Significant quotes related to Britain in Palestine

1840 Shaftesbury takes an advert in the Times RESTORATION OF THE JEWS… A memorandum has been addressed to the Protestant monarchs of Europe on the subject of the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine. More

1865 In the Archbishop of York’s introduction as President of the first meeting of the Palestine Exploration Fund he said: ……This country of Palestine belongs to you and to me, it is essentially yours. It was given to the Father of Israel in the words: ‘ Walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it, for I will give it unto thee.’ We mean to walk through Palestine in the length and in the breadth of it, because that land has been given unto us.   Click here to read Part 1 and here for Part 2 of the minutes of the first Palestine Exploration Fund meeting.

1896 William Hechler [Chaplain to the British embassy in Vienna] introduced Herzl not only to the Grand Duke of Baden, but also to the Duke’s nephew, Kaiser William II, and to Otto von Bismarck. Earlier attempts by Herzl to contact Bismarck had produced no results. In a remarkably short time, Herzl moved from being an obscure Jewish writer to the international stage; he was soon being heralded by many as the person offering a viable solution to the difficulties facing many European Jews: the establishment of a Jewish homeland.  Donald Lewis, The Origins of Christian Zionism p229

1897 First International Zionist Congress in Basel.  Herzl invited Hechler to the Congress as a non-voting delegate and the “first Christian Zionist.”

1906: Balfour writes to his niece after meeting Weizmann. ‘ [he] could see no political problems in obtaining Palestine, only economic ones.’

1915: McMahon to Sharif Husayn …… I am authorised to give you the following pledges on behalf of the Government of Great Britain, and to reply as follows to your note: That subject to the modifications stated above, Great Britain is prepared to recognise and uphold the independence of the Arabs in all the regions lying within the frontiers proposed by the Sharif of Mecca. Ingrams, D Palestine Papers: Seeds of conflict p2 see McMahon’s promise to Hussein

1918 In a telegram in early 1918 to Sir Reginald Wingate, the High Commissioner in Cairo, the Foreign Office advised it is most important that everything should be done to…allay Arab suspicions regarding the true aims of Zionism. Palestine Papers 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict, 1972 Ed Doreen Ingrams p22

1918 Sir Mark Sykes, insisted: “If Arab nationality be recognised in Syria and Mesopotamia as a matter of justice it will be equally necessary to devise some form of control or administration for Palestine” that recognizes “the various religious and racial nationalities in the country . . . according equal privileges to all such nationalities.”

1919, Balfour to Curzon‘The weak point of our position is of course that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination.’ PRO. FO 371/4179.

1919 Curzon, to Balfour warns: Weizmann contemplates a Jewish state, a Jewish nation, a subordinate population of Arabs, [and that Weizmann was]…trying to effect this behind the screen and under the shelter of British trusteeship. Ingramsp58

1919 Balfour to Curzon Aug 11th ‘in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are.….The Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land…….What I have never been able to understand how it can be harmonised with the declaration [Anglo-French of 1918]… or the instructions to the Commission of Enquiry. ………. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate. Ingrams p73 See Nutting

1919 ‘Palestine should be excluded from the terms of reference because the Powers (have) committed themselves to the Zionist programme, which inevitably excluded numerical self-determination. Palestine present(s) a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to reconstitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future.See interview between Balfour and Brandeis

1920 discussions on McMahon/Husayn Correspondence  ‘In the Arabic version sent to King Husain this is so translated as to make it appear that Gt Britain is free to act without detriment to France in the whole of the limits mentioned. This passage, of course, had been our sheet anchor: it enabled us to tell the French that we had reserved their rights, and the Arabs that there were regions in which they would have eventually to come to terms with the French. It is extremely awkward to have this piece of solid ground cut from under our feet. I think that HMG will probably jump at the opportunity of making some sort of ‘amende’ by sending Feisal to Mesopotamia’. Barr, A line in the Sand p118-119

1921  In his memorandum on British policy in Palestine one of  Hubert Young’s recommendations was:the removal of all anti-Zionist civil officials, however highly placed’ . Meinertzhagen wrote on this point ‘I am in complete agreement‘  Ingrams p140-141

1922  LORD ISLINGTON moving the motion on the Palestine Mandate in the House of Lords which condemned the Mandate by 60 – 29 votes movedthat the Mandate for Palestine in its present form is inacceptable to this House, because it directly violates the pledges made by His Majesty’s Government to the people of Palestine in the Declaration of October, 1915, and again in the Declaration of November, 1918, and is, as at present framed, opposed to the sentiments and wishes of the great majority of the people of Palestine; that, therefore, its acceptance by the Council of the League of Nations should be postponed until such modifications have therein been effected as will comply with pledges given by His Majesty’s Government……,

1922 Meeting at Balfour’s home in London. Foreign Secretary Balfour and Prime Minister Lloyd George confirm verbally to Weizmann that ‘by the Declaration they always meant an eventual Jewish state’. Colonial Secretary, Churchill [responsible for Palestine] also present at the meeting when Lloyd George tells Churchill that ‘we’ must not allow such a thing as representative government to happen in Palestine. Sahar Huneidi, A Broken Trust p 59

1922 Sir John Shuckburgh,writing about the McMahon promise, minuted “there is sufficient doubt in the matter to make it desirable not to drag the controversy out into the daylight”, advising some months later “that our best policy is to let sleeping dogs lie as much as possible”. And in a letter of November 1922 to the British high commissioner in Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, he commented that the question remained “troublesome” and that the official version of McMahon, as paraphrased to the outside world, was “one of the weakest points in our armour”.

1923. Whether Jew or Christian a British official can only succeed in Palestine under the Mandate if he is a sincere and convinced friend of Zionist aspirations. Quote from Zionist Executive document in JMN Jeffries in How Disorder Grew- Jerusalem Riot-Zionist “Self-Defence Corps” Daily Mail 16 January 1923  reprinted in William Mathew ed.  The Palestine Deception 1915-1923 p72

1930 Point 2. Suggested publication of the relevant passage [in the 1922 CMD 1700 on the McMahon-Hussein correspondece] concerning Palestine.
…. What H.M.G.will expose themselves to if they give their authority to the passage… pages 25 and 26: the Arab arguments contained in section 7. These arguments are almost irrefutable ….. In W.J Child’s minute of 16 May 1930

1947 David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency and Zionist Congress,  turned to the British foreign minister in February 1947 and wrote, “The only immediate and possible arrangement that has an element of permanence is the establishment of two states, one Jewish and one Arab […] The Arab community has a right to self-determination and self-rule; we would not even consider depriving them of that right or making less of it.” See Shaul Arieli

Britain was responsible for the tragedy of Palestine, the cause of much war, suffering and the displacement of peoples as well as posing a continuing threat to world peace. The Balfour Declaration in both its parts [promising a Jewish homeland and to protect the interests of the Arab residents of Palestine] was not capable of implementation and the end of the Mandate was humiliating and irresponsible. Anthony Parsons  (former UK Ambassador to Iran), “The Middle East”, in Peter Byrd (Ed.), British foreign policy under Thatcher, 1988

‘By a stroke of the imperial pen, the Promised land [thus] became twice promised. Even by the standards of Perfidious Albion, this was an extraordinary tale of double-dealing and betrayal, a tale that continued to haunt Britain throughout the 30 years of its rule in Palestine. Shlaim

‘The Declaration was the product of neither military nor diplomatic interests but of prejudice, faith and sleight of hand. The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic.  Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete, p33

2011 ‘The centrepiece of British policy, that Britain would withhold representative institutions to Palestine as long as there was an Arab majority.’ Sir Martin Gilbert, Irene and Hyman Kreitman Annual Lecture: ‘Sowing the Seeds of Jewish Statehood: Britain and Palestine, 1909-1922’, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, 29-31 May 2011

The Balfour Declaration was born out of religious sentiment. Arthur Balfour was a Christian mystic who believed that the Almighty had chosen him to be an instrument of the Divine Will, the purpose of which was to restore the Jews to their ancient homeland — perhaps as a precursor to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
The Declaration was thus intended to assist in the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. This appealed to Lloyd George, whose private immorality did not prevent him from believing in the prophecies of a Bible he knew inside out.  Geoffrey Alderman, Jewish Chronicle November 8, 2012′

‘Such was the looseness and imprecision of British thinking on Levantine affairs that as late as March 1923 the Duke of Devonshire, as colonial secretary, found himself unable to answer a query in the House of Lords as to the strategic case for holding Palestine.’ William M Mathews. The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate 1917-1023, British Imperialist Imperatives, July 2013

While the US struggles to invent its future as an honest broker, Britain might find its relevance in the Arab-Israeli conflict merely by recalling its past: and to tap into its historical knowledge and reclaim its role as a member of the original Palestine triangle. Natasha Gill

William Dalrymple, writing after Cameron had visited Amritsar and not apologised for the 1919 massacre: What Cameron can do, however, if he feels real contrition for Britain’s past, is to make the teaching of the British empire a compulsory part of the GCSE history syllabus. The empire was, for better or worse, the most important thing the British ever did: it completely changed the shape of the modern world. Yet most British people are by and large completely unaware of the details of their imperial history. My own children learned Tudors and the Nazis over and again in history class, but never came across a whiff of Indian history. This means that they, like most people who go through the British education system, are wholly ill-equipped to judge either the good or the bad in what we did to the rest of the world.  The Guardian,  2013

Anita Shapira writing in 2014….the Bible was considered secondary to Jewish oral law…. It was the Protestants who discovered the Bible and extolled its importance in educating the younger generation. Even the idea of the Jews returning to their ancient homeland as the first step to world redemption seems to have originated among a specific group of evangelical English Protestants that flourished in England in the 1840s; they passed this notion onto Jewish circles.
It might seem that the idea of returning to the Land of Israel had been part of the Jewish people’s spiritual beliefs from time immemorial…. But there was an essential difference between this yearning and Zionism. … Instead of passively awaiting the coming of the Messiah, the Jewish people would take their fate into their own hands and transform their situation through their own actionAnita Shapira, Israel a History, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014, p15


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