Balfour’s disastrous legacy

By   /   October 29, 2017  /   9 Comments

On 2 November 1917, at the height of the First World War, Britain’s imperial voice expressed itself in a statement of intent from its Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, to Lord Rothschild – for passing on to the Zionist Federation. The message is known as the Balfour Declaration. The 30-year-long British occupation of Palestine that followed the allied World War One victory led to the unilateral Zionist declaration of ‘independence’ in 1948 and the establishment of Israel in Palestine. The Palestinian people had been encouraged to understand that, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, they would be allowed self-determination in their homeland. They had been seriously misled. In 1919, Balfour admitted to the new Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon:

“The weak point of our position is of course that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination.”

That same year, Balfour also wrote to Lord Curzon:

“in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… the Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land . . . In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.” Ingram p.73. See Nutting

For 69 years the Zionist enterprise, with the collusion of its powerful Western allies, has continued to demonstrate utter disregard for the Palestinian people, denying them their culture, their history and even their humanity.

The Palestinian-American academic, political activist and literary critic, Edward Said (1935-2003) eloquently evaluated the Declaration as follows:

“What is important about the Declaration is, first, that it has long formed the juridical basis of Zionist claims to Palestine, and second, more crucial for our purposes here, that it was a statement whose positional force can only be appreciated when the demographic, or human realities of Palestine are clearly understood. For the Declaration was made (a) by a European power (b) about a non-European territory (c) in a flat disregard of both the presences and the wishes of the native majority resident in that territory, and (d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people.”

The Jewish academic Ilan Pappe, director of the European Centre of Palestine Studies at the English University of Exeter, has made the following observation:

“The natural Palestinian rejection of the notion of dividing their homeland with settlers, the majority of whom had arrived only a few years earlier, fell on deaf Western ears. Locating the Jews in Palestine, without the need to come to terms with what Europe did to them in World War Two, became the easiest corridor out of Europe’s ugliest historical moment. As is clear today from the documents, the Zionist leadership regarded the partition resolution as both international legitimisation for a Jewish state in Palestine, and the Palestinian rejection of it as a valid pretext for the ethnic cleansing of the native population.”

Ideology is distinct from culture, race and nationhood. Political ideologies may seize the loyalty of any people at different periods of history but while the people continue, ideologies inevitably fall from fashion over time. No ideology can claim to speak for a whole people and most Jews, particularly those who are religious, opposed Zionism at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Balfour knew this very well. Bernard Regan, author of the book The Balfour Declaration: Empire, the Mandate and resistance in Palestine. 1917 -1936 reminds us that one of the most “vociferous” opponents of the Balfour Declaration was actually the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, Sir Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India:

“He believed that support for the ‘principle’ of a ‘National Home for the Jewish people’ would legitimate the spread of anti-Semitism already rampant in parts of Eastern Europe.”

Montagu believed that at least half the Jews in Britain opposed Zionism and his was not the only Jewish voice raised against Balfour. Regan writes that Mr C. G. Montefiore, President of the Anglo-Jewish Association, was critical of political Zionism’s founder Theodor Herzl’s assertion that “anti-Semitism was eternal, and that it was hopeless to expect its removal”. The Zionist enterprise depends on anti-Semitism as a smokescreen to divert attention from the abuses of human rights committed by Israel’s leaders. Regan notes that “Mr L. L. Cohen, Chairman of the Jewish Board of Guardians thought that since a Jewish home in Palestine would in any case only be able to take a fraction of world Jewry it would not resolve the problem of anti-Semitism.”

Today, the news media and many of our politicians, influenced so powerfully by the Israel Lobby, continue to ignore Jewish and Palestinian voices that are united in legitimate and necessary protest against both Israel’s founding ideology and the human rights violations that it engenders. There is a universal right to freedom of expression and it is time for us to heed the voices of those Jews for whom Zionism is as far removed from Judaism as could possibly be conceived.

Many Jews deplore the Zionist ideology’s inhumanity. Here are just a handful: Anna Baltzer of Jewish Voice for Peace, Miko Peled, the son of a Zionist General, who also served in the Israeli Army. We ask people to read the works of Gideon Levy and the historian Ilan Pappe. There are many, many more – including celebrities from the worlds of science, art, music, drama and comedy. Jews and non-Jews alike have the right to individually and collectively protest in the name of justice and respect for international humanitarian law. There is nothing racist in that. In fact, these voices, reflecting the underlying humanity of Jews and Palestinians, offer the best hope of peace. All they ask is that we join them. Let us open our hearts and minds and put humanity before politics and ideology – it might catch on!

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About the author

Leslie Bravery

Leslie Bravery is a Londoner with vivid World War Two memories of the Nazi blitz on his home town. In 1947/1948 His father explained to him what was happening to the Palestinians thus: “Any ideology or political movement that creates refugees in the process of realising its ambitions must be inhuman and should be opposed and condemned as unacceptable.” What followed confirmed this assessment of the Zionist entity a hundredfold. Now a retired flamenco guitarist, with a lifelong interest in the tragedy of what happened to the Palestinian people, he tries to publicise their plight. Because the daily injustices they suffer barely get a mention in the mainstream news media, Leslie edits/compiles a daily newsletter, In Occupied Palestine, for the Palestine Human Rights Campaign. These days, to preserve his sanity, he enjoys taking part in a drama group whenever possible!


  1. David Stone says:

    O K I’m in.
    D J S

  2. John W says:

    Banking is a parasitic and criminal activity. enormous wealth and power is sucked out of state , community and regional economies by bankers.

    When a clan of bankers enclave there activity to family and later willing tribal or religious brethren forming a closed circuit of cooperation and favour, then we have the basis for a force that rules the world.

    The formation of Israel was designed and sponsored by this clan using power and influence of bankers ill gotten stolen wealth.

    Parasites become predators with an voracious appetite for wealth and power rejecting any one out side their clan as being worthy of consideration.

    We had a PM who is apart of this clan. Hubris and lies are so plainly evident as their actions speak volumes about self aggrandisement at the expense of others while feigning concern.

    To keep a lid on the resentment and opposition to this powerful destructive cartel, a control of media has grown to promote the cartel and confuse the public about how they are robbed by bankers.

    Speaking out is important as is condemning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

    The terrorism and bloodshed perpetrated by Israel is a blot on humanity.

    A vile and repulsive cancer fed by close minded viscous criminals with the power of wealth backing them.

    The source of that wealth should be focus for international action bringing change and stability to a world peace and cooperation.

    As long as bankers are allowed to continue we will never have peace.

    • David Stone says:

      All society need do to defeat the banks is to stop borrowing from them. make do with what you can earn. It works out the same anyway overall . Governments would be forced to establish a positive money system. Cash would do.
      D J S

      • This thought of not using the banking system is stupid, these days you can not even pick up your wages in cash…you have to have an account of some sort…all public Servants know this…as do most workers. Controlling the creation of money by the banks via their lending would bring the banks under at least some control…Oh! and a transaction tax would also assist.

        • David Stone says:

          What you describe is the legitimate function of a bank. Use them to manage your account by all means. Just don’ borrow from them. And yes a transaction tax by all means.
          D J S

        • John W says:

          The NZ state used to give loans for housing and small business.

          There is nothing to stop this happening now except the grip bankers have on business and the Govt.

          There is nothing new in Govts creating loans and giving loans to its people.

          Why does the NZ Govt use banks other than Kiwibank which it owns.

  3. Sumsuch says:

    I would expect nothing less of Jews than that they are some of the most severe critics of Zionism.

    In the media, the UK government celebrating the Balfour Declaration is, even on mainstream terms, queasily dubious. Anyone with information regrets it completely.

    However…now, don’t believe, given that provocation, and so radicalization, the Israelis can lower their walls. Compromise requires expectation of payoff (peace) and that’s beyond the Palestinian authorities’ ability to deliver.

Authorised by Martyn Bradbury, The Editor, TheDailyBlog,