Amery, the ‘Secret Jew,’” Daphne Anson blog, November 1, 2010, http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2010/10/mosque-founders-nephew-who-drafted.html.
[xviii] Grose, “Brandeis, Balfour, and a Declaration,” 39.
Historian Ronald Sanders also discusses Kallen‘s role, writing, “…in the first half of December 1915, the Foreign Office received a memorandum that had been passed along a chain of contacts by its author Horace Kallen, a prominent American Zionist and a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin.” In it Kallen had written, according to Sanders, “…I am convinced that a statement on behalf of the Allies favoring Jewish rights in very country… and a very veiled suggestion concerning nationalization in Palestine would more than counterbalance German promises in the same direction…”
Sanders writes that a week later Lucien Wolf, a prominent British journalist and Jewish leader, also sent a letter to the Foreign Office promoting the idea of working to propagandize American Jews so that they would work to bring the U.S. into the war on the side of Britain. In his communication Wolf claimed: “That such a propaganda would be very useful is evidenced by the fact that in the United States the Jews number over 2,000,000 and their influence–political, commercial and social–is very considerable.”
Wolf emphasized that he himself was not a Zionist, but recommended that working through the American Zionist movement would be the best way to achieve this purpose: “…in any bid for Jewish sympathies today, very serious account must be taken of the Zionist movement.”
He wrote, “The Allies, of course, cannot promise to make a Jewish State of a land in which only a comparatively small minority of the inhabitants are Jews, but there is a great deal they can say which would conciliate Zionist opinion.” He suggested that British statements of sympathy “with Jewish aspirations in regard to Palestine” could be decisive, concluding, “I am confident they would sweep the whole of American Jewry into enthusiastic allegiance to their cause.”
Sanders points out that Wolf‘s statement, “coming as it did from the spokesman of the foreign policy organ of the Anglo-Jewish establishment,” seemed to the Foreign Office “as official a statement of the Jewish view of the matter as they had ever received.”
Sanders, a Jewish-American author who has written several books about both Israel and Jewish Americans, writes that while the general British belief about the power of Jews in America “was greatly exaggerated, it certainly was not groundless.” According to Sanders, in 1915 the American Jewish community was becoming one of the most “financially gifted subgroups” in the American population and notes, “Some of the country’s greatest newspapers were owned by Jews.” He also describes the importance of Brandeis, “who was to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court in January 1916, just as the Foreign Office was pondering these very questions…”
Ronald Sanders, The High Walls of Jerusalem: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of the British Mandate for Palestine (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984), 323-330.
Another person is reported to have also promoted the plan that Britain should work with American Zionists, Brandeis in particular, as a way to bring America into the war on England’s side. James Malcolm, an Armenian-Persian who was close to the British government, wrote about his role in this beginning in autumn of 1916 in a booklet published in 1944 by the British Museum, Origins of the Balfour Declaration, Dr. Weizmann‘s Contribution. Online at http://www.mailstar.net/malcolm.html.
Malcolm‘s role and others’ were discussed in a July 1949 exchange of letters to the editor in The Times of London. One of these is online at http://www.ifamericansknew.org/download/thomson-jul49.pdf.
More information on this topic is available in “The Zionism of James A. Malcolm, Armenian Patriot,” by Martin H. Halabian, a thesis submitted for a Master’s degree from the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University in May 1962.
See also footnote 78 below.
[xix] For example, Grose writes, “The promise of a Jewish national home in Palestine opened the way for the partition of Palestine, and, thereby, for Israel’s statehood.” (Grose, “Brandeis, Balfour, and a Declaration,” 39)
[xx] John and Hadawi, Palestine Diary, 72. Citation: World Jewry, March 1, 1935.
[xxi] Samuel Landman, “Great Britain, the Jews and Palestine,” New Zionist (London), 1936. Online at http://desip.igc.org/1939sLandman.htm.
“Mr. James A. Malcolm, who….. 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 U.S. 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 realised 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 Monsieur Georges Picot, of the French Embassy in London, and Monsieur 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 mobilise the hitherto unsuspectedly powerful forces of Zionist Jews in America and elsewhere in favour of the Allies on a quid pro quo contract basis. Thus, as will be seen, the Zionists, having carried out their part, and greatly helped to bring America in, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was but the public confirmation of the necessarily secret ‘gentleman’s’ agreement of 1916…”
“The Balfour Declaration, in the words of Professor H. M. V. Temperley, was ‘a definite contract between the British Government and Jewry.’ The main consideration given by the Jewish people (represented at the time by the leaders of the Zionist Organisation) was their help in bringing President Wilson to the aid of the Allies.”
“…many wealthy and prominent international or semi-assimilated Jews in Europe and America were openly or tacitly opposed to it (Zionist movement)…”
“In Germany, the value of the bargain to the Allies, apparently, was duly and carefully noted.”
“The fact that it was Jewish help that brought U.S.A. into the War on the side of the Allies has rankled ever since in German – especially Nazi – minds, and has contributed in no small measure to the prominence which anti-Semitism occupies in the Nazi programme.”
[xxii] Landman, “Great Britain, the Jews and Palestine.”
[xxiii] Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood (Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2001), 11-12.
Lloyd George had been retained as an attorney by Zionists in 1903. While not yet a government leader, he was already a Member of Parliament.
[xxv] Frank E. Manuel, “Judge Brandeis and the Framing of the Balfour Declaration” in From Haven to Conquest, by Walid Khalidi (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1987), 165-172.
He also writes that, according to de Haas, “American Zionists were responsible for a final revision in the text of the declaration.” (Manuel, “Judge Brandeis,” 71)
[xxvi] Evan M. Wilson, Decision on Palestine: How the U.S. Came to Recognize Israel (Stanford: Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1979), xv.
Moshe Menuhin, scion of a distinguished Jewish family that moved to Palestine during the early days of Zionism (and father of the renowned musicians), also writes about this aspect. In addition, he states that the oft-repeated claim that the British rewarded Weizman for his “discovery of TNT” was false, quoting Weizmann‘s autobiography Trial and Error:
“For some unfathomable reason they always billed me as the inventor of TNT. It was in vain that I systematically and repeatedly denied any connection with, or interest in, TNT. No discouragement could put them off.”
Moshe Menuhin, The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1969), 73-74.
[xxvii] Malcolm Thomson, “The Balfour Declaration: to the editor of the Times,” The Times (London), November 2, 1949, 5. Online at http://www.ifamericansknew.org/images/thomson-nov49.png.
He also wrote about this in a July 22, 1949 letter to the editor in The Times see earlier footnote.
[xxviii] Cohen, Americanization of Zionism, 37.
[xxix] Ben-Gurion, “We Look Towards America,” Jewish Observer and Middle East Review (January 31, 1964), 14-16. Excerpted in Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest, 482.
Ben Gurion is widely lauded as Israel’s main founder. While there is no doubt that he was an extremely zealous and committed promoter of Zionism, Ben Gurion was also, according to historian Norman Kantor, “a bit of a crook.” Kantor writes that Ben Gurion “dipped into Histadrut funds for his own personal use, including trysts with his mistress in sundry European spas.” –Sacred Chain, p. 368
[xxx] Kolsky, Jews against Zionism, 12.
[xxxi] This section is taken largely from the following sources:
Henry Morgenthau and Peter Balakian, Ambassador Morgenthau‘s Story (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2003), 370.
Grose, “Brandeis, Balfour, and a Declaration,” 37.
Jehuda Reinharz, “His Majesty’s Zionist Emissary: Chaim Weizmann‘s Mission to Gibraltar in 1917,” Journal of Contemporary History 27, no. 2 (1992): 259-277. Online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/260910.
The U.S. never declared war on the Ottoman Empire and was working as a mediator in this venture.
[xxxii] Grose, “Brandeis, Balfour, and a Declaration,” 37.
[xxxiii] Reinharz, “His Majesty’s Zionist Emissary,” 263.
[xxxiv] Morgenthau was not a Zionist, but he agreed to accept Frankfurter, then a 35-year-old Harvard law professor, as his traveling companion. (Historians speculate that Brandeis suggested Frankfurter.) Frankfurter then chose the rest of the entourage, almost all of whom were ardent Zionists. The British dispatched Zionist Chaim Weizmann (who was alerted to the mission by Brandeis and others) to meet with the Morgenthau mission in Gibraltar. Frankfurter and Weizmann persuaded Morgenthau not to move forward with the initiative.
Reinharz writes: “It is possible that Brandeis, unable to oppose the scheme himself, insisted on Weizmann as the most likely person able to derail the Morgenthau mission.” (Reinharz, “His Majesty’s Zionist Emissary,” 267)
Reinharz also states: “Obviously Felix Frankfurter also reported to Louis Brandeis that it was due to Weizmann that Morgenthau‘s mission had failed. On 8 October 1917, Brandeis cabled to Weizmann: ‘It was a great satisfaction to hear yesterday from Professor Frankfurter fully concerning your conference [at Gibraltar] and to have this further evidence of your admirable management of our affairs.’” (Reinharz, “His Majesty’s Zionist Emissary,” 273)
Charles Glass writes: “Wilson sent Morgenthau to Switzerland to meet Turkish representatives. But American Zionists opposed this move, as Thomas Bryson explained in American Diplomatic Relations with the Middle East 1784-1975 (1977). It seems that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis knew the purpose of the Morgenthau mission and told Weizmann, who promptly alerted Balfour. According to Bryson, ‘the two agreed that the Morgenthau mission should be scotched, for an anticipated British offensive against the Turks in Palestine would do far more to assure the future of a Jewish national home. Brandeis arranged for Felix Frankfurter‘ – his clerk and later a Supreme Court justice – ‘to accompany Morgenthau to ascertain that the latter would not make an agreement compromising the Zionist goal. Acting through Balfour, the Zionists arranged for Morgenthau and Frankfurter to meet Dr Weizmann at Gibraltar, where he deterred Morgenthau from his task.’”
[xxxv] Grose, “Brandeis, Balfour, and a Declaration,” 37.
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Balfour Declaration letter written - HISTORY
In 1917, under pressure from the Jewish community, the British govern-ment issued the "Balfour Declaration". This document pledged British assistance in the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.
The outbreak of World War I divided the Zionist movement. Its headquarters had been in Germany. Now the Zionist movement was divided with centers in England Germany and the United States. Until the outbreak of the war the British goal had been to ensure the unity of the Ottoman Empire. Once the war began the British began to set their eyes on parts of the Ottoman Empire. The spokesman of the Zionist movement in Great Britain was Chaim Weizmann, a Russian émigré who had studied in Germany and was noted, chemist. He charmed the British leadership into considering the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Many years later Sir Ronald Starrs described Weizmann as:
“ A brilliant talker with an unrivaled gift for the lucid exposition as a speaker almost frightening convincing, even in English. In Hebrew, and even more in Russian. Overwhelming with all that dynamic percussiveness which Slavs usually devote to love and Jews to business, nourished, trained and concentrated upon the accomplishments of Zion. ”
Weizmann ability to influence the contributions helped the British government that Weizmann made to the British war effort by developing a crucial chemical for the British war effort. More importantly as the British advanced on Palestine the postwar future of the area was of a concern to the British government. Lloyd George and Balfour believed that an alliance with the Jewish people would strengthen the British claim on Palestine. They felt they would gain the support not only of the British Jewish community but the American Jewish community, where Zionist had become more prominent. Louis Brandeis, the leader of the American Zionist movement, had been appointed to the Supreme Court. The deliberations on issuing the declaration were taken place among people who were naturally sympathetic to Zionist aspiration.
On November 2 the British government issued the declaration supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The declaration was in the form of a letter written Lord Balfour to Lord Rothchild. The letter stated: "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."
The Balfour Declaration of 1917
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
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The following brief letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to honorary president of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, Lord Lionel Rothschild, is the document that came to be known as &ldquothe Balfour Declaration.&rdquo It reflects the British cabinet&rsquos support of the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. It is interesting to note that the wording suggested by the Zionists in their negotiations with the British government called for the British to recognize Palestine as the national home for the Jewish people. The British substituted the indefinite article &ldquoa&rdquo for &ldquothe&rdquo as follows:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of this Majesty&rsquos Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
&ldquoHis Majesty&rsquos Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.&rdquo
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Birthing Israel, Changing History: The Balfour Declaration
November 2, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, in which Great Britain declared that “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object…”
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas heard that Britain was preparing to celebrate the centennial of this famous document and all that it has represented concerning the rebirth of the state of Israel, he appealed to Arab leaders “to sue the British government for this historic crime that has brought upon the Palestinian people a tragedy from which it suffers to this day.”
Abbas urged Britain “to atone for this crime” by taking a series of measures, including “apologizing to the Palestinian people recognizing the Palestinian state without delay revoking the Balfour Declaration, and issuing a new declaration in its stead that does justice for the Palestinians, and compensating the Palestinians for the suffering caused by the declaration, just as Germany compensated the Jews for the Holocaust.” (memri.org)
It could not be clearer—Abbas’ goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with another Muslim Arab state!
Last September—during a UN General Assembly address—Abbas called on the UK to apologize for the declaration.
“We ask Great Britain, as we approach 100 years since this infamous declaration, to draw the necessary lessons and to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibility for the consequences of this declaration, including an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, misery and injustice this declaration created and to act to rectify these disasters and remedy its consequences, including by the recognition of the state of Palestine,” Abbas said. “This is the least Great Britain can do.” (reuters.com)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also speaking at the UN, noted that the PA’s stance on the centenary is “another example” of the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“That’s almost 100 years ago … Talk about being stuck in the past! The Palestinians might as well file a class action suit against Abraham, for buying land in Hebron,” he said, referencing the Biblical figure. (independent.co.uk)
In a speech to the Christian Friends of Israel in December 2016, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May called the pivotal letter written by Conservative Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild in 1917 “one of the most important letters in history” which “demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people.” May added, “It is an anniversary we will be marking with pride.” She has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the official anniversary celebrations. (cfoi.co.uk)
BRITAIN PLANS A HOST OF CELEBRATIONS
And celebrate they will! Jews, Christians, and conservative statesmen and politicians will celebrate, along with British citizens who love Israel. University students, school children and diplomats from many countries will join in the celebrations.
A website, balfour100.org, has been created by and for the UK Christian coalition to commemorate the Balfour Declaration centenary. There will be a huge event at the Royal Albert Hall on November 7 with many other events around the UK. In fact, there will be celebrations during the month all over the nation.
BALFOUR DECLARATION HAS SHAPED HISTORY
Why then, is the Balfour Declaration so important? Why is it so “hallowed” among the Jewish people and evangelical Christians, and so controversial with Palestinians, Arabs and liberal politicians?
Critical to international law, it was the first formal policy declaring the right of the Jewish people to settle in their original homeland. Inevitably, understanding its true meaning and intention is clouded by differing worldviews and political bias. Nevertheless, it was the first step by any nation to recognize Zionist aspiration of any kind.
For people who do not know or believe the Old and New Testaments, the claim of Biblical rights to the land belonging to the Jewish people dating back 2,000 to 4,000 years just makes liberal eyes roll when they see Arabs who claim their ancestors lived in Jericho some 7,000 years ago, but who today live under the control of the 70-year-old nation of Israel.
One thing is certain: For the world in 1917 to even imagine a goverment making an official declaration to recreate the state of Israel some 1800 years after its demise, would seem objectively impossible, even fantastical. With millions of Muslims living in the Middle East whose religion teaches extreme hatred of Jews, with noxious centuries-old antiSemitism throughout Europe, with deep anti-Semitism even in the United States a hundred years ago, who could imagine a scenario that a small island nation with an empire where the sun never set, would focus in on the non-existent nation of Israel, and seriously consider raising her from the dead?
BRITAIN’S CHRISTIAN AND ZIONIST PRIME MINISTER
Nevertheless, by the hand of God, it happened that in the years 1916-1922, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister of the largest empire the world had ever seen. Great Britain controlled 13 million square miles of the earth’s landmass and 20% of the world’s population.
The man God placed at the helm was a Welsh Christian who had been adopted by the family of a Baptist minister. He then continued as a devout member of the Disciples of Christ church all his life. He had been brought up on the Bible. In a speech much later in his life during a visit to “Canaan,” he told his Jewish audience, “I heard of Jezreel and Esdraelon, of Carmel and of Zion before I knew of the existence in my own land” of battles and disputed frontiers which occurred in England’s history. Because of his Biblical background he had been a loyal Zionist for several decades (unlike many other politicians from more conservative denominations such as the Anglicans.) (jta.org)
But among the daily duties of this Prime Minister, Lloyd George was also in charge of executing World War I in the theatres of Europe and the Middle East. It took a foreign secretary with like-minded theology to concentrate on drafting a document which would actually bring to life a homeland for the Jewish people. It so happens that Arthur Balfour was just such a foreign secretary and was in complete agreement with Lloyd George’s sentiments.
A CABINET FULL OF CHRISTIANS
Balfour was known as a devout Christian, and theology was one of his favorite subjects. “His interest in the Jews and their history was lifelong,” his niece Blanche Dugdale later wrote. “It originated in the Old Testament training that Balfour had received from his mother and in his Scottish upbringing. … the problem of the Jews in the modern world seemed to him of immense importance,” wrote Dugdale. “He always talked eagerly on this … that Christian religion and civilization owe to Judaism an immeasurable debt, shamefully ill repaid.”
In fact, two decades later during World War II, Lord Balfour’s family took in 180 Jewish children who were transported into Britain before the Nazis could reach them. (jpost.com)
Moreover, it so happened the war cabinet of Prime Minister Lloyd George was made up of nine members, seven of whom had been raised in evangelical homes or personally embraced evangelicalism. More specifically, six of these seven had been raised in evangelical Calvinist homes. Back then, in the 1800s—early 1900s Calvinists were proIsrael, and as “restorationists” looked forward to the Jews returning to their homeland in the last days.
It would have been highly improbable to put together a more evangelical group of men who were influenced by the Bible at the highest level of British government in those days than the ones who made up that group. In fact, only one cabinet member was firmly anti-Zionist, Edwin Samuel Montagu, and he was Jewish! (pre-trib.org)
General Allenby enters Jerusalem on foot
WOULD AMERICA SUPPORT THE DECLARATION?
But before Prime Minister Lloyd George and Secretary Balfour would feel the courage to finalize such a profound undertaking, they felt they must have the backing of the United States. Would America be interested in such an unusual enterprise?
They contacted President Woodrow Wilson. Now it so happened that Wilson was the most pro-Jewish president the U.S. has ever had. He appointed the first Jew to the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, a fervent Zionist—who also counseled Wilson about the Balfour Declaration. Earlier, as president of Princeton University, Wilson had appointed the first Jew to the faculty.
Wilson was a Presbyterian elder of deep religious faith, the son of a leading theologian. He read the Bible daily, and said he felt “sorry for the men who do not read the Bible every day.” He also prayed on his knees twice a day. In short, Wilson was the most Christian president the U.S. has ever had. Had Lloyd George not had Wilson’s full support, it is doubtful the British would have put forward the Declaration. (haaretz.com)
One other person was providentially instrumental in persuading the British prime minister to take this extraordinary leap into legalizing a Jewish homeland. Chaim Weizmann was a brilliant Jewish scientist who devised a process to create acetone—a substance the British munitions industry was in dire need of. This achievement granted him access to the very politicians deciding the future of the Middle East. His leadership was already recognized some years earlier when he emphatically pushed for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and not Uganda, of all places, as some influential voices were demanding.
THE DIE IS CAST
On November 2, on behalf of the British Government, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent the Declaration in the form of a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community. (wikipedia.org)
Historically, the Rothschild family was not known to be Zionistic. In fact, many British Jews were not at all Zionists. While many prominent Jews in Western Europe were afraid that a Jewish homeland could threaten their status in Europe, Walter Rothschild argued that a Jewish Nation could be a home for those Jews who did not or could not live in their countries. As a major leader of the Jewish Community in Great Britain, Rothschild received and delivered the letter to the Jewish Zionist Federation, where from then on, it became an authoritative document used in international policy and law.
BRITIAN MOVES TROOPS INTO THE HOLY LAND
Meanwhile, the British were bogged down in the Middle East in their offensive against the Ottoman Turks. Lloyd George quietly moved his best general from the Western Front in Europe to take charge of the Palestine Campaign, and General Edmund Allenby did not disappoint. Lloyd George also ordered an increase in the number of British troops, and Allenby “received extra aeroplanes, battalions and battleships.” These moves were done quietly to make sure the British would capture Jerusalem before the French or the Germans. (pre-trib.org)
Now it so happened that General Allenby was a devoted Christian who read his Bible on a daily basis. Allenby was a believer in Bible prophecy. He had to have been deeply moved when he received the commission to liberate Jerusalem from the Islamic Ottoman Empire and prepare the land of Canaan for the return of the Jewish people. Two British army sergeants were the first to see Jerusalem’s Muslim mayor carrying a white flag of surrender on December 9, 1917, just a little over a month after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration. December 9 happened to be the Jewish date of 24 Kislev, the first day of Hanukkah, celebrating the rededication of the Temple of God. (cai.org)
Today, the Palestinian Authority works without ceasing to delegitimize, demonize and ultimately replace the Jewish state with a Muslim one. Its leaders declare that Jews never lived in Palestine, and most of the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world are convinced that this is truth. However, much to the PA’s dismay, archeologists are digging up on a regular basis all kinds of remnants of Israel’s ancient heritage in the land of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Balfour Declaration was the first legal document to physically resurrect this ancient nation—as foretold by Israel’s prophets thousands of years ago.
It is the Sovereign God who positioned men in places of authority and power, who knew the Bible. God’s plans will never be thwarted. Blessed are those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!
The Forgotten Truth about the Balfour Declaration
For 100 years the British statement, which inaugurated Zionism’s legitimation in the eyes of the world, has been seen as the isolated act of a single nation. The truth is much different.
Martin Kramer teaches Middle Eastern history and served as founding president at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and is the Walter P. Stern fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
On November 2, 1917, a century ago, Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, conveyed the following pledge in a public letter to a prominent British Zionist, Lord Walter Rothschild:
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