Debunking the Myths on the Balfour Declaration

” —in accordance with the policy laid down in the White Paper [1939]: Palestine is now being transformed into an Arab-British state with a Jewish ghetto.” [Pierre van Paassen – The Forgotten Ally]

Through numerous news sources, we learn that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has called on the UK to apologize for issuing the Balfour Declaration and to cancel celebrations of its centenary. The apology he is demanding on behalf of the Palestinian people is for the alleged catastrophes, misery, and injustice the subject declaration created; and to act to rectify “these” disasters, and remedy its consequences, including by the “recognition of the state of Palestine.” This he feels is the least Great Britain can do.”

Further, Abbas says that by accelerating settlement construction and expropriating “Palestinian lands”, Israeli policy is creating a reality of a single state with two regimes, an apartheid state in a sense. Abbas and his political gender are easily understood when one recalls his earlier history when he was labeled “Arafat in a Western suite”. His adoption of his master’s “Phase Plan” even to the point of the renaming PLO to PA speaks volumes. It generates a sophistication which separates him from the crudeness of Hamas and has succeeded in making fools of the likes of John Kerry and the US State department in general.

In recent times, Bret Stephens, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now of the New York Times, has opined, “The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.” Indeed, according to the ADL, 9 of the 10 most anti-Semitic countries in the world are Arab countries. Mr. Abbas, many years ago, international lawyers demonstrated the falsity of “occupation ” and “settlements” and the world has long since been aware of the behavior of Wiley Oriental Gentlemen.

In his well written Jerusalem Post Op-Ed “From Balfour to A Palestinian State” on November 3, 2009, Moshe Aarons provides a kaleidoscopic view of the given period. One which absolutely demonstrates the absolute reversal of Abbas’ allegations.

He demonstrates how step by step the British retracted from the original draft of the Declaration:

Stage 1; the word “reconstituted” was removed.

Stage 2; Article 25 added “In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this Mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions—” in order to create Transjordan [April,1921]”. Now this is in violation of Article 5, which reads, “The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power.

Stage 3: White Paper June 1922 ascribed the Arab riots to “exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the Declaration.” It also stated that “this [Jewish] immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals.”

Stage 4; 1929 riots led to the appointment of the Shaw Commission, which recommended that the immigration policy should be reviewed so as to prevent “excessive” Jewish immigration.

Stage 5; 1936 Peel Commission appointed following 7 years of renewed Arab riots. Concluded that the Mandate was unworkable and recommended as the only feasible solution the partitioning of western Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. The Jews were assigned a 33% enclave of less than 10% of the Palestine Mandate area. Unlike the Arabs, they accepted the proposal.

Stage 6;[ MacDonald] White Paper 1939 – Following on the rejection of the Peel Commission with 3 further years of Arab riots, a document “which rang the death knell for the Jewish state. One whereby Jewish immigration was limited to 75,000 during the next 5 years and making any further immigration contingent on Arab approval. Winston Churchill referred to it as “this low-grade gasp of a defeatist hour” and Chaim Weizmann in conversation with Malcolm MacDonald said, “You are handing us over to assassins.” Of particular disgust was the timing- Hitler’s persecution of Jews was moving into high gear. Thus was planted the seeds of today’s “envisaged’ Palestinian state.

Stage 7; May 25, 1946 – The word “postpone “cited in Article 25, suggested temporary, whereas Trans-Jordan was renamed “Jordan” as a fully fledged country in May 25, 1946 – another violation.

Much can be learnt from the books of Pierre Van Paassen, a Dutch Unitarian minister and journalist, who emigrated to Canada with his parents in 1914 and has been associated with leading newspapers ; and who visited Palestine during a critical period. He shares with historian Isaiah Friedman the notion that Palestine was not a” twice- promised land”. There was no conflict in the promises Britain made to Jews and Arabs. ” Moreover, the promises made to the Arabs were nearly all carried out despite enormous difficulties involved in their fulfillment.

According to Van Paassen, even after the issuance of the Declaration in November, 1917, of which the Arabs were fully aware, not a word of protest was voiced against the project by any Arabs, either in Palestine or outside. Further, he agreed with Lord Cecil, Smuts and Lloyd George that “Palestine’s liberation from the Turkish yoke was one of the few really worth-while things born out of the Great War.” He recalls the riots of 1921 as a first intimation that certain influential Palestinian Arabs were not in agreement with King Feisel of Iraq, who, as chief spokesman of the Arab peoples at the Paris Peace Conference, had expressed his entire satisfaction with the international plan to set aside Palestine as a National Home for the Jewish people. Feisal was convinced that the Jewish return would prove a real blessing for the Arabs.

While the Declaration served as a boom for the Jews, what followed was a bust. The years following the 1921 riots through to 1929 were years of rising immigration, progress and Arab-Jewish cooperation. A Turkish officer who had resided in the Holy Land before Allenby’s conquest remarked after an absence of only nine year his own that he could not believe eyes; “It is like a dream—-I would not thought it possible” he informed Van Paassen.

Churchill too, was impressed, commenting in 1922 when he approved Jewish engineer Pinhas Rutenberg’s plans to build the first hydro-electric plant in Palestine; “I am told the Arabs would have done it for themselves. Who is going to believe that? Left to themselves, the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps toward the irrigation and electrification of Palestine.—-”

In the year 1929, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem decided to drown the hopeful beginnings into, “a sea of blood.” Most of the victims of the 1929 Arab riots were old people or yeshivah students who had little to do with political activity and who trusted their neighbors . Within two hours, sixty helpless men, women and children were massacred. But when these same rioters attempted to attack the new Jewish settlements, they were beaten off with heavy losses.

Keith Roach, governor of the Jaffa district, followed by a colonel of the Green Howards Battalion of the King’s African Rifles visiting Hebron, took a heavy glance around the awful room in Rabbi Slonim’s house and then remarked callously to his companion, “Shall we have lunch now or drive to Jerusalem first”. This reflection of anti-Semitism extended to the sight of dead males “with their genital organs cut off; in the case of the women, their breasts.”

Van Paassen quotes his own interview with the British Mandate’s Acting High Commissioner Harry Luke during the homicidal countrywide Arab rampages of 1929 (most notorious for the Hebron massacre). Van Paassen told Luke: “you arrested first and foremost, in every case I investigated, the Jews who successfully defended themselves. You arrested fifty Jews in Haifa at the moment they defended themselves heroically against the attack of a mob of some 2,000 runners-amok…”

Luke’s response was one of the British being in a difficult situation and needing to” strike a balance – steer a neutral course—We are not unreasonable—-mistakes do occur”. To which van Paassen replied, “But are we really supposed to maintain a neutral position—Whatever your personal opinion of the Jews may be, you cannot deny that the Mandate imposes a duty on the British authority to facilitate the building of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Not build the Jewish National Home – the Jews are doing that themselves – but protect them and aid them in their task. —-How can we strike a balance between civilization and barbarism?—Aren’t we already out of balance the moment we compromise with barbarism?”

Luke: “—Our position is clear in this quarrel between Jews and Arabs ; we must keep the peace. Don’t you agree?
Pierre van Paassen: “It does not look to me , sir—-that this is fundamentally a quarrel between Jews and Arabs.”

In his meeting with the Grand Mufti , van Paassen said that he found it incredible that “Your Eminence” should think that the English are ever going to go home or that Zionists will give up their plan for redeeming the Land of Israel”, to which the Mufti replied, “There will be no peace in this country until they go—-In the English we recognize our real enemies. It is the British government and not the Jews who have foisted the scandalous Balfour Declaration on us.—- Our people are at the end of their patience. They cannot bear the sight of the Jews any longer.” Pierre van Paassen replied:

“The outbreaks are to be taken then as an organized attempt on the part of the Arabs, under the leadership of Your Eminence, to thwart the establishment of a Jewish Home in Palestine?”

Returning to Moshe Aarons in addressing the downside of British behavior. He reminds us that tens of thousands could have been saved from the Holocaust had Britain relented on executing the 1939 White Paper. Even more so, had a rescue effort been mounted to bring Jews from Europe to Palestine during WW2. Aarons asks a very salient question. “What is the explanation for the fact that the British government turned their backs on the Balfour Declaration; and over the years pursued a policy that was designed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Palestine rather than a Jewish state?”

Douglas J. Feith, who served as Deputy Secretary of Defense during the Reagan Administration and on the ME National Security Council staff in his, “A Mandate for Israel” published by The National Interest in 1993, furnishes the counter to vacuous claims and arguments registered by Abbas. The Palestine Mandate does not call for two Arab states in Palestine. In his memoirs of the Peace Conference, Lloyd George commented:

“No race has done better out of the fidelity with which the Allies redeemed their promises to the oppressed races than the Arabs. Owing to the tremendous sacrifices of the Allied Nations, and more particularly of Britain and her Empire, the Arabs have already won independence in Iraq, Arabia, Syria, and Trans-Jordan, although most of the Arab races fought[forTurkey] —-The Palestinian Arabs also fought for Turkish rule.”

There is no objection to a minority of Arabs enjoying Israeli citizenship. Conversely, the Egyptian premier is prepared to make allowance for a Palestinian entity in the Sinai.

Mr. Abbas, one is hard pressed to find names such as Arabs and Palestinians in the works of Josephus. What one does find are records on Jews, Romans, Vespasian, and Nero. Those named as Palestinians in contemporary times can readily be shown as having their roots in Arabia, Syria, Iraq etc., and not as a distinct people. You have only to visit worthy history books.

Israelis have made concessions galore and what is there to show for this? Gaza? Does Israel need another hate infested neighbor state alongside its borders? Jabostinsky explained that our claims verse yours are like ones of need verse ones of greed. He also unlike many of his pears understood the Arabs, proposing a logical solution to the conflict – an Iron Wall.

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.
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