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  1. #1
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    Default The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    This is a long post so to summarise:
    The Balfour Declaration was an important document but has been over-rated as it was never implemented in Palestine, and did not play as important a role on the emigration of Jews to Palestine as some think that it did.

    A hundred years has passed since the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Lord Arthur Balfour, sent a letter to Baron Rothschild (Lionel Walter) with the intention that Rothschild convey its contents to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The letter, which contains the now famous or notorious 'Balfour Declaration' is important because it was not just a commitment that the British made before the end of the First World War, it was incorporated into the text of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine after the War as part of the settlement that divided the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire among the victorious powers.

    The Declaration is viewed by Jews as the official means whereby the British Empire supported the emigration of Jews to Palestine; just as Arabs view the Declaration as a betrayal of the promises made by the British to the Arabs to establish an independent Arab state to replace the Ottoman territories in the Middle East.

    I depart from the standard view because I believe the Declaration has been over-rated in terms of its direct impact on the development of Palestine after 1918, and that in a real sense it was never implemented in full anyway.

    Point one is the fact that the commitment made by the British in 1917 states:
    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 Preamble to the Mandate for Palestine of 1922 says:
    Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might 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.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britis...al_instrument)

    The problem with the original letter is that the British made a commitment, not to the Jewish people, but to Zionism. At the time there was no legitimate representation of the Jewish people world-wide, so the choice of the World Zionist Movement and its branch in the UK was exclusive rather than universal. It has been argued the Declaration was made when the War was going badly and that it would consolidate support for the War among American Jews, but even at home there was evidence that Jews were opposed to both Zionism and a 'National Home' in Palestine, a position taken by Montague Norman who became Governor of the Bank of England in 1920 and thus, conceivably the most influential Jew in the world at that time.

    Point two extends this argument, because not only were Jews -or anyone else- in Palestine not consulted before the commitment was made, Balfour himself in a Memorandum of 1919 made it clear that the views of the people that actually lived in Palestine at the time were simply irrelevant. In a stunning example of imperial arrogance, this is what he wrote-

    The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant 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 even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-lng traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land
    .
    http://aldeilis.net/english/memorand...opotamia-1919/

    Point three follows on to argue that neither the Declaration nor the Mandate can be viewed as instruments that were applied in Palestine because it is clear that even before the British had conquered the territory the wishes of the inhabitants were irrelevant, just as throughout the period of the Mandate both Jews and Arabs could argue the terms of the Declaration and the Mandate were not applied. The judgement is that these were words on a page that meant nothing in terms of the actual governance of Palestine.

    Point Four argues that neither the Declaration nor the Mandate acted as a 'Pull' factor in the emigration of Jews to Palestine, indeed, prior to the creation of the Mandate one wonders how many Jews had ever heard of the Balfour Declaration. The reverse argument is that there was a 'Push' factor in that large part of Europe extending from the now collapsed Russia Empire through to Poland, that accelerated in the inter-war years to include Central Europe, and that it was this wave of violent anti-Semitism with Jews fleeing for their lives that drove emigration. Yet even here, at least before the USA passed the Immigration Act in 1924, America was their favoured destination, not Palestine, and after 1924 southern American states like Brazil and Argentina were replacement destinations.

    Point Five underlines this trend by asking why did so few Jews already living in North Africa and the Middle East not emigrate to Palestine? As is well documented, there were large communities of Jews in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq, yet no significant emigration from these countries took place until the creation of Israel in 1948 -

    In 1931, only 1 out of every 4 Jews living in the Land of Israel came from Asia and Africa. By 1948 there were still only 70,000 of the latter in Israel, as compared to 253,661 Israeli-born Jews and 393,013 Jews from Europe and America, out of a total population of 716,678 Jews.
    https://chelm.freeyellow.com/displacement.html

    The evidence thus suggests that for all the good or the harm that it did, the Balfour Declaration might never have been written. Jewish emigration to Palestine was partial, and not driven by the Declaration, while the fact that it was never implemented in full and that Jewish immigration was halted in 1939 exposes the hollow centre of the Declaration and its claims.


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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    I made an error in my OP above, as the prominent British Jew who opposed Zionism was Edwin Montagu, former Secretary of State for India, not Montagu Norman. I did not check my Montagu's before writing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Samuel_Montagu



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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    It was never fully implemented,.... but who asking who for what in exchange for what.. is what makes it a big deal.


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    Last edited by DaphneCruz; 12-01-2017 at 07:40 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    That seems a bit cryptic and feels like it doesn't say why who and what and who and what makes it a big deal.



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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    Quote Originally Posted by DaphneCruz View Post
    It was never fully implemented,.... but who asking who for what in exchange for what.. is what makes it a big deal.
    The truth is that in the period between the London Agreement of 1915 and the Paris Peace Conference process that followed the end of the War, 'who and what' is in reality the Imperial powers. And because the Americans voted for Harding who opted out of the League of Nations, it gave Britain and France complete control of the post-war dispensation of power that re-distributed the defeated territories of the fallen empires -the German, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman- the Russians at this time 'doing their own thing'. In Europe new and independent states were created, such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, without any regard to their conditions for statehood, whereas in the Middle East states so-called 'Mandated territories' were established because Britain and France decided the Arabs had no capacity for statehood at all -which by extension also meant those non-Arabs living in Palestine, Iraq and Syria which must include their Jewish citizens.

    It also enabled them to resist attempts by the emerging state of Turkey to claw back the Ottoman Empire's Arab possessions, as happened at the Conferences of Sevres and Lausanne between 1920-23, though the Turks got their own back by flooding Alexandretta with 'Turks' before illegally annexing the territory in 1938 without any reaction from Britain and France (Kemal threatened another alliance with Germany if they tried anything to stop it).

    To read the various documents Balfour drew up before and after the Declaration that bears his name is to be transported back to a time of imperial arrogance when the mere idea that 'the people' should decide their fate was dismissed as nonsensical. Although at the time the British had given military support to the oilfields in south-western Persia and the emerging refinery complex on the Gulf Coast at Abadan -and moved into Iraq for commercial as well as political reasons -most of the Middle East was viewed in the context of the security of the sea and land route to India -hence the British presence in Gibraltar, Cyprus, the Suez Canal and Aden on the southern Arabian coast, the last supply stop before Bombay.

    Who were the losers in all this? The Arabs and the Jews. If you think the British did what they did to promote Jewish nationhood, then you need a cold bath in the realities of inter-war politics and diplomacy. It was never about taking sides in a dispute because the British only ever had one side -their own.



  6. #6
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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    Quote Originally Posted by DaphneCruz View Post
    It was never fully implemented,.... but who asking who for what in exchange for what.. is what makes it a big deal.


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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    Who were the losers in all this? The Arabs and the Jews. If you think the British did what they did to promote Jewish nationhood, then you need a cold bath in the realities of inter-war politics and diplomacy. It was never about taking sides in a dispute because the British only ever had one side -their own.
    This couldnt be more true.

    But this is not a topic for discussion, because you can only take one side. So.. I'll leave my replies short.



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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    Quote Originally Posted by DaphneCruz View Post
    This couldnt be more true.
    But this is not a topic for discussion, because you can only take one side. So.. I'll leave my replies short.
    Just to clarify I was not attacking you personally when I wrote 'If you think' it was more of a general 'you'. The problem with 'taking sides' in the Middle East is that is has tended to be shaped by contemporary events, and is not always consistent because of that.

    For years, but mostly from the 1960s to the 1990s, the division was simple: Israel or Palestine. Since the 1990s, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been eclipsed by Political Islam so that taking sides can mean the most unlikely actors -Israel and Saudi Arabia, for example -being on the same side with regard to Iran, which they see as a mutual threat, even though the core issue of Political Islam, crystallized in the 'Islamic Revolution' in Iran, the source of anxiety for Israel and Saudi Arabia, does not resolve the problem of either the religious fanatics who form such a woeful influence in Israeli politics, or the odious religious fanatics of Saudi Arabia who have used the kingdom's money to turn their weird Wahabi nonsense into mainstream Islam in places where it has contributed to political disorder, particularly Pakistan.

    Taking sides in the Balfour Declaration is a good example. Netanyahu came to London to participate in the 'Celebration' yet his Likud Party emerged from the Revisionist fanatics who condemned the British in Palestine ad fought them because they believed the Jews had been betrayed by the British, Netayahu's predecessor, Menachem Begin fought against, and hated the British and provided Argentina with material support during the Falklands War in 1982. It is almost beyond belief that the British welcomed to London a Prime Minister who has on more than one occasion joined in the 'commemoration' of the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946 which killed British, Arab and Jews alike and is spookily reminiscent of some IRA bombing in the UK over the last 40 years. Makes you wonder whose side Theresa May was on during that centenary event.

    If anything it proves how risky it is to take sides in the Middle East. One could always side with the truth, but that is a risk in itself not likely to be rewarded with a positive outcome, as one person's truth is another's lie.



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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    I didnt think you were attacking me, so youre good. Im leaving my replies short because in the matter of Israel and Palestine, you cant really argue against Israel.

    But simply put, Israel is 100% completely wrong and Palestine are the victims of foreign invaders. The Balfour Declaration simply made it official to give Palestine to the Jews in order to get the US into the war.



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    Default Re: The Balfour Declaration -a different view

    Quote Originally Posted by DaphneCruz View Post
    But simply put, Israel is 100% completely wrong and Palestine are the victims of foreign invaders. The Balfour Declaration simply made it official to give Palestine to the Jews in order to get the US into the war.
    Although it is true to say the Declaration was aimed in part at American Jews, one wonders why, given that the US entered the war in April of 1917 seven months before the Declaration was issued. Moreover, the US, officially, entered the War against the Germans owing to the German submarines targeting of US shipping, thus fighting the German Empire and its allies for 'Liberty'.
    It is true that Woodrow Wilson was more sympathetic to the Jews at a time when they were the target of anti-Semitic propaganda as well as official sanction, for example-

    the Army Manual of Instructions for Medical Advisory Boards included the statement: “The foreign born, and especially Jews, are more apt to malinger [in order to avoid service] than the native-born.” When the Anti-Defamation League brought this manual to President Wilson’s attention, he ordered the manual recalled and revised.

    http://www.jewishtreats.org/2017/02/...-and-jews.html

    But Wilson was himself a racist. Wilson played a decisive role in removing Black Americans from the positions they held in numerous government jobs that were a feature of the 'Progressive Era', and, in addition, was no friend of the British or the French Empires, his 'Fourteen Points' becoming a signal part of the broader movements for 'national self-determination' that enabled the creation of the successor states that replaced the territories of the defeated European Empires to become a reality in the Versailles Peace process that followed the end of the war in 1918.

    That he was sympathetic to the Jews of America is a plus point for him at a time when, as noted above, they were the targets of racist abuse in the US, and indeed, in the 1920s the primary targets of immigration bans. But did the Balfour Declaration rally American Jews to the cause of British Imperialism in the Middle East? Was it to win them over to the British rather than the French, or even Bolshevik Russia? I don't think so, if only because the evidence does not make a convincing case for it.

    On the one hand you can describe the settlers as 'foreign invaders' on the basis that they were born, say, in the US; that there was an international agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1949 following the war in 1948 that established the geographical division ('Green Lines') between Israel and the Palestinian territories (formally part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which to this day has legal authority over the Haram es-Sharif in Jerusalem) that was violated by Israel's invasion in 1967, and therefore that the subsequent occupation in all its forms is illegal in international law. This formed the basis of the negotiations that led to the Treaty between Israel and the PLO that was signed in 1993 but left some issues -such as the status of Jerusalem- unresolved.

    On the other hand, there must be a basic principle that no single group has exclusive rights to the land, because religious and ethnic diversity has always been the reality of this relatively small block of territory, while the attempt by some Jewish groups to claim biblical authority for their modern state lacks credibility given what little we know about the geography of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, where they were, and who lived in them.

    Indeed, the basic principle that Jews and non-Jews must share what they have is the basic principle on which to build peace, not the promotion of one side against another, least of all by a fanatical US Presidency whose motivation in the current climate makes the solution to this conflict even less possible than it was a year ago.

    If 'many peoples, one land' is a fair description of the USA, why not for present-day Israel and Palestine?


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