Celebrating the Balfour Disaster

A century ago, the U.K.’s Balfour Declaration set in motion the human rights disaster of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but – for opportunistic reasons – British politicians plan to hail it as a brilliant success, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Britain will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration later this year. The Conservative Party leader addressed her party’s “Friends of Israel” faction and declared that the Balfour Declaration was “one of the most important letters in history” while pledging that her government would celebrate it “with pride.”

In 1948, some Palestinians, uprooted by Israel’s claims to their lands, relocated to the Jaramana Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria

Her determination to do so is a clear indication that those who control national politics also control official interpretations of history. In the case of the Balfour Declaration’s centenary, it is the ongoing alliance of Zionist special interests and British political power that is about to turn what has been a disaster for Britons, Jews and Palestinians alike, into a source of national pride.

I have told the story of the Balfour Declaration in documented detail in my book America’s Palestine. Here is a brief synopsis: The November 1917 declaration was a World War I expedient undertaken by the then British government to enlist the aid of worldwide Jewry (mistakenly believed to be led by the fledgling World Zionist Organization) to the British side. In exchange the British government promised to create a “Jewish National Home” in Arab Palestine after the war. In so doing it sought to buy Jewish assistance with someone else’s currency – that is, with territory then belonging to the Ottoman Empire.

Key members of the war cabinet in London, such as the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, were believers in the myth of worldwide Jewish power, and on that basis were convinced that Jewish influence in Washington could help bring the United States into the war as a British ally, and at the same time keep their eastern front ally, the Russians, from leaving the war. Though the U.S. did soon enter the war, it had nothing to do with Jewish influence, and the Russians, now led by the Bolsheviks, proceeded to make a separate peace with the Germans.

At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain found itself in military control of Palestine. The government in London then proceeded to follow up on its promise to the Zionists. It did so by allowing the massive immigration of European Jews into Palestine. At this point the policy was driven by a blend of religious and racist beliefs, along with imperial ambitions.

First there was the fact that the Jews were seen as European allies who would allegedly help secure a strategic part of the Middle East for the British Empire, and second there was a mesmerizing mythic belief that a Jewish National Home was somehow in line with the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In the end none of this played out well for the British. In 1948, they were driven out of Palestine by both violently hostile Zionists and Arab nationalists. They left with their tails between their legs.

It appears that Prime Minister May and her party’s “Friends of Israel” reject this history. Or, perhaps they don’t care about documented facts because all that now matters is keeping for the Conservative Party the financial backing of the Zionist lobby. Such is democratic politics in the West.

A Disaster All Around

It is worth repeating that the consequences of the Balfour Declaration have proven to be disastrous. British hegemony lasted but 30 years and, as just mentioned, ended in an ignominious withdrawal. The Palestinians have suffered decades of dispossession and ethnic cleansing.

Pope Francis praying a separation wall in Palestine on May 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Pope Francis’s Facebook page.).

And the Jews, religious and secular, of the resulting state of Israel, now officially tied to the Zionist ethos, have been politically seduced and culturally converted to a racist ideology. Today, for many Jews, Zionism and Judaism are two sides of the same coin. One way you can demonstrate this latter point is by calling the ideology of Zionism into question. In doing so you will be labeled an anti-Semite.

Why has this situation come to pass? Certainly the history of European anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust, has a lot to do with it. Anti-Semitism always constituted a threat for the Jews of the West. However, traditionally, that threat was mostly local. That is, even as the Jews of a particular shtetl in, say, southern Russia were being slaughtered, those elsewhere might be prospering. So, the danger was always there but only sporadically realized.

But then came the Nazis and the dimensions of the threat changed radically. As a result, there was a total breakdown of European Jewish life. And, for a significant number, the old Torah-based insights and philosophies that explained the world no longer sufficed.

So what did those Western Jews who managed to survive do in such circumstances? Their customary social order was gone. They were adrift in a world that did not make sense except in terms of its mortal danger. Under such conditions an applicable single idea that appeared to be historically logical could serve as a life preserver – and that idea was Zionism.

Zionism seemed historically logical because it melded the historical success of the nation-state, which was after all the dominant political system of the age, with a biblical myth that rationalized a “Jewish state” in the Arab land of Palestine. To both the survivors of the Holocaust and to those Jews who had watched the destruction of European Jewry from afar (i.e., from such places as the U.S.), the whole package must have had an internal logic that was irresistibly comforting – promising permanent security in a Jewish national home.

While one can understand the seductive power of Zionism, it, like other exclusively racial or ethnic political ideologies, only led to predictable disaster. The truth is that it is impossible to create a state exclusively for one people (call them people A) in a territory already populated by another people (call them people B) without the adoption of racist policies by A and serious resistance on the part of B. Under such circumstances, for A, there can be no real security nor can there be anything like a healthy national culture.

The whole process has proved remarkably self-corrupting for Zionist Jews. It is ironic that now most Zionists are themselves anti-Semites. In this case the Semite targets are the Palestinians and the growing number of western Jews who have come to support their cause.

Thus, the plans to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration is based on an illusion that something awful is really something prideful. The only way you can pull this off is if you have the power to twist the entire historical episode into something it is not – and that is what Theresa May is planning to do.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.

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26 comments for “Celebrating the Balfour Disaster

  1. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    March 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    No wonder the British Empire itself in now in the Garbage Bag of History……The Brits are dying to find something to make them feel relevant!!

    • Joe B
      March 14, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      The UK should celebrate getting out of Palestine rather than getting in. Had they not had such misfortunes in WWII, and had they not more foresight than the US oligarchy, leading them to form their Commonwealth of former colonies, they would likely have suffered endless anti-colonial revolutions in their former empire.

      France was not so wise, or some might say constrained, as to grant to former colonies an autonomy leading to independence, and suffered wars in Algeria, Vietnam, and elsewhere before the lesson was learned.

      The US had to prove its abject stupidity to the world, and rushed in to bully the developing world while claiming benevolence, and so the first nation to fight a war of independence from colonialism, became the last nation to defend colonialism, and it still has no idea why it is doing this or what might result..

  2. Yonatan
    March 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Of course May will celebrate this tragedy.

    http://www.thetower.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Je-Suis-Juif.jpg

  3. Zachary Smith
    March 14, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Lawrence Davidson clearly knows a whale of a lot more about this subject than I do, so I’m going to limit my comments to vague rumblings.

    Woodrow Wilson was a strange character, and from all I can tell everything I thought I knew about him was wrong. When I made a search for his name along with the term “zionist” one of the early ‘hits’ was this:

    “Who Was the Most pro-Jewish U.S. President? Woodrow Wilson, Obviously”

    www*haaretz.com/jewish/books/.premium-1.548974

    Joseph M. N. Jeffries was the author of the 1939 book titled Palestine: the Reality. For many years it was quite out of reach of peasants like myself, and at one time I could find no record of it being for sale at any price, and there were only about three dozen libraries in the world possessing it. Suddenly it is back, assuming the re-issued copies are identical to the old ones. A few moments ago I even discovered somebody put it on the Internet Archive.

    https:(//)ia600205.us.archive.org/11/items/PalestineTheReality/Palestine%20-%20The%20Reality.pdf

    You have to worry about the integrity of things like this. Is the text complete and unaltered? Whoever uploaded the book surely did omit the index. Why?

    At any rate there are multiple indications that Wilson and his inner circle were up to their ears in the Balfour Disaster. As for the abomination of Theresa May “celebrating” Balfour, that’s as bad as George “Texas Torturer” Bush “celebrating” the death of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

    I’ve read that May fancies herself as a clone of Margaret Thatcher, and for all I know it may be so. If it is true, the Brits have got themselves a genuine ***** as a PM. (asterisk word rhymes with Mitch)

    • Bill Bodden
      March 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      the Brits have got themselves a genuine ***** as a PM. (asterisk word rhymes with Mitch)

      There is another word that could be appropriate and easier to write. It only has four characters.

  4. Bill Bodden
    March 14, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    The November 1917 declaration was a World War I expedient undertaken by the then British government to enlist the aid of worldwide Jewry (mistakenly believed to be led by the fledgling World Zionist Organization) to the British side.

    At the same time Britain’s leaders (along with the French and Germans) were engaged in the lunacy of sending their troops by the thousands into certain slaughter on a daily basis. That was the prevailing “group think” that spawned this disastrous document.

  5. Bill Bodden
    March 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain found itself in military control of Palestine.

    After the end of the Second World War the Brits found themselves on the receiving end of terrorism courtesy of terrorists led by Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and others who would continue to serve Israel as the tails that would wag the American dog.

    • Joe B
      March 14, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Their principal diplomat there was assassinated by zionists in the 1930s, when they halted Jewish immigration in accordance with the Balfour declaration.

  6. Bill Bodden
    March 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Key members of the war cabinet in London, such as the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, were believers in the myth of worldwide Jewish power, and on that basis were convinced that Jewish influence in Washington could help bring the United States into the war as a British ally,…

    Smedley Butler expressed his opinion that the United States entered the First World War to prevent the Brits from losing and defaulting on loans made to them by Wall Street.

    As I noted in a previous thread the Brits rejected a truce in the summer of 1917 because they had an understanding that the U.S. would enter the war and give them victory. Instead of ending the massive carnage of this war it continued to cause millions more to die in vain.

    • backwardsevolution
      March 14, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Bill Bodden – Smedley Butler was probably correct. Who owned the Wall Street banks at the time? The Jewish German-born American bankers.

      “…were believers in the myth of worldwide Jewish power.” I just don’t buy this at all; it does not make sense. Follow the money. I am quite sure that people of influence (with lots of money) were willing to loan Britain money, but at a cost – Israel. Countries like Britain were not in the business of being benevolent. Of course, they’ll call it that for a price.

  7. Bill Bodden
    March 14, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    “Who Could Ever Feel Pride in the Balfour Declaration?” by Robert Fisk – http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/06/who-could-ever-feel-pride-in-the-balfour-declaration/

    • Zachary Smith
      March 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Excellent link.

  8. Josh Stern
    March 14, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    One can, obviously consider success/failure of British geopolitical strategies – defined on their own terms, and moral questions related to them as distinct foci. Was the history of Palestine/Israel actually bad for British geopolitical scheming? IMO, they would not judge it so. They ultimately succeeded with the British goals of keeping the Suez Canal open for trade, limiting Russian influence to the SouthWest, and supporting British warfare and weapon sale schemes in the region. Making Israel a perennial bad guy did not cause monarchies to fall in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and other oil rich countries that developed close business relationship with Great Britain. We social critics are correct to keep pointing out “This and that was wrong because a lot of innocent poor people got hurt” but we are unhelpfully naive if we don’t see military-industrial-business interests as the drivers of policy and the playing field where nations continue to evaluate their success and failures.

  9. CitizenOne
    March 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    The involvement of Christians and Jews in the Holy Land goes back thousands of years. The Old Testament is filled with wars. The Romans eventually captured Palestine or Israel or whatever it was back then, killed them and destroyed their lands but after 400 years of feeding them to lions eventually abandoned Paganism, adopted Christianity, spread it with the tip of the spear all the way to England where they joined up to go pillage and plunder in the Crusades making Genghis Khan look like a pacifist.

    To cite one document as a pivotal moment in this thousands of years long tale of endless genocide is like trying to cite one event in history responsible for the creation of our country. Was it killing the Indians and stealing their land? Was it George Washington? Was it pilgrims?

    Who were the victims during the formation of our nation. Indians? Colonists? Spaniards and Frenchmen?

    In the middle east, the fight goes on. It would be the same here if we never won our independence. Who will win? Who knows?

    One thing I am sick of is our involvement there. We need to get out of there. We need to stop getting involved. We just can’t get it right over there from over here. I think history has born that out enough over the ages. The Brits couldn’t figure it out from over there and we won independence.We couldn’t figure it out in Vietnam and they won their independence.

    Certainly the best example of this is how horribly wrong Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton got it wrong over there. Libya, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Israel. The problem is America has devolved into a nation that only sees military action and preemptive wars as tools for altering the course of foreign nations. Dick Cheney was the king of ‘diplomacy is dead’ and ‘appeasement is futile’. He was probably right. But attacking or backing attacks is equally as useless as we see Syria with the Assad government still in control fighting ISIS and a million people dead or displaced. It is a fact we just killed all those people for nothing but being so stupid or liars that the uprising in Syria was just a bunch of university students longing to create an Arab spring in Syria. Say you are sorry for getting it wrong to all those dead people Mr. Obama. It is amazing to me that promises by both Bush and Obama in their early years that they would never engage in nation building they did precisely that.

    Now we have Trump being squeezed in the vise. Either capitulate to the war mongers or be destroyed. What the hell although he certainly doesn’t know the things he believes in are nuts. He is not alone however. In his country club circles they chortle and mock the scientists and curse the government all day long as they count their money. He is far from being alone in his disconnectedness from his high perch with science or justice.

    • Bill Bodden
      March 14, 2017 at 11:24 pm

      Well said, CitezenOne

      • Realist
        March 15, 2017 at 2:31 am

        I agree.

        The only thing I would add is that “people A” in the original piece clearly describe White Europeans and “people B” describe the Native Americans.

        So, North America was clearly a model for Zionism as defined by Davidson. “While one can understand the seductive power of Zionism, it, like other exclusively racial or ethnic political ideologies, only led to predictable disaster. The truth is that it is impossible to create a state exclusively for one people (call them people A) in a territory already populated by another people (call them people B) without the adoption of racist policies by A and serious resistance on the part of B.”

        And, based on his predictions, things should get even worse in the good ole US of A: ” Under such circumstances, for A, there can be no real security nor can there be anything like a healthy national culture.” Maybe there can be, but only after several generations have completely forgotten their national history.

  10. Joe B
    March 14, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    The Balfour declaration was not a national policy to set up a Jewish state, as falsely claimed by zionists, it was merely a declaration of sympathy by the foreign minister. Here it is:

    “His majesty’s government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a ntional home for the Jewish people, and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done to 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.”

    This was violated by the rapid Jewish immigration there by the mid-1930s, which caused serious conflicts as the Palestinians saw this hostile population growing from 5% to 40% of the population (what would happen in the US if so many Muslims were suddenly brought here by a foreign power?).

    Britain saw the hopelessness of the plan, halted Jewish immigration (in accordance with the declaration), and the zionists assassinated its primary diplomat there. Britain was happy to dump the problem on the foolish US, and Truman took a single 400K bribe from Zionists to twist arms at the newly-formed US-controlled UN to recognize a state there, where no external power had such rights.

    • Sangy
      March 17, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      Before and even during WWI, that American corporate stalwart, Standard Oil had been sniffing for oil beneath the Ottoman landscape. They – mistakenly – thought Palestine was a treasure trove of oil.
      Zionism was almost entirely a phenomenon that originated in America with mostly British goading. The Zionists failed during WWI in some part because the Jewish people living in peace with Arabs in Ottoman Palestine repudiated Zionism, handing over their own brethren who spied for the British under promises of a future Zion.

  11. March 14, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Yes western exceptionalism in the guises of western jewery/Zionism. Colonial project and Rothschild colony. Their is enough evidence that shows the Rothschild’s were purchasing land in Palestine in the late 1800’s They had planned this way b4 Balfour ,Sykes and Picot dividing the spoils of war b4 it even ended.

  12. Tommy Jensen
    March 14, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    Lawrence dont understand the English Empire.
    The Balfour Treaty was done exactly on the same template as all other UK geo-political solutions: Creating a divide and conquer situation from where the Empire could benefit, endless conflicts between Israel-Palestine and its neighbours with UK as constant influential intermediator.
    Therefore there is absolutely nothing contradictory in Britain celebrating its Balfour success.

    • Sangy
      March 17, 2017 at 11:16 pm

      Exactly – and that same divide and conquer philosophy led to the birth of Wahabism.

      Karma’s a b….

  13. davey wavey
    March 14, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    One needs to remember Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice, the booby trapped bodies, done in by Zionists. And recently, the three daughters of Dr. Abuelaisch bombed to death by Zionists. Britain should hang its head in shame for its part. Now they are proud of Balfour even though Brits were murdered by Jews in Palestine. What is wrong with these people??

  14. MrK
    March 15, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Who was behind the Balfour Declaration? According to the Knesset, that was Lord Edmond James de Rothschild.

    https://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/rotchild_ad_eng.htm

    “Baron de Rothschild demanded to remain anonymous and he was mostly known as “The known benefactor.” His relation to the Zionist movement was ambivalent, while refusing to support Herzl and disagreeing with Hovevei Zion on one hand and gradually becoming involved in the post-First World War efforts of the Paris Peace Conference (1919) and the Balfour Declaration (1917). In 1923 he established PICA (Palestine Jewish Colonization Association) to administrate his lands in Eretz Yisrael, placing his son James as its President.”

  15. Northern Observer
    March 15, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Arabia for the Arabs, everything else is illegitimate and contestable. The mistake the British made was not backing the Greeks to the hilt and destroying the Turkish Republic in its crib. Europeans of tomorrow will pay heavily for that mistake, the Sultans of tomorrow are coming to make you submit, it has already begun.

  16. Oz
    March 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    I think that the author is mistaken. The British got exactly what they wanted: permanent instability that prevents the rise of developed sovereign nations that can use the oil revenues to become self-sufficient and politically independent.

  17. David S
    March 16, 2017 at 8:29 am

    I’m wondering if we would be even discussing Balfour were it not for the controversial Haavara “Transfer Agreement” in 1933 which broke the back of the burgeoning worldwide Hitler Boycott and stimulated the migration of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees to Israel from around the war torn world. There are many ways to peel this onion – I’d start by following the money and madness of the world’s military industrial complex all the way back before 1900.

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