“We are our own worst enemy.”
It is a scary and somewhat daunting phrase that captures the truth about many aspects of interpersonal relationships. When it comes to the Jewish people as a unit, this too rings true. Most of the time our own worst enemy is, in fact, ourselves.
As the century mark of the Balfour Declaration is coming along, I have become engrossed in researching the process that led to the Declaration and what we can learn from it up until today. To me, this seems like a prime example where the Jews of the diaspora came together as a unit to fight for the continued existence of the Jewish people. But, as my research expands, a certain name keeps coming up. A thorn in the rosebush of this Jewish unity.
His name was Edwin Montague and in my mind, he represents one the biggest problems facing world jewry to this very day. Montague was the single Jew working in the British Cabinet during World War One and his family was one of the most prominent and influential families in British and Jewish affairs. With such a seemingly large influence in the secular world, you would assume that obviously this was a huge positive for the Jews at the time. One foot in the door of British politics!
Montague was one of the most staunch anti-Zionists around, making it his life’s work to resist Zionist endeavors. In his writings, he makes his views clear, claiming ‘Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom.
His attitude towards the Zionist movement came to life when he used his influence to try put an end to one of the most important letters leading up to the establishment of Israel and what led me to Montague in the first place – the Balfour Declaration. He tried his very best to stop this meaningful Declaration from being accepted. However when he saw that this was not possible, he was sure to add phrases that blurred the lines and added a sense of ambiguity about the nature of the homeland that the Jewish people would eventually receive.
Montague is an example in history that parallels some of the biggest threats we have today. From the anti-Israel Neturei Karta ‘a group of Orthodox Jews which rejects Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel. based off of their supposed religious ideals, to extreme left movements such as J Street who parade as Zionist organisations but whose actions, such as drawing parallels between Israel and Hamas and constantly condemning Israel’s protective efforts, proves it to be another Jewish movement that can act as a magnet to anti-Zionists.
While the size of movements such as these may not be large, any sort of threat coming from within our own people is something the Jewish Nation has suffered from the most throughout our history as a nation.
Going back to ancient times, we are reminded of the story of Kamsa and Bar Kamsa. A petty argument between these two Jewish men which led to the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash (temple). This cruel destruction of our most Holy temple did not begin from an outer force, but rather from the hatred that was bred within the Jewish community.
It is strikingly clear that while, as Jews living in Israel, we face many threats from outer forces, one of our worst enemies is none other than ourselves. From the biblical times, seen throughout our history and highlighted with Montague’s involvement in the Balfour declaration, this threat of Jews against Israel is very real still today and must be countered by remaining loyal and united even in the face of our differences.
Let us learn from our mistakes, and take action to ensure the continuity of our people. Let us look forward to celebrating the century mark of the Balfour Declaration as a symbol where our unity as a Jewish nation overcame all.