Here was one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation, wrote Arthur Koestler, who, dismissing the [Balfour] declaration as an impossible notion, an unnatural graft, called it a “white Negro.”
- From “One Palestine, Complete,” by Tom Segev
What was the Balfour Declaration?
The Balfour Declaration (dated 2 November 1917) was a letter from the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:
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.
Arthur Koestler’s "Promise and Fulfillment, Palestine 1917-1949" was published in 1949. What, specifically, did he mean by “white Negro,” and to what aspect of this declaration did he apply it?
The Balfour Declaration was a statement of poetic inspiration; translated into administrative prose it sounded bewildering and impracticable. The wording of the document itself already betrayed a considerable uneasiness on the -part of its authors. Why the curious expression “National Home,” whose vagueness was bound to lead to endless complications and disputes? The Royal Commission comments:
"We have been permitted to examine the records which bear upon the question and it is clear to us that the words 'the establishment in Palestine of a National Home' were the outcome of a compromise between those Ministers who contemplated the ultimate establishment of a Jewish State and those who did not."
An ambiguous diplomatic phrase based on a compromise of this type is called in French a "negre blanc.” The concept of a National Home was, from its beginning, a white Negro. It was a logical misfit and an administrative absurdity. It could be made to appear white or black according to the political constellation of the moment, for nobody knew what it really meant. To General Smuts, who had been a member of the Imperial War Cabinet at the time when the Declaration was launched, the national home meant "in generations to come a great Jewish state rising there once more.” To Mr. Winston Churchill it meant something quite different:
"When it is asked, what is meant by the development of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, 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 ... 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."
Koestler offers two other examples to be found in the declaration:
"…an appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country. The Zionist Organization…shall be recognized as such agency."
This stipulation was another white negro. The existence of an independent public body with the function to "advise,” "cooperate,” "assist" and "take part" in the business of government was a permanent headache for the rulers of the country ; it gradually became an obsession and ended in persecution 'mania. For within a few years the Jewish Agency, by force of circumstances, had developed into a shadow Government, a state within the State.
…the [British] Administration, by way of compromise, while refusing to give the Haganah its official sanction, tolerated its existence. This state of affairs continued for thirty years, until the end of the Mandate. The Jewish Defence organization became another white negro, which changed its colour according to the political situation.
Returning to Segev:
The British entered Palestine to defeat the Turks; they stayed there to keep it from the French; then they gave it to the Zionists because they loved “the Jews” even as they loathed them, at once admired and despised them, and above all feared them….The declaration was the product of neither military nor diplomatic interests but of prejudice, faith, and sleight of hand. The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic. They believed Jews controlled the world.
The first British proposal to conquer Palestine and establish a Jewish state was made by the British postmaster general. His name was Herbert Samuel, a Jew. He would later become the 1st High Commissioner of Palestine.
Lord Kitchener, the secretary of state for war, did not share an enthusiasm for the proposal. He was opposed to opening in front in Palestine, preferring to utilize British manpower for Europe. One year later, he drowned at sea; the circumstances were less than innocent.
Lloyd George supported the idea of a Palestinian homeland for Jews – his support was grounded in the Biblical land of “Canaan.” He was not alone – there was a long tradition in England of Christian Zionism. Yet there was more to Lloyd George’s support:
But in his own way he despised the Jews as well – or to put it another way, he feared them.
In his memoirs, written in the 1930s, Lloyd George attempted to convince a now skeptical public that support for a Jewish homeland was the right thing to do:
“The Jewish race,” Lloyd George explained in his memoirs, had worldwide influence and capability, and the Jews had every intention of determining the outcome of the World War – acting, he said, in accordance with their financial instincts. They could influence the United States to intensify its involvement in the war, and as the real movers behind the Russian Revolution, they also controlled Russia’s attitude toward Germany.
Lloyd George was not alone with such thoughts, for example Lord Robert Cecil, undersecretary at the Foreign Office during the final years of the war:
“I do not think that it is easy to exaggerate the international power of the Jews.”
About the Jews, John Buchan wrote in his classic spy novel, Thirty-nine Steps:
“Away behind all governments and the armies there was a big subterranean movement going on, engineered by very dangerous people.”
This all sounds so…anti-Semitic. Yet at the time, certain Zionists took full advantage of such beliefs. One such individual was Chaim Weizmann. Despite holding no office in the Zionist movement, he took charge of the situation in England. Although initially a man of little import, he was able to secure meetings with high government officers and key British policy makers.
By the beginning of the war, Weizmann had gotten to know quite a few people in the political system, including Winston Churchill. For much of his access, he had C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, to thank. It was Scott who had managed his most important introduction – to Arthur James Balfour, a former Liberal prime minister and foreign secretary in David Lloyd George’s cabinet.
Weizmann was able to walk the halls of power with those who lorded over 400 million subjects and eight million soldiers already at the front – they already had plenty to do. He spoke with Lloyd George during the war at least seven times.
Balfour also held less-than-favorable views about Jews:
In 1905, Balfour had been among the sponsors of the law to restrict immigration to Britain, a largely anti-Jewish measure, which had led to his vilification as an antisemite.
This did not stop Weizmann. Soon after the two took a late night, two hour walk, Balfour declared in a cabinet meeting, “I am a Zionist.”
“Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad,” Balfour wrote, is “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”
Weizmann also could reach Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, born to Jewish immigrant parents from Bohemia. It was suggested that the declarations should not be promulgated without first consulting Woodrow Wilson. The president recommended against putting out the declaration.
But Weizmann lobbied his friend Brandeis, who in turn spoke to someone on Wilson’s staff, and the White House reversed its position.
The change in the president’s position was little more than the product of good public relations work by Zionists in Washington, but in London it raised eyebrows. Lloyd George could hardly construe it as anything other than confirmation of his conviction that the Jews controlled the White House.
I offer none. I thought it worthwhile to capture the sentiment of the time, the racist history of the Balfour Declaration, the views that Jews controlled the world.
As to Jews controlling the world, I have written before and to now avoid confusion: this is not my view.