The Centenary of an Idea

Today is the hundredth anniversary of a crucial event in the history of the State of Israel. Our Israeli correspondent MC explains the day’s significance.

The Centenary of an Idea

by MC

Today is my 66th birthday, but it is also the hundredth birthday of an idea that eventually gave birth to modern Israel, like it or not.

The last half of the 19th century gave rise to a profound spirituality in Europe and the Americas, a spirituality with its foundation in Bible prophecy and the idea that the Jews would return to their promised land.

But there were other currents flowing through the institutions of Europe, the ideas of evolution and the justification of Atheism and Humanism and also of sheer Nihilism, of Hedonism.

It was amongst these flows that the War Cabinet sat in London and considered the long-term solution to the Jewish Problem.

It just so happened that all of the cabinet except one were what would now be described as fundamentalist Christians. That one exception was a Jew.

This cabinet issued what came to be known as the Balfour declaration, as statement of intent by the British Government to create a Jewish Homeland in Southern Syria, now Israel.

Looking out of the historical window, that cabinet would have been aware of the Bolshevik coup d’état taking place in Russia with the potential of removing the eastern ally; a stalemate on the Western Front where the Battle of Third Ypres was ending in bloody, muddy carnage; and a static war on every front. Yet they sat down and thrashed out a policy about the return of Jews to their historic homeland.

General Allenby and his Army were positioned before Gaza, ready for their third encounter with the Turks in the area, the first two having followed the usual pattern of trench warfare and frontal assaults where the attackers were repulsed with horrendous casualty lists — the usual WW1 bloodbaths.

But the new commander was wily. He feinted towards Gaza, but attacked Beersheva, some twenty miles to the east. His cavalry came in on the flanks and took the ancient city and its precious wells. The first breakthrough of the axis ring of steel.

All this was happening on the 31st of October 1917. But the British cabinet was discussing Balfour’s proposal for a Jewish homeland.

The Balfour declaration was a statement of intent by His Majesty’s Government that the Jews could/would return to their land, fulfilling the ancient prophecies in the scriptures, and thus solve the problems of the Czarist pogroms in Russia and implications of the absurd Dreyfus Affair in France. However, the carefully worded document contained a trap: the idea of the Jewish homeland being created without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the other ethnic groups is quite straightforward to an English lawmaker; it means that only Jews would have political rights but that there would be freedom of worship and a common civil/criminal law.

The one person who might have seen through this was not in the cabinet of that time. Winston Churchill was in the political doldrums, having carried the can for the failed Gallipoli campaign.

As we now know, Muslims see no difference between religious rights and political rights. Thus the peculiar phrasing of the declaration opened the door to the wolf and a strife that continues to this day.

The legal phrase ‘without prejudice’ is a way of establishing a secondary objective, but emphasising that it in no way interferes with the primary objective, so in actuality, whilst the document is very clear to a British Christian lawmaker, it established in the mind of the Muslim that his ‘political rights’ were and are sacrosanct, and that his political right to the land is established along with his religious rights.

Thus was created somewhat unintentionally a political minefield that lasts to this day. Many people believe in the Palestinian ‘cause’; they want to believe, because they cannot understand what happened in London a hundred years ago, when a group of British Christian gentlemen tried their hardest to solve the Jewish problem by re-establish the ancient kingdom of their shared God Yahovah…

MC lives in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. For his previous essays, see the MC Archives.

27 thoughts on “The Centenary of an Idea

  1. Another point of view is that the Balfour Declaration was made to solidify worldwide Jewish support for the British cause. For wartime purposes, it worked. After the war, it was back to the same old business of Britain playing one side against the other, largely by giving new encourgement and military support to the Arabs while putting a lid on Jewish immigration to Palestine, and preventing the Jews from defending themselves.

    The Muslim Arabs would have objected to the presence of Jews in then-Palestine and to the existence of the modern State of Israel regardless of what language was used in the Balfour Declaration.

  2. I like to learn something new every day. Thanks MC, I didn’t know the background to the Balfour (or maybe Ball Four, take your base) declaration.

  3. Happy Birthday, MC!
    And happy – well, not literally birthday, but ‘idea day’, Israel!

    • The united city of Jerusalem celebrated its 50th birthday this year and Israel it 70th if we count the initial date of the petition.

  4. MC – The Middle East Forum has released an early essay from its quarterly that addresses this anniversary. Here’s an excerpt:


    For another thing, it was not the Balfour Declaration that paved the road to the displacement of many Palestinians but its rejection by the extremist Palestinian Arab leadership headed by the Jerusalem mufti Hajj Amin Husseini—this against the wishes of ordinary Palestinian Arabs who preferred to coexist with their Jewish neighbors and take advantage of opportunities created by the evolving Jewish national enterprise. Had this leadership not ignored the wishes of its subjects, and the will of the international community for that matter, there would have been no nakba.

    The Historical Context

    The end of World War I saw the ideal of national self-determination becoming the organizing principle of the international system as the victorious powers carved territorial states from the collapsed Ottoman, German, Habsburg, and Russian empires. This was done through a newly devised mandates system that placed the Afro-Asiatic territories of the defunct empires (the European lands were given immediate independence) under the control of respective mandatory powers, beholden to a new world organization—the League of Nations—which were charged with steering them from tutelage to independence.[2]

    This sea change is commonly associated with Woodrow Wilson’s famous fourteen points, announced in an address to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. In fact, it was the much-maligned May 1916 Anglo-French-Russian agreement on the partition of the Ottoman Empire (or the Sykes-Picot agreement as it is generally known) that blazed this new trail by providing for “an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States … under the suzerainty of an Arab chief.”[3]

    The Balfour Declaration sought to modify this agreement by substituting a Jewish national home for the international administration to which Palestine was to be subjected. While the French resented the change for fear of losing influence over Christianity’s holy sites, they eventually relented and joined their war allies in incorporating the declaration into the Turkish Peace Treaty signed at the French town of Sèvres in August 1920.[4] Two years later, on July 24, 1922, the League of Nations appointed Britain the mandatory for Palestine with the explicit goal of “placing the country under such political, administrative, and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home” as stipulated by the Balfour Declaration.[5] A week later, the U.S. Congress endorsed the declaration in a joint resolution, amplifying this move during World War II with several resolutions and declarations supporting unrestricted Jewish immigration and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.[6]

    In other words, within five years of its issuance, the Balfour Declaration had come to reflect the will of the international community as represented by a major official resolution by the newly established world organization (the U.N. predecessor). And this was not only in the “practical” sense of supporting the creation of a Jewish national home but in the deeper sense of recognizing “the historical connexion [sic] of the Jewish people with Palestine and … the grounds for reconstituting their national home in the country.”[7]

    Even the Ottoman Empire, head of the world’s Muslim community, seemed to have acknowledged the right of the Jews to collective revival in their ancestral homeland. On August 12, 1918, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, one of the triumvirs who had run the empire since 1913, issued an official communiqué expressing “sympathies for the establishment of a religious and national Jewish center in Palestine by well-organized immigration and colonization” and offering to promote this enterprise “by all means” provided it “does not affect the rights of the non-Jewish population.”[8]

    Largely modeled on the Balfour Declaration and formulated in a similar process of lengthy discussions with prominent Jewish leaders, Talaat’s proclamation came too late to have real significance—two-and-a-half months after its issuance, the Ottomans surrendered to the Allies—and was apparently designed to improve the Muslim empire’s bargaining position in the looming postwar peace talks. Yet its issuance was nothing short of extraordinary given the violent Ottoman reaction to anything that smacked of national self-determination, from the Greek war of independence in the 1820s, to the Balkan wars of the 1870s, to the Armenian genocide of World War I. Indeed, only a year before the declaration, the Jewish community in Palestine (or the Yishuv) faced a real risk of extinction from the Ottomans for the very same reason, only to be saved through intervention by Germany, Istanbul’s senior war ally.


    There is *much* more in that long essay. I recommend it.

  5. There is a monument and an Australian Flag in a park at Beersheva dedicated to the 4th Australian Light Horse regiment who took the town from the Ottomans and their German officers in what has become known as the last great cavalry charge of modern times.

    Following this action, the Ottoman Empire in Gaza collapsed and surrendered to British forces soon after.

    Australian Light Horse were mounted infantry, not cavalry, and as infantry they were trained to dismount to engage the enemy, not charge for two miles over open ground at well entrenched enemy while they had shot and shell coming at them.

    The British grudgingly give credit sometimes to ANZAC forces who got to save their bacon on many occasions.

    The taking of Beersheva was one of them.

    Too, Jews have occupied the Holy Land for over 3500 years. Those the Romans could not catch in 70 AD fled into various parts of Judea and Samaria to escape, their descendants surviving until present times. Tel Aviv was an established modern city back in 1917, and many Aussie soldiers at that time have some great stories of the hospitality afforded to them by the Jews who lived there.

    The Balfour Declaration failed to take into account that parts of the Holy Land were already in Jewish hands and had been for well over three millenia. Jews did not need a homeland because they already had one, all that was required was for it to be internationally recognized.

    • Something that “Give ’em Hell” Truman did. I believe there was a photo of an elk sitting to Truman with the caption “the Buck Stops Here.”

      • And even that was a close run thing. Ben Gurion found out some months prior to the U.N. vote to establish the State of Israel, that many South American countries were not in favor of it.

        So Ben Gurion had some of his agents attend Nelson Rockefeller’s office in New York in order to lean on him, so as to influence his business associates in those South American countries to ‘encourage’ the various governments to vote yes.

        Apparently, Ben Gurion’s agents had quite a list of Rockefeller’s dealings with the Nazis and Nazi orientated countries in South America during the war with which to convince him to take up the Israeli cause.

        The things that matter and for which we never get told about, eh!

        • It’s fairly common knowledge that the UN was the Rockefeller’s baby. National Socialism was developed and allowed to flourish as the capitalist’s alternative to communism where instead of the state governing the economy the corporations (which were thought to be and have been shown as more competent) would govern the economy and thereby govern the nations and the world.
          Judaism, and Biblical Christianity by extension, values the individual and as such is the antithesis of the corporate ‘hive’ model in which the individual’s value is a function of what they produce for the corporation. Henry Ford Sr. felt the same way as did and do many corporate CEOs. What’s on the near horizon seems to be a world that is governed by corporations that will want to put Israel and the Jew out of their misery so profits will continue unabated and without those pesky questions as to the worth of the individual.

          • I am still trying to unravel completely, the roles that were envisaged for National Socialism – that I believe Hitler co-opted and used against the Globalists – and Communism, which had been ‘perfected’ well before Marx was even a twinkle in his father’s eye.

            The Rockefeller’s are Rothschild proteges, but what kind of system gave the original Rothschild a ladder to climb into the big time?

            The Silk Road (BRICS countries) master plan seems to be aimed squarely against the Globalist/Deep State kind of world for which Trump has inherited and is trying to deconstruct into something more favorable to restoring some semblance of what America was, it seems to me, and is plainly against those who are still able to control it.

            Larouchepac. com has much to offer in terms of understanding where the Silk Road is heading and urges Trump to hop on board, but ride the same wagon as a master manipulator (Putin) and a Communist dictator (Xi) just doesn’t seem right to me.

  6. Awesome, as usual. While I have known the Balfour Declaration for many years, this makes it clearer. And I never realized that the entire British cabinet were so pro-Israel (hurrah for them).

    • It may at the time have seemed that the British Cabinet were pro-State for the Jews, but other controlling influences within the British establishment had their eyes on Arabia, and what was under all that sand.

      Lawrence of Arabia was in the middle east to set up an Arab Kingdom with which to control all that black gold and subsequently, after 1922, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia came into being, British interests shifted from Palestine and the Jew to what they could do to placate the Arabs in Palestine and in Saudi Arabia.

      The movie Exodus, while not giving much of history prior to the Second World War, is very accurate in its portrayal of how the State of Israel came into being. I recommend it to those interested in the Jewish State.

  7. Re the Balfour declaration:

    …Thus was created somewhat unintentionally a political minefield that lasts to this day.

    I say nonsense.

    The political minefields that developed are inevitable outgrowths from the doctrines outlined in the koran, the verses of abrogation of the 200+ “nice” koranic verses, the collection of “reliable” hadiths, the life of the (probably fictitious) Muhammad and the doctrines established by the main schools of what is laughingly called “Islamic jurisprudence”.

    A bunch of deluded early twentieth century Christian fundamentalists and one deluded Jewish fundamentalist in a British government cabinet meeting did not create this political minefield.

    • and don’t forget the “Authorative Manuscript” in the Ankara Museum that under ultraviolet light was shown to be a palimpsest with about 15% to 20% of the words bleached out and written over. Go ask Jay Smith Ph.D. about that one.

  8. Great stuff Michael! Some questions:

    Who was the lone Jew?

    How many tunnels you reckon the Gaza boyz be digging?

    The Irishman married to a Cohen (Romanian extract), related to Chaim Herzog.

    • The Lone Jew was Lord Montague, he actually voted against the motion, he never explained why but it is thought that he was worried about the diaspora and the possible ghettoisation if the Jews in their homeland.

      Gaza tunnels – I coud speculate at about a dozen but it is total guess work based more on the possible targets than on any hard facts.

      The IDF knows how much cement has gone in, and how much building has gone on, the difference can be converted into tunnel kilometers….

      Would any offspring be a a YidMick?

      • Hey, I know some YidMicks. And some MickYids.

        The difference between the two is who wins the “in which religious tradition will we raise our children?” It partly depends on which one is the momma, because Judaism. A shiksa momma (even Ivanka) is never going to be fully accepted – more so than if dad is the convert. However, a Jewish friend of mine grieved over the fact that her father was never fully accepted. Another Jewish friend who converted from Catholicism had a tough skin – she just burst through the lack of acceptance and raised three strong Jewish sons.

        In Christianity, the lineage is less crucial.

  9. The article itself, and the commentary, is awesome. I especially like the idea that a people who are significantly different from the defining nationality will have their civil and religious rights protected, but are not guaranteed a proportional political voice in the government. This provision is necessary for effective government; otherwise, a government representing significantly different communities becomes paralyzed. A good example of the paralysis is the current US Congress, which is composed of two groups with completely different world views.

    Good examples of the functionality of the non-presence of political rights are the situation of the Jews in Iran, who have a voice, not a vote, in the Iranian government, and whose religious and civil (such as civil rights are in an Islamic government) rights are genuinely protected.

    Another example is apartheid in South Africa, where the blacks were not given a vote in government and were restricted in some places they could go, but where their economic and living circumstances were vastly better than almost anywhere else in Africa, or in South Africa after the African National Congress took over power.

    I heard an NPR report years ago that before the first intifada, the economic growth of the Palestinian territories was one of the highest in the world. The Palestinians had the right to work in Israel, and to observe their own religions and practices, as long as they didn’t disrupt the country. The Palestinians made things crumby not only for every territory they infested, but most of all for themselves.
    Unfortunately, for the Palestinians, the Muslims, and perhaps the blacks in the US, the loudest and most extreme voices often dominate not only the discussion but the narrative.

    I think a prerequisite of having non-voting residents with full civil rights is that the number of residents be kept relatively small. A politically-influential minority will always try to expand its number, and a non-voting block will find other means of exerting political influence, particularly through money.

    All to say, I think the Balfour declaration sounds about right. It established a European (Jewish) presence in the Middle East, created (eventually) a coherent country, and established the principle that all rights were to be respected on the individual level. Of course, the Muslims always produced violent groups unwilling to concede the predominance of anyone but themselves…this is not entirely unique to Muslims. But, no country can satisfy everyone, and every country must use force sooner or later to maintain itself. Nature is not necessarily fair, and it is a trip to extinction to always set fairness as an overarching standard.

    In the end, Israel itself must choose to exist or not exist, like the white South Africa. South Africa chose to abolish itself; I hope Israel chooses to survive.

  10. The Arabs and other locals must have been relieved that their loss of political rights “reflect[ed] the will of the international community.”

    Apparently, MC thinks the Declaration should have been more explicit on the point that the locals were to lose their political rights. Those crazy Muslims objected. If only it had been made clear to them. Forgive the sarcasm as I respect MC’s opinion very much.

    RonaldB has some interesting points on classes of political groups. I certainly see the necessity of denying voting rights to felons and, more importantly, to welfare recipients. However, it’s one thing for Iran, with a majority of long standing, to limit rights and foreigners arriving in Palestine and seeking to do the same. The white majority in the U.S. has chosen to worship its minorities and foreigners so the rights we’ve chosen to limit are our own. Hence my reply to RobaldB, above.

    The idea that the Old Testament or “prophecy” are any kind of a basis for a Jewish claim to any portion of the land at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean is absurd. I respect the moral lessons and cultural gifts of the Bible but a warranty deed it ain’t. Jews disappeared from Israel 2,000 years ago. Certainly ancient Israel did. Too bad. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many people have had THAT happen to them. What’s so soecial about Israel?

    Jews acquired sovereignty over Israel in the same way every other nation under the sun did – by purchase, infiltration, immigration, subterfuge, colonization, terror, and/or military force. Especially military force. The only principle of universal application in this world is that you get to own or keep what you can acquire and defend militarily. It’s great if people can do great things with what they own but the world respects only force. The U.S. is a prime example of that given that we spit on international “law” as we wage war on Syria.

    The Balfour Declaration announced Britain’s intention to give away land it did not own to solve a problem the residents of that land did not create. It is not something that should be celebrated. What it blessed or set in motion has benefited Jews in certain ways but, as one can infer from MC’s words, Israel was born as the conflict with the locals proved to be irreconcilable, especially as Jewish intentions became clear. Israel’s not the only nation to forcibly take over others’ lands (he said by way of understatement) but long-term peace hinges on either the ejected population and their descendants and friends forgetting what happened, enemies being kept fragmented and weak, or Israel’s never faltering militarily. The first appears likely to never happen, the second creates new enemies, and the third is ruinously expensive. So it’s not clear that Israel has been a good thing for Jews. What person would now elect to go live in Israel without thinking long and hard about personal security (and the political power of the Orthodox crazies)?

    That all said, it’s hard not to root for Israel in it conflict with Muslims and their ghastly religion. Unfortunately for Israel I think it is living on borrowed time, Balfour Declaration or no.

    • I’m less well-informed on the subject than some, but I understand that there has always been a Jewish presence in the land, even after the diaspora; also the returning Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews are still 70% Semitic in their DNA.

      Many (most?) of the “Palestinians” are relatively recent immigrants; see Yasser Arafat was born in Cairo, and he’s not unique!

      • Mark H,

        I believe you are correct. However, they have not been place holders or custodians pending the return of the main body. They have just been one of several minorities. I don’t think that percentage of DNA is a useful idea. Language and culture are key.

        I don’t know who was where in Palestine in the last 200 years. Somebody was there even if it wasn’t “Palestinians” and they weren’t Jews. In significant numbers.

        • It was pretty sparsely populated until the Ottomans imported Circassians, Algerians and Bosnian refugees shortly before their empire collapsed.

          Many more immigrants followed in the C20th, not least because the Zionist imigrants created job opportunuties.

    • Col Bunny,

      You make the perfectly reasonable observation that logically, if one faction takes a land through force of arms, it’s rather hypocritical to assert the moral depravity of someone else who wishes to take (or retake) the land through force of arms.

      Incidentally, I have a few questions.

      1) Did the Ottoman Empire acquire the land through war and the force of arms on which Palestine and Israel now sit ? (yes)

      2) Did the actual Arab inhabitants of the land have any more political rights under the Ottoman Empire than under Jewish rule? (no)

      So, by this logic, the Israel government is neither more nor less entitled to the land of Israel than any other competing government. However, by the values of the West, individual rights, property rights, government-guaranteed security, freedom of religion, etc, the government of Israel is doing pretty well.

      As to your observation that Israel incurs a ruinous expense by the constant necessity of defending itself:

      I think a case can be made that Israel’s universal welfare state and state support of Orthodox study is more dangerous to its existence than the necessity of constantly defending itself. And note, I’m not speaking against Orthodox Jews, only the actions of the state in providing support for them.

      North Korea is a country of small population, few natural resources, terrible infrastructure, totalitarian government, and the active hostility of most of its neighbors plus the United States and the establishment of the UN. And yet, North Korea keeps going stronger.

      So, what can kill a country faster than hostile neighbors is the welfare state.

      Why do I say this? In the 1960s, there was an experiment now called “Mouse Utopia”. A group of mice was given ideal living conditions: unlimited food, space, moderate temperature, and lack of stress such as predators. The result was, the group died out completely after a few generations.

      The brief explanation is that in an entirely benign environment, the dysfunctional genetic mutations accumulated and eventually dampened out all instincts, including the instincts to mate and raise young.

      So, whatever the risks to Israels existence, the hostility of its neighbors is not one, unless one or more acquire a decisive advantage.

      • RonaldB,

        The answers you give to your questions are correct. The Palestinian Arabs were “it” in terms of claims for self determination after WWI but it’s also highly appropriate to recall how it was that they took over from the original inhabitants of the M.E. And if too much time has passed, then I still say “cry me a river” over Israeli “occupation” when I consider how Christians and others have been persecuted in Arab countries in modern times.

        I’m agnostic on how well Israel is doing. Not well informed, I should say. As I indicated, I get the impression that the Orthodox influence there is strong and those guys aren’t classical liberals. I’m not sure how much freedom of religions there is there. If you’re a Christian you can’t marry a Jew and I think there are stricter restrictions that some advocate.

        Your point about classes of citizenship I’ve already mentioned with approval. The idea of the universal franchise is stupid when it’s implemented in a multi-racial and -ethnic polity. In the context of the struggles in southern Africa a few decades ago, you no doubt remember the cynics who said, “One man, one vote, one time.” Muslims in the West have zero intention of donning the mantel of “men of the West” and granting them the franchise is suicide, which, of course, we stupidly do. We can’t go deeper than “path to citizenship.” Apparently our leading lights can’t think about immigration in ways other than in the way immortally characterized by P.J. O’Rourke (in another context) as giving car keys and whiskey to teen-aged boys.

        Your point above about welfare also points out the Achilles heel of Western social democracies cum not-so-soft dictatorships. What we have going is a giant sensory deprivation experiment with little to no external course corrections for the individual. This has the effect you describe and economically it’s unsustainable. Just the debt service on prior debt to keep the gravy train rolling in the U.S. is a great drain on the Treasury. And it’s politically impossible to reduce benefits. Only expansion is possible. To paraphrase Herb Stein allegedly, what can’t go on won’t. Written in the stars. Locked in concrete. Ordained by God. All apply.

        I’m less sanguine than you about Israel’s staying power militarily in the medium to long term. America’s $3+ billion annual gift to Israel is crucial. It’s probably a lot more than that. It’s helped buy Israel a local advantage but severe economic difficulties are in our cards I believe and it’s not at all clear that we’ll have the wherewithal to continue making such a large gift. Also, advanced SAM systems, deadly anti-tank weapons, and precision long-range artillery do not bode well for Israel’s continuing local dominance. If American carriers are more vulnerable than anyone ever imagined before, Israel also needs to consider changing technological realities.

        Frankly, domestically, Israel is a shining example for the world. Clearly it’s not given to swooning over foreigners and it doesn’t intend to sink under a sea of people who are just not like them and hand over what they’ve built and what they produce just because someone decides on their own to show up and claim a seat at the table. In short, they’re not as addled as the European, American, Australian, and New Zealand governments. Your absolutely right that economic calamity will have a bracing mental effect and millions of eloi will have a rude reintroduction to life as zero sum instead of tra la la.

        All interesting stuff. To me anyway. We’re coming up on a giant reset. The post-WWII scheme is dead and fodder for the archeologists now. Soon we will witness Solzhenitsyn’s “pitiless crowbar of events.” What a pity that the West threw it all away to pay homage to political fluff and third-world primitives.

  11. The Colonel stated : ‘Jews disappeared from Israel two thousand years ago….’

    I beg to differ. Jews did not disappear entirely from Judea and Samaria, but thousands were removed as slaves by the Roman Empire. Not all Jews were taken into captivity, with many escaping the main targets, Jerusalem, and then Masada, while they in turn were sacked, and seeking out the smaller towns and villages that were within those lands.

    My point is that Judea and Samaria have never ceased to be Jewish lands because those lands have held occupying Jews for over 3500 years.

    The establishment of the State of Israel was an act of recognizing the lawful ownership of ancient Jewish land that had seen occupying armies for most of its existence – yet it has survived all those invasions and still remains, and that is the most profound example of a promised land that many, especially the Islamic world, fail to appreciate.

Comments are closed.