Early next month, come the sad memory of one of the most infamous political document ever produced in human history, a document that came to be known as the “Balfour Declaration”. I have already dedicated a book to the subject, and I will post for the occasion, next month, interesting parts of it. However, now I’d like to post a taste of it in the following lines quoted from my book.
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There were critics of the Balfour Declaration, although among the cacophony of many events competing for attention, few but its beneficiaries concentrated on the significance of what was being offered. One was the Jewish leader and statesman Mr. Edwin Montagu, who had no desire that Jews should be regarded as a separate race and a distinct nationality. The other was Lord Curzon, who became Foreign Secretary at the end of October 1918. He prepared a memorandum dated 26 October 1917, on the penultimate and final drafts of the Balfour Declaration and related documents, and circulated it in the Cabinet. It was titled “The Future of Palestine”. Here are some extracts:
I am not concerned to discuss the question in dispute between the Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews . I am only concerned in the more immediately practical questions:
(a) What is the meaning of the phrase “a national home for the Jewish race in Palestine”, and what is the nature of the obligation that we shall assume if we accept this as a principle of British policy?
(b) If such a policy be pursued what are the chances of its successful realisation?
If I seek guidance from the latest collection of circulated papers (The Zionist Movement, G.-164) I find a fundamental disagreement among the authorities quoted there as to the scope and nature of their aim.
A “national home for the Jewish race or people” would seem, if the words are to bear their ordinary meaning, to imply a place where the Jews can be reassembled as a nation, and where they will enjoy the privileges of an independent national existence. Such is clearly the conception of those who, like Sir Alfred Mond, speak of the creation in Palestine of “an autonomous Jewish State”, words which appear to contemplate a State, i.e., a political entity, composed of Jews, governed by Jews, and administered mainly in the interests of Jews...
The same conception appears to underlie several other of the phrases employed in these papers, e.g., when we are told that Palestine is to become “a home for the Jewish nation”, “a national home for the Jewish race”, “a Jewish Palestine”, and when we read of “the resettlement of Palestine as a national centre”, and “the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people”, all these phrases are variants of the same idea, viz., the re-creation of Palestine as it was before the days of the dispersion.
On the other hand, Lord Rothschild, when he speaks of Palestine as “a home where the Jews could speak their own language, have their own education, their own civilization, and religious institutions under the protection of Allied governments”, seems to postulate a much less definite form of political existence, one, indeed, which is quite compatible with the existence of an alien (so long as it is not Turkish) government...
Now what is the capacity as regards population of Palestine within any reasonable period of time? Under the Turks there is no such place or country as Palestine, because it is divided up between the ‘Sanjak’ of Jerusalem and the ‘Vilayets’ of Syria and Beirut. But let us assume that in speaking of Palestine in the present context we mean the old scriptural Palestine, extending from Dan to Beersheba, i.e., from Banias to Bir es-Sabi... . an area of less than 10,000 square miles. What is to become of the people of this country, assuming the Turk to be expelled, and the inhabitants not to have been exterminated by the war? There are over a half a million of these, Syrian Arabs -- a mixed community with Arab, Hebrew, Canaanite, Greek, Egyptian, and possibly Crusaders' blood. They and their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years. They own the soil, which belongs either to individual landowners or to village communities. They profess the Mohammadan faith. They will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants, or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water to the latter.
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