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‘A blot on Judaism, Jewish history and ethics’ — British Jews regret the Balfour Declaration

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Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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  1. annie on October 10, 2017, 5:45 pm

    it leaves out the belief on the part of imperial powers in the role of Jewish influence at a time of world war, the perceived need by imperial leaders to get Jews on their side as an asset…. There is no sense here of Jewish agency; no mention of the fact that the Germans and the British were in competition for Jewish support, no sense of the role Jewish financiers had played in liberating Jews, including my grandfathers, from eastern Europe. And as for the colonial impulse, Britain wanted out of Palestine by ’47. But Jewish support for Zionism, and western Jewish lobbying on its behalf, often involving big political donors, is with us to this day.

    in the climate present today in the UK, they’d probably get accused of anti semitism if they brought that up — an investigation started and kicked out of labour if they happen to be party members.

    • Bumblebye on October 10, 2017, 9:27 pm

      I’m sure they’d try.

      But maybe other organisations would stand up for truth, as Ofcom did wrt AlJazeera’s lobby expose.

      Now they have a sort of ethical seal of approval AlJazeera plans to broadcast the similar expose they’ve been sitting on – the US version.

    • Misterioso on October 11, 2017, 9:56 am


      I just received this news release re the Balfour Declaration, etc.

      “One Final Perilous Journey for Gertrude Bell” by James M. Wall

      “Queen of the Desert,” finally released.

      For the record:
      While serving with British intelligence in Cairo, Ms. Bell wisely advised the cabinet of Prime Minister Lloyd George that “an independent Jewish Palestine” was impractical because “[Palestine]…is not Jewish;” the native population would not “accept Jewish authority…. Jerusalem, is equally sacred to three faiths, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, and should never, if it can be avoided, be put under the exclusive control of any one….” 

      Nicole Kidman portrays Gertrude Bell.

      “One Final Perilous Journey for Gertrude Bell”

      EXCERPT from Wall’s article:
      “The film, Queen of the Desert, begins with a distant image of a small group of travelers moving across a vast desert. Two sentences flash across the screen, setting the stage for what is to follow:

      “The onset of the First World War hastened the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled the Middle East for five centuries. The colonial powers set their eyes on dividing the spoils. 

      “The film then moves to a small room in which British army officers gather around a table with a minister from the War office, the future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.” 

      • Mooser on October 11, 2017, 11:06 am

        ““Queen of the Desert,” finally released.”

        That’s odd. I thought I saw that movie some time ago. It is a good movie, too.

      • annie on October 11, 2017, 2:51 pm

        sounds intreging Misterioso. more from your link:

        What was it that kept the film Queen of the Desert from the public for two years and then only grudgingly granted it very limited distribution? No one is saying. The fact remains, however, that Hollywood knew the story of Gertrude Bell violated a narrative written and protected by Zionism.

        Levant history before 1947 was of little consequence, a period best left unexamined.

        Queen of the Desert was initially screened in 2015 at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for the festival’s highest award, the Golden Bear. Directed by noted German director Werner Herzog and beautifully photographed on locations in Jordan and Morocco, the film was a natural for American “art house” screenings.

        With Nicole Kidman (above) as the film’s star, and a script by Herzog, which examined the role Gertrude Bell played in modern history, film companies should have battled for U.S. distribution.

        They did not. Films that violate the conventional historical narrative do not sell, or so it is assumed by the historically ignorant decision-makers of Hollywood.

        The film focuses on a Middle East before Israel entered the historical stage. Could that reality play a role in Hollywood’s reluctance to embrace Queen of the Desert?

      • just on October 11, 2017, 5:48 pm

        I am very much looking forward to seeing that film. Thanks so much Misterioso and Annie!

        (“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” was truly superb, Mooser!)

  2. Hemlockroid on October 10, 2017, 6:02 pm

    I know half dozen academic sources stating Zionism NOT will of world’s Jews, 1917. So Id hafta disagree about the Balfour being self determined.

    • philweiss on October 11, 2017, 9:30 am

      Please cite them, Matt; but in any case you miss the point. Zionism was a popular movement among Russian and eastern European Jews in the wake of the pogroms. Leading Jews such as Jacob Schiff went along with it b/c it was popular. Herzl was a pariah in east London and a king in Russia. Louis Brandeis converted to Zionism in 1913 because he needed to be a “representative Jew” to get position, and the Jews on the Lower East Side were by and large Zionist. Read my well-documented argument below. Then Brandeis helped craft the Balfour Declaration.

      • Hemlockroid on October 11, 2017, 3:24 pm

        Jeffrries’ PALESTINE REALITY’ p.194
        ‘not %75 0f world Jews Zionist. 1917.’
        Rabbi Rabkin has said it half dozen times but in his latest says ‘Christians, not Jews desired the ingathering of Jews…” that Zionism is Protestant.
        How could you argue such an obvious fact? Zionism wouldnt be majority desire among Jews for decades. Lord Shaftebury and the Prussians are the parents of Israel.

  3. just on October 10, 2017, 6:40 pm

    Wow, my comment just went *poof*!

    Good for these folks from IJV! It’s a wonderful start and I thank you very much for sharing this here, Phil.

    The mountain that the US needs to climb to do something similar seem insurmountable, though. When you have a Senator like this (and too many more all over Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Ave. and beyond) that seem to care more about Israel than the US and their own state’s constituents, it feels perfectly awful and abysmal. Has everyone seen this?

    “Senator Schumer Slams Trump Over ‘Indecisiveness’ on U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem

    The U.S. Senate minority leader calls on the president to keep his campaign promise to ‘show the world that the U.S. definitively acknowledges Jerusalem as Israel’s capital'”

    read more:

    Remember he’s the self- proclaimed ‘shomer’ for Israel:

    “Schumer: I’m on a Mission From God (to Be Israel’s Guardian in Senate)

    Sen. Chuck Schumer told a New York radio station last week that after the Obama administration hit Israel hard on its settlement policy, “I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, ‘If you don’t retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this.’”

    He added that there were two groups within the White House. One would give Israel the usual pass and the other wants the US to put pressure on Israel (and Palestinians).

    “We’re pushing hard to make sure the right side wins and if not we’ll have to take it to the next step,” he said.

    He concluded that God, himself, deputized him to be Israel’s man in the Senate:

    “You know, my name …. comes from the word shomer, guardian, watcher. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov. And I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name. One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer — to be a or the shomer Yisrael. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body …””

    People need to vote these Israel- firsters out and seek justice and peace and life for the Palestinians and so many others that are being targeted. Tax- exempt status need to be removed from any church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious groups that proselytize and speak of politics on their premises.

    I am quite sure that mosques are carefully surveilled and monitored in the US… not sure about others.

  4. JWalters on October 10, 2017, 6:53 pm

    “There is no sense here of Jewish agency; no mention of the fact that the Germans and the British were in competition for Jewish support”

    The pattern of “no mention” does indeed continue to this day. And it’s relevant to know that it has been a long-standing pattern. Balfour’s letter to Rothschild (aka “Balfour declaration”) was itself carefully crafted in secret, involving both the British and American governments..

    The competition between the British and Germans for Jewish support in WWI, and its repercussions in WWII, is discussed by a highly placed eye-witness here.

  5. Brewer on October 10, 2017, 8:06 pm

    Good to see the History re-visited. Unable to alter the facts, the Zionist narrative has endeavored to push History into the background but it remains the core of this problem.
    Israel is a dysfunctional State in the same way a traumatized adolescent becomes delinquent – repressed memories of, say, parental abuse create a paradox – a conflict between experience and ideal. The traumatic event becomes unresolvable because “parents do not behave that way!” Resolution is impossible without clear acknowledgement of the facts by both parties.
    Analogies are not valid arguments, they are simply illustrative. This one illustrates the nature of the problem as I see it. In my experience, no-one who becomes aware of the History of Palestine can remain unaware of a great injustice. While the Israeli education system continues to teach a false History, its behavior will become increasingly aberrant (as we are observing). As reality is more and more distorted, reactions become more unrealistic.
    There is only one way out.

  6. wondering jew on October 10, 2017, 10:51 pm

    This “blot on Jewish history” saved the lives of 100’s of 1,000’s of Jews, who would have been stuck in Europe when the immigration policies of the west tightened and British Mandate Palestine was one of the few remaining destinations in the 20’s and 30’s. Stuck in Europe in the early 40’s had specific consequences and I cannot read “blot on Jewish history” without offering the fact that it also saved lives.

    • Brewer on October 11, 2017, 3:59 am

      Two completely separate issues Yonah. I do not see how you can justify subjecting the People of Palestine to precisely the same “specific circumstances” in order to deliver Jewish people, unless of course you apply a different value to the latter. Furthermore, there was another, non-controversial option – the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. I would also argue that by the end of WWII, before the expulsion of the Palestinian people and the major movement of Jewish people to Palestine, Europe was a safer domicile for Jews than was Palestine, given the perfectly understandable resistance to Zionism in that land.

    • Misterioso on October 11, 2017, 10:26 am

      The ugly truth:

      “In 1938, a thirty-one nation conference was held in Evian, France, on resettlement of the victims of Nazism. The World Zionist Organization refused to participate, fearing that resettlement of Jews in other states would reduce the number available for Palestine.” (John Quigley, Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice, as quoted in “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” second edition, published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East, Berkeley, California, p. 21)

      The Jewish Agency in Palestine was very concerned about the implications of the Evian Conference. “It was summed up in the meeting [of the Jewish Agency’s Executive on June 26, 1938] that the Zionist thing to do ‘is belittle the [Evian] Conference as far as possible and to cause it to decide nothing…. We are particularly worried that it would move Jewish organizations to collect large sums of money for aid to Jewish refugees, and these collections could interfere with our collection efforts’…. Ben-Gurion’s statement at the meeting: ‘No rationalization can turn the conference from a harmful to a useful one. What can and should be done is to limit the damage as far as possible.'” (Boas Evron, Jewish State or Israeli Nation? as quoted in “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” by John Quigley, second edition, p. 21)

      On 7 December 1938, during a meeting of the Mapai Central Committee (precursor of the Labour Party), David Ben-Gurion revealed his true feelings regarding the plight of German Jews: “If I knew it was possible to save all the [Jewish] children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second…” He attempted to explain his twisted reasoning by adding that he would make such a choice “…because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.” Ben-Gurion also expressed his fear that “‘the human conscience’ might bring various countries to open their doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. He saw this as a threat and warned: ‘Zionism is in danger!'” (Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, Hill and Wang, New York, 1994, p. 28.)

      During another speech to the Mapai Central Committee on 7 December 1938, Ben-Gurion admitted that “in these terrible days of the beginning of the disaster that threatens European Jewry, I am still more worried about the elections at the [Mapai] branch in Tel Aviv.” (Segev, p. 105.)

      On 27 November 1942, the Yishuv newspaper Davar published an article that referred to the extermination of European Jews as “‘punishment from heaven’ for not having come to Palestine.” (Tom Segev, p. 98). As Ben-Gurion so callously put it on 8 December 1942, during a Mapai meeting: “‘They did not want to listen to us’ ….in their deaths they had sabotaged the Zionist dream.’” (David Ben-Gurion at a gathering of Mapai workers, 8 Dec. 1942; quoted by Tom Segev)

      • RoHa on October 11, 2017, 8:22 pm

        “In 1938, a thirty-one nation conference was held in Evian, France, on resettlement of the victims of Nazism.”

        Going off message, there, Misterioso. The official line is that the world stood by and did nothing. You wouldn’t want to deny that, would you?

      • JeffB on October 11, 2017, 10:13 pm


        Not off message. Don’t know much about that conference. But if in 1938 the allied powers had agreed to help the Germans resettle the Jews there is no holocaust.

    • Mooser on October 11, 2017, 10:55 am

      “This “blot on Jewish history” saved the lives of 100’s of 1,000’s of Jews,”

      “Yonah” is there some reason why Jews should be any more fortunate in their interactions with Europeans than Africans? (For one example)
      I’ve always wondered that. Do you know?

    • Hemlockroid on October 12, 2017, 9:49 pm

      The Balfour was not debated in either House of Parliament, 1917. Had it been, no White Paper, its reciprical
      would hv been needed (also not debated).
      Balfour was a bad order from on-high, unfair to non-Zionists and the White Paper had to be drawn.

  7. JLewisDickerson on October 11, 2017, 2:42 am

    [National Seal of Freedonia]

    TO: Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, and Whomever Else It May Concern

    The people of Freedonia and its government view with favour the return of that portion of Ireland now designated as Northern Ireland (and currently considered to be a part of the United Kingdom) to the Republic of Ireland, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this objective, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Catholic communities in Northern Ireland.

    Effective as of October 11, 2017
    By Order of Rufus T. Firefly, President of Fredonia
    Attested to by Mrs. Gloria Teasdale, Special Assistant (for External Affairs) to President Firefly

    P.S. Just because we are a small nation, does not mean we do not know how to play “The Great Game”.

    • JeffB on October 11, 2017, 1:51 pm


      That’s what the USA Irish community did. And they weren’t even a state just a nation within a state. American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Irish Northern Aid Committee, Friends of Sinn Féin (IRA and other groups) had sitting governors, senators, mayors… on its board. Very similar to Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda where there the state was not quite willing to do so but large factions within the society were clearly not torn.

      • amigo on October 11, 2017, 4:06 pm

        Jeffyboy , you should stay away from commenting on Ireland,s History,or Affairs.

        The Irish community in the USA were fighting to get back part of THEIR historic homeland , namely ,the Northern 6 counties, for those from whom it was stolen.Most illiterate Zionists , such as yourself , view the victims as the terrorists and the oppressors as the victim,s.The Zionist Balfourians were trying to steal land from those who were already in their homeland and the British had no right to bargain , collude or decide to give away the property of another people to a bunch of thieving criminals , whether they be zionist or Presbyterian invaders.

        You know sfa about the Irish , as evidenced in your post entreating the Irish to give up their “Popery” (your word). Less than half of modern day Irish people practice Catholicism .

        Ireland is looked up to by most of the nations on this planet and is regularly placed in the top three of the most liked and trusted nations on Earth.Israel also is placed in the top three , but in the category of “Least Liked or trusted”, right up there with North Korea /Pakistan and Iran.

        Great little jewish state you got there jeffyboy.A real success yarn.

      • just on October 11, 2017, 5:33 pm

        Nicely done, amigo!

        (Iran does not belong in the bottom of the pile, imho. But they didn’t call me…)

  8. Citizen on October 11, 2017, 4:32 am
  9. hophmi on October 11, 2017, 8:53 am

    Shorter Phil:. This video isn’t antisemitic enough.

  10. dgfincham on October 11, 2017, 10:46 am

    It is instructive to compare the version of the Declaration proposed by the Zionists:
    “His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people. His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organization.”

    with Balfour’s version:
    “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 first is unequivocal: Palestine is to be changed from whatever it is now, into a Jewish National Home (effectively a Jewish State) with no thought given to the existing inhabitants, (who the Zionist leaders intended to expel or exploit).

    The second is quite different: a Jewish National Home is to established within the existing Palestine, while respecting the rights of the existing population.

    This final version was influenced by British Jewish leaders (who when originally approached by the Zionists said they wanted to have nothing to do with Jewish nationalism), in particular by Edwin Montagu, a member of the British Government.

    The writer complains about the phrase “existing non-Jewish communities” and the failure to recognize them as a nation. But the communities were diverse: Arab Jews, Christians and Muslims; Druze, Circassians, Bedouin etc. Although there has been a Palestinian national identity for over a thousand years, this was a Muslim identity, and would not have been embraced by the other communities at the time.

    Remarkably, the first recognition of the existence of an Arab nation within Palestine was by the World Zionist Congress in its 1921 Carlsbad Resolution:

    We do thereby reaffirm our desire to attain a durable understanding which shall enable the Arab and Jewish peoples to live together in Palestine on terms of mutual respect and co-operate in making the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which will assure to each of these peoples an undisturbed national development.”

    This was quoted by Churchill in his 1922 White Paper explaining the intentions of the Mandate. Although the preamble seems to be all about the Jewish National Home, the Articles make clear that Palestine is to be a bi-national State where Jews and Arabs are to be treated as equal citizens.

    • Misterioso on October 11, 2017, 11:19 am

      It should not be forgotten that the Balfour Declaration was illegal.

      When it was issued, Palestine was still a province of the Ottoman Empire. Hence, by viewing “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish peoples,” the Balfour Declaration violated the well established legal maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet” (nobody can give what he does not possess.)

      To quote the highly respected American lawyer and diplomat, Sol Linowitz: “…the [Balfour] Declaration was legally impotent. For Great Britain had no sovereign rights over Palestine; it had no proprietary interest; it had no authority to dispose of the land. The Declaration was merely a statement of British intentions and no more.” (Sol M. Linowitz, “Analysis of a Tinderbox: The Legal Basis for the State of Israel.” American Bar Association Journal XLlll l957, pp.522-3)

      Even Chaim Weizmann knew the Declaration had no legal status: “The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was built on air.” (Quoted by Mallison, “The Balfour Declaration,” in The transformation of Palestine: essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, ed. by Abu-Lughold; Northwestern University Press, 1971 p. 85)

      • dgfincham on October 11, 2017, 12:54 pm

        Yes, but Britain gained the right to implement the Jewish National Home when the Ottoman Empire capitulated to the Allied Powers, and they assigned the Palestine Mandate to Britain, and the League of Nations approved it. However, it was a violation of the League’s own Covenant, which said that the territories should play a part in choosing their Mandatory power. The Palestinians preferred the USA or France as Mandatory, which were not committed to the Jewish National Home policy. Also, the Covenant said that the Mandated territories should be developed for the benefit of their inhabitants, not for immigrants from far away. Whether the Covenant of the League is legally binding upon subsequent actions of the League is a legal question I am not qualified to judge.

      • JeffB on October 11, 2017, 1:36 pm


        It should not be forgotten that the Balfour Declaration was illegal.

        When it was issued, Palestine was still a province of the Ottoman Empire. Hence, by viewing “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish peoples,” the Balfour Declaration violated the well established legal maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet” (nobody can give what he does not possess.)

        I don’t buy it. If you are going to take the status literally then the British just promise two things.

        1) to view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people
        They did favor it at the time and then waffled. So they broke their promise in the other direction. Countries are allowed to view with favor developments in other countries.

        2) They will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object
        And they didn’t do this. But they certainly are entitled to make endeavors to facilitate and objective.

        For example the USA objected to the legal status of Scientology in Germany in the 1990s and early 2000s. We didn’t own Germany. But we viewed with favor the change in status and did make endeavors to facilitate the change in policy.

      • Brewer on October 11, 2017, 6:08 pm

        ““The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was built on air.” ”
        The Balfour Declaration had no legal status whatsoever. It was a letter from Balfour to his friend Lord Rothschild advising only that His Majesty’s Government favored a “National Home” for Jews in Palestine. The term “National Home” and the proviso that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” were rigorously debated and deliberately chosen.
        The question as to whether “National Home” meant sovereignty is a non-issue. It certainly did not as is very clear from the debate. Churchill (and the Zionist Congress) confirmed this in the White Paper published a month before the Mandate document:
        “….It is also necessary to point out that the Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country. Nor does the special position assigned to the Zionist Organization in Article IV of the Draft Mandate for Palestine imply any such functions. That special position relates to the measures to be taken in Palestine affecting the Jewish population, and contemplates that the organization may assist in the general development of the country, but does not entitle it to share in any degree in its government.”
        …..and in the Mandate itself:
        “ART. 7.
        The Administration of Palestine shall be responsible for enacting a nationality law. There shall be included in this law provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine.”

        I wrote Did the Brits really screw the pooch” nearly a decade ago. It still stands up – nothing that has come to light since alters the very clear fact that a Jewish State was never the intent of either the Balfour Declaration or the League of Nations Mandate. Everything I have read of the B.D. indicates it was a sop to powerful interests – expected to disappear down the memory hole. The participants in its genesis would be astonished at the misuse of the document today.

  11. IsraelShamir on October 11, 2017, 11:24 am

    Though it is true that Balfour Declaration was founded on the belief that grateful American Jews will push the US into the WWI, there was a specific British reasoning as well. H J Mackinder wrote of “ranging” Jews in Palestine to guard Suez in British interests, as Muslims were pro-Turkish, Orthodox Arabs were pro-Russian and Catholic Arabs were for France. So the Jews were the only choice. I wrote about it here

    • Brewer on October 11, 2017, 6:19 pm

      Good to see you here Israel. I remain grateful for your help in the past and your work which, with very few reservations, I heartily endorse.

  12. JosephA on October 11, 2017, 7:00 pm

    Bravo to Independent Jewish Voices for creating such a meaningful video.

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