Winston Churchill’s Views
The Former British Colonial Secretary’s Answer to Passfield.
There are four milestones or signposts in British policy towards Zionism and Palestine, and the question which has now arisen is whether they all point the same way.
The first of these signposts was erected when on the second of November, 1917, the late Lord Balfour addressed to Lord Rothschild the letter known as “The Balfour Declaration.”
“His Majesty’s Government,” wrote the British Foreign Secretary, “views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate achievement of this object.”
The year 1917 marked perhaps the most drear and somber period of war. It was the time when many hitherto unswerving, despaired of victory of the allies. It was the moment when most resolute elements of the British Government sought to enlist every influence that could hold allied the associated nations to the task. The Zionist movement throughout the world was actively pro-Ally, and in special sense pro-British. No-where was this movement more noticeable than in the United States and upon the active share of the United States in the bloody struggle which was impending rested a large proportion of our hopes. The able leaders of the Zionist movement and their wide-spread branches exercised an appreciable influence upon American opinion and that influence – like the Jewish influence generally – was steadily cast in our favor. Throughout the world of allied nations, Jews (Zionist and non-Zionist alike) sympathized with the Allies and worked for the success of Great Britain and the close co-operation with Great Britain of the United States.
The Balfour Declaration must, therefore, not be regarded as a promise given from sentimental motives; it was a practical measure taken in the interests of a common cause at a moment when that cause could afford to neglect no factor of material or moral assistance.
The second milestone was the acceptance in 1919 of the Palestinian Mandate by Great Britain upon certain express terms. Article two, the prime and fundamental article, states “the Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants in Palestine, irrespective of race or religion.”
The dual obligation, no doubt replete with difficulties, was deliberately accepted by Great Britain.
Upon this obligation the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, surveying the problem ten years later, made in 1929 the following pronouncement:
Firstly, “that obligations laid down in the Mandate in regard to the two sections of populations are of equal weight.” Secondly, “that the two obligations imposed on the Mandatory Power are in no sense irreconcilable.”
The two obligations are indeed of equal weight but they are different in character.
The first obligation is positive and creative, the second obligation is safeguarding and conciliatory.
Our Mandatory obligation towards the Jews throughout the world who helped us, and towards Palestinian Arabs who were the conscript soldiers of our Turkish enemy are both binding and we are bound both to persevere in establishment of the Jewish National Home and in safeguarding the civil and religious rights of Arabs.
*** MERELY TO SIT STILL AND AVOID FRICTION WITH ARABS AND SAFEGUARD THEIR CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS RIGHTS AND TO ABANDON THE POSITIVE EXERTION FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE JEWISH NATIONAL HOME WOULD NOT BE A FAITHFUL INTERPRETATION OF THE MANDATE.
Lord Passfield is not sating the case truly when he writes in the new White Paper, “It is clear from the wording of this article that the population of Palestine, and not any sectional interest, is to be the object of the Government’s care.”
*** THE ESSENCE OF THE BALFOUR DECLARATION IN 1917, AND THE INTENTION OF THE MANDATE IN 1919 WAS THAT “THE SECTIONAL INTEREST” OF THE JEWS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THEIR NATIONAL HOME WAS TO BE THE OBJECT OF THE GOVERNMENT’S CARE AND IN THE WORDS OF THE ARTICLE, THE MANDATORY POWER ASSUMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR BRINGING ABOUT THE POLITICAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS WHICH WOULD SECURE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE JEWISH NATIONAL HOME.