Alex Rose
Alex Rose

1921 – The Year of Two Cardinal Errors

From Michael Makovsky’s, ” Churchill’s Promised Land”, we learn how Britain, who gave birth to the Balfour Declaration subsequently kept it from backsliding, while attempting to terminate Zionist dreams prior to their realization. In this, Britain left much not to be desired. It is therefore ironic that two Jews were key players.

During the Victorian era, Makovsky observes, ” Jews, no matter how assimilated or influential, were perceived as Jews first, and often not even considered to be English, no matter how long they or their families had resided in England. The Jews was widely thought of as suspect, sinister, clever, rich and powerful.” The author quotes the historian Elie Kedourie as observing the Jew to be an agent of reaction or revolution, pursuing hidden aims of his , divine or demonic as the case may be.

Makovsky’s is a study of what he termed a relatively anti-Semitic anti-Zionist nation, while not delivering the Jewish state, helping the Zionists at key moments and acquiescing to the declaration of Jewish statehood in 1948.

Chaim Weizmann is hailed as a major contributor in the attainment of the Balfour Declaration, as he should be. Regretfully the same cannot be said for the failure of what came to be known as the creation of Transjordan or East Palestine. In the latter case, Weismann displayed an overzealous case of appeasement towards Britain.

“Dr Weizmann and his colleagues in the Zionist leadership stressed their desire to cooperate with the Arab communities; emphasized that the new Jewish communities would not be taking anything away from the existing communities, but would buy, colonize and cultivate land not then being used and repeated were as a whole content to accept the decision of arms.” [1]

Whereas as Jabotinsky outspokenly remarks that the aim of Zionism is the formation of a Jewish majority in Palestine on both banks of the Jordan, Weismann’s response is extremely negative. He is given to saying that he has no understanding nor sympathy with the demand of a Jewish majority in Palestine. In support thereof, he states that a majority does not guarantee security, a majority is not essential for the development of a Jewish civilization and culture. Underlying these ludicrous proclamations, lies his truthful concerns. “The world will interpret the demand for a Jewish majority that we want to achieve it in order to drive the Arabs from the country.”[2]

One has only to examine area maps to view the vastly improved security afforded by the strategic depth through the retention of Transjordan as opposed to its separation.
Subject to approval of the League of Nations, Britain had the right to separate Trans-Jordan from the rest of Palestine in accordance with Article 25 of the Palestine Mandate. Curiously, while Britain gained the approval, the action taken was not to be inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 5, 16 and 18. One would question compliance with Articles 5 given that it addresses ceding or leasing the territory to a foreign Power. Nor for that matter can Article 15 be discounted since it concerns discrimination whereas the British declared it illegal for Jews to enter East Palestine.

Apparently and surprisingly, Weizmann did not voice concern over the last moment introduction of Article 25 into the Mandate. Yet another reason for concern relates to a lack of warning that the “provisions” of the Mandate to be “postponed” or “withheld” were precisely those which promised fulfillment of the Balfour pledge.

On September 9, 1919, Balfour issued a comprehensive memorandum which included the following statement:

“Palestine must be made available for the largest possible number of Jewish immigrants——For this reason Palestine must extend into the lands lying east of the Jordan.” Even The Times of September 19, 1919 offered full expression in support of opposition to separation of Jordan; “The Jordan will not do as the eastern frontier of Palestine—–Palestine must have a good military frontier east of Jordan—-Our duty as Mandatory is o make Jewish Palestine not a struggling state but one that is capable of vigorous and independent national life—-” [3]

Peace Conference January 1919: Weizmann responds to the American Representative request for clarity to the meaning of “Jewish National Home” in that it did not mean an autonomous Government .” He said further that the Zionists did not contemplate “a minority imposing its will on the majority.”

Churchill’s convened Cairo meetings held on March 12-30, 1921 were intended for resolving the conflicting policies define in the McMahon letters [1915], the Sykes-Picot agreement [1916], the Balfour declaration and Transjordan. It is important to understand that he had not decided before the event how to achieve an “Arab Transjordan”.[4]

The removal of Eastern Palestine as per Article 25 of the Mandate ultimately resulting in the state of Jordan, undoubtedly represents a grave breach of trust and a distinct negative on Weizmann’s stewardship. Regrettably, his faith in the British proved rather costly. His admiration of the British blinded him to the Colonial Official’s discrimination against Jews. The historical record demonstrates an indecisiveness on the part of Churchill in the matter of Transjordan which eluded Weizmann.

Shmuel Katz points out that there was nothing in Article 26 to warn the Zionists that the “provisions” of the Mandate to be “postponed” or “withheld, were precisely those which promised fulfillment of the Balfour pledge. Clearly, to some the Article suggested a temporary construct, since the ultimate aim was that of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The British Royal Commission of 1937 included the following statement:

“The field in which the Jewish National Home was to be established was understood at the time of the Balfour Declaration to be the whole of historic Palestine, and the Zionists were seriously disappointed when Transjordan was cut away from that field under Article 25.” [3]
The appointment of Herbert Samuel, a Jew, as British Civil Commissioner of Palestine [July 1, 1920] was greeted by Allenby, Bols, Feisel and others with much concern. There were expressions of it having “the worst possible effect upon the Arab population” including further riots. There need have been, for at times he behaved more like a court Jew. Curzon, however, defended the decision by drawing attention to Samuel’s qualities as seen by His Majesty’s Government. These extended to a high reputation and administrative experience, authority with the Zionists and known sympathy for the Arabs. [4]

In his fist days of appointment to Palestine, Samuels did little to inspire confidence in his Jewish credentials including a cleansing of the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic elements in the administration. To Weismann, he appeared “week, frightened and trembling” as he addressed the news of two demonstrations in Jerusalem. In fact, many of his action during the early days in Palestine gave reasons for concern.

Despite having intimate knowledge of key individuals who would report to him, he evaded dismissing them. Not only that, but he selected to accept advice from them. Perhaps the worst case was the appointment of Ernest Tatham Richmond, an old friend of Ronald Storrs who had sought to damage him! It was Richmond who drew Samuel’s attention to Haj Amin al-Husseini an ardent anti-Semite who hated Jews with a deep fervor.

Haj Amin had organized the Passover pogrom in 1920, fled across the Jordan, was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in his absence for inciting violence which left five Jews dead and another 211 injured whereupon he fled to Syria. Shortly upon arrival in Jerusalem, Samuels pardoned him. Not only that, but in the elections for a new mufti of Jerusalem despite Haj Amin losing to Hosain el Din Jarallah, an inspector of the Muslim Religious Court and a respected scholar , Samuels appointed the former.

Haj Amin seized on Samuel’s appeasement minded mentality to call for the deaths of Jews and engaged in a campaign of terror against the Jews of Palestine. Subsequently, in later years he was involved in plots to massacre Jews, among them 60 Jewish immigrants in Hebron and 45 more in Safed in 1929. During 136, he assisted a rebellion in Palestine against the British.
Apparently Samuel’s earlier exposure to Judaism, did not extend to an understanding that “He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”
In summary, Haj Amin built his political power base progressively, instigating the 1929 riots as well as those that occurred from 1936 through 1939. “And yet, Samuel had no regrets.”

By his total misjudgment in placing Haj Amin in a powerful position to mislead and influence Jewish claims to Palestine, Samuels created an atmosphere of doubt in the minds of certain British officials. Or at least caused significant delays which in itself frustrated the arguments by the Zionists. There was also the issue of reducing the level of Jewish immigration or temporary stoppage thereof that Samuels conducted because of his identity crisis which severely impacted the case for Jewish claims to Palestine.
Churchill exhibited excessive reliance on Samuel’s judgment which resulted in subscribing to a policy which was not his own. There are multiple examples of Churchill’s difficulty in balancing Israel’s rightful clause with pragmatism visa vi maintaining a solid relationship with the Arabs. Simply put, nations have interests. Thus, it can be said that Samuels weakness and Weizmann’s lacking in capitalizing on the support available from several officials and their lack of confidence in the Arabs contributed much to the loss of Transjordan. In the final analysis, Lawrence [of Arabia] added sway to the decision.
Questioned by Samuel Landman, the former secretary of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain on January, 1964, Richard Meinertzhagen, the military advisor to the Colonial Office, stated the following:

“The question is linked up with the severance of Transjordan from Palestine from Palestine. Both Lloyd George and Balfour told me that in giving the Jews [sic] their national home in Palestine, the Biblical Palestine, that is to say the whole of the country occupied by Jewish tribes, including Moab and Ammon. But Churchill encouraged by Lawence, gave the whole of Trans-Jordan to that miserable Abdullah, thus depriving Israel of a vital territory and allowing a complete encirclement of Israel by Arabs. At the time [1921] I was working in the Colonial Office [Churchill was Colonial Secretary] and I remonstrated. He put on that ridiculous bull dog expression but nothing could be done to remedy Churchill’s stupidity—-” [4]

Barbara Tuchman, amongst the select astute historians, speaks of wooden-headiness as being the source of self-deception, a factor which plays a remarkably large role in government. She also defines folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests.

The two cardinal errors defined herein by two Jewish leaders only become understandable when assessed through Tuchman’s observations. It is patently obvious had the defend errors not materialized, there would not have been a need for the fallacious “two state solution” or ill defined “occupation” or “settlements.

[1] David Fromkin – A peace to end all peace; Page 445.
[2] Connor Cruise O’Brian – The Siege; Pages 194, 195.
[3] Shmuel Katz- Lone Wolf; Pages 816, 817, 822, 832.
[4] Isaiah Friedman – British Pan-Arab Policy 1915-1922; Pages 384, 283, 284, 362, 347.
[5] Meir Abelson – The Original Sin: NATIV Vol 1 2003

About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.