maandag 9 mei 2011

The Balfour Declaration revisited

(article by guest author Egbert Talens)

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 (hereinafter: BD) resulted in a corresponding US Congress resolution of June 30, 1922. Following the transfer of the British League of Nations Mandate to the UN in 1947, it enabled the political Zionists in May 1948 to proclaim unilaterally the State of Israel. As a direct result of this, the Israel-Palestine conflict was born. One may wonder to what extent world-rulers, at the time, were influenced by these political Zionists? And now, since this conflict keeps continuously simmering around, should the world not be allowed to question the principles and objectives of the political Zionists for a Jewish state? Nearly one hundred years after this BD, the situation in the region of Palestine is still chaotic. Who can remain indifferent to the ‘living’ conditions of "existing non-Jewish communities" in and around that region?

The BD is probably the most curious political document ever drafted by a government. It took shape in a letter drafted by the government of King George V and addressed to banker and House of Lords member Lord Rothschild, and reads as follows: “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”. Historical literature mostly deals with the first stanza of the BD only. For my analysis, I divide the BD in Clause 1 (yellow), 2 (gray) and 3 (green). The concept was largely drawn up by the political Zionists themselves.

Most discussion about Clause 1 arose about the concept of 'national home'. Knowingly, the term ‘state’ was evaded. If the Zionist authors had had it their way, the BD would never have breathed a word about existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, nor about the status of Jews in any other country (than Palestine). Clause 2 hides a world of deception. It suggests that "non-Jewish communities in Palestine" were a minority. Around 1917, however, Jews in Palestine accounted for less than 10% of the population. The words "civil and religious rights" suggest that (the) non-Jewish communities cannot lay claim to political rights. The missing definite article "the" before "existing non-Jewish communities", which at first díd appear in the original text, paves the way for legal quibbling. Leading British Jews were seriously worried about the BD and their concerns resulted in the additional Clause 3, essentially dealing with the issue of théir political status. These Jews felt it necessary to opt emphatically for "the rights and polítical status" of Jews in any óther country, not merely for "civil and religious rights", as Clause 2 grants to "non-Jewish communities in Palestine"...

What views could others have as regards the BD? British historian Elizabeth Monroe wrote: "Measured by British interests alone, the Balfour Declaration was one of the greatest mistakes in our imperial history!" And analyst and historian Dr. Robert John wrote in The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1985-6 (Vol. 6, No. 4.): "This is the game that Israel plays today, obtaining its military supplies, its high technology, and its billions of dollars from the pay packets of American workers, using the rivalry of the USSR and the USA. We should not allow ourselves to be made pawns in the games of others." British historian Doreen Ingrams searched for the motives of the British behind the BD, which search resulted in her book "Palestine Papers, 1917-1922. Seeds of Conflict". She hunted in government documents and thought that papers in the legacy of the key players Arthur James Balfour, Sir Mark Sykes, Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow and Lord Edmund de Rothschild could provide for greater clarity...

Robert John turned up with a new name: James A. Malcolm. In the same year when in Turkey the massacre among the Armenians took place (1916), this Armenian who lived in Britain explained to the British that their worldwide recruiting Jewish financial support for the British war efforts was perhaps not the most effective working-method. Sir Mark Sykes, a relative of Malcolm, established the contact with members of the British cabinet. Malcolm explained that they should make contact with the political Zionists, not with the Jewish bankers in Germany: "If Palestine is promised to the Zionists, the latter will surely pull the bankers on the line. The result will not only be that the financial funding will go towards Britain, but also that the Jewish bankers from Germany will transfer their business to the U.S., where they will manipulate the Americans to join with the British."

History proved Malcolm right. The big loser is Germany. With the departure of the Jewish bankers, the position of the remaining Jews in Germany and elsewhere in Europe deteriorated dreadfully, which ultimately led to the horrible Holocaust. If one wonders what prompted the Nazis to carry out this crime against humanity, perhaps here is one possible explanation. In her remarkable article "The Palestine Question in its true form", L.M.C. van der Hoeven-Leonhard (Libertas, Amsterdam) mentions complications that almost fit verbatim the above Malcolm narrative.

To draft a (Balfour) Declaration is a one thing; to implement it in political objectives in the Middle East is another. Still during the war, Great Britain and France tried to secure their interests in the region. In that context, the BD fitted poorly. Surely British promises to the Arabs for their support in fighting the Ottoman authorities clashed with commitments to the political Zionists. The Sykes-Picot Treaty, a Franco-British agreement on division of areas after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, made mention of the line Damascus-Hama. The territory west of this line, now Lebanon, where France had interests, would be excluded from the Arab awards. After the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which entailed very humiliating terms for Germany, the promises to the Arabs had to be fulfilled. Independence was the key and one Arab country after another appeared on the newly drawn maps. Straight boundaries demonstrate how arbitrarily they were drawn. But the key question here is: how to find a way to reconcile the conflicting interests of Arabs and political Zionists?

It was up to the British, to whom the League of Nations had assigned a Mandate for Palestine, to appease the Arabs on the issue of the 'Palestine' bleeding. By now we know that this tour de force was too high, however in the period 1922-1947 virtually no means was shunned to level the irreconcilable aspirations. However cunningly the British operated, the Arabs, through Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, and his son, Prince Faisal, did not accept the line Damascus-Hama to indicate that this meant the land of Palestine, so coveted by the political Zionists. As a consequence, the attempt to appease the Arabs was doomed to fail. For the latter considered Palestine Islamic territory (Dar al-Islam), within which people of other faiths could live - Jews and Christians - but without being granted or allowed political independence. As a result, the partition of Palestine by the UN (1947) could not be accepted, and consequently it came to combat operations, when David Ben-Gurion et al. on May 14, 1948 unilaterally proclaimed the independent state of Israel.

In all these events it were primarily members of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine who paid the piper. The British were masters in playing the political game: blaming the victim. When they disappeared from the Palestinian scene on May 15, 1948, the status of the territory that the UN had recommended as an Arab State fell in a vacuum, while the political Zionists succeeded in having it all their way in the Jewish State, with the state of Israel as an interim result! And like their British masters, also these political Zionists, now adorned with the beautiful name Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), knew how to perform the blaming the victim game down to utter perfection.

(this article was first published in Dutch – under the same English title - on May 5, 2010. With the appearance of this translated version the Dutch version was rebaptized as "De Balfour Declaratie van 1917, een analyse".)

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