Britain’s Secret Re-Assessment of the Balfour Declaration. The Perfidy of Albion, by John Quigley

John Quigley*
President’s Club Professor in Law, Moritz College of Law,
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States of America

From the Journal of the History of International Law
Revue d’histoire du droit international
Volume 13, Number 2, 2011

Reproduced here by kind permission of the author and  Koninklijke Brill NV  the publishers

The international disposition coming out of the Great War saw major steps in the direction of self-determination of peoples. For the territories taken from the Central Powers, international oversight was instituted, with the stated purpose of protecting local populations. The oversight was to be undertaken by a new organization, the League of Nations. A power would be designated as a “mandatory” to administer in conjunction with local institutions. In the territories in the Arab world being detached from Turkey, France was given a mandate over Syria, while Britain was given a mandate over Iraq and another over Palestine. France and Britain would report to a special oversight agency the League created, called the Permanent Mandates Commission.

Professor John Quigley

Professor John Quigley

The Palestine mandate was complicated by the fact Britain proposed– and the League of Nations accepted – that Britain should promote the development in Palestine of a “Jewish national home”. The project, carried over from Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, was anticipated to change the demographics of this new state. The League was to monitor Britain’s performance both in protecting the population as a whole, and in promoting a Jewish national home.

When Britain began to file annual reports with the Permanent Mandates Commission, it informed the Commission that both goals were being achieved. Britain could protect the position of the overall population while at the same time promoting a Jewish national home.

In the British Cabinet’s internal discussion of Palestine, however, the prospects of success in meeting these two goals were rated as low. The Arab and Jewish sectors of Palestine’s population were immediately at odds with each other. In 1923 the Cabinet undertook a comprehensive re-assessment of the Jewish national home project. The Cabinet concluded that it could not promote a Jewish national home, yet ensure a peaceful outcome that would protect the Arab population and move Palestine towards independence. For reasons relating to its own interests, however, the Cabinet decided to persist in promoting a Jewish national home. The unfortunate consequence was an Arab-Jewish confrontation that ultimately saw Britain depart unceremoniously from Palestine in 1948, setting the stage for conflict that continues to the present day.

The British Cabinet’s confidential re-assessment in 1923 of the advisability of promoting a Jewish national home was later made public, but not before the end of Britain’s mandate. It has largely escaped the attention of lawyers and historians who analyze the League of Nations mandate system, and Britain’s role in Palestine. Examining that re-assessment – as the present article attempts – will hopefully shed light on Britain’s eventual failure in Palestine and may contribute to an understanding of the genesis of the Arab-Israeli conflict that can inform present-day efforts at resolving it.

Britain’s Approach to Governance in Palestine

Britain’s Reasons for Promoting a Jewish National Home

The mandate system was arranged by joint action between the League of Nations and the Entente powers, chiefly Britain and France. The system was outlined in the League’s founding document, the Covenant of the League of Nations.1 The Entente powers parcelled the territories out to particular states for administration – Syria to France, and Iraq and Palestine to Britain. Britain and France were major actors in the League, hence they were instrumental at both levels in devising and implementing the mandate system. These former Turkish territories were categorized as what were called Class A mandates, meaning that eventual independence was anticipated.

The local populations, however, wanted immediate independence and therefore tried to stop the mandates from being instituted. In Syria and Iraq, they took up arms against France and Britain. The population of Palestine found an additional reason to object to the mandate system. In Palestine, Britain as the administering power committed itself to bringing in an outside population that entertained the goal of establishing itself in a way that seemed to threaten the status of the local population.

The Balfour Declaration

This commitment was contained in the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 document of the British Government. The Balfour Declaration committed Britain to promoting a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, a project being urged by the World Zionist Organization, a Jewish group based in Europe. At the time, Jews constituted 10% of Palestine’s population. The other 90% of the population was Arab. The declaration, issued in the form of a letter signed by A.J. Balfour, the foreign secretary, read:

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
the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political
status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.2

In the early years of the twentieth century, the Zionist movement had approached several European governments, asking them to allocate territory for a Jewish state. Theodor Herzl, a founder of the movement, gained an interview with King Victor Emmanuel of Italy to inquire about territory in North Africa (present-day Libya) as a site. Herzl recorded in his diary that the King refused, saying “Ma è ancora casa di altri.”3 The King’s immediate response underscored the difficulty of creating a Jewish state in territory that was already populated.

The Zionists’ most insistent efforts were directed at Britain.4 Herbert Samuel, who served in the British Cabinet in 1916 as Home Secretary, was the first government figure to espouse Zionism. The previous year Samuel had put forward a proposal for a British protectorate over Palestine to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish state there.5

Vladimir Jabotinsky, another Zionist leader, told British officials that Russian Jews were pacifist, but that they supported Zionism.6 The Foreign Office approached the Russian foreign minister to ask whether a statement of support for Zionism might incline Russian Jews to fight for the Entente.7 A.J. Balfour, as foreign secretary, visited the United States in April 1917 and came away saying that a statement of support for Zionism would play well with the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. America had just entered the war on the side of the Entente.

One of President Woodrow Wilson’s closest confidantes was Louis Brandeis, President of the Zionist Organization of America. Wilson became a proponent of Zionism. A British statement of support for Zionism might shore up American support for the war, in Balfour’s analysis.8 Balfour met with Brandeis and apparently came away convinced that American Jewry backed Zionism.9 According to an account written in 1923 by the British Foreign Office, it was during Balfour’s visit to America that the idea solidified of issuing a statement of support for Zionism:

during this visit the policy of the declaration as a war measure seems to have taken more definite shape. It was supposed that American opinion might be favourably influenced if His Majesty’s Government gave an assurance that the return of the Jews to Palestine had become a purpose of British policy.10

Balfour’s belief, if genuine, that Zionism was backed by American Jewry was overblown,11 but in any event his argument would prove influential. Chaim Weizmann, a leader of Zionism in Britain, argued to the British government that Germany was playing the Zionist card. As related in the 1923 account, Weizmann said:

The German Government were endeavouring by every means at their disposal to work upon the Zionists in Germany, with a view to utilising them for the purposes of a peace agitation.12

Weizmann said that Germany sought “to influence Jewish opinion, especially in America and Russia, and to utilise it in the interests of German propaganda against the Entente.” Weizmann urged the British government to “give an open expression of their sympathy with and support of Zionist aims.”13

In 1917, Britain had every reason to pursue psychological warfare. German submarines were wreaking havoc with Allied shipping. Russia, one of Britain’s allies, was beset by revolution. The government that came to power in Russia under Alexander Kerensky was rapidly losing on the eastern front, freeing German troops to attack in the west. Jews were fighting as foot soldiers in the armies of both Germany and Austria-Hungary, opening the
possibility of attracting them to the cause of the Entente.

In early October 1917, the British government gained information that seemed to confirm Weizmann’s analysis.14 On 2 October 1917, the British consul in Berne sent an account of a meeting said to have taken place at Berlin, at which Herr von Kühlmann, Jemal Pasha and a leading Zionist were present. The object of the meeting was “to discuss the Palestine question.” It was stated that certain pledges had been given to the Jews in order to obtain their co-operation in a new war loan; also that the German Government had promised a safe passage to certain Jews who had gone to America from Palestine. The Foreign Office comment on this paper is: “We have already heard that the Germans are frightened of our Zionist propaganda”15

Richard von Kühlmann was foreign secretary in the German government. Jemal (often spelled Jamal) Pasha was a leading Ottoman official, then in charge of its territory in the Arab world. It would be he who two months later would sign the papers to surrender Jerusalem to the British. If such highly placed personages were involved in making commitments to entice a Zionist leader, the issue of wooing Jewry was clearly one deemed to be of great importance by the German and Ottoman governments. British officials became convinced that Germany was about to issue a statement of support for Zionism.16

The Jewish National Home Project in the War Cabinet

A war cabinet had been constituted by the Prime Minister David Lloyd George as an inner cabinet to take decisions relating to the war.17 It was in this body that the issue of a pro-Zionist statement was debated. At a meeting there on 4 October 1917, Balfour asserted:

That the German Government were making great efforts to capture the sympathy of the Zionist movement;

That the movement, though opposed by many wealthy Jews in England, had behind it the support of a majority of Jews, at all events in Russia and America, and possibly in other countries; and

That the movement was based upon the “intense national consciousness” of the Jews, who “regarded themselves as one of the great historic races of the world”, and who had “a passionate longing to regain once more their ancient national home in Palestine.”18

George Curzon, Earl of Kedleston, was a member of the war cabinet. When he heard Balfour’s presentation, Curzon raised objections on practical grounds, and urged that to secure for the Jews already in Palestine equal civil and religious rights would be a better policy than to aim at settlement on a large scale.19

By this time, a draft statement of support for Zionism was being circulated within the war cabinet. The draft referred to a “national home” in Palestine for the Jews. Curzon penned a memorandum on 26 October 1917, in which he posed two questions. He asked what “national home” meant, and whether such a “national home” in Palestine was feasible. He then stated:

For important as may be the political reasons (and they seem to me almost exclusively political) for adopting such a line of action, we ought at least to consider whether we are encouraging a practical ideal, or preparing the way for disappointment and failure.20

Curzon found the Zionist leaders to be uncertain over their objective in Palestine. He said that most of the Jewish agricultural colonies had not been successful.21 Critically, he said that

the Arabs have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years. … They
will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants, or to act
merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water to the latter.22

Curzon was alone in the war cabinet in addressing the possible consequences – which he saw as negative – in Palestine of a pro-Zionist declaration by the British government.23 To his colleagues, these considerations were not central. “What the War Cabinet was considering,” wrote Leonard Stein,

was not whether, in the eventual peace settlement, Great Britain should try to do something for the Jews in Palestine, but whether the British Government should there and then enter into a public undertaking to the Zionists.24

It was in the war cabinet that a final decision about a pro-Zionist statement was made. The war cabinet met on 31 October 1917. Balfour “chose to rest the case for the declaration mainly on its value as propaganda.”25 He related that “the vast majority of Jews in Russia and America” favoured Zionism.“If we could make a declaration favourable to such an ideal,” he said, “we should be able to carry on extremely useful propaganda both in Russia and America.”26 Curzon agreed “that some expression of sympathy with Jewish aspirations would be a valuable adjunct to our propaganda.” But he cautioned that the war cabinet “should be guarded in the language used in giving expression to such sympathy” for Jewish aspirations. He said he “did not see how the Jewish people could have a political capital in Palestine.”27

The war cabinet then and there authorized Balfour, in his capacity as foreign secretary, to issue a declaration, whose text it recited.228 The declaration was issued two days later, with only minor clerical corrections.

The desirability of British control of Palestine after the war figured secondarily as the declaration was drafted, but propaganda value was the immediate and key reason.29 In an after-the-fact analysis of how the Balfour Declaration came to be adopted, the Cabinet described it as war-related. Victor Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, as Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1923, described the Balfour Declaration as having been “a war measure … designed to secure tangible benefits which it was hoped could contribute to the ultimate victory of the Allies.”30 Cavendish explained that:

The Declaration was made at a time of extreme peril to the cause of the Allies. Our offensive of the previous summer and autumn had resulted in enormous casualties and had failed to achieve any decisive result. Italy was in extremis. Russia had dropped out of the alliance, and the Germans were busily engaged in transferring Army Corps from the Eastern to the Western front in preparation for the grand attack which, in the spring of 1918, was to sweep the British and French armies into the seas. How narrowly the Germans failed in their object is a matter of history.31

A confidential government memorandum, prepared in 1924 by the Colonial Office, similarly depicted the Balfour Declaration as war-related. The memorandum recited that the Balfour Declaration had a definite war object:

It was designed to enlist on behalf of the Allies the sympathy of influential Jews and Jewish organizations all over the world. The Declaration was published at a time when the military situation was exceedingly critical. Russia had dropped out of the Alliance. Italy appeared to be at her last gasp; and the Germans, freed from anxiety in the East, were massing hugh (sic) forces on the Western front in preparation for the great offensive of 1918. The promise to the Jews was in fact made at a time of acute national danger.32

In this process, the consequences of promoting a Jewish national home in Palestine – whether it was feasible, how the Arabs would react – received little attention from the Cabinet. Curzon did sound an alarm, but, as indicated, even he supported issuing the statement. Focus was on defeating the Central Powers.

The British government set up a special office, staffed by Zionists, in its Department of Information to disseminate information about Britain’s pro-Zionist overture.33 The United States of America was a major target of this information campaign.34 In Austria and Germany, pamphlets trumpeting the Balfour Declaration were airdropped, aimed at influencing the opinion of Jews there.35 “Stop fighting the Allies, who are fighting for you, for all the Jews,” one message, written in Yiddish, proclaimed. “An Allied victory means the Jewish people’s return to Zion,” read another.36

Britain enlisted its allies in the endeavour to use the Balfour Declaration to win the war.37 The allies professed their support.38 Germany and Austria realized that Britain had gained the march on them by issuing the declaration. They acted to minimize the damage. Austrian Prime Minister Ernst von Seidler met Jewish representatives and said that reforms would be instituted such that a Jewish nationality might be officially recognized, as Jewish representatives in Austria at the time were demanding.39

Zionism on the Ground

In December 1917, British troops occupied Jerusalem, putting Britain in a position potentially to implement the concept of a Jewish national home. The Balfour Declaration evoked trepidation in the Arab population of Palestine. In April 1918, a Zionist Commission for Palestine, headed by Weizmann, visited Jerusalem. Although non-governmental, the Zionist Commission was dispatched in coordination with the British government to demonstrate that the Balfour Declaration was to be implemented, hence as part of the campaign to convince world Jewry to side with Britain.40

Palestine’s Arabs saw that what Britain had put on paper it intended to implement on the ground. To avert opposition to its control in Palestine, the British government issued a statement in June 1918, declaring:

In regard to the areas occupied by Allied forces … It is the wish and desire of His Majesty’s Government that the future government of these regions should be based upon the principle of the consent of the governed.41

The government did not explain how the consent of the governed would apply if Zionism were to be forced on the Arabs of Palestine.

An armistice was signed between the Entente and Turkey on 31 October 1918. Faisal, son of Hussein, established a government in Damascus, with the idea of ruling without outside interference. But France and Britain had no intention of leaving. They tried again to assuage local feelings in a statement they circulated in Syria on 9 November 1918:

The object aimed at by France and Great Britain in prosecuting in the East the War let loose by the ambition of Germany is the complete and definite emancipation of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.42

Britain’s assumption of control in Palestine was solidified in December 1918, when Prime Minister David Lloyd George secretly agreed with French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau that Palestine should fall under British administration. By their earlier secret agreement in 1916 (Sykes-Picot Agreement), Palestine was to have been placed under international administration after the war, rather than under the administration of any single power.43

The Palestine Arabs were not persuaded by Britain’s protestations that “free choice” would determine Palestine’s fate. A Palestine Arab Congress convened in Jerusalem in January 1919. Some delegates advocated a Palestine state and thought they might be able to get Britain to forego Zionist immigration. Others favoured uniting with Syria as protection against Zionism.44

Britain’s Avoidance of Popular Sentiment in Palestine

At war’s end, Britain was left with the question of what to do about its assurance regarding a Jewish national home. It no longer needed Zionism for propaganda purposes. It seems to have given consideration to the possibility of turning Palestine over to the United States for mandate administration, the mode of governance being proposed for the Turkish territories.45 The government did, in the event, seek that role for itself.46

On 28 April 1919, a text was adopted for a Covenant to establish the League of Nations. A provision on mandates was included as Article 22 of the Covenant. Paragraph 4 set the status of the former Turkish territories:

4. 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. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Following through on this last sentence, and in hope of stemming Arab opposition, the Peace Conference, at Wilson’s suggestion, decided to dispatch an Inter-Allied Commission to ascertain the wishes of the relevant populations.47 France declined to participate, however, apparently fearing that anti-French sentiment in Syria would be only too apparent. An Arab assembly meeting in Damascus in July 1919 adopted a resolution declaring that the mandate system “relegates us to the standing of insufficiently developed races requiring the tutelage of a mandatory power.”48 This assembly, calling itself the General Syrian Congress, demanded immediate independence for a territory that was to include both Syria and Palestine.

Britain took France’s defection from the visitation project as an occasion to withdraw itself. Only the United States was willing to ascertain “the wishes” of the inhabitants of Palestine. Wilson sent a fact-finding commission of two Americans. In August 1919, the King-Crane Commission recommended a mandate for a Syrian state, to include both Lebanon and Palestine. The mandate should go to the United States, which the public seemed to prefer, the commissioners said, but in the event the United States might decline,then a mandate could go to Britain. The commissioners recommended against what they termed the “extreme Zionist program,” because Arab concern over Zionist aims was so deep that military force might be required to implement them.49

The King-Crane findings were not immediately made public. No effort was made to follow “the wishes” of the inhabitants of Palestine. In a memorandum to Curzon, who would shortly replace him as foreign secretary, Balfour acknowledged that Britain had no intention of heeding local opinion. Referring to the text of Covenant Article 22(4), Balfour wrote on 11 August 1919:

The contradiction between the letters of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the “independent nation” of Palestine than in that of the “independent nation” of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country ….50

The overwhelming opposition of the Palestine Arabs to the Balfour Declaration did not bode well for its successful implementation.

Conflict over Implementation of the Balfour Declaration

On 8 March 1920 a Syrian state – to include Lebanon and Palestine – was proclaimed by the General Syrian Congress. Faisal was elected King.51 A number of British officials in Palestine, including General Edmund Allenby, who had captured Jerusalem, urged London to recognize Faisal’s claim to rule Palestine.52 Such recognition would have implied a renunciation of the Balfour Declaration. Most British officials in the military administration that governed Palestine saw Britain’s support for Zionism as leading to no good.53 Zionists complained, in fact, that British officials were undermining the Zionist project.54 In April 1920, Palestine Arab frustration with Britain’s support for Zionism resulted in street violence against Jews.55

Just at that time Britain indicated it would replace its military administration with a civilian administration under a high commissioner. The leading candidate for that post was Herbert Samuel, who had played a role in securing the issuance of the Balfour Declaration.56 General Edmund Allenby, as military governor, wrote to Curzon, advising against appointing Samuel. Referring to the Muslim population of Palestine, Allenby wrote:

They will regard appointment of a Jew as first Governor, even if he is a British Jew, as handing country over at once to a permanent Zionist Administration. I anticipate that when news arrives of appointment of Mr. Samuel general movement against Zionists will result, and that we must be prepared for outrages against Jews, murders, raids on Jewish villages ….57

Samuel’s appointment was greeted with celebrations among the Zionists, who exulted that Palestine was in the charge of a Jew for the first time in two thousand years.58 For the Arabs, the appointment of a proponent of Zionism was an ominous sign.

The British government was quickly made aware that if it attempted to implement the Zionist project in Palestine, it would be at war with the population. Winston Churchill, as Secretary of State for the Colonies, visited Palestine in March 1921. The Palestine Arab Congress gave him a detailed memorandum to express their concerns. They sent a copy to the League of Nations. “It is the idea of transforming Palestine into a home for the Jews,” they wrote, “that Arabs resent and fight against.”59 Churchill replied, defending Britain’s policy of promoting Zionism. When Samuel, as high commissioner, visited the Jordan Valley the following month, he was greeted by banners proclaiming “Palestine is our country” and “Down with Zionism.”60

On 1 May 1921, rival demonstrations of Jewish socialists and communists in Jaffa led to a confrontation between them. Arabs joined in, leading to attacks on Jews, in many cases fatal, and the looting of Jewish shops.61 An inquiry concluded that the cause was “a feeling among the Arabs of discontent with, and hostility to, the Jews, due to political and economic causes, and connected with Jewish immigration, and with their conception of Zionist policy as derived from Jewish exponents.”62 General Walter Congreve, commander of British forces in the region, in a confidential communication, criticized Samuel for trying to “enforce a policy hateful to the great majority – a majority which means to fight, and to continue to fight, and has right on its side.”63

Arab concern about a Zionist takeover was expressed in the 1921 attacks on Jews. But violence was not directed against the British army. Whereas Arabs in Syria and Iraq were taking up arms against the British, the Arabs of Palestine confined themselves to verbal protest in their relations with the British government. A Palestine Arab Congress delegation visited London and asked British officials to convoke a citizen assembly in Palestine that would set up a national government. The delegation also asked that Britain renounce the Balfour Declaration.64 The British Cabinet did hold some discussion on these demands, but before the Palestine Arab Congress left London, officials told them their demands would not be satisfied.65

Churchill, while publicly supporting Zionist aspirations, privately expressed reservations. In August 1921, in a confidential memorandum, he told the Cabinet:

The Zionist policy is profoundly unpopular with all except the Zionists …
the whole situation should be reviewed by the Cabinet. I have done and am
doing my best to give effect to the pledge given to the Zionists by Mr. Balfour
on behalf of the War Cabinet … I am prepared to continue in this course, if
it is the settled resolve of the Cabinet.66

Churchill was prepared to play the role of a good soldier, but promoting Zionism in Palestine was against his better judgment. Churchill appended for the Cabinet a memorandum prepared by the Middle Eastern Department of the Colonial Office, which described

a wide-spread feeling of apprehension among the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine at the prospect of being placed against their will under Jewish rule. None of them can point to a single instance of an Arab being unfairly treated in favour of a Jew during the period of British administration. It is the policy itself to which they object.

The Middle Eastern Department wrote that “the question of ensuring a free and authoritative expression of popular opinion was receiving the closest attention of His Majesty’s Government in London.”67

The fact that the Government could consider ascertaining popular sentiment in Palestine shows the depths of its ambivalence about its policy course. Any expression of popular sentiment would have shown overwhelming disapproval of Zionism. The only reason for ascertaining popular sentiment would have been to set the stage for abandoning Zionism, or at least limiting what the Government would do to implement Zionism.

The Middle Eastern Department deplored attacks by Arabs on Jewish colonies. “Strong measures,” it said, “must be taken to punish the villages responsible for the recent attacks.” The Department reported discontent on the part of many of Britain’s own administrative officials in Palestine. Plans were in place, the Department said, to “afford an opportunity of releasing any members of the Administration who do not feel that they can conscientiously carry out what some of them regard as an unfair and unpopular measure”.

The Department had in mind “officials, whether civil or military, who are publicly and confessedly opposed to the declared policy of His Majesty’s Government.”68 Many tried in vain to persuade the British government to abandon the Balfour Declaration.69

Re-Assessment of the Balfour Declaration

Cabinet Consideration in 1921

The British Cabinet could not ignore the reports of trouble in Palestine. It met on 18 August 1921, with Churchill present. The minutes of the meeting show that the possibility of renouncing the Balfour Declaration was discussed:

The Cabinet were informed that recent reports from Palestine were of a disturbing character. Arabs and Jews were armed, or were arming, and a conflict might shortly ensue, particularly if the Moslem Christian Delegation, now in London, returned without having secured the withdrawal of Mr Balfour’s pledge to the Zionists. The latter were naturally anxious as to their position, and wished to be reassured as to the Government’s support. Two courses were open to the Cabinet. They could withdraw from their Declaration, refer the Mandate back to the League of Nations, set up an Arab National Government, and slow down or stop the immigration of Jews: or they could carry out the present policy with greater vigour and encourage the arming of the Jews with a view later on of reducing the numbers of the British garrison and cutting down expenses.70

Thus, promoting the Balfour Declaration was seen as requiring use of force against the Arabs of Palestine. A number of reasons were put forward at the meeting for staying the course. According to the minute-taker, “stress was laid on the following considerations:”

(i) The honour of the government was involved in the Declaration made by Mr Balfour, and to go back on our pledge would seriously reduce the prestige of this country in the eyes of Jews throughout the world:

(ii) The Prime Ministers of Canada and South Africa had recently stated that our Zionist policy had proved helpful in those Dominions:

(iii) It was not expected that the problem could be easily or quickly solved, especially in view of the growing power of the Arabs in the territories bordering on Palestine:

(iv) On the other hand, it was urged that peace was impossible on the lines of the Balfour Declaration, which involved setting up a National Home for the Jews and respecting the rights of the Arab population. The result of this inconsistency must be to estrange both Arabs and Jews, while involving us in futile military expenditure. Against this position it was argued that the Arabs had no prescriptive right to a country which they had failed to develop to the best advantage.71

Only the last sentence touched on the propriety of the Balfour Declaration as related to the situation in Palestine. It is the absence of points relating to the situation in Palestine itself that is remarkable in what the Cabinet members said. The likelihood of resolving the tension between the two communities in Palestine was seen as remote. With that as a given, the Cabinet was discussing reasons external to Palestine that militated in favour of continuing to implement the Balfour Declaration. No decisions were taken at the meeting. Wooing opinion in Canada and South Africa may well have seemed a serious consideration to the Cabinet. Canada was restive in the early 1920s, chafing against control from London. So too was South Africa. In South Africa, the opposition Conservative Party, which would come to power in 1924, strongly resisted London’s control. Each dominion had a small but active Zionist community. Their prime ministers favoured Zionism. Jan Smuts, prime minister of South Africa, had been courted by South African Zionists during the war and had supported the Balfour Declaration.72 Canada’s prime minister, Arthur Meighen, had also been won over to Zionism. In a speech he would give in 1925, Meighen would say that “of all the results of the war, none is more important and none is more fertile in
human history than the reconquest of Palestine and the re-dedication of that country to the Jewish people.”73

Britain’s White Paper of 1922

In September 1921, the Palestine Arab Congress delegation left London, having received little satisfaction. The delegation proceeded to Geneva, where the Council of the League was meeting. There it met with Balfour.74 The delegation told League officials that the Arabs of Palestine opposed the draft Palestine Mandate, in particular the article that called for implementation of the Balfour Declaration.75 But there too they got little satisfaction.76

In June 1922, the British government issued a White Paper aimed at giving some assurance to the Arabs. The terms of the Balfour Declaration, it said, “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.”77 In July, the League of Nations approved the Palestine Mandate with Britain as the mandatory power. The instrument called for implementation of the Balfour Declaration.78 The following month, the Palestine Arab Congress rejected the Palestine Mandate as a violation of Arab rights.79

In October 1922, a new government came to power in Britain under the Conservatives, replacing the Liberals who had presided from the time of the war. In a year-end (1922) report to the Permanent Mandates Commission, this new British government gave no hint of difficulties in Palestine. It reported that “no disturbances of the peace occurred.” The report recounted the issuance of the White Paper, characterizing it as having made clear that the Balfour Declaration was being implemented in a way that “left no doubt of the determination of His Majesty’s Government to preserve the rights and interests of the non-Jewish population.”80

The Cavendish Memorandum of 1923

Just at this time, however, discussion within the new Cabinet showed a very different assessment of prospects for Palestine. Victor Cavendish (Duke of Devonshire) had replaced Churchill as Secretary of State for the Colonies. In February 1923, Cavendish set in motion a review of British policy in Palestine with a lengthy memorandum that saw little light at the end of the tunnel. Cavendish wrote:

It would be idle to pretend that the Zionist policy is other than an unpopular one. It has been bitterly attacked in Parliament and is still being fiercely assailed in certain sections of the press. The ostensible grounds of attack are threefold: (1) the alleged violation of the McMahon pledges; (2) the injustice of imposing upon a country a policy to which the great majority of its inhabitants are opposed; and (3) the financial burden upon the British taxpayer. … There can be no doubt that the change of Government in England has greatly revived the hopes of the Arab politicians. Their supporters in the late Parliament were mainly drawn from Conservatives who were out of sympathy with the Coalition Government, and who might not unreasonably be expected to carry more weight with the present than with the late Administration.81

Cavendish went on to assess not the prospects for successful implementation of the Balfour Declaration, but the consequences for Britain were it to abandon the Declaration. Cavendish wrote that if Britain were to repudiate the Balfour Declaration:

We have no alternative but to return the Mandate into the hands of the League of Nations and evacuate Palestine forthwith. We should be placed in an intolerable position if, after breaking a promise made to the Jews in the face of the whole world, we were to retain any connection with Palestine from which we derived, or could be held to derive, any conceivable benefit. We should, indeed, stand convicted of an act of perfidy, from which it is hardly too much to say that our good name would never recover.82

This was a remarkable analysis. Even if the Balfour Declaration made no sense, ran Cavendish’s reasoning, Britain had made a commitment, first to Jewry with the issuance of the Declaration, then to the League of Nations when it incorporated the Declaration into the Palestine Mandate. Now it must fulfil those commitments, even if no good outcome in Palestine could be anticipated. Cavendish assessed the consequences as dire if Britain were to give up the mandate:

If we surrender the Mandate, the League of Nations may or may not succeed in finding another Mandatory. If they do not succeed, the Turks will inevitably return. Our position in that event will be an unenviable one. We shall stand for all time as the Christian Power which having rescued the Holy Land from the Turk, lacked the strength or the courage to guard what it had won.83

Cavendish’s concern about the reaction of the other major powers to a renunciation of the Balfour Declaration was probably exaggerated. They had no great investment in the Zionist project. It was Britain that had insisted on it. Moreover, by 1923 it was apparent to the other powers that trouble lay ahead. By then the organized Palestine Arab community was refusing to cooperate in the self-governance arrangements that were provided for in the Palestine Mandate. It was refusing precisely because it did not want to collaborate in a mandate structure aimed at promoting a Jewish national home, hence at its own demise. Britain’s failure to establish organs of selfadministration meant that one major provision of the Palestine Mandate was already being violated.

Moreover, Cavendish overlooked the flexibility that Britain in fact had in implementing the Balfour Declaration. Short of repudiating it, Britain could have construed the declaration even more narrowly than it had done in the 1922 White Paper. “National home” was a sufficiently amorphous formulation that Britain could have complied with in a variety of ways.

Suez Canal

In his memorandum, Cavendish raised one further negative consequence for Britain that might result from loss of the mandate:

that apart altogether from our pledges to the Zionists or to anybody else, there are Imperial considerations that favour the retention of Palestine by Great Britain. Recent developments have profoundly modified our position in Egypt and circumstances might easily arise, under the new conditions, that would seriously affect our hold upon the Suez Canal. In such a contingency the control of Palestine might be of vital importance to us.84

The reference to “new conditions” in Egypt was to the fact that by 1922 Britain and Egypt were negotiating the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from Egypt. Britain had occupied Egypt since 1882, and the Suez Canal provided a route to India, the crown jewel of the British Empire. Britain faced the prospect of having no military units in Egypt capable of defending the Suez Canal. In such an eventuality, Cavendish was saying, a military capability on the other side of the Canal would be important.

One basic idea underlying the mandate system was that the mandatory power was not to gain material advantage. Rather, its tenure in the mandate territory was to benefit the local population. If Britain were seen to be holding on to Palestine in order to protect the Suez Canal, it would be violating the Palestine Mandate. The League would have had every reason to revoke the mandate. The Permanent Mandates Commission, however, never saw the Cavendish memorandum, which was made public only well after Britain had withdrawn from Palestine.

Economic Factors

Cavendish raised one other consideration for continuing with the Balfour Declaration, namely, that the Zionists were bringing in outside capital to Palestine. Cavendish cited what he called

the excellent work that the Zionists have achieved and are achieving in Palestine. … They have spent nearly 5 millions during the last four years in developing the country, and are prepared to spend much more. It is they alone who are both able and willing to supply capital, enterprise and additional labour. Palestine is a poor country and unlikely to attract capital from the outside world on its own merits. The Zionists have a special incentive, unconnected with calculations of profit and return, to devote their brains and resources to the development of the country. It may well be argued that, by giving them the opportunity of doing so, we are serving the interests of civilization as a whole, quite apart from any sentimental considerations about restoring a scattered people to its ancient fatherland.85

This rosy analysis of economic benefits to the Arabs hardly comported with the facts. Cavendish could not have been unaware that the outside capital was being used to buy up Arab-owned land. Land purchasing was in the hands of the Jewish National Fund, which used the land to benefit the Jewish sector. Land purchases were displacing rural Arabs, given the Jewish National Fund’s policy that only Jewish labour could be employed on its land. A Jewish lessee of JNF land who employed Arabs risked loss of the land.86 The Histadrut, a nascent Jewish labour organization, sometimes used violence in trying to prevent Jews from buying Arab agricultural products in marketplaces.87 Zionist economic activity was not calculated to benefit the economy as a whole.

A 1921 report on Arab-Jewish relations prepared for the Zionist Executive88 by Leonard Stein, its political secretary, found the general state of relations to be poor and said that “the situation might have been less acute had Zionist activity brought the Arabs the material advantages they had been invited to expect from it.”89 The Zionist project was being sold to the Arabs with the argument that it would improve their economic situation, but the Zionist Executive acknowledged that Zionists were doing the Arab economy little good. Now Cavendish, with little basis in reality, was putting forward economic benefit to the Arabs as a reason for Britain to continue implementing the Balfour Declaration.

The Palestine administration, moreover, was encouraging economic practices geared to benefit the Jewish community. It had granted a concession to a Jewish entrepreneur, Pinhas Rutenberg, to develop electricity in Palestine, over and against a Greek company that had been given a concession to do so by the Ottoman government. Rutenberg made no secret about desiring to promote Zionism and to supply electricity for Jewish needs. The selection of Rutenberg was seen by the Palestine Arabs, in the words of the British Cabinet, to mean “that the Arabs are being pushed into a background where the spoils of Palestine will be for others, and never for them.”90 The Greek government sued Britain in the Permanent Court of International Justice for violating the concession agreement with the Greek company. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (Protocol XII, Article 4), mandatory powers were obliged to respect existing concession agreements. The court said that the concession to the Greek company could not be overridden.91

The McMahon Pledge of an Arab State

The McMahon pledges that Cavendish mentioned in his memorandum were a major source of Arab discontent, in fact as an indication of British duplicity in regard to the Balfour Declaration. In order to gain Arab support during the war against the Ottomans, the British government had authorized its high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, to make certain commitments to Hussein about Arab independence following an Ottoman defeat. McMahon sent Hussein a letter, dated 24 October 1915, in which he promised Arab independence but excepted certain territory from the commitment. The territory excepted was “portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo.” With the exception of that territory, McMahon recited, “Great Britain is prepared to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.”92
The Palestine Arabs took this letter as promising Arab independence in Palestine. A Jewish national home would be inconsistent with the promise. They took the term “districts,” in the phrase about Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo, to mean the areas immediately surrounding Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. All four are located considerably north of Palestine, Damascus being the most southerly. Hence, “portions of Syria” westward of these districts would be in Lebanon, not Palestine.93

As Cavendish’s phrasing – “the alleged violation of the McMahon pledges”– implies, the British government was saying that there was no violation of the pledge by virtue of promoting a Jewish national home in Palestine. Palestine was within the districts westward of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo, ran the government’s reasoning, and therefore Palestine was not part of the territory in which McMahon promised Arab independence.94

However, internal British documents supported the Palestine Arab interpretation of the McMahon letter. The Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office drafted a confidential memorandum on the issue for the use of Britain’s delegation at the Versailles peace conference. With reference to Palestine, the memorandum read:

H.M.G. [His Majesty’s Government] are committed by Sir Henry McMahon’s letter to the Sherif on October 24, 1915, to its inclusion in the boundaries of Arab independence.95

The Middle East Department of Britain’s Colonial Office gave the same interpretation in a confidential 1924 memorandum to the Cabinet. The Department addressed the geographic issue in the McMahon letter and gave a reading consistent with the Palestine Arab reading. The Department wrote:

The natural meaning of the phrase “west of the district of Damascus,” has to be strained in order to cover an area lying considerably to the south as well as to the west of Damascus city.96

D.F.W. van Rees, vice-chair of the Permanent Mandates Commission, understood the impact on the Arabs of Britain’s reneging on the McMahon commitment. Van Rees stated at a Commission meeting in 1930:

No one would deny that the initial cause of the hostility of the influential Arabs lay in the deep disappointment which they felt upon realising that their national and political aspirations would not be fulfilled … The British Government was held responsible for this disappointment. It was said that the British Government had broken its solemn promises to the Arabs, and that the Zionists, using their influence with the British Government, had succeeded in obtaining the Balfour Declaration, which was an insuperable obstacle to the realisation of the national ambitions awakened by and during the war.97

The Arab perception – doubtless accurate – that Britain had committed itself via the McMahon letter to Arab independence for Palestine led the Palestine Arabs to be suspicious of any British promise, in particular of Britain’s promise to preserve their situation while implementing a Jewish national home.

Appointment of a Secret Cabinet Committee

David Lloyd George, who had been prime minister when the Balfour Declaration was issued, had been an advocate of Zionism on its merits. The leadership of the Conservatives was not of that mind. Andrew Bonar Law became prime minister in October 1922 but resigned for reasons of health in May 1923 and was replaced by Stanley Baldwin. Baldwin ordered a review of Palestine policy. On 27 June 1923, Baldwin secretly appointed a ten-member committee of cabinet members and other high officials “to advise the Cabinet as to the policy to be adopted by the Government in regard to Palestine.” Cavendish was to chair the committee.98

The documentation relating to the review was embargoed as “secret”. The committee called Herbert Samuel to London to hear his explanation of how the Balfour Declaration was being implemented.99 The committee reported back to the Cabinet on 27 July 1923.100 The committee recited that its members were split on the advisability of the Balfour Declaration. It quoted the Palestine Mandate provision calling, at the same time, for a Jewish national home and for the preservation of the rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine. Based on that language in the Palestine Mandate, the committee said it found it “difficult to blame those who argue … that the entire Mandate is built on the fallacy of attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable, and to combine in the same framework the creation of Jewish privileges with the maintenance of Arab rights.”101 The committee thus conceded that Britain could not, at once, promote a Jewish national home
and protect the rights of the Arabs.

Deliberations of the Secret Committee

One might have thought that such an admission would lead the committee to recommend a change in policy. Remarkably, however, the committee found its bleak assessment irrelevant on the issue of whether to stay with the Balfour Declaration. The committee recited that it “is no longer pertinent to discuss the policy of the original Declaration of 1917”:

There are some of our number who think that that Declaration was both unnecessary and unwise, and who hold that our subsequent troubles have sprung in the main from its adoption. But that was nearly six years ago. We cannot ignore the fact that ever since it has been the accepted policy of His Majesty’s Government, that it was also accepted, not indeed without some reluctance, by the whole of our Allies, that it met with especial favour in America, that it was officially endorsed at San Remo, that it figured in the original Treaty of Sèvres, and that it was textually reproduced in the Mandate for Palestine, which was officially submitted to and approved by the Council of the League of Nations in July 1922. Further, it has been the basis upon which Zionist co-operation in the development of Palestine has been freely given and upon which very large sums of Jewish money have since been subscribed.

Continuing, the committee explained that these considerations were more important than the issue of the soundness of the Balfour Declaration:

Whether this policy has been wise or unwise, the above considerations, which cannot be disputed, possess a cumulative weight from which it is well-nigh impossible for any Government to extricate itself without a substantial sacrifice of consistency and self-respect, if not of honour. Those of us who have disliked the policy are not prepared to make that sacrifice. Those of us who approved the policy throughout would, of course, speak in much less equivocal terms.102

So the Balfour Declaration would not be renounced.103 Like Cavendish in his memorandum, the committee avoided discussion of the merits of the Balfour Declaration. Rather, it focused on the consequences for Britain of a renunciation. Beyond what it recited above, the committee listed four reasons against repudiating the Balfour Declaration:

1. We see no way of reversing the policy without throwing up the Mandate.

2. If we return the Mandate another claimant would very quickly be forthcoming. Whether that claimant were France or Italy, the result would be equally injurious to British and, as we think, to Palestinian, interests.

3. If no applicant were forthcoming and the Palestinian Arabs were left to work out their own destiny, the sequel could hardly fail to be the return at no distant period, of the Turks. This would be an even more disastrous consequence, and would, indeed, involve the final sacrifice of all for which we fought and won the Eastern war.

4. Although the strategical value of Palestine is rated by the Imperial General Staff less highly than it had been placed by some authorities, yet none of us can contemplate with equanimity the installation in Palestine of another Power.104

The committee concluded that it was Britain’s “alleged preference to the Jews” that was the source of Arab discontent. “[B]y offering similar or analogous advantages to the Arabs, we may succeed in removing the sting.”105 This approach is one that could hardly have seemed likely to succeed, given the committee’s conclusion that the Mandate set irreconcilable objectives. Yet this was the committee’s only concrete proposal for a modification of Britain’s Palestine policy.

Proposal for an Arab Agency

The committee proposed the creation of an “Arab Agency,” as a counterweight to the Jewish Agency that was already functioning to represent Jewish interests in Palestine. The Arab Agency would be consulted on immigration to ensure that the position of the non-Jewish population not be prejudiced by immigration. The Arab Agency would also be consulted about public works – a response to Arab discontent over the Rutenberg concession. However, the Arab Agency would be created, the committee said, only if “the Zionists” agreed:

It goes without saying that the consent of the Zionists would also have to be procured. We must do nothing that could be interpreted by them as a breach of faith, and we do not want to staunch the flow of the subscriptions from the Jewish world, which are still essential for the material prosperity, perhaps even for the continued existence, of their colonies in Palestine, and secondarily for the future development of Palestine as a whole.

Further, an Arab Agency would be created only if there were agreement on the Arab side to end anti-Balfour agitation:

[I]f this great concession to Arab sentiment be made, it should only be made as part of an agreed settlement with them, that it must be accepted by their representative organizations and by their leaders as a final settlement, and that an end must be placed to the agitation, whether in Palestine or outside, which has been the fruitful source of so much trouble, expense, and even bloodshed. The arrangement is one that must be loyally implemented by all parties – otherwise we shall have conceded much for no adequate return.106

Cabinet Approval of the Secret Committee’s Report

The Cabinet approved the committee’s report, with minor amendments, on 31 July 1923.107 The report was nothing short of remarkable. Had it been made public at the time, one can only speculate at the furore it would have caused. The British government was admitting to itself that its support for Zionism had been prompted by considerations having nothing to do with the merits of Zionism, or its consequences for Palestine. The government, for reasons unrelated to Palestine, was willing to relegate Palestine to a posture in which inter-communal conflict was all but inevitable. The government was telling the Permanent Mandates Commission that it could successfully accommodate the interests of both communities, but its true assessment was that Britain was pushing Palestine towards an abyss by persisting in its support for Zionism.

Aftermath of the Committee Report

Cavendish sent Samuel a memorandum on 4 October 1923, recounting the Cabinet approval and asking him to put to Arab representatives the proposal for an Arab Agency.108 Samuel replied by telegram that he was “very doubtful as to acceptance of offer of an Arab Agency.”109 On 11 October 1923 Samuel held “a fully representative meeting of Arab notables, who rejectedthe proposal for an Arab Agency “as falling short of the demands of the Arab population.”110 The Palestine Arab Congress replied shortly in writing, stating: “The object of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine is not an Arab agency analogous to the Zionist Agency. Their sole object is independence.”111

The Palestine Arabs regarded the addition of an Arab Agency as bringing no fundamental change of direction, hence no improvement. Moreover, acceptance of the proposal would have implicitly legitimized the Jewish national home concept.112

The proposal for an Arab Agency was made public,113 but the committee’s report was not. As a result, it did not become known outside the Cabinet that the Cabinet regarded the aims of the Mandate as irreconcilable. The statement that was made public read, disingenuously, that the Government had endeavoured so to conduct the administration of Palestine as to do equal justice to the interests of both the parties concerned. The task has been one of great difficulty, but it has been carried out steadily and with no small measure of success.114

This public statement was directly at odds with the conclusion the Cabinet reached in private. It did not become known that Britain was more concerned about keeping the Mandate than about the advisability of promoting a Jewish national home. It did not become known that Britain had no plans for implementing the Balfour Declaration in a way that was anticipated to yield an acceptable outcome.

In contrast to the frankness with which it had confronted its Palestine dilemma in private, the British government put a good face on the situation when it next reported to the Permanent Mandates Commission. In June 1924, Britain gave a report to account for its administration of Palestine for the period from July 1920 through the end of 1923. The Report contained nothing of the candor reflected in the internal documents. All was well in Palestine, for what a reader of the report would see in it. Immigration of Jews from Europe was being allowed, but only to the extent of the “economic capacity of the country to absorb the new settlers.”115 This approach to immigration would safeguard the non-Jewish population from adverse economic consequences.116 Adverse political consequences were not addressed. Britain told the Permanent Mandates Commission:

The Government of Palestine does everything in its power to safeguard the rights of the population, and is always ready to examine complaints by responsible persons that those rights are not being preserved and to remedy any defects that may thus be disclosed.117

Again in its report for the year 1924, the British Government presented a picture of progress. The town of Tel Aviv, it reported, had grown in population from 2500 in 1920 to 25,000 by 1924: “for some time past new houses have been completed at an average rate of two a day.”118 The report did not mention Arab discontent. “Public security has been good. There have been no disturbances of a political character.”119

The Permanent Mandates Commission accepted the assessment that Britain’s representative gave it, unaware that the British Cabinet did not believe it. The institution of supervision was undermined by Britain’s concealment of its true assessment of the prospects for moving Palestine to independence. In reporting in 1926, the government again downplayed Arab opposition. It told the Permanent Mandates Commission that Arab opposition to Zionism continued, but:

The more reasonable Arabs, however, realised that many of their previous fears were unfounded, and political agitation against the Government had temporarily decreased. It was difficult to say yet whether they would also abandon their attitude of non-co-operation with the Administration. The reasons for their abstention were obvious. Politically, most of the educated Arabs had a conception of an ideal Palestine State which was at variance with the mandate.120

Implications of the 1923 Re-Assessment

The documents relating to the British Cabinet’s re-consideration of the Balfour Declaration in 1923 were, under Britain’s policy on disclosure, made public by the early 1970s. Bernard Wasserstein cited some of them in his masterful 1978 work, The British in Palestine. Wasserstein did not draw out their full implications, however, and other analysts have ignored them altogether. The fact that the British government early on realized that its policy was leading Palestine to an impasse compels one to reflect on the present situation in a different light. The Palestine Arabs were put in an untenable position from the outset. The negative outcome that the British government anticipated did come about. The Palestine Arabs did lose their country. The League of Nations did not protect them. The United Nations did not protect them. Wasserstein depicted the British posture in Palestine in the 1920s in terms that evoke a Greek tragedy:

Given the British commitment to facilitating the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine in the face of the opposition of the Arab majority, there was perhaps from the outset little that the British could do to deflect the opposing forces from the collision course on which they were set.121

The Balfour Declaration was “born out of Britain’s wartime preoccupation with winning over ethnic power in America and Europe” and “had very little to do with the Middle East.” The British Government “failed to anticipate the explosive consequences of its policy in the Holy Land, and unwittingly led Palestine into one of the most bitter conflicts in modern history.”122

Promotion of Zionism did set Palestine on a course of collision between the Jews and the Arabs. When British officials told the Palestine Arabs that the interests of both communities could be reconciled, the Palestine Arabs did not believe them. But they did not know that the British Cabinet in fact conceded that peaceful reconciliation was unlikely, given the manner in which it intended to continue to implement the Balfour Declaration.Nor was the League of Nations aware of Britain’s lack of candour. Had the League of Nations known of the assessment being made behind closed doors, the League might have been in a position to avert the disaster to come.

Albion is the ancient Greek name for Britain. “Perfidious Albion” came into use much later as a pejorative reference to Britain, signifying faithless or treacherous. Wide use of this expression was related to Britain’s deviation from Roman Catholicism, and to a perception that Britain engaged in political machinations in international


1) Covenant of the League of Nations, Art. 22(4). The implications of the mandate system for the status of Palestine are examined in John Quigley, The Statehood of Palestine. International
2) ‘Britain favors Zionism,’ New York Times, 9 November 1917, p. 3. The Declaration, dated 2 November 1917 at the Foreign Office in London, recited in an introductory sentence that it was written as a “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.” See text on UNISPAL database at A concluding sentence recited that the Declaration was written for transmission to “the Zionist Federation.”
3) “It already belongs to others.” See Raphael Patai, ed., The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl (New York: Herzl Press, 1960), p. 1600.
4) James Renton, The Zionist Masquerade. The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914–1918 (New York: Macmillan, 2007), p. 46.
5) Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine. The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict 1917–1929 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1978), p. 74. Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 44.
6) Renton, ibid., pp. 60–61.
7) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 2, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB 24/158. Esco Foundation for Palestine, Palestine. A Study of Jewish, Arab, and British Policies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947), pp. 83–84. Doreen Ingrams, Palestine Papers 1917–1922. Seeds of Conflict (London: John Murray, 1970), p. 7.
8) Ibid., p. 30.
9) Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration (London: Vallentine, Mitchell & Co., 1961), p.
10) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the
Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 2, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB
24/158. See also Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, pp. 64–65
11) Renton, ibid., pp. 131–133.
12) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the
Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 2, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB
13) Ibid., p. 2.
14) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 65.
15) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 3, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB 24/158.
16) Stein, The Balfour Declaration, pp. 516–517, pp. 533–534.
17) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 11.
18) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 3, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB 24/158.
19) Palestine and the Balfour Declaration: History of the Negotiations leading up to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, p. 3, C.P. 60 (23), 23 January 1923, Secret, CAB 24/158.
20) Curzon, The Future of Palestine, p. 1, GT 2406, 26 October 1917, Secret, CAB/24/30.
21) Ibid., pp. 1–3.
22) Ibid., pp. 2–3.
23) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 72.
24) Stein, The Balfour Declaration, p. 546.
25) Ibid., p. 546.
26) War Cabinet, 261: Minutes of a Meeting of the War Cabinet held at 10, Downing Street, S.W., on Wednesday, October 31, 1917, at noon, p. 5, Secret, CAB/23/4.
27) Ibid., p. 6.
28) Ibid.
29) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 64.
30) Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Devonshire), p. 3, C.P. 106 (23), 17 February 1923, Secret, CAB/24/159.
31) Ibid.
32) Palestine: Memorandum by Middle East Department, Colonial Office, para. 3, C.P. 21
(24), 12 February 1924, Secret, CAB/24/165.
33) Stein, The Balfour Declaration, p. 568.
34) Ibid., pp. 579–580.
35) Ibid., p. 568.
36) Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1970), p. 124.
37) Stein, The Balfour Declaration, pp. 587–601.
38) Cabinet: Palestine, C.P. 149(23), Secret, 13 March 1923, CAB/24/159.
39) David Rechter, The Jews of Vienna and the First World War (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2008), p. 55. Quigley / Journal of the History of International Law 13 (2011) 249–283 259
40) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, p. 110.
41) George Antonius, The Arab Awakening. The Story of the Arab National Movement (Beirut: Khayats, 1938), pp. 433–434. John Norton Moore, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Documents (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), Vol. 3, p. 36.
42) Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th Series, Vol. 145, p. 36 (1921).
43) Note, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919–1939, First Series, Vol. 4 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), p. 251.
44) Muhammad Y. Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), pp. 178–190.
45) Stein, The Balfour Declaration, pp. 606–612.
46) Ibid., pp. 614–616.
47) Harry Howard, The King-Crane Commission (Beirut: Khayats, 1963). pp. 31–36.
48) Resolutions of the General Syrian Congress, Damascus, 2 July 1919, in Antonius, The Arab Awakening, p. 440; also (translation varies) in Foreign Relations of the United States: Paris Peace Conference 1919, Vol. 12, Report of the King-Crane Commission, pp. 780–781 (1947).
49) Foreign Relations of the United States: Paris Peace Conference 1919, Vol. 12, Report of the King-Crane Commission, pp. 794–796 (1947).
50) Ingrams, Palestine Papers, p. 73.
51) Ibid., p. 90. Anne-Lucie Chaigne-Oudin, La France et les rivalités occidentales au Levant: Syrie-Liban 1918–1939 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2006), p. 80.
52) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, pp. 60–62.
53) Ibid., pp. 140–141.
54) Benjamin Akzin, ‘The Palestine Mandate in Practice,’ Iowa Law Review, Vol. 25 (1939), pp. 32–77, at pp. 41–43. Wasserstein, ibid., pp. 162–163.
55) Wasserstein, ibid., pp. 64–65. Victor Kattan, From Coexistence to Conquest. International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891–1949 (New York: Pluto Press, 2009), pp. 83–85.
56) Wasserstein, ibid., pp. 74–76.
57) Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby (Cairo) to Earl Curzon (Received May 6, 5.55 p.m.), Unnumbered Telegraphic [E 4319/1136/44], Very urgent. Private and very confidential, Cairo, May 6, 1920, 3.15 p.m., Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919–1939, First Series, Vol. 13,p. 255.
58) William B. Ziff, The Rape of Palestine (London: St. Botolph’s Publishing Co., 1948), p. 95.
59) Letter from the President of the Third Palestinian Arab Congress (Moussa Kazem El-Hussaini) to the President of the League of Nations, 1 April 1921. Annex: Report on the State of Palestine Presented to the Right Honourable Mr. Winston Churchill, P.C., M.P., by the Executive Committee of the Arab Palestine Congress 28 March 1921, League of Nations, Official Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 331–340, at p. 333. See also Ingrams, Palestine Papers, p. 118.
60) Ingrams, Palestine Papers, pp. 119–120.
61) Great Britain and Palestine 1915–1945 (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs 1946), p. 39. Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 101. Kattan, From Coexistence to Conquest, pp. 85–86.
62) Palestine. Disturbances in May, 1921. Reports of the Commission of Inquiry with Correspondence Relating Thereto, p. 59, British Command Paper, Cmd. 1540.
63) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 107, citing Congreve to H.W. Young, June 16, 1921 (Public Record Office CO 733/17A/232).
64) Sahar Huneidi, A Broken Trust. Herbert Samuel, Zionism, and the Palestinians 1920–1925 (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001), pp. 149–155.
65) Ingrams, Palestine Papers, pp. 143–145.
66) Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, pp. 1–2, C.P. 3213, 11 August 1921, Secret, CAB 24/127.
67) Ibid., annex: Palestine, p. 1.
68) Ibid., annex: Palestine, p. 2.
69) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 15.
70) Conclusions of a Meeting of the Cabinet held at 10, Downing Street, S.W., on Thursday, 18th August, 1921, at 11.30 a.m., p. 8, Cabinet 70(21), Secret, 18 August 1921, CAB/23/26.
71) Ibid., pp. 8–9.
72) Richard P. Stevens, ‘Smuts and Weizmann,’ Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1(Autumn 1973), pp. 35–59.
73) ‘Prime Minister for Canada on Hebrew University’, Palestine Bulletin, May 6, 1925, p3.
74) Christopher Sykes, Cross Roads to Israel (London: Collins, 1965), p. 82.
75) Ingrams, Palestine Papers, p. 148.
76) Ibid., p. 170.
77) Palestine. Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Zionist Organisation. Enclosure in No. 5: British Policy in Palestine, p. 18, 3 June 1922, British Command Paper, Cmd. 1700. Emphasis in original.
78) Mandate for Palestine, League of Nations, Official Journal, Vol. 3, No. 8, p. 1007 (1922). Also in League of Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 22, p. 354.
79) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 119.
80) United Kingdom, Report on Palestine Administration 1922, 31 December 1922, p. 2.
81) Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Devonshire), p. 11, C.P. 106 (23), 17 February 1923, Secret, CAB/24/159.
82) Ibid., p. 13.
83) Ibid, pp. 13–14.
84) Ibid., p. 12.
85) Ibid.
86) ‘Lease Contract,’ Art. 25, in Palestine Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 2 (1985), p. 221.
87) David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch. The Roots of Violence in the Middle East (London: Faber & Faber, 1984), p. 63.
88) Replaced the Zionist Commission, referenced supra, in 1921 and functioned as the Jewish Agency for Palestine under the Palestine Mandate.
89) Leonard Stein, ‘Situation in Palestine,’ quoted in Neil Caplan, Palestine Jewry and the Arab Question 1917–1925 (London: Frank Cass, 1978), p. 100. Stein later authored The Balfour Declaration, cited supra.
90) Cabinet: Committee on Palestine. The Future of Palestine, p. 4, C.P. 351(23), Secret, 27 July 1923, CAB/24/161.
91) Mavrommatis Jerusalem Concessions, Permanent Court of International Justice, Series A, No. 5, 26 March 1925.
92) Correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sherif Hussein of Mecca July 1915 – March 1916, British Command Paper, Cmd. 5957, p. 8.
93) Michael J. Cohen, The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Zionist Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 20–22.
94) White Paper: British Policy in Palestine, 3 June 1922, British Command Paper, Cmd.1700. Cohen, ibid., p. 20. Kattan, From Coexistence to Conquest, pp. 86–116.
95) ‘Light on Britain’s Palestine promise,’ Times (London), 17 April 1964, p. 15.
96) Palestine: Memorandum by Middle East Department, Colonial Office, para. 5, C.P. 21 (24), 12 February 1924, Secret, CAB/24/165.
97) Permanent Mandates Commission, Minutes of the Seventeenth Session, 5th meeting, 5 June 1930, 10:30 a.m.
98) Cabinet: Palestine Committee, C.P. 293(23), p. 7, Secret, 27 June 1923, CAB/24/160.
99) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 126.
100) Cabinet: Committee on Palestine. The Future of Palestine, C.P. 351(23), Secret, 27 July 1923, CAB/24/161. See also Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, pp. 126–127.
101) Cabinet: Committee on Palestine. The Future of Palestine, p. 5, C.P. 351(23), Secret, 27 July 1923, CAB/24/161.
102) Ibid., p. 3.
103) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 127
104) Cabinet: Committee on Palestine. The Future of Palestine, p. 4, C.P. 351(23), Secret, 27 July 1923, CAB/24/161.
105) Ibid., p. 5.
106) Ibid., p. 6.
107) Conclusions of a Meeting of the Cabinet held at the House of Commons, S.W./1 on Tuesday, 31 July 1923, at 5.30 p.m., C.P. 43(23), Secret, 31 July 1923, CAB/23/46.
108) Future of Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, C.P. 433(23), Secret, 27 October 1923, CAB/24/162, pp. 2–4 (Appended Document 1: Secretary of State’s despatch No. 1223 of 4 October 1923).
109) Ibid., p. 4 (Appended Document 2: Paraphrase Telegram from the High Commissioner of Palestine to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated October 8, 1923). See also Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 128.
110) Future of Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, C.P. 433(23), Secret, 27 October 1923, CAB/24/162, p. 5 (Appended Document 3: Paraphrase Telegram from the High Commissioner for Palestine to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated October 11, 1923). See also Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 129.
111) Great Britain and Palestine 1915–1945 (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs 1946), p, 42.
112) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, pp. 128–130.
113) Future of Palestine: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, C.P. 433(23), Secret, 27 October 1923, CAB/24/162, p. 1. Palestine. Proposed Formation of an Arab Agency, British Command Paper, Cmd. 1989, November 1923.
114) Ibid., p. 2.
115) Report by His Britannic Majesty’s Government on the Palestine Administration 1923, p. 7, Colonial Office, June 1924.
116) Ibid., pp. 7–8.
117) Ibid., Appendix: Questionnaire of Permanent Mandates Commission with Brief Replies).
118) Report by His Britannic Majesty’s Government on the Administration under Mandate
of Palestine and Transjordan for the year 1924, p. 3.
119) Ibid.
120) Permanent Mandates Commission, Minutes of the Ninth Session, 22nd meeting, 22
June 1926, 10:30 a.m.
121) Wasserstein, The British in Palestine, p. 7.
122) Renton, The Zionist Masquerade, pp. 9–10.

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