Bro. Steve recently sent us all an email with a story by Winston Churchill’s biographer. The biographer painted Churchill as a valiant defender of the Jews, in spite of some obvious contradictions which he acknowledged, such as allowing the 1939 White Paper to stand, for which there was no excuse. We always think of that 1939 White Paper as limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine. But it was much more than that. It called for the setting up of one nation, Palestine, under Arab control by 1949, with a provision for a Jewish minority in Palestine.
But frankly, there were many more contradictions in this regard that Churchill’s biographer could have referenced. His failure to reign in both the Colonial Office, and the War Office, both of which were blatantly anti-semitic was a huge failing of his during the war. And following the war, in 1945 when the US was willing to accept the Mandate for the Administration of Palestine, Churchill looked at the terms, which were highly favorable to Israel, and which would have nullified every point of the 1939 White Paper, and rejected the US proposal (though Britain had asked the US to make a proposal and relieve them of that burden.)
But his greatest betrayal of Israel was done during his work as the Secretary of the Colonial Office, in 1922. I believe Churchill was unduly influenced by T. E. Lawrence, the famed Lawrence of Arabia, also working in the Colonial Office at the time, and who very much chaffed under the terms of the Balfour Declaration. Lawrence knew that the Balfour Declaration was a betrayal of the Arabs, who had agreed to the McMahon Agreement that General McMahon and Col. Lawrence had made with the Arabs of Palestine. The McMahon Agreement had given Palestine to the Arabs.
The Prime Minister at the time of the Balfour Declaration was David Lloyd George. He testified concerning the Balfour Declaration thus:
"The Zionist leaders gave us a definite promise that, if the Allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause. They kept their word."
And later in that same testimony:
"The idea was, and this was the interpretation put upon it at the time, that a Jewish State was not to be set up immediately by the Peace Treaty without reference to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants. On the other hand, it was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunity afforded them by the idea of a national home and had become a definite majority of the inhabitants, then Palestine would thus become a Jewish Commonwealth."
That was clearly the intent. To set up a Jewish State, or a Jewish Commonwealth ultimately, if the Jews went there in large numbers, which the Prime Minister testified that they did. The testimony of the Prime Minister, was confirmed by the Secretary of War for 1917, Leopold Amery, who testified before an American inquiry:
"The phrase 'the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people' was intended and understood by all concerned to mean at the time of the Balfour Declaration that Palestine would ultimately become a 'Jewish Commonwealth' or a 'Jewish State', if only Jews came and settled there in sufficient numbers."
So there can be no doubt that the intent of the Balfour Declaration was a Jewish State in Palestine. Enter Winston Churchill. I do not make the claim that Churchill was anti-semitic. I don’t believe he was. But he was pro Britain. (As one might argue he should have been. I certainly do not fault him for this, indeed, he is one of my two most favorite British politicians for this.) And the universal opinion in Britain at the time was that the British interests in the Middle East were best served by supporting the Arabs. As Golda Meir noted in her 1973 speech to the Socialists in London, all the political advantage was heavily weighted towards the Arabs. Golda Meir said:
"Believe me, I am the last person to belittle the fact that we are only one tiny Jewish state and that there are over twenty Arab states with vast territories, endless oil, and billions of dollars."
She really did not have to remind the British of the reasons for their actions over the previous 50 years. She did leave out that Britain also worried about the close tie with Jewry and socialism, (Golda Meir was a Socialist) and a principle goal of Britain in the Middle East was to stop Soviet expansion. That conference may not have been the best place to bring that up.
But in my opinion, even worse than leaving in place the 1939 White Paper, Winston Churchill single handedly altered the understood meaning of the Balfour Declaration, destroying it and denying the original intent of creating a national homeland for Israel, in his own White Paper of 1922.
The key clauses of the Churchill White Paper are as follows:
"The tension which has prevailed from time to time in Palestine is mainly due to apprehensions, which are entertained both by sections of the Arab and by sections of the Jewish population. These apprehensions, so far as the Arabs are concerned are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, made on behalf of His Majesty's Government on 2 November 1917."
'Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become "as Jewish as England is English." His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded "in Palestine." In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims "the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development"'.
Well, of course the statements to the creation of a wholly Jewish Palestine, as Jewish and England is English were not "unauthorized statements" as Churchill suggested, but was the intent from the foundation of the Balfour Declaration, as testified by the then Prime Minister and the then Secretary of War. The only reservation was whether or not the Zionist could get enough Jews to move to Israel.
But Churchill’s White Paper had the effect of nullifying the intent of the Balfour Declaration, Churchill’s protests not withstanding. It essentially said that no matter how many Jews moved into Palestine, they would always remain a minority pocket in a Palestinian State.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says of the Balfour Declaration:
"Though the precise meaning of the correspondence has been disputed, its statements were generally contradictory to both the Sykes-Picot Agreement (a secret convention between Britain and France) and the Husayn-McMahon correspondence (an exchange of letters between the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, and Husayn ibn Al , then emir of Mecca), which in turn contradicted one another."
This was Churchill’s problem. He was given three contradictory treaties to enforce. There can be no doubt that that McMahon Agreement of 1915 promised Palestine to the Arabs. The Sykes Picot Agreement of 1916 was a plan to divide the Middle East between Britain and France. And the Balfour Declaration promised Palestine, as much of it as could be settled, to the Jews. He had to make a choice. He chose what was perceived as in Britain’s best interests, which was with the Arabs, and essentially nullified the Balfour Agreement.