Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine, Martin Kramer explains why “The Balfour Declaration Was More than the Promise of One Nation“.

“In 1930, the British Colonial Office published a “white paper” that Zionists saw as a retreat from the Balfour Declaration. David Lloyd George, whose government had issued the declaration in 1917, was long out of office and now in the twilight of his political career. In an indignant speech, he insisted that his own country had no authority to downgrade the declaration, because it constituted a commitment made by all of the Allies in the Great War:

In wartime we were anxious to secure the good will of the Jewish community throughout the world for the Allied cause. The Balfour Declaration was a gesture not merely on our part but on the part of the Allies to secure that valuable support. It was prepared after much consideration, not merely of its policy, but of its actual wording, by the representatives of all the Allied and associated countries including America, and of our dominion premiers.

There was some exaggeration here; not all of the Allies shared the same understanding of the policy or saw the “actual wording.” But Lloyd George pointed to the forgotten truth that I sought to resurrect through my essay. In 1917, there was not yet a League of Nations or a United Nations. But, in the consensus of the Allies, there was the nucleus of a modern international order. The Balfour Declaration had the weight of this consensus behind it, before Balfour signed it. This international buy-in is also why the Balfour Declaration entered the mandate for Palestine, entrusted to Britain by the League of Nations. Those who now cast the Balfour Declaration as an egregious case of imperial self-dealing simply don’t know its history (or prefer not to know it).”

2) Yaakov Lappin reports on a worrying development in Lebanon.

“Israeli leaders are continuing to issue public statements on an Iranian underground missile factory that was apparently built in Lebanon. […]

The first report about this missile factory surfaced back in March, in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.

That report quoted “an aid to the IRGC commander” who said that “Iran has built factories [for manufacturing] missiles and [other] weapons in Lebanon and has recently turned them over to Hizbullah.”

The original story (translation by MEMRI) has some interesting initial information:

“In response to statements by Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan several days ago – who said that Hizbullah is capable of manufacturing missiles [that can] hit any part of Israel [but] gave no details or explanations – a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said that, after Israel destroyed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan several years ago that had supplied arms to Hizbullah, and after [Israel also] bombed an arms convoy that was intended to reach Hizbullah via Syria, the IRGC launched a project for establishing arms factories in Lebanon [itself].””

3) With a BBC presenter having promoted and endorsed the political NGO ‘Breaking the Silence‘ only last week and that group currently making headlines, an op-ed by Ben Dror Yemini at Ynet concerning an ongoing story makes interesting reading.

“Breaking the Silence director Yuli Novak is furious about the investigation against the organization’s spokesperson, Dean Issacharof, who stated that he had committed a war crime of beating a Palestinian until he bled. Why is he being interrogated of all people, Novak complained. There are, after all, hundreds of other testimonies. […]

The Military Advocate General wanted to investigate the testimonies that point to a suspected offense, but the organization’s members demanded protection of its sources. And now Novak is complaining that testimonies are not being investigated.”

4) At the Tablet, Tony Badran has more on a story we reported here last week.

“After the second Lebanon war in 2006, when the IDF uncovered the elaborate network of underground Hezbollah tunnels and bunkers in southern Lebanon, the Israelis dubbed these fortifications “nature reserves.” Hezbollah used the “nature reserves,” which were built in forested areas and hillsides, to launch short-range rockets on northern Israel continuously as its fighters hunkered inside, safe from aerial and artillery bombardment.

Eleven years later, the term, intended as a joke, has proved more apt than perhaps the IDF initially imagined. Last week, Israel filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council in which it charged that Hezbollah had set up observation outposts along the border under the cover of an environmental group called Green Without Borders. Israel released photos and a video backing up its claim.”

 

 

 

BBC’s Hugh Sykes tells R4 listeners that Jews rejected the Partition Plan

As noted here previously, on June 8th Hugh Sykes produced two reports for BBC Radio 4. The second of those reports was broadcast in the programme ‘PM‘ (from 45:16 here) and presenter Eddie Mair introduces it as follows: [all emphasis in italics in the original]

Mair: “In Israel there’s a triple anniversary this year, as our correspondent Hugh Sykes explains from Jerusalem, which itself has experienced numerous car rammings and knife attacks recently. On Radio 4’s the World at One Hugh heard from Jewish Israelis who want to end the occupation. Here’s Hugh’s report for PM.”

As was the case in that earlier report, Sykes’ portrayal of attacks against Israelis (rather than the city of Jerusalem, as Mair bizarrely claims) does not include any use of the term terror. Once more, Radio 4 listeners do not hear any background information explaining why the Six Day War happened and the 19 year-long Jordanian occupation of Judea & Samaria and parts of Jerusalem until 1967 is again erased from audience view.

Sykes: “Since September 2015 there’ve been 58 vehicle ramming attacks here in Israel and 177 stabbing attacks on people presumed to be Jewish, killing 50 – most of the dead; Israeli Jews. 250 of the Palestinian attackers were killed by Israeli security forces – figures from the Israeli government. And these anniversaries? It’s 50 years since the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel fought against Syria, Jordan and Egypt and Israel won. 2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the occupation which ensued.”

Sykes then presents listeners with an inaccurate claim relating to the 1947 Partition Plan.

Sykes: “And 70 years ago in 1947, the UN General Assembly passed the partition resolution, recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states with economic union and an international regime for a shared Jerusalem. The two-state resolution 181 seventy years ago was rejected by Palestinians and by most Jewish organisations.”

The non-binding recommendation known as UN GA resolution 181 of course limited ‘corpus separatum’ status of Jerusalem to a period of ten years, after which “the whole scheme shall be subject to examination by the Trusteeship Council in the light of experience acquired with its functioning” and “the residents the City shall be then free to express by means of a referendum their wishes as to possible modifications of regime of the City”.

The Palestinians – in the form of the Arab Higher Committee – did indeed reject the Partition Plan outright – but so did the Arab states; unmentioned by Sykes. While some groups such as Etzel and Lehi expressed opposition to the Partition Plan, the organisation officially representing Jews in Palestine – the Jewish Agency – both lobbied for and accepted it. Sykes’ attempt to portray the plan as having been rejected by both Arabs and Jews is egregiously inaccurate, although unfortunately not unprecedented in BBC content.

Sykes then goes on:

Sykes: “Civil war broke out between Jews and Palestinians, the State of Israel was declared in 1948 immediately followed by the first Arab-Israeli war which Israel won. Many Israelis are celebrating this year as the 50th anniversary of salvation because they won the Six Day War. Palestinians are marking 50 years of occupation – a word that many Israeli Jews reject. Here are two settlers voicing views that I’ve heard here many times.”

The edited and unidentified voices that listeners then hear are of a genre the BBC so often finds fit to amplify. Sykes commences by suggesting to listeners that individuals – rather than states – are ‘occupiers’.

Sykes: “Do you feel you’re an occupier?”

Woman 1: “Hmm…I don’t know that I’d use that word. I just live here. I’m not familiar with…I don’t use that word. I do not like the word occupying. I am not.”

Sykes: “You’re 20 kilometers inside the West Bank; inside what most of the world describes as illegally occupied Palestinian territory.”

Woman 1: “Let’s just say I don’t agree with the world. Just because the whole world thinks something is right doesn’t make it right.”

Woman 2: “The solution between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is in the Bible. The land of Israel was promised to the sons of Jacob and Israel and this is why the name of the state is Israel and not Palestine. Palestine is Philistines. The Philistines have disappeared from the map of the world. In Israel, Israel is the boss.”

Having inserted the BBC’s standard portrayal of ‘international law’ (which endorses one narrative concerning what is actually an unresolved dispute), Sykes goes on to present a conversation with a shopkeeper in Jerusalem that is remarkable for his own prompting and numerous closed questions.

Sykes: “A conversation in a book shop in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is annexed and governed by Israel and there are now more than half a million Israeli settlers living in what international law regards as the occupied West Bank, though Israel disputes that. The bookshop owner is Imad Muna [phonetic].

Muna: “I was born in 1964 so on 1967 I was 3 years old. So all my life was under occupation. So I don’t know what is the difference between occupation and freedom.”

Sykes: “Do you think the occupation is permanent now?”

Muna: “I think what they call it the national project – the Palestinian national project – I think it’s fall down.”

Sykes: “It’s finished?”

Muna: “I think it’s fini…almost. Some of the people they say that it’s OK to be under occupation, under the Israeli law. So we are not united any more against the occupation. We are used to the occupation, which is dangerous. But this is our situation.”

Sykes: “Dangerous to accept it?”

Muna: “Dangerous to accept because then it will be normal; part of life.”

Sykes: “So if occupation goes on forever, which you’re suggesting, does something happen to stop it or does it just go on and on?”

Muna: “Nothing to stop it because also we are weak. As a Palestinian we are weak. We cannot do anything. The Palestinians – most of them – they’re against fighting and stabbing and bombing. Against that. “

Failing to inform listeners of the relevant issue of Palestinian Authority’s payment of salaries to convicted terrorists and its quotidian incitement and glorification of terrorism, Sykes goes on:

Sykes: “Do you blame your parents’ generation for rejecting the United Nations resolution which offered partition between Jews and Palestine?”

Muna: “Yes.”

Sykes: “A two-state solution in 1947 – should that have happened?”

Muna: “Yes. Yes – completely right.”

Sykes: “Do you also blame the violent Palestinians – mostly of Hamas but also of Islamic Jihad and also Fatah – for mounting that sustained suicide bombing campaign in which more than 800 people in Israel were murdered? Did that give Israel permission to remain occupiers forever?”

Muna: “It was wrong. The wall, the isolation – all the things happen because of the bombing that we did.”

Sykes: “So violent Palestinian organisations like Hamas wounded Palestinians?”

Muna:”That’s right – exactly, exactly. Every time we do it it’s come back to us.”

Sykes: “Imad Muna. In 2011 the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said that the 1947 Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan had been a mistake and if the occupation does never end,  intense Palestinian anger may return, like that expressed by a farmer I met during the second Intifada – uprising – 15 years ago.”

Listeners then hear a voiceover of an unidentified man saying:

“Three days ago the Israelis came with their bulldozers. They were uprooting olive trees and beans which we used to plant in this area. This is like cancer in the Palestinian body.”

Sykes: “A farmer in the West Bank shortly before the so-called security barrier was erected across his land.”

If a section of the anti-terrorist fence really was erected on the man’s land, he would of course have received compensation but Sykes does not trouble his listeners with such details. He closes:

Sykes: “And this year’s third Israel anniversary? It’s a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration. In 1917 the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, sent a letter to Lord Rothschild in which he declared ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment of a national home for Jewish people’.”

Sykes of course misquotes that part of the short text which actually reads:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” [emphasis added]

He continues:

“His letter goes on ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’.”

With the suggestion obviously being that those rights have been prejudiced, the item closes there:

Eddie Mair: “Hugh Sykes reporting.”

Yet again we see in this item promotion of the politicised and inaccurate narrative according to which the modern-day conflict is rooted entirely in the outcome of the Six Day War – in particular ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements’. Sykes’ inaccurate portrayal of Jewish acceptance of the Partition Plan obviously needs rapid and prominent correction and one can only hope that misrepresentation does not signal a taste of things to come when that anniversary is marked later this year.

Related Articles:

BBC claims Ben Gurion “opposed” the Partition Plan

The BBC and the 1947 Partition Plan

Radio 4’s Hugh Sykes joins the BBC’s ‘it’s all down to the occupation’ binge

 

Weekend long read

1) At the New York Times, Bret Stephens discusses “Six Days and 50 Years of War“.

“In June 1967 Arab leaders declared their intention to annihilate the Jewish state, and the Jews decided they wouldn’t sit still for it. For the crime of self-preservation, Israel remains a nation unforgiven.

Unforgiven, Israel’s milder critics say, because the Six-Day War, even if justified at the time, does not justify 50 years of occupation. They argue, also, that Israel can rely on its own strength as well as international guarantees to take risks for peace.

This is ahistoric nonsense.”

2) At The Times of Israel, Michael Blum tells the story of Kfar Etzion.

“Today, Israel’s 50-year control over parts of the West Bank and its continuing settlement building are seen by many as major stumbling blocks to peace efforts. But Ben Yaakov, who lives in Kfar Etzion, says the settlement should be seen differently.

He was born there in the early 1940s, in what was not yet a settlement but a kibbutz, the collective communities Jews established even before Israel became a state.

Kfar Etzion was set up on land in an area that was not yet referred to as the West Bank.

Along with others, he fled fighting in late 1947, but returned after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, which lasted from June 5 to 10, 1967.”

3) At Mosaic Magazine, Martin Kramer gives a fascinating account of “The Forgotten Truth about the Balfour Declaration“.

“The declaration has come to be remembered as either the moment of conception for Israel (and what the pro-Zionist parliamentarian Richard Crossman called “one of the greatest acts of Western statesmanship in the 20th century”) or the original sin against the Palestinian Arabs (and what the Palestinian scholar-activist Walid Khalidi recently called “the single most destructive political document on the Middle East in the 20th century”). In this sense, the declaration’s centennial is truly “a big deal.” According to various announcements, come November, it will be celebrated by Israel, protested by the Palestinians, and “marked” by Britain.

Few of the celebrants or the protesters, however, will have much understanding of what produced the Balfour Declaration—which should not be surprising. Even historians cannot agree, which assures that almost no one who hasn’t studied the history of it is likely to have a clue.”

4) At the Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig-Gur takes a long and thought-provoking look at the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“The peace process was forged by a class of individuals possessing an exceptionally well-developed capacity for selective blindness. Some Israeli leaders — Yitzhak Rabin, for instance — believed they could forge with PLO leader Yasser Arafat the sort of cold but dependable standoff Israel had maintained with each Egyptian dictator since Anwar Sadat. Other Israelis — Yossi Beilin is one example — believed they were negotiating a real reconciliation, apparently because they themselves yearned for it so intensely that they could not really fathom that it might not be reciprocated by the other side. Both of these sorts of Israelis were determined to ignore the domestic Palestinian discourse advanced by Arafat and others that resisted reconciliation, elevated the ideological rejection of Israel to the level of civic religion and openly glorified brutality against Israelis — and that was in the happy early years of Oslo peacemaking, the mid-1990s to which more than a few of today’s despairing progressives look for inspiration.” 

 

 

BBC’s ME Editor misrepresents the Hussein-McMahon correspondence

The first episode in Jeremy Bowen’s new BBC Radio 4 series of programmes about the Middle East was aired on May 15th.

The programme – titled “The Giant Awakens” – is ostensibly about the build-up to the First Gulf War in 1991. However, around a third of the episode is actually devoted to other topics and a transcript of most of that section of the programme was also uploaded to the programme’s webpage under the title “The three most significant foreign interventions in the Middle East“.

Bowen tells Radio 4 listeners and website visitors that: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

“Big powers have intervened in the Middle East to reshape it to their requirements since ancient times.

It’s strategically placed, connecting Europe with Asia and Africa. It’s the home of the world’s three great monotheistic religions. And for the last 100 years or so, great powers have needed its oil reserves – the biggest in the world.

Two imperial grandees created – and some say cursed – the modern Middle East when they carved up the Ottoman Empire at the height of the First World War. One was a French diplomat, Charles Francois Georges Picot; the other, Sir Mark Sykes, was British.

The Sykes-Picot agreement was designed to win the peace for Britain and France. It defined zones of influence in the Middle East for the two imperial powers. Borders of new states came later.

But to win the war, the British had already made promises to the Arabs.

The Sharif of Mecca, Hussein Ibn Ali, led an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks. In return, he believed the British had promised him an independent Arab kingdom across much of present day Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Hussein kept his word. The duplicitous British did not.

The requirements of Empire came first. The promise of Arab self-determination was part of the collateral damage.”

Bowen is of course referring to the Hussein-McMahon correspondence. However, as has been previously noted here on several occasions, Sir Henry McMahon himself pointed out in a letter to the Times in 1937 that the claim that Hussein was promised all of the territory described by Bowen is incorrect.

That point had earlier been clarified in the British government’s White Paper of 1922.

“With reference to the Constitution which it is now intended to establish in Palestine, the draft of which has already been published, it is desirable to make certain points clear. In the first place, it is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October, 1915, from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty’s High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sherif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty’s Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge.” [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, the BBC – and the man whose job it is to “make a complex story more comprehensive or comprehensible for the audience” – continues to promote that politically motivated myth.

Bowen continues:

“Within 20 years, a Palestinian scholar called Sykes-Picot a shocking document – the product of greed, stupidity and double-dealing.”

That “Palestinian scholar” was George Antonius and he was actually born in 1891 in Lebanon to an Eastern Orthodox Christian family. Having graduated from Cambridge, Antonius became a civil servant in the British Mandate administration in Palestine. The phrase quoted by Bowen appears in Antonius’ 1938 book ‘The Arab Awakening’ and it was refuted by Efraim Karsh in his book ‘Rethinking the Middle East’ (from page 58).

Bowen continues:

“Another vision of the future cut across Hussein Ibn Ali’s hopes: Zionists lobbied Britain, successfully, to support the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine.

In November 1917, Britain’s foreign secretary Arthur Balfour declared that Britain would “view with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people”. Britain also promised “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

Making promises to both sides built a deadly contradiction into the Balfour Declaration. By the early 1920s, Arabs and Jews in Palestine were killing each other. They are responsible for what they’ve done. But Britain started the fire.

For Palestinians the Balfour Declaration was a milestone on the road to catastrophe. For Israelis it led to statehood.

A century on it’s still politically resonant – triumphant or toxic, depending on your view of history.”

Bowen’s promotion of the notion that the Balfour Declaration includes “a deadly contradiction” is of course the product of his own chosen political narrative. Notably, he fails to inform BBC audiences that the principle expressed in the Balfour Declaration was given the unanimous stamp of approval by the League of Nations in 1922 and that in the same year, 77% of the territory originally designated to the Jewish homeland was given over to the Hashemites when Transjordan was created.

In the audio version listeners next hear Bowen say:

“Earlier this year Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, showed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu round his grand corner office overlooking St James’ Park.”

A recording of the British Foreign Secretary showing Arthur Balfour’s desk is then heard before the report goes on:

“The deals made in World War One were designed to strengthen the British and French empires. The Ottoman Empire was breaking up after nearly 500 years and the European imperial powers were creating a new order in the Middle East.”

Jeremy Bowen’s presentation of this topic is far from accurate and impartial and it is clearly motivated by the political narrative he has chosen to adopt and advertise. Unfortunately, there is nothing new about that: the politicised misrepresentation of this subject by the gatekeeper of the BBC’s Middle East content goes back many years. However, that misrepresentation is all the more egregious at a time when political campaigns concerning the Balfour Declaration are in the news

Related Articles:

BBC Radio 4 launches a new ME series by Jeremy Bowen

Reviewing BBC portrayal of the Balfour Declaration

The BBC and the myth of the ‘twice promised land’

Resources:

How to complain to the BBC

BBC News amplifies Balfour agitprop yet again

Last July the BBC News website chose to amplify Palestinian Authority agitprop in an article misleadingly titled “Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act” which was discussed here at the time.

Last October the BBC News website gave a whitewashed account of an event at the House of Lords at which veteran anti-Israel campaigner Jenny Tonge hosted a re-launch of the ‘Balfour Apology Campaign’ run by the Hamas-linked ‘Palestinian Return Centre’ (PRC).

In January 2017 the BBC refrained from reporting on related statements made by the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al Maliki.

“When I met the British foreign secretary, I told him very clearly what we expect. We expect them to apologize, to accept their historical responsibility, to acknowledge [their culpability], and to pay reparations.” [emphasis added]

“So far, we haven’t heard from them. The current escalation on their part makes us consider [possible] Palestinian action with regard to all those issues, including our action with regard to the Balfour Declaration. I won’t be divulging anything by saying that we have made plans for action in the framework of our embassies and our communities in Europe and Britain, and plans to mobilize civil society institutions in Britain and elsewhere.” [emphasis added]

The British government has of course made it clear on several occasions that it has no intention of apologising for the Balfour Declaration.

On April 3rd the ‘UK Politics’ section of the BBC News website published an article titled “Britain should apologise for Balfour Declaration – peer” which describes a question tabled in the House of Lords on the same day as follows:

“A peer has called on the government to apologise for the “suffering” of Palestinians, 100 years after the Balfour Declaration.

The UK government declaration was the first commitment by a world power to a “Jewish national home” in Palestine.

Lord Warner said the UK had failed to protect the rights of non-Jewish people in the region and should apologise.

The government said there would be no apology but it would work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

During questions in the House of Lords, the Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay told the independent peer that the government “will mark the centenary of Balfour with pride” and had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK.”

In the article’s third from last paragraph readers learn that:

“Lord Warner asked the question on behalf of absent independent peer Baroness Tonge, who quit the Liberal Democrats in 2012 over remarks she made about Israel.”

However, readers are not told that Lord Warner is a trustee of the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) according to the website of that Hamas-linked group which was outlawed by Israel in 2013. The CEPR’s director is Dr. Arafat Shoukri (aka Arafat Madi Mahmoud Shukri) who is also linked to the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which is likewise outlawed in Israel due to its links to Hamas.

Neither were readers of this report informed that Lord Warner has a long record of collaboration with delegitimisers of Israel and has previously made numerous anti-Israel statements in Parliament.

The BBC cannot claim to be providing its audiences with accurate and impartial coverage of the topic of the already redundant – yet ongoing – ‘Balfour Apology Campaign’ if it reports – and amplifies – support for that campaign from certain British parliamentarians without also clarifying to audiences their record on Israel and their links to organisations connected to a Palestinian terror group proscribed by the British government.

Related Articles:

Jenny Tonge & the Hamas Lobby  (UK Media Watch)

BBC News gives a whitewashed account of ‘controversial’ meeting in House of Lords

 

 

Weekend long read

1) MEMRI has produced a report reviewing “statements by Palestinian officials threatening to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration and urging it to apologize for it, as well as the articles in the Palestinian press on this issue and the popular campaign that has been launched to promote the lawsuit.”

“In comments to the website of the satellite television channel Al-Mayadeen on February 11, 2017, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said that, during a visit to London last year (on October 31-November 1, 2016) he had told his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, that the British government and all its institutions must avoid participating in any events related to the Balfour Declaration and that any celebrations of the declaration’s centenary would have a negative impact on Palestinian-British relations. He also demanded that Britain acknowledge its historic responsibility for the declaration, apologize to the Palestinian people, and issue a new declaration recognizing a Palestinian state.”

2) At the end of last month the JCPA held a conference marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. Videos of lectures given by speakers at the conference can be found here.

3) The ITIC has produced a profile of frequent BBC interviewee Husam Zomlot in light of his appointment to a new post.

“On March 8, 2017, Mahmoud Abbas appointed Dr. Husam Zomlot as chief of the PLO delegation to the United States, in effect representing Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). He will replace Maen Erekat, who has held the post since 2009. Erekat will be appointed to represent the PA in London. Since May 2016 Husam Zomlot has been advisor for strategic affairs to Mahmoud Abbas.”

Related Articles:

Balfour Declaration

 

 

 

Multiplatform BBC amplification for anti-Israel ‘political statement’ PR campaign

On March 3rd BBC audiences found reports on multiple platforms promoting what is repeatedly and openly defined by a BBC reporter as “a political statement”.

Visitors to the BBC News website found an article titled “Banksy decorates West Bank hotel with views of Israel’s wall” in which they were told that: [emphasis in bold added]banksy-hotel-written

“A hotel which prides itself on the “worst view in the world” is set to attract international attention – because it is a collaboration with the famous street artist Banksy.

The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem looks out on the concrete slabs of the controversial barrier Israel has built in and around the occupied West Bank.

Israel says it is needed to prevent terror attacks. Palestinians say it is a device to grab land and the International Court of Justice has called it illegal.

The rooms of the hotel are also filled with the anonymous artist’s work, much of which is about the conflict.

The owners say it will be a real, functioning hotel, opening on 20 March.

But the hotel is also part art gallery and part political statement.”

As is inevitably the case in BBC content relating to the anti-terrorist fence, readers are not informed that 95% of the structure as a whole is made of wire mesh or that the highlighted ICJ advisory opinion was marred by politicisation.  And of course while the article (together with the other reports on the same theme) includes the standard employment of the qualifying ‘Israel says’ formula to portray the structure’s purpose, the view presented to BBC audiences excludes any mention of the murders of hundreds of Israeli men, women and children by Palestinian terrorists that prompted the fence’s construction.banksy-hotel-written-last-pic 

The caption to the final image illustrating the article reads “The hotel will accept bookings from 11 March, nine days before its opening” and immediately below that readers are again informed that “The Walled Off Hotel opens on 20 March”. BBC editorial guidelines concerning advertising and “product prominence” state:

“…we must avoid any undue prominence which gives the impression that we are promoting or endorsing products, organisations or services”. 

In addition to that written report, visitors to the BBC News website found a filmed report also shown on BBC television programmes. Titled “Banksy hotel, The Walled Off, opens in Bethlehem“, the report is billed:banksy-hotel-filmed

“The hotel has the “worst view of any hotel in the world”, the street artist says, as it is next to Israel’s controversial wall.”

That report was produced by Alex Forsyth – a political correspondent for BBC News who has recently been based in Beirut and who apparently just happened to be 245 kilometers away in Bethlehem on the day that the PR media campaign for this “political statement” was launched. [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Forsyth: “This is Banksy’s latest creation. It’s a hotel in Bethlehem. It’s called the Walled Off – which is a play on the famous Waldorf – and the reason for that is it’s situated just feet away from the barrier which separates the West Bank from Israel. More than just a business, this is a political statement by Banksy – a comment on what he sees as the plight of Palestinians. It’s come as a surprise to people living here. Nobody knew he was behind it until today and we can take a first glimpse at what he created so let’s take a little look inside.

This is the reception; it leads through to the lounge area. Everything in here was designed by Banksy. It’s taken some 14 months to create. He fully funded the project although he won’t say how much it’s cost. He describes it as the hotel with the worst view in the world and that is because if you look through the windows you can see the wall which is so nearby. Now that was built by the Israelis and they say it’s essential for their security and to prevent terror attacks. Many Palestinians feel that it encroaches on their freedom and if you look round this hotel you can see on the walls there are symbols of Banksy’s view on the situation here: his political comment. It’s not the first time he’s been to this area. He has painted on the wall itself in the past. Some have criticized him for that, saying he is normalising the wall and that shouldn’t be the case. His argument is that he’s raising awareness and the team behind this hotel are keen to stress that it employs local staff – some 45 people – and is run by a local Palestinian. There are 9 rooms, the prices start at $30 a night but they say this is not a money-making operation; instead this is about raising awareness.”

Even listeners to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Six O’Clock News’ on March 3rd were not spared amplification of this latest agitprop stunt. Newsreader Corrie Corfield told audiences (from 26:46 here):banksy-hotel-r4-news

Corfield: “The British graffiti artist Banksy is opening a guest house on the occupied West Bank which he claims will be the hotel with the worst view in the world. The building in Bethlehem is a few feet from part of a wall that was built by the Israelis. Our correspondent Alex Forsyth paid it a visit.”

Forsyth: “From the self-playing grand piano to the Chesterfield sofas, the hotel’s lounge mirrors an English gentleman’s club. But the walls are adorned with images depicting Banksy’s view of the Palestinian plight: a collection of mock security cameras, images of angels wearing gas masks and Israeli soldiers pillow fighting with Palestinians. Entirely designed and funded by Bansky, this is a functioning and permanent guest house – not a temporary installation. Staffed by local Palestinians, prices range from £25 a night for a bunk bed in a bleak dormitory to hundreds for a stay in the plush presidential suite. From almost every room there’s a view of the wall: part of the West Bank barrier built by Israel, which says it’s essential for security. Deliberately situated just feet away, the Walled Off hotel is as much a political statement as a new business.”

Forsyth’s claim that the project is not a “temporary installation” is not supported by the hotel’s website.

banksy-hotel-website

The hotel’s website provides further insight into what the project is “raising awareness” about:

“Britain got its hands on Palestine in 1917 and the piano bar is themed as a colonial outpost from those heady days. It is equipped with languid ceiling fans, leather bound couches and an air of undeserved authority.”

As CNN reported, the press release which accompanied the PR campaign that the BBC elected to generously amplify also included a reference to contemporary British politics.

‘”It’s exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture – with chaotic results,” said Banksy in a press release handed out at the hotel’s opening.

“I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences,” the statement read, referencing in one line Balfour and Brexit.’

The BBC, however, chose to focus audience attentions away from those UK related areas of “political comment”, preferring instead to promote the facile slogan “plight of the Palestinians”.

This is of course not the first time (see ‘related articles’ below) that the BBC has taken the editorial decision to promote and amplify what apparently passes as “political comment” on the Arab-Israeli conflict from a person not even prepared to identify himself to the general public.

It is also far from the first time that the BBC has promoted simplistic politicised commentary on the anti-terrorist fence while erasing its proven efficiency – and the hundreds of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists before its construction – from audience view.

This latest unquestioning self-conscription to a PR campaign promoting anonymous agitprop designed to delegitimise Israel of course further erodes the BBC’s claim of ‘impartiality’.

Related Articles:

BBC inaccurately promotes Banksy propaganda as a ‘documentary’

BBC’s Knell returns to the Gaza rubble

In which BBC Radio 4 insists on describing a fence as a wall

 

 

BBC News avoids telling Brits about PA’s Balfour ultimatum

In July 2016 the BBC News website published an article titled “Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act“ which was discussed here. BBC audiences were told that:PA Balfour Decl art

“Palestinian officials have said they are planning to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that laid out a vision for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki [sic] said the document led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine “at the expense of our Palestinian people”.

Mr Malki said the lawsuit would be filed in an international court. […]

Speaking at an Arab League summit in Mauritania on Monday, Mr Malki said the UK was responsible for all “Israeli crimes” since the end of the mandate in 1948.

“Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917,” he was quoted as saying by the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

“And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland.”

The minister did not provide any further details about the planned lawsuit.

Mr Malki made the announcement on behalf of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was not at the summit because of his brother’s recent death.”

On January 18th the same Riyad al Maliki gave an interview to Palestinian Authority TV (video clip translated by MEMRI available here) in which he provided “further details” concerning the PA’s demands.

“When I met the British foreign secretary, I told him very clearly what we expect. We expect them to apologize, to accept their historical responsibility, to acknowledge [their culpability], and to pay reparations.” [emphasis added]

And what if the UK does not agree to those demands?

“So far, we haven’t heard from them. The current escalation on their part makes us consider [possible] Palestinian action with regard to all those issues, including our action with regard to the Balfour Declaration. I won’t be divulging anything by saying that we have made plans for action in the framework of our embassies and our communities in Europe and Britain, and plans to mobilize civil society institutions in Britain and elsewhere.” [emphasis added]

Al Maliki added:

“The ball is in the court of the British. If Britain wants to contain all these measures on all levels, and to treat us responsibly on this issue – it is most welcome. If Britain does not want that, and prefers to escalate things on all levels, and to ignore the suggestions we made, rather than treat them positively, we will complete the measures that we have initiated.”

One might have thought that the British Broadcasting Corporation would have found that mobster-style ultimatum worth reporting to its funding public in the UK. To date, that has not been the case.

More Balfour Declaration resources

This post is part our series providing resources relating to the Balfour Declaration and it will be permanently available in the Library section on the menu bar above. 

The following lecture was given by the British historian Sir Martin Gilbert – Winston Churchill’s official biographer – at the Foreign Office in London in October 2007.balfour-declaration

On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. In the early months of the war, as the fighting at sea intensified, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, faced a growing shortage of acetone, the solvent used in making cordite: the essential naval explosive. Through the head of the powder department at the Admiralty, Sir Frederic Nathan, a Jewish chemical engineer, Churchill approached Chaim Weizmann, who for the past decade had been working at Manchester University (he and Churchill had shared a platform in 1905 to protest against the most recent Russian pogroms).

Weizmann later recalled their meeting at the Admiralty: ‘Almost his first words were: “Well, Dr. Weizmann, we need thirty thousand tons of acetone. Can you make it?” I was so terrified by this lordly request that I almost turned tail.”’ But Weizmann did answer, telling Churchill: ‘So far I have succeeded in making a few hundred cubic centimetres of acetone at a time by the fermentation process. … if I were somehow able to produce a ton of acetone, I would be able to multiply that by any factor you chose … I was given carte blanche by Mr Churchill and the department, and I took upon myself a task which was to tax all my energies for the next two years, and which was to have consequences which I did not foresee’.

Those consequences were the support shown by Churchill’s successor at the Admiralty, Arthur Balfour, whom Weizmann won over to the prospect of British support for a Jewish National Home in Palestine once Turkey had been defeated.

In July 1917 the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, appointed Churchill to be Minister of Munitions. Among the senior civil servants on Churchill’s Munitions Council was Sir Frederic Nathan, then Director of Propellant Supplies, under whom Weizmann was working. In early 1917, Weizmann concluded his work on acetone, successfully, with the result that Britain had all the cordite explosive propellant needed for the British war effort.

Within a year, on 2 November 1917, A.J. Balfour, Foreign Secretary in Lloyd George’s government, sent his epoch-making letter to Lord Rothschild, for the attention of the Zionist Federation, stating: ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’

The War Cabinet hoped that, inspired by the promise of a national home in Palestine, Russian Jews would encourage Russia, then in the throws of an anti-war revolution, to stay in the war; and at the same time, that American Jewry would be stimulated to accelerate the military participation of the United States – already at war, but not yet active on the battlefield. On 24 October 1917, Balfour had told the War Cabinet: ‘The vast majority of Jews in Russia and America, as, indeed, all over the world, now appeared to be favourable to Zionism. If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal, we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America.’ On November 1, Ronald Graham, a senior Foreign Office official – writing a few rooms away from where we are sitting tonight – urged the immediate publication of the Balfour Declaration in order to influence the Jews of Russia and America to support the Allied war effort. The Zionist leaders, he pointed out, were prepared to send ‘agents’ to Russia and America ‘to work up a pro-ally and especially pro-British campaign of propaganda among the Jews.’

The Declaration was issued the next day. To secure the results hoped for by the Foreign Office, Weizmann agreed to go first to Paris, then to the United States and then to Russia, to lead the campaign to rouse the pro-war elements among the Jewish masses in both countries. Vladimir Jabotinsky would go at once to Russia. ‘There is no question,’ Graham wrote to Balfour, ‘of the intense gratitude of the Zionists for the Declaration now made to them…. I believe that with their wholehearted cooperation with us may achieve valuable results.’ But on November 7, before Weizmann or Jabotinsky could set off, the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd and withdrew Russia from the war.

Publication of the Balfour Declaration had been delayed a week so that it could first be published in the weekly Jewish Chronicle on November 9. It was thus issued too late to affect the Bolshevik triumph. It did, however, encourage American Jews, especially those who had been born in Russia, to volunteer to fight in Palestine against the Turks as part of the British Army. Yitzhak Rabin’s father was one of them.

Churchill always regarded as a positive and immutable fact that the British government’s pledge to the Jews had been issued as a result of the urgent needs of the war. The fact that the Zionist Jews had been prepared to try to prevent Russia pulling out of the war meant much to him. As Minister of Munitions, he knew as well as anyone the dangerous situation to Britain, France and the United States on the Western Front as a result of Russia’s withdrawal from the war.

Following the Armistice, Lloyd George appointed Churchill Secretary of State for War. His new responsibilities included Palestine, then under British military administration. On 8 February 1920, as Soviet tyranny was being imposed throughout Russia, Churchill appealed to the Jews of Russia, and beyond, to choose between Zionism and Bolshevism. He did so in an article for a popular British Sunday newspaper. Of Zionism, he wrote: ‘In violent contrast to international communism, it presents to the Jew a national idea of a commanding character.’ It had fallen to the British Government, he explained, as the result of the conquest of Palestine, ‘to have the opportunity and the responsibility of securing for the Jewish race all over the world a home and a centre of national life. The statesmanship and historic sense of Mr. Balfour were prompt to seize this opportunity. Declarations have been made which have irrevocably decided the policy of Great Britain.’

The ‘fiery energies’ of Dr. Weizmann, Churchill added, ‘are all directed to achieving the success of this inspiring movement,’ and he went on to give his own Churchillian vision: ‘… if, as may well happen,’ Churchill wrote, ‘there should be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown, which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event would have occurred in the history of the world which would, from every point of view, be beneficial….’ A ‘negative resistance’ to Bolshevism was not enough, Churchill stressed. ‘Positive and practicable alternatives are needed in the moral as well as in the social sphere; and in building up with the utmost possible rapidity a Jewish national centre in Palestine which may become not only a refuge to the oppressed from the unhappy lands of Central Europe, but which will also be a symbol of Jewish unity and the temple of Jewish glory, a task is presented on which many blessings rest.’

In this article, Churchill also expressed his profound regard for an aspect of Judaism that had impressed itself upon him through his familiarity with the Old Testament. ‘We owe to the Jews in the Christian revelation,’ he wrote, ‘a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilisation.’

In January 1921 Lloyd George appointed Churchill as Secretary of State for the Colonies, with special responsibility for the Palestine Mandate, which Britain had been awarded by the San Remo Conference in April 1920. To help Churchill in his task, a Middle East Department was set up in the Colonial Office, with Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) as Arab affairs adviser. Two years earlier, Lawrence had brought Weizmann to a conference at Akaba with Emir Feisal (son of Hussein, Sharif of Mecca), to ensure what Lawrence called ‘the lines of Arab and Zionist policy converging in the not distant future.’ Lawrence had also secured a pledge from Feisal that ‘all necessary measures’ would be taken ‘to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible upon the land through close settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.’ In November 1918, on the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Lawrence had told a British Jewish newspaper: ‘Speaking entirely as a non-Jew, I look on the Jews as the natural importers of western leaven so necessary for countries of the Near East.’

As Churchill began his work at the Colonial Office, Lawrence informed him that he had already concluded an agreement with Feisal whereby, in return for Arab sovereignty in Baghdad, Amman and Damascus, Feisal ‘agreed to abandon all claims of his father to Palestine.’ The Lawrence-Feisal agreement, with its Arab acceptance of the Jewish position in Palestine, was welcome news for Churchill. Since the French were installed in Damascus, and were not to be dislodged, Churchill favoured a scheme whereby Feisal would accept the throne of Iraq, and his younger brother Abdullah the throne of the largely desert Eastern Palestine – Transjordan – in return for Western Palestine – the whole area from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan (today’s Israel and the West Bank) – becoming the location of the Jewish National Home.

To secure this outcome, Churchill prepared to set off from London for conferences in Cairo and Jerusalem. Before he left London, his senior Middle East Department adviser, John Shuckburgh, informed him that there was no conflict between Britain’s wartime pledges to the Arabs and to the Jews.

In 1915, in an exchange of letters between Sharif Hussein of Mecca and Sir Henry McMahon, the Arabs had been promised ‘British recognition and support for their independence’ in the Turkish districts of Damascus, Hama, Homs and Aleppo, each of which was mentioned in the promise, but which did not include Palestine. Two years later Britain had promised a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. If therefore, the land east of the Jordan became an Arab State, and the land west of the Jordan, up to the Mediterranean Sea, became the area of the Jewish National Home, Britain’s two pledges would be fulfilled.

To confirm that Britain had not promised the same area to both the Jews and the Arabs, the Middle East Department asked Sir Henry McMahon why, in his letters to Sharif Hussein in 1915, neither Palestine nor Jerusalem had been specifically mentioned as part of the future Arab sovereignty. McMahon replied that his reasons for ‘restricting myself’ to specific mention of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo were ‘(1) that these were places to which the Arabs attached vital importance and (2) that there was no place I could think of at the time of sufficient importance for purposes of definition further south of the above.’ McMahon added: ‘It was as fully my intention to exclude Palestine as it was to exclude the more northern coastal tracts of Syria.’ Western Palestine, from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan, had never been promised to the Arabs. There had been no double promise of the same land.

The Cairo Conference, with Churchill in the chair, began on 12 March 1921. The first decision made on Palestine was that Transjordan should be separated from Western Palestine, and that the Jews would be able to settle the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan. In addition, Churchill explained, the presence of an Arab ruler under British overall control east of the Jordan would enable Britain to prevent anti-Zionist agitation from the Arab side of the river. Lawrence shared this view, pointing out that pressure could be brought on the proposed ruler in Amman, Emir Abdullah, ‘to check anti-Zionism’.

On 23 March 1921, Churchill travelled by train from Egypt to Palestine. At that time 83,000 Jews and 660,000 Arabs lived between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, in what was known as Western Palestine. No Jews lived east of the river. Churchill’s principal object in going to Jerusalem was to explain to Emir Abdullah that Britain would support him as ruler of the area east of the River Jordan provided that Abdullah accepted a Jewish National Home within Western Palestine, and did his utmost to prevent anti-Zionist agitation among his people east of the Jordan.

James de Rothschild, a leading British Jew and Member of the first Zionist Commission to Palestine, understood that by removing Abdullah from any control over Western Palestine, and giving him the area east of the Jordan, Churchill had ensured the survival of the Jewish National Home. Thirty-four years later he wrote to Churchill, thanking him, as he wrote, for the fact that in Jerusalem in 1921 ‘you laid the foundation of the Jewish State by separating Abdullah’s Kingdom from the rest of Palestine. Without this much opposed prophetic foresight there would not have been an Israel today.’

While in Jerusalem, Churchill visited the building site on Mount Scopus of the future Hebrew University, which opened four years later. ‘Personally, my heart is full of sympathy for Zionism,’ Churchill told the large Jewish gathering. ‘I believe that the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine will be a blessing to the whole world, a blessing to the Jewish race scattered all over the world, and a blessing to Great Britain. I firmly believe that it will be a blessing also to all the inhabitants of this country without distinction of race and religion. This last blessing depends greatly upon you.’ ‘You Jews of Palestine,’ Churchill said, ‘have a very great responsibility; you are the representatives of the Jewish nation all over the world, and your conduct should provide an example for, and do honour to, Jews in all countries…. The hope of your race for so many centuries will be gradually realised here, not only for your own good, but for the good of all the world.’

On the morning of March 30 a delegation of senior Palestinian Arabs went to see Churchill at Government House in Jerusalem. They had sent him earlier a thirty-five page protest against Zionist activity in Palestine. In their memorandum, the Arabs sought to prove ‘that Palestine belongs to the Arabs, and that the Balfour Declaration is a gross injustice’. As for the Jewish National Home, and the very concept of Jewish nationalism, they informed Churchill: ‘For thousands of years Jews have been scattered over the earth, and have become nationals of the various nations amongst whom they settled. They have no separate political or lingual existence. In Germany they are Germans, in France Frenchmen, and in England Englishmen. Religion and language are their only tie. But Hebrew is a dead language and might be discarded’

The Arab memorandum continued: ‘Jews have been amongst the most active advocates of destruction in many lands, especially where their influential positions have enabled them to do more harm. It is well known that the disintegration of Russia was wholly or in great part brought about by the Jews, and a large proportion of the defeat of Germany and Austria must also be put at their door. When the star of the Central Powers was in the ascendant Jews flattered them, but the moment the scale turned in favour of the Allies Jews withdrew their support from Germany, opened their coffers to the Allies, and received in return that most uncommon promise’, the Balfour Declaration. ‘The Jew, moreover,’ Churchill was told, ‘is clannish and unneighbourly, and cannot mix with those who live about him. He will enjoy the privileges and benefits of a country, but will give nothing in return. The Jew is a Jew all the world over. He amasses the wealth of a country and then leads its people, whom he has already impoverished, where he chooses. He encourages wars when self-interest dictates, and thus uses the armies of the nations to do his bidding.’

The Arab memorandum concluded by asking Churchill that: ‘The principle of a National Home for the Jews be abolished.’ Churchill replied to the Palestinian Arab protests: ‘You have asked me in the first place to repudiate the Balfour Declaration and to veto immigration of Jews into Palestine. It is not in my power to do so nor, if it were in my power, would it be my wish. The British Government have passed their word, by the mouth of Mr Balfour, that they will view with favour the establishment of a National Home for Jews in Palestine, and that inevitably involves the immigration of Jews into the country. This declaration of Mr Balfour and of the British Government has been ratified by the Allied Powers who have been victorious in the Great War; and it was a declaration made while the war was still in progress, while victory and defeat hung in the balance. It must therefore be regarded as one of the facts definitely established by the triumphant conclusion of the Great War.’

‘Moreover,’ Churchill told the Palestinian Arab delegation, ‘it is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?’

The Arab deputation withdrew, its appeal rejected, its arguments rebutted. A Jewish deputation followed in its place. Churchill told them: ‘I earnestly hope that your cause may be carried to success. I know how great the energy is and how serious are the difficulties at every stage and you have my warmest sympathy in the efforts you are making to overcome them. If I did not believe that you were animated by the very highest spirit of justice and idealism, and that your work would in fact confer blessings upon the whole country, I should not have the high hopes which I have that eventually your work will be accomplished.’

On his way back to Britain, Churchill visited Rishon Le-Zion. On approaching Rishon, he told the House of Commons a few weeks later, ‘we were surrounded by fifty or sixty young Jews, galloping on their horses, and with farmers from the estate who took part in the work.’ When they reached the centre of the town, ‘there were drawn up three hundred or four hundred of the most admirable children, of all sizes and sexes, and about an equal number of white-clothed damsels. We were invited to sample the excellent wines which the establishment produced, and to inspect the many beauties of the groves.’ Churchill then declared: ‘I defy anybody, after seeing work of this kind, achieved by so much labour, effort and skill, to say that the British Government, having taken up the position it has, could cast it all aside and leave it to be rudely and brutally overturned by the incursion of a fanatical attack by the Arab population from outside.’ It would be ‘disgraceful if we allowed anything of the kind to take place.’

What did Churchill see as the eventual evolution of the Jewish National Home? The answer came during a meeting in London on 22 June 1921, with all four Dominion Prime Ministers, from Canada, Newfoundland, Australia and New Zealand. At the meeting, the Canadian Prime Minister, Arthur Meighen, questioned Churchill about the meaning of the words ‘National Home’. Did they mean, he asked, giving the Jews ‘control of the Government’? To which Churchill replied: ‘If, in the course of many, many years, they become a majority in the country, they naturally would take it over.’

A Palestinian Arab delegation had arrived in Britain in July 1921, and taken up residence in London to lobby against any further Jewish immigration. To reassure Weizmann that British policy had not changed, Churchill, Lloyd George, and Balfour met Weizmann at Balfour’s house in London. According to the minutes of the meeting, Lloyd George and Balfour both agreed ‘that by the Declaration they had always meant an eventual Jewish State’. On the eve of his declaration, Balfour had told the War Cabinet, on 24 October 1917, that the declaration ‘did not necessarily involve the early establishment of an independent Jewish State, which was a matter for gradual development in accordance with the ordinary laws of political evolution.’ It was these ‘laws’ that Churchill was in the process of putting in place.

At the beginning of 1922, with the Balfour Declaration as their starting point, Churchill’s officials drafted a constitution for Palestine that would ensure that no Arab majority could stand in the way of continued Jewish immigration and investment. On 3 March 1922 the Arab Delegation, still active in London, held a meeting of its supporters at the Hyde Park Hotel in London to denounce Britain’s ‘Zionist policy’. Churchill was later sent a report of how the secretary to the delegation used language ‘about the necessity of killing Jews if the Arabs did not get their way’. In Cabinet, Churchill explained that he had decided to suspend the development of representative institutions in Palestine ‘owing to the fact that any elected body would undoubtedly prohibit further immigration of Jews.’

As Colonial Secretary, Churchill had one more battle to fight to preserve the Balfour Declaration and the continuance of Zionist activity in Palestine. His final task was to have the Mandate (with its pledge to continued Jewish immigration and an eventual Jewish majority) approved by the League of Nations. But the Balfour Declaration and its consequences were challenged in the House of Lords, and with them the crucial electrical and water power monopoly granted by Churchill to the Zionists in his first weeks as Colonial Secretary: the Rutenberg concession.

During the Lords debate, Lord Islington declared: ‘Zionism runs counter to the whole human psychology of the age.’ It involved bringing into Palestine ‘extraneous and alien Jews from other parts of the world’, in order to ensure a Jewish predominance. ‘The Zionist Home must, and does mean, the predominance of political power on the part of the Jewish community in a country where the population is predominantly non-Jewish.’

Another Peer, Lord Sydenham, insisted that the Mandate as being presented by Churchill to the League of Nations, ‘will undoubtedly, in time, transfer the control of the Holy Land to New York, Berlin, London, Frankfurt and other places. The strings will not be pulled from Palestine; they will be pulled from foreign capitals; and for everything that happens during this transference of power, we shall be responsible.’ When the vote was taken, the anti-Zionist Lords prevailed, with sixty voting against the Balfour Declaration, and only twenty-nine for it. Balfour’s promise to the Jews was in danger of not being fulfilled.

It fell to Churchill to attempt to reverse the House of Lords vote in the House of Commons, and to ensure, by a vote in the House of Commons, that the Zionist enterprise could go ahead under British stewardship. Before the debate, Churchill made enquiries that would free the Zionists from a particularly damaging Palestinian Arab complaint, that the Jewish Colonization Association had evicted Arabs from their lands in order to settle Jewish immigrants in their place. On July 3 the Colonial Office informed Churchill’s Private Secretary that ‘Mr Churchill may like to know, for the purposes of tomorrow’s debate, that this lie has been nailed to the counter.’ The land in question was ‘mainly swamps and sand dunes.’

The House of Commons debate on the Palestine Mandate took place on the evening of 4 July 1922. For the future of the Jewish National Home, and the emergence of Israel twenty-six years later, it was the testing time. For Churchill, it was one of the greatest parliamentary challenges of his career. His speech was a sustained defence of Britain’s pledge to Jewish national aspirations.

Dealing first with the Balfour Declaration, Churchill pointed out that: ‘Pledges and promises were made during the War, and they were made, not only on the merits, though I think the merits are considerable. They were made because it was considered they would be of value to us in our struggle to win the War. It was considered that the support which the Jews could give us all over the world, and particularly in the United States, and also in Russia, would be a definite palpable advantage.’

In defending Britain’s Palestine responsibilities, Churchill told the House: ‘We cannot after what we have said and done leave the Jews in Palestine to be maltreated by the Arabs who have been inflamed against them.’ Arab fears of being pushed off the land were ‘illusory’. No Jew would be brought in ‘beyond the number who can be provided for by the expanding wealth and development of the resources of the country. There is no doubt whatever that at the present time the country is greatly under-populated.’

In his first weeks as Colonial Secretary, Churchill had granted the Zionists control of the electrical power development of Palestine, the Rutenberg Concession. The House of Lords had specifically rejected this. In his speech, Churchill defended the concession, and Jewish economic involvement, which, he explained, would safeguard the Arabs against being dispossessed, for it enabled the Jews ‘by their industry, by their brains and by their money’ to create ‘new sources of wealth on which they could live without detriment to or subtraction from the well-being of the Arab population’.

Jewish investment, Churchill believed, would enrich the whole country, all classes and all races: ‘Anyone who has visited Palestine recently must have seen how parts of the desert have been converted into gardens, and how material improvement has been effected in every respect by the Arab population dwelling around’.

There was ‘no doubt whatever,’ Churchill insisted, that there was in Palestine ‘room for still further energy and development if capital and other forces be allowed to play their part.’ There was no doubt that there was room ‘for a far larger number of people, and this far larger number of people will be able to lead far more decent and prosperous lives.’ Apart from this agricultural work, this ‘reclamation work’ he called it, ‘there are services which science, assisted by outside capital, can render, and of all the enterprises of importance which would have the effect of greatly enriching the land, none was greater than the scientific storage and regulation of the waters of the Jordan for the provision of cheap power and light needed for the industry of Palestine, as well as water for the irrigation of new lands now desolate.’

Churchill then asked the House of Commons: ‘Was not this a good gift which the Zionists could bring with them, the consequences of which spreading as years went by in general easement and amelioration? Was not this a good gift which would impress more than anything else on the Arab population that the Zionists were their friends and helpers, not their expellers and expropriators, and that the earth was a generous mother, that Palestine had before it a bright future, and that there was enough for all? Were we wrong in … fixing upon this development of the waterways and the water power of Palestine as the main and principal means by which we could fulfil our undertaking?’

Before Churchill spoke, almost every speaker had been critical of granting so important an economic benefit to a Russian Jew. In response, Churchill told the House of Commons about Rutenberg and his financial backing: ‘He is a man of exceptional ability and personal force. He is a Zionist. His application was supported by the influence of Zionist organisations …. He produced plans, diagrams, estimates, all worked out in the utmost detail. He asserted, and his assertion has been justified, that he had behind him all the principal Zionist societies in Europe and America, who would support his plans on a non-commercial basis.’

It was the non-commercial aspect of the Rutenberg concession that Churchill stressed: ‘I have no doubt whatever, and, after all, do not let us be too ready to doubt people’s ideals, that profit-making, in the ordinary sense, has played no part at all in the driving force on which we must rely to carry through this irrigation scheme in Palestine. I do not believe it has been so with Mr Rutenberg, nor do I believe that this concession would secure the necessary funds were it not supported by sentimental and quasi-religious emotions.’

Churchill continued his speech with a defence of Rutenberg himself: ‘He is a Jew. I cannot deny that. I do not see why that should be a cause of reproach.’ It was imperative, Churchill told the Commons, that if the Balfour Declaration ‘pledges to the Zionists’ were to be carried out, the Commons must reverse the vote of the Lords. Churchill’s appeal was successful. Only 35 votes were cast against the Government’s Palestine policy, Balfour and Rutenberg, and 292 in favour. Churchill’s speech was a personal triumph: ‘one of your very best’ Lloyd George told him.

Following the Rutenberg Debate, Churchill submitted the terms of Britain’s Palestine Mandate to Parliament as a White Paper, known as the Churchill White Paper. ‘When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine,’ the White Paper declared, ‘it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.’

The Churchill White Paper was approved by the League of Nations in Geneva on July 22. Four days later, Weizmann wrote to him: ‘To you personally as well as to those who have been associated with you at the Colonial Office, we tender our most grateful thanks. Zionists throughout the world deeply appreciate the unfailing sympathy you have consistently shown towards their legitimate aspirations and the great part you have played in securing for the Jewish people the opportunity of rebuilding its national home…’

On hearing of the League of Nations’ approval of Churchill’s White Paper, one of the leading Zionist thinkers, Ahad Ha’am, then living in the Jerusalem garden suburb of Talpiot, told those who were with him when the news arrived: ‘Akhshav anachnu be’artzenu’: ‘Now we are in our own land.’

The Balfour Declaration and the Jewish National Home provisions of the Mandate were intact. As a result of Churchill’s commitments, 400,000 Jews entered Palestine between 1922 and 1940, bringing the population to almost half a million within twenty years. Two future British governments, Ramsay Macdonald’s in 1929 and Neville Chamberlain’s ten years later, were to make grave inroads into the Balfour Declaration and Churchill White Paper commitments to the Jews. But, thanks first to Balfour and then, predominantly, to Churchill – to both his practical and his emotional commitment to the Zionists and his 1922 White Paper – the Jewish National Home continued to be built, and was strong enough, numerically, economically and institutionally, to emerge into statehood in 1948. 

More Balfour Declaration resources

This post is part our series providing resources relating to the Balfour Declaration and it will be permanently available in the Library section on the menu bar above. 

The Peel Commission report of 1937 includes testimony from former Prime Minister Lloyd George concerning the background to the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

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In his war memoirs, Lloyd George recounted a story from his time as Minister of Munitions (1915-1916) during the First World War.

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His account continues:

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