Understanding the Why of the Balfour White Paper
By Hershy Goodman
History is history; understanding history
The history of the Jewish People and the British
has passed through many changes. There have been periods of time
when we have been close allies and periods of time when we have
been bitter enemies. It is well known that the Israeli War of
Independence was fought, not just against the Arabs, but also
against the British.
Contrast that to an earlier period, the period
of World War I, when the relationship between the Jews and the
British were in close proximity and the Balfour declaration was
made declaring the intention of the British Government to establish
a homeland in "Palestine" for the Jewish people.
What caused the British to do a good deed
for the Jews and what caused the British Government to turn on
their promise and try to renege on their stated intention?
The Balfour Declaration, which was written
by Arthur James Balfour, the foreign secretary of Great Britain,
in November of 1917, stated:
"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."
Now this declaration certainly sounds like
a true and altruistic manifestation of idealism. A major world
government has for the first time recognized the soul yearning
of the Jews to return to their homeland as a valid and legal right.
How many years have the Jews wandered from country to country,
denied citizenship, plundered and exploited. Now finally a major
world power has recognized their legal rights to their homeland.
If so, why did the British turn on the Israelis several years
later and deny them the very access to immigration that they promised?
To understand this historic document, we must view it in its true
perspective. World War I was fought between the Allies and the
Axis powers. The British were on the side of the allies; Germany
and Turkey were on the side of the Axis powers. Until this point
in time, Turkey controlled the Palestine area. The British understood
that it was in their best interests to harness the Jewish Zionist
aspirations for their own purposes.
Part of the Jewish world lived under German and Turkish rule.
The Zionist headquarters were at that time in Berlin. Part of
the Jewish world lived in the Russian territories, who were undergoing
the pangs of revolution. The other part of the Jewish world lived
in the USA, which desired to remain neutral. The remaining Jews
lived in the Allied counties.
The British weighed the matter seriously. They were under the
opinion that the Germans who used their influence with the Turks
to promote the welfare of the Jewish population in Palestine.
There were rumors that the Germans would soon recognize the Zionist
dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British felt that
this would cement a world wide support by the Jews with the Axis
powers. The British were fearful that the Americans might be influenced
to give support to the Germans.
The British had two reasons to support the Jewish Palestinian
homeland declaration. First, there was the moral support from
the world at large that they hoped to enlist through the Jewish
voices in the foreign lands. Secondly, was the support of the
Jewish soldier in the middle east. The British were in a bloody
war. If allies could be found in Palestine to fight against their
enemy, let the spoils go to the victory. How many Jewish Youth
volunteered and enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army.
This was the beginning of the Jewish Army in Israel. Jewish soldiers
received British training.
Everything went according to the British plan. The Jews were appreciative
of the British recognition of the Jewish national thirst for its
own homeland. Except one thing. The Arabs, fearful of the ultimate
ingathering of the aggressive and advanced western style Jews,
fearful of the usurping of the lands that they now claimed as
theirs, began riots against the Jews. The war being over, the
British, now the ruler of Palestine was saddled with making peace
with the Jews and the Arabs. The Arabs represented more to the
British than the Jews now possessed. Prior to the war, the British
courted the Jews and sought their support. In exchange they pledged
a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Now the Arab empires were more
important to the British. The British were not ignorant of the
importance of the oil rich middle eastern Arab counties and therefore
began the sell out of the concept of a Jewish homeland.
"Beware of the ruling authorities, for they bring a person
close to them for their own needs". When they need you, they
honor you. When you are no longer useful to them, they will abandon
you and not stand by you in your time of need. This was the advice
of the Jewish sages, as written in "Ethics of the Fathers,"
more than two thousand years ago. Happy are we who have truly
from the April 1998 - Passover Edition Edition of the Jewish Magazine