Preliminary Analysis of "The Balfour Declaration"
Under the Balfour Declaration, an offer of "independence" to Jews in Palestine was unthinkable. Nor was such an offer made. What was made was a promise to facilitate the immigration of Jews to Palestine for the purpose of building a "national home"; and even this limited offer was made conditional upon safeguarding the rights of the non-Jewish predominant majority of the population. The Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, is explicit as far as this point is concerned.
The full text of this Declaration follows:
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.
That this Declaration did not amount to an "offer" of independence" to the Jews in Palestine is clear from the text itself. It is equally clear from the manner in which Zionist leaders understood it at the time. When a Zionist delegation appeared at the Paris Peace Conference in February, 1919, and was asked by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Lansing, what it understood by the phrase, "a Jewish national home," its spokesman, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, replied that - The Zionist organization did not want an autonomous Jewish Government,
but merely to establish in Palestine, under a mandatory Power, an administration, not necessarily Jewish, which would render it possible to send into Palestine 70 to 00,000 Jews annually.3
Weizmann and other Zionist leaders recognized and understood the facts at hand: namely, that there was at that time no a viable Jewish community in Palestine; and that, in the absence of such/community, to demand independence for the Jews in
Palestine was futile, and to offer such independence was meaningless. Hence the demand, and the offer, were confined to opportunities for immigration, not independence.
This reasoning was best expressed in a speech delivered by Weizmann before an assembly of Zionists in London towards the end of 1918, which was summarised in a standard Zionist reference work in the following words:
Weizmann said that there were some who believed that the Jews ought to obtain 'a Jewish State,' like the Poles, the Yugoslavs and the ethers, but in all these cases there was already a population and all that was necessary was the political structure. Before Palestine could become a Jewish state, it was necessary to have Jews living there.”
The second paragraph of the Study reads as follows:
During the war, the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration which recognized the historic connection of the Jewish people with
Palestine and promised to help restore a national home for the Jews in that country.
Contrary to this statement, however, the Balfour Declaration did not recognize the so-called "historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine"; nor did it promise to help "restore" a national home for the Jews in that country. Neither the concept of restoration nor the concept of a historic connection appears in the Balfour Declaration.
In fact, the history of the protracted negotiations which preceded and led to the issuance of the Balfour Declaration shows that the final text represented a conscious British rejection of the repeated Zionist pleas that either or both of those concepts be embodied in the Declaration. Even at the eleventh hour, after the draft of the text was transmitted by the British Government to the Zionists prior to its official announcement, Weizmann continued to try to persuade the British Government to insert the coveted concepts in the body of the Declaration He describes this last attempt in the following words:
We, on our part, examined and re-examined the formula .... In replying to the letter of the Government I said: 'Instead of the establishment of a Jewish National Home, would it not be more desirable to use the word "reestablishment"? By this small alteration the historical connection with the ancient tradition would be indicated and the whole matter put in its true light.”
But his plea was in vain. The British formula (which he described as "emaciated" was not to be altered; and the official text of the Balfour Declaration, announced formally on November 2, 1217, was to make no mention of either "re-establishment” or "historical connection."
Little wonder that Weizmann1s narration of the story of what may have been the greatest accomplishment of his long career was not free of a dominant note of sadness and disappointment. He wrote:
While the cabinet was in session, approving the final text, I was waiting outside, this time within call. Sykes brought the document out to me with the exclamation: “Dr. Weizmann, it's a boy!” Well -- I did not like the boy at first. He was not the one I had expected.'
The third paragraph of the Study reads as follows:
In 1922, the League of Nations gave great Britain a mandate over Palestine to carry out the purposes of the Balfour Declaration.
This statement is, at best, a half-truth.
The purposes of the Mandate for Palestine are authoritatively stated in the first two paragraphs of its Preamble, as follows:
Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to entrust to a Mandatory selected by the said Powers the administration of the territory of Palestine, which formerly belonged to the Turkish Empire, within such boundaries as may be fixed by them; and Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty....
It is clear then that the carrying out of the purposes of the Balfour Declaration is neither the sole purpose of the Mandate for Palestine (as the Study under examination alleges) nor even the principal purpose: the principal purpose is "giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations."
And of Article 22 of the Covenant, the portion which deals with the fate of "communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire" and which is, therefore, of primary relevance to Palestine is paragraph 4, which states:
Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time..as they are able to stand alone.