Edited by Gerald Boerner
Arthur Balfour was a Member of Parliament and the Prime Minister (starting in 1902) during the opening decade of the 20th century. He also served as First Lord of the Admiralty and Foreign Minister in David Lloyd George’s cabinet during the second decade of that century. It was as Foreign Minister that he drafted the Balfour Declaration that proposed creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This was welcomed by the Zionists in the U.K., but was at odds with the empire aspirations of the British following World War I. The Treaty of Versailles made Palestine a British Protectorate under the new League of Nations.
This Declaration gave encouragement to the Zionists and built up their expectations during the period between the world wars. With the persecution of the Jews under the Nazi regime, the need of the Jews for such a homeland was intensified. This no doubt led to the mandate to establish a homeland in Palestine following World War II.
Once the Jews started to settle in Palestine, the conflicts between the Jews and Palestinians had its beginnings. There have been four wars between the Arab populations in the region since the initial conflict of 1948. We still have not found a resolution to this conflict. Each side has their own issues and we have Palestinians who were displaced from their homes and have survived in refugee camps for generations. This conflict is still the basis of the unrest in the Middle East.
Let’s get started with our exploration of the Balfour Declaration and its failings. Only by finding a satisfactory resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict can we resolve this volatile region of the world… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 3299 Words ]
Quotations Related to Arthur Balfour:
“The General Strike has taught the working class more in four days than years of talking could have done.”
— Arthur Balfour
“Biography should be written by an acute enemy.”
— Arthur Balfour
“Nothing matters very much, and very few things matter at all.”
— Arthur Balfour
“The energies of our system will decay; the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit and all his thoughts will perish.”
— Arthur Balfour
“His Majesty’s Government views with favor 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.”
— Arthur Balfour
“Both the Germans and the Zionists wanted as many Jews as possible to move to Palestine. The Germans preferred to have them out of Western Europe, and the Zionists themselves wanted the Jews in Palestine to outnumber the Arabs as quickly as possible. (…) In both cases, the purpose was a kind of ‘ethnic cleansing’, that is, a violent change in the ratio of ethnic groups in the population.”
— Slavoj Žižek
“In 1948, Palestine was lost – that blessed land, the land of the Muslims. Its inhabitants were dispersed and killed. By whom? By the evil forces of the jews.”
— Friday Sermon
“For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
— Zuheir Muhsin
The Balfour Declaration: Proposing a Jewish State in Palestine…
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 (Dated: 2 November 1917) was a letter from the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
“His Majesty’s government view with favor 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.”
The statement was issued through the efforts of Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow, the principal Zionist leaders based in London; as they had asked for the reconstitution of Palestine as "the" Jewish national home, the declaration fell short of Zionist expectations.
The "Balfour Declaration" was later incorporated into the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine. The original document is kept at the British Library.
Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, KG, OM, PC, DL (25 July 1848 – 19 March 1930) was a British Conservative politician and statesman. He served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from July 1902 to December 1905, and was later Foreign Secretary in 1916–1919.
Balfour succeeded his uncle Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader in July 1902 (Balfour had been Conservative leader in the House of Commons since 1891). As Prime Minister, Balfour oversaw such events as the Entente Cordiale, but his party was split over tariff reform and in December 1905 he relinquished power to the Liberals. The general election the following January was a disaster for the Conservatives and their Liberal Unionist allies, left with a mere 157 seats in Parliament. Balfour himself lost his Manchester East seat and was rushed back to parliament in a by-election for the City of London constituency. He continued as Leader of the Opposition throughout the crisis over the Lloyd George People’s Budget and the Parliament Act, but after failing to win either of the two General Elections in 1910 he resigned as leader in November 1911.
He returned to the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty in the coalition government formed in May 1915, then in David Lloyd George’s coalition government he was Foreign Secretary (1916–1919). In this post, he authored the Balfour Declaration of 1917, supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and for which his name perhaps remains best known today. Balfour retired from the House of Commons at the 1922 general election, and was granted an Earldom. In the late 1920s he served as an elder statesman in the second government of Stanley Baldwin.
Text of the Declaration
The declaration, a typed letter signed in ink by Balfour, reads as follows:
In 1896, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist living in Austria-Hungary, published Der Judenstaat ("The Jewish State"), in which he asserted that the only solution to the "Jewish Question" in Europe, including growing antisemitism, was through the establishment of a Jewish State. Political Zionism had just been born. A year later, Herzl founded the Zionist Organization (ZO), which at its first congress, "called for the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law". Serviceable means to attain that goal included the promotion of Jewish settlement there, the organization of Jews in the diaspora, the strengthening of Jewish feeling and consciousness, and preparatory steps to attain those necessary governmental grants.
In 1914, war broke out in Europe between Britain with allies against Germany, Austria-Hungary and later that year, the Ottoman Empire. The war on the Western Front developed into a stalemate. Jonathan Shneer writes:
Thus the view from Whitehall early in 1916: If defeat was not imminent, neither was victory; and the outcome of the war of attrition on the Western Front could not be predicted. The colossal forces in a death-grip across Europe and in Eurasia appeared to have canceled each other out. Only the addition of significant new forces on one side or the other seemed likely to tip the scale. Britain’s willingness, beginning early in 1916, to explore seriously some kind of arrangement with "world Jewry" or "Great Jewry" must be understood in this context.
Text Development and Differing Views
In 1919 the General Secretary (and future President) of the Zionist Organization, Nahum Sokolow, published a History of Zionism (1600-1918). Sokolow represented the Zionist Organization at the Paris Peace Conference. He explained:
The object of Zionism is to establish for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." … …It has been said and is still being obstinately repeated by anti-Zionists again and again, that Zionism aims at the creation of an independent "Jewish State" But this is wholly fallacious. The "Jewish State" was never part of the Zionist program. The Jewish State was the title of Herzl’s first pamphlet, which had the supreme merit of forcing people to think. This pamphlet was followed by the first Zionist Congress, which accepted the Basle program – the only program in existence.
The records of discussions that led up to the final text of the Balfour Declaration clarifies some details of its wording. The phrase "national home" was intentionally used instead of "state" because of opposition to the Zionist program within the British Cabinet. Both the Zionist Organization and the British government devoted efforts over the following decades, including Winston Churchill’s 1922 White Paper, to denying that a state was the intention. However, in private, many British officials agreed with the interpretation of the Zionists that a state would be established when a Jewish majority was achieved.
The initial draft of the declaration, contained in a letter sent by Rothschild to Balfour, referred to the principle "that Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people." In the final text, the word that was replaced with in to avoid committing the entirety of Palestine to this purpose. Similarly, an early draft did not include the commitment that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish communities. These changes came about partly as the result of the urgings of Edwin Samuel Montagu, an influential anti-Zionist Jew and secretary of state for India, who was concerned that the declaration without those changes could result in increased anti-Semitic persecution. The draft was circulated and during October the government received replies from various representatives of the Jewish community. Lord Rothschild took exception to the new proviso on the basis that it presupposed the possibility of a danger to non-Zionists, which he denied.
At that time the British were busy making promises. At a War Cabinet meeting, held on 31 October 1917, Balfour suggested that a declaration favorable to Zionist aspirations would allow Great Britain "to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America"
Conflicts and Broken Treaty Commitments
The Anglo-French Declaration of November 1918 pledged that Great Britain and France would "assist in the establishment of indigenous governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia by "setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations".
Balfour resigned as foreign secretary following the Versailles Conference in 1919, but continued in the Cabinet as lord president of the council. In a memorandum addressed to new Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, he stated that the Balfour Declaration contradicted the letters of the covenant (referring to the League Covenant) the Anglo-French Declaration, and the instructions to the King-Crane Commission. All of the other engagements contained pledges that the Arab populations could establish national governments of their own choosing according to the principle of self-determination.
"The contradiction between the letters of the Covenant [of the League of Nations] and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘independent nation‘ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose to even go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country though the American [King-Crane] Commission is going through the form of asking what they are.
The Four Great Powers [Britain, France, Italy and the United States] are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, and future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right.
What I have never been able to understand is how it can be harmonized with the [Anglo-French] declaration, the Covenant, or the instruction to the [King-Crane] Commission of Enquiry.
I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs, but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine it is not now an ‘independent nation’, nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever deference should be paid to the views of those living there, the Powers in their selection of a mandatory do not propose, as I understand the matter, to consult them. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.
If Zionism is to influence the Jewish problem throughout the world Palestine must be made available for the largest number of Jewish immigrants. It is therefore eminently desirable that it should obtain the command of the water-power which naturally belongs to it whether by extending its borders to the north, or by treaty with the mandatory of Syria, to whom the southward flowing waters of Hamon could not in any event be of much value.
For the same reason Palestine should be extended into the lands lying east of the Jordan. It should not, however, be allowed to include the Hedjaz Railway, which is too distinctly bound up with exclusively Arab Interests…"
Controversy Behind Declaration
British public and government opinion became increasingly less favorable to the commitment that had been made to Zionist policy. In February 1922, Winston Churchill telegraphed Herbert Samuel asking for cuts in expenditure and noting:
In both Houses of Parliament there is growing movement of hostility, against Zionist policy in Palestine, which will be stimulated by recent Northcliffe articles. I do not attach undue importance to this movement, but it is increasingly difficult to meet the argument that it is unfair to ask the British taxpayer, already overwhelmed with taxation, to bear the cost of imposing on Palestine an unpopular policy.
Sir John Evelyn Shuckburgh of the new Middle East department of the Foreign Office discovered that the correspondence prior to the declaration was not available in the Colonial Office, ‘although Foreign Office papers were understood to have been lengthy and to have covered a considerable period’." The ‘most comprehensive explanation’ of the origin of the Balfour Declaration the Foreign Office was able to provide was contained in a small ‘unofficial’ note of Jan 1923 affirming that:
little is known of how the policy represented by the Declaration was first given form. Four, or perhaps five men were chiefly concerned in the labour-the Earl of Balfour, the late Sir Mark Sykes, and Messrs. Weizmann and Sokolow, with perhaps Lord Rothschild as a figure in the background. Negotiations seem to have been mainly oral and by means of private notes and memoranda of which only the scantiest records seem to be available.
In his posthumously published 1981 book The Anglo-American Establishment, Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley explained that the Balfour Declaration was actually drafted by Lord Alfred Milner. Quigley wrote:
This declaration, which is always known as the Balfour Declaration, should rather be called "the Milner Declaration," since Milner was the actual draftsman and was, apparently, its chief supporter in the War Cabinet. This fact was not made public until 21 July 1937. At that time Ormsby-Gore, speaking for the government in Commons, said, "The draft as originally put up by Lord Balfour was not the final draft approved by the War Cabinet. The particular draft assented to by the War Cabinet and afterwards by the Allied Governments and by the United States…and finally embodied in the Mandate, happens to have been drafted by Lord Milner. The actual final draft had to be issued in the name of the Foreign Secretary, but the actual draftsman was Lord Milner."
More recently, William D. Rubinstein, Professor of Modern History at Aberystwyth University, Wales, wrote that Conservative politician and pro-Zionist Leo Amery, as Assistant Secretary to the British war cabinet in 1917, was the main author of the Balfour Declaration.
The Arabs expressed disapproval in November 1918 at the parade marking the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The Muslim-Christian Association protested the carrying of new "white and blue banners with two inverted triangles in the middle". They drew the attention of the authorities to the serious consequences of any political implications in raising the banners.
Later that month, on the first anniversary of the occupation of Jaffa by the British, the Muslim-Christian Association sent a lengthy memorandum and petition to the military governor protesting once more any formation of a Jewish state.
Please take time to further explore more about Balfour Declaration of 1917, Arthur Balfour, Zionism, and Palestine by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…
Other Events on this Day:
James K. Polk, the eleventh U.S. President, is born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.
Warren G. Harding, the 29th U.S. President, is born in Morrow County, Ohio.
North Dakota and South Dakota become the 39th and 40th states.
British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sends a letter to Baron Walter Rothschild announcing his government’s intention to promote a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a document that comes to be known as the Balfour Declaration.
In one of the first radio reports of the presidential election, KDKA in Pittsburg reports that Warren G. Harding has defeated James M. Cox.
Howard Hughes test pilots his H-4 Hercules flying boat, the largest airplane ever built, over California’s Long Beach Harbor. The one minute-long jaunt is the first and only flight for the wooden aircraft with a 320-foot wingspan, nicknamed the “Spruce Goose.”
Contrary to the predictions of most polls and political analysts, President Harry Truman defeats Thomas E. Dewey in the U.S. presidential election. The upset produces the famously incorrect Chicago Daily Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” printed before the final election results had come in.
Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter wins the U.S. presidential election over Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford. Carter, the former governor of Georgia, is the first president elected from the Deep South since Zachary Taylor in 1848.
American astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko are the first three people to permanently move into the International Space Station, beginning a four-month mission.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Balfour Declaration of 1917…
Wikipedia: Arthur Balfour…
WikiQuote: Arthur Balfour Quotes…
WikiQuote: Palestine Quotes…
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Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: League of Nations: Enforcing Peace in the New World Order…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Golda Meir, Israel’s only Female Prime Minister Takes Office…