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Clash of Worlds : Britain and Palestine Part 2 *

Balfour Declaration - Public Domain

Clash of Worlds : Britain and Palestine Part 2

Part 2 of “Clash of Worlds” BBC Documentary continues to describe the what they call the British betrayal of the Arabs. This is quite one-sided considering the difficulties the British Mandate made for Jewish immigration to Palestine. Part 2 does not explain the reasons that Balfour decided to issue the Balfour Declaration in favor of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Please not the declaration states “a homeland” and not a Jewish state.

Again, this post has added additional historical notes to help you better understand the period.

François Georges-Picot

François Georges-Picot was a French diplomat and lawyer who negotiated the Sykes–Picot Agreement with the English diplomat Sir Mark Sykes between November 1915 and March 1916. Picot was appointed the Consul-General of France in Beirut shortly before the First World War. Picot supported a French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and desired an “integral Syria” from Alexandretta in present-day Turkey to Sinai, and from Mosul to the Mediterranean coast.

François Georges-Picot, in L'Illustration, n° 3908, p. 82, 26 janvier 1918.
François Georges-Picot, in L’Illustration, n° 3908, p. 82, 26 janvier 1918. Public Domain

Mark Sykes

Colonel Sir Mark Sykes was an English traveller, Conservative Party politician and diplomatic advisor, particularly with regard to the Middle East at the time of the First World War. During WWI  in the Intelligence Unit Sykes wrote pamphlets promoting Arab independence, fomenting revolt against the Ottoman Empire. His propoganda for British Inteligence stated that “the British Army liberated the Holy Land”. Sykes’ sympathies later extended to various minorities including the Jews.

Sykes’s advice: “Turkey must cease to be…should be done up to the nines and given money and food….Then premiums might be offered for camels…then a price for telegraphic insulators…then a price for interruption of Hejaz railway line and a good price for Turkish Mausers and a good price for deserters from the Turkish Army…if possible keep the whole of the Hejaz Railway in a ferment and destroy bridges”.

Sykes promoted the Balfour Declaration to the Cabinet issued on 2 November 1917. He had visited Palestine to meet Chaim Weizmann. Sykes was clearly converted to the cause of Zionism.

Sir Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet (1879-1919)
Sir Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet (1879-1919) – Public Domain

Sykes–Picot Agreement

The Sykes–Picot Agreement (16 May 1916), officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret 1916 agreement between the United Kingdom and France, to which the Russian Empire assented. The agreement defined their mutually agreed spheres of influence after the expected defeat the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

"Maunsell's map", the British government's pre-World War I ethnographical map of the area covered by the agreement.
“Maunsell’s map”, the British government’s pre-World War I ethnographical map of the area covered by the agreement. Public Domain
  • Britain was to receive control of the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, including the ports of Haifaand Acre.
  • France was to get control of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 
  • Tsarist Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and Armenia, however the Russian participation in the agreement ended with the Bolshevik Revolution – before the end of the War.

Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916.
Map of Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. Royal Geographical Society, 1910-15. Signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, 8 May 1916. Public Domain

In 12 January 1916, a memorandum commenting on a draft of the agreement, William Reginald Hall, British Director of Naval Intelligence criticised the proposed agreement on the basis that “the Jews have a strong material, and a very strong political, interest in the future of the country” and that “in the Brown area the question of Zionism, and also of British control of all Palestine railways, in the interest of Egypt, have to be considered”.

Arthur James Balfour

Arthur James Balfour was a British statesman and Conservative Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1902 to 1905.

Balfour, who had known Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann since 1906, opposed Russian mistreatment of Jews and increasingly supported Zionism as a program for European Jews to settle in Palestine. He believed that a state would rid Europe of the Jews. In 1905 he supported stringent anti-immigration legislation, meant primarily to prevent Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe from entering Britain.

As Foreign Secretary under David Lloyd George, he issued the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 on behalf of the cabinet.

Balfour photo by George Grantham Bain
Balfour photo by George Grantham Bain – Public Domain

Balfour Declaration

The Balfour Declaration of November 1917 was a letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a British banker and close friend of Chaim Weizmann, affirming the British government’s support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

It stated that: 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…”

Balfour Declaration
Balfour Declaration

(Photo: Public Domain)

Chaim Weizmann

Chaim Azriel Weizmann was a Zionist leader who served as President of the Zionist Organization. As an Israeli statesman he served as the first President of Israel. Weizmann was also a biochemist who developed the acetone–butanol–ethanol fermentation process, which produces acetone through bacterial fermentation. While in Britain, he was known by many as Charles Weizmann, a name under which he registered about 100 research patents. His acetone production method was of great importance in the manufacture of cordite explosive propellants for the British war industry during World War I.

Vera Weizmann, Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden and Philip Snowden
Vera Weizmann, Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden and Philip Snowden – Public Domain

One month after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, Weizmann met with Herbert Samuel – President of the Local Government Board (a cabinet position).

Herbert Samuel

Herbert Samuel was a British Liberal politician and the party leader from 1931 to 1935. He was the first nominally-practising Jew to serve as a Cabinet minister and to become the leader of a major British political party. Samuel was already an avid believer in Zionism and believed that Weizmann’s demands were too modest. Samuel did not want to enter into a detailed discussion of his plans but mentioned that “perhaps the Temple may be rebuilt, as a symbol of Jewish unity, of course, in a modernised form”.

In January 1915, Samuel circulated a memorandum, The Future of Palestine, suggesting that Britain should conquer Palestine in order to protect the Suez Canal against foreign powers, and for Palestine become a home for the Jewish people. The memorandum stated, “I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be much the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire”.

Samuel later was appointed to the position of High Commissioner of Palestine 1920 – 1925.

Herbert Samuel Photo: Walter Stoneman, for James Russell & Sons
Herbert Samuel
Photo: Walter Stoneman, for James Russell & Sons

David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer (1908–1915) and Prime Minister of the Wartime Coalition Government (1916–22). Lloyd George played a critical role in the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s famous Declaration. As Prime Minister he held the anti-Semetic belief that the Jews would be a powerful economic ally.

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