The Root Cause

“I had faith in Israel before it was established. I have faith in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it – not just another sovereign nation, but an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization” [President Harry S. Truman]

In recent times, there have been several instances of a recall of the November 2, 1917 Balfour Declaration. These extend to futile attempts by the PA to have it annulled and several papers. Among them is Martin Kramer’s “ The forgotten truth about the Balfour Declaration” which appeared in Mosaic of June 5, 2017.In fact, it is an amalgam of truth and the author’s version of truth.

Kramer states that “Great Britain had no sovereign rights over Palestine——–no authority to dispose of the land.” By March, 1917 the British had captured Baghdad.. What Kramer fails to recognize was that Jerusalem fell to Britain on December 9, 2017. During the course of WW1, the British entered into a series of agreements pertaining to the future division of the Middle East. In other words by November 2, 1917 after over 3 years of battle, the British became the conquerors of Palestine. Thus, it could be said that as a result of consultation with its allies, Britain was the de facto overseer of Palestine.

The agreement known as the McMahon -Hussein Correspondence [October 24, 1915] did not include Palestine as confirmed by the Palin Committee on April, 1919. McMahon explained his position in a letter to the London Times in 1937 wherein he declared that he had never discussed the future status of Palestine with Hussein Sharif.

Historian Isaiah Friedman shows that the October 24, 1915 letter from Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt to King Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, pledging Arab independence was conditional on a general Arab uprising against the Turks. Predicated on reciprocal action, the letter committed the British to recognize and uphold Arab independence in the areas of the Fertile Crescent once it was liberated by the Arabs themselves. As all evidence displays, few tribes rebelled against the Turks. Te Arabs in Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia fought for the Ottoman Empire against the British. In addition to its non-binding nature, McMahon’s letter has been misrepresented with respect to the territories it covers.

In his Memoirs of the Peace Conference, Loyd George adds to the forgoing confirmation:

“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 [for Turkey]—-The Palestinian Arabs fought for Turkish rule.”

The second agreement between the British and French, known as the Sykes-Picot Pact [May, 1916], was to establish a post-war division of the Middle East. France was to assume control over Syria and Lebanon, while the British would do the same in Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine

The third wartime agreement, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, was a statement that the British government viewed “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national Home for the Jewish People—–it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

One can readily obviate Martin Kramer’s confusion through the many books generated by historian Isaiah Friedman. Of particular note are his comments of having been able to access “the unpublished private papers of British officers, as well as on Zionist archival material” in addition to the official records at the public Record Office. A further consequential note, “—it was not McMahon’s letter of 24 October, 1915 on which Hussein based his claims, but that dated 10 March, 1916. The Arabic translation of the former was unambiguous and specially dealt with territorial questions and Palestine.

Friedman provides a reminder to the false notion that during WW1, the British Government made conflicting commitments to Arabs, to the French, and to the Jews, which had become almost a cliche. He quotes vociferously from the many mouths of officials who fell foul to the untruth of a twice promised land. To that end he has dedicated a whole book of the same name.

On the other hand, having regard for the growing influence of Britain, France and Russia in its territory, the Ottoman Empire [1300-1919] made the fatal mistake of aligning with the Austro-German alliance in the First World War.

There is no cleverness in quoting Arthur Koestler’s “frequent mantra”, on the Declaration as “one of the most improbable political documents of all time, [in which] one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.”when referring to the Balfour Declaration. So much for Koestler’s prominence or his Jewish intellectualism. Fact is that there was no nation named Palestine and to the victorious Britain and France,“to the victors went the spoils.” Only after the Six Day Wars was this governing international rule replaced with the non allowance of acquiring land through war, even in the case of defensive action, for the obvious reason of obfuscating the very purpose of the British Declaration.

Mr. Kramer the Declaration is not remembered as the moment of conception for Israel nor the original sin against the Palestinian Arabs. Those who seek to use such language are either devoid of historical knowledge bestowed by the likes of Bernard Lewis, David Fromkin or Isaiah Friedman or persuaded to accept the mantra of Israel’s enemies. There is truth to Israel celebrating while the Arabs protesting the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration this past November. Hence to suggest that the Balfour Declaration is “forgotten” is a complete misnomer.

The space Kramer allots to Sokolow and his importance is yet another questionable area .Why the overemphasis? In Conor Cruise O’Brien’s “The Siege”, he is referred to as “ a relatively colorless compromise figure”.In “From Time Immemorial” [Joan Peters], his name is not even mentioned once. Nor in Elie Kedourie’s “The Chatham House Version”. Isaiah Friedman discusses the interchange between Nahum Sokolow and Harry Sacher in his chapter “In Search of a Formula” on “The Question of Palestine”. Apparently Chaim Weizmann charged Sacher with having to draft a formula [declaration] for consideration by the British. As stated by Friedman, by comparison, “Sokolow’s draft was moderate.” Sacher responded to Sokolow his thorough dissatisfaction with latter’s position, maintaining that asking for “as much as possible is the right one.”Sokolow persisted in his belief that if one asked for too much, “we shall get nothing.”

The given thoughts were indeed representative of the positions differed by Chaim Weizmann and Zev Vladimir Jabotinsky. Kramer remarkably asserts that Sokolow is the entry point into the “fuller story of the Balfour Declaration. He is of the opinion that “many” in the Jewish world gave him more credit for it than they gave to Weizmann.

The historical record clearly demonstrates that only two major Jewish figures arose in consistently jousting over the Balfour Declaration and its consequences around the times between WW1 and WW2. To attempt an essay and only involving them selectively as Martin Kramer has done can only be regarded as sacrilege. There names are of course, Jabotinsky and Weizmann. The former’s speech at the Palestine Commission on February 11, 1937 is clearly a masterpiece as a plea on behalf of the Jewish people. An extract follows:

“We cannot ‘concede’ anything. Whenever I hear the Zionist, most often my own party, accused of asking for too much, Gentlemen I really cannot understand it. Yes, We do want a State; every nation on earth, every normal nation, beginning with the smallest and the humblest, who do not claim any merit, any role in humanity’s development, they all have States of their own. That is the normal condition for a people; yet when we , the most abnormal of peoples and therefor the most unfortunate, ask only for the the same conditions as the Albanians enjoy, to say nothing of the French and the English, then it is called too much.

I should understand it, if the answer were , ‘it is impossible’, but when the answer is ‘It is too much’ I cannot understand it. I would remind you [excuse me from quoting an example known to every one of you] of the commotion which was produced in that famous institution when Oliver Twist came and asked for ‘more’. He said ‘More’ because he did not know how to express it; what Oliver Twist really meant was this; Will you just give me that normal portion which is necessary for a boy of my age to be able to live. I assure you that you face here today, in the Jewish people with its demands, an Oliver Twist who has, unfortunately, no concessions to make. What can be the concessions? We have got to save millions, many millions.

When we hear the Arab claim confronted with the Jewish claim, I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority, it is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5, or No.6 – that I quite understand; but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite verses the claims the claims of starvation. No tribunal has ever had the luck of trying a case where all the justice was on the side of one Party and the other Party had no case whatsoever..”

Space, regrettably does not permit publication of the entire magnificent speech. Sufficient to draw attention to its conclusion. Jabotinsky said that he would accept Britain’s unwillingness to proceed with declaration on condition that it would return the Mandate.

If one is to look for a forgotten truth associated with the Balfour Declaration, it lies in the consequential Article 25 [Spring 1921] of the Palestine Mandate governed by Britain. It permitted the latter “to postpone or withhold applications of such provisions of the matter” and effectively resulted in separating nearly 80% of Palestine to create Trans-Jordan. The historical record clearly demonstrates Churchill’s wavering in promulgating this action. He needed to find a home for the Hashemite Abdullah, but also recognized that it would violate the pledge to the Jews. Weizmann and not Sokolow voiced discomfort over this, but only Jabotinsky was vociferously opposed to the idea. Had Jabotinsky gained the necessary support, Israel would not be experiencing the present turmoil and the ever present “two state solution” would never had reared its ugly head.

With the conversion ‘postpone’ by way of transforming temporary Trans-Jordan to permanent Jordan, the British government engaged in betrayal. Yet a 2nd act of betrayal was the issuance of the White Paper of 1939 in ignoring Arab illegal immigration, while restricting Jewish immigration viz. close settlement of the land.

Of course one needs to travel back in time to “remember” how so many myths and lack of truths have contributed to an unnecessary conflict. Consider the following:

[a] As stated by Douglas J. Feith, a former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and a Middle East Specialist on the White House National Security Council Staff in his paper, “A Mandate for Israel”, true peace, as opposed to a mere cease fire or a balance of power, is bound up with concepts of justice – that is, law and morality. In following the contest between the Zionists and the Arabs, this would appear to have been very much in short supply.
[b] Back in Temple Times, when Jewish wars entailed Jews in battle with Romans and Greeks, where were the Palestinians, or Arabs for that matter?
[c] History did not begin with the Arab conquest in the seventh century. The people whose nation was destroyed by the Romans were the Jews. There were no Arab Palestinians then – not until seven hundred years later would an Arab rule prevail, and then briefly [22 years; AD 639-661] i.e. Arabs not Palestinians. Among those alleged to be ‘indigenous Palestinians’ were Balkans, Greeks, Syrians, Latins, Egyptians, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Persians, Kurds, Germans, Afghans, Circasians, Bosnians, Sudanese, Samaritans, Algerians, Motawila and Tartars.[ Joan Peters – From Time Immemorial]
[d] In support of [c], the chart below, graphically demonstrates the time line for the subject history. It demonstrates as a fact that ‘Palestine’ was never an Arab country. One of the persistent myths to this day was the existence of an independent state named ‘Palestine’. Until the defeat of the Ottoman [Turkish] Empire during WW1, there was absolutely no geopolitical entity named ‘Palestine’, nor did any Arab nation ever set historical roots on the Land of Israel and no national claim was registered in this name other than by the Jews.

It can be noted that from the time of the expulsion of the Jews by the Romans in the year 70 to 132 AD and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Israel [‘Palestine’] was occupied by fourteen conquerors over thirteen centuries until 1948, when the Jews were able to declare their independence once more.

1. Israel Rule (Biblical period) 1350 BC to 586 BC
2. Babylonian Conquest 587 BC to 538 BC
3. Israel Autonomy (under Persian & Greco-Assyrian sovereignty) 538 BC to 168 BC
4. Revolt of the Maccabees 168 BC to 143 BC
5. Rule of the Hashmoneans & their successors 143 BC to 70 AD
6. Jewish Autonomy (under Roman & Byzantine sovereignty) 70 AD to 637 AD
7. Rule of Moslem CaliphsMecca 637 AD to 661 AD Umayyides 661 AD to 750 AD Abbaaside 750 AD to 870 AD Fatimides 969 AD to 1071 AD 637 AD to 1072 AD
8. Seljukes Rule 1072 AD to 1096 AD
9. Crusaders Ayyubids (in parts only) 1175 AD to 1291 AD 1099 AD to 1291 AD
10. Mamelukes Rule 1291 AD to 1516 AD
11. Ottomans (Turks) 1516 AD to 1918 AD
12. British Mandate 1918 AD to 1948 AD
13. Israel rule under democracy
1948 AD — .

Mr Kramer when reporting history, one would surely benefit by having Advocate Douglas J.Feith in mind.

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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