Thursday, November 15, 2007

Balfour Made No Blunder

There's a new book out in England, "BALFOUR: The Last Grandee" by RJQ Adams J Murray.

The reviewer has this to say about the famous declaration:-

...Curzon subsequently became the most travelled man who ever sat in a British cabinet, a statesman with an unsurpassed knowledge of foreign affairs. Yet on nearly all the Asian questions that divided the two men between 1903 and 1925, it was Balfour’s views that prevailed with their colleagues.

History has revealed the folly of this, most notably over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that advocated a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, where 90% of the population was Arab. Curzon knew Palestine, he had governed Muslims, and he realised that Zionism could be implemented only through a combination of oppression and expulsion of the native population. But Balfour, who knew little about Arabs or the Middle East, was determined to pursue a policy that has produced conflict and misery ever since.

For someone with experience of sectarian problems in Ireland, it seems incredible that he did not foresee what would happen in Jerusalem. His biographer, who likes to see the brighter side of his subject’s mistakes, admits here that Balfour’s “reasoning failed him”, but he does not quote the letter to Curzon in which the foreign secretary confessed that he did not care about “the desires and prejudices” of the Palestinian Arabs. Perhaps he would have worried more about the verdict of the distinguished Israeli historian, Avi Shlaim, who – as recounted on this page – has recently described the declaration as “crooked”, “catastrophic” and a “colossal blunder”.

Here's the rather short comment I sent (as I was limited in characters):-

Assigning David Gilmour to review a book on Balfour to run amuck on the 1917 Declaration recognizing the reconstitution of the Jewish National home is akin to handing a pyromaniac a lit candle in a gunpowder storeroom.

Besides Gilmour being anachronistic (in 1917 there were no "Palestinian Arabs" as they referred to themselves as Southern Syrians), his broadside about 'failed reasoning' is misplaced. The Declaration was a Cabinet statement and had been revised many, many times with the views of allies and others taken into consideration. British sympathy for Jewish restoration in the Land of Israel preceded Balfour by more than century and it was thought the correct thing to do morally and historically.

The Arabs spurned all compromise, turned to terror attacks on innocent civilians as early as 1920 and sought the politicide of a country. That was not crooked but criminal.

No comments: