British bad faith leaves legacy of hate: How Balfour failed both Jews and Arabs

BRITAIN'S honeymoon in Palestine was short-lived. It began with Allenby's triumphant entry into Jerusalem in 1917 and ended, in Churchill's own words, in the "hell disaster" of 1948. Both Jew and Arab were betrayed by the empire which was given a League of Nations protectorate in the Holy Land in the aftermath of the First World War.

Britain had promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine - but had also promised the Arabs freedom in all their lands in return for their support in the war against the Ottoman Turks. In reality, we broke our promise to both of them.

The Arabs watched Britain retreat from its obligations in the face of the UN's vote for an Israeli state; the Jews found that they got only half of Palestine - although Balfour had indicated that the whole of the territory might be their homeland. And when 700,000 Arab Palestinians fled their homes in what was to become Israel, we watched and - save for a few shots fired in defence of Haifa - forgot the victims.

Even today, the ruthless war fought out between Jew and Briton - and our failure to honour our promises to the Arabs - antagonise relations between Britain and Israel and between Britain and the Arabs. Neither side can forget what happened 50 years ago. Jews murdered Britons and Britons beat and hanged and sometimes murdered Jews. Arabs and Jews slaughtered each other for the land under Britain's control. When the last British troops packed their kit bags, they symbolised the end of empire and the end of any serious British role in Middle East politics for a generation. Many of them left under fire.

It all seemed simpler when Balfour made his declaration, anxious at the time to persuade world Jewry (especially in the United States) to support the Allied cause against Germany. "His Majesty's Government," he said, "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 ..." Less attention was taken to Balfour's warning that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."

Equally little attention has been paid since to the word "Palestine", for Britain was clearly envisaging all of Palestine - including what is now the West Bank (in antiquity, more Jewish than the Mediterranean coast) - as a Jewish "homeland". Jewish writers, with the brave exception of historians like Benny Morris, have paid equally little attention to Balfour's reference to "non-Jewish communities". And why should they? It was Balfour himself who wrote privately in 1918 that "in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country". For him, Zionism was "of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices [sic] of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land".

And so it turned out. As Arab suspicion and then fury increased against the British, as they allowed European Jews into Palestine, so Jewish frustration increased at the British restrictions on immigration. Throughout the Second World War, Jew and Arab largely declared a ceasefire; many joined the British Army. Their graves lie together at Alamein - though when the then foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind insisted that the Israelis should be allowed to commemorate their dead on the 50th anniversary in 1992, five Israelis flags - but not a single Palestinian flag - fluttered over the battlefield.

Moshe Dayan, future warrior of Israel, lost his eye to a Vichy French sniper liberating Lebanon in 1941.

Even before the war ended, the Palestine conflict resumed with bloodthirsty intent. In 1944, Jewish gunmen assassinated Britain's minister-resident in Cairo, Lord Moyne. The Observer blamed "Jewish fascism". In 1946, Menachem Begin's Jewish militants in Jerusalem blew up the King David Hotel, headquarters of British forces in Palestine - a "terrorist" act if ever there was one, the ninth-most horrific this century, according to the British. It killed 91, including Arabs and Jews. The Jewish Agency denounced the bombing - though few Jews could forget how Britain persuaded the Turks to prevent east European Jews travelling through the Bosphorous to Palestine in their flight from the Nazis. Those Britons who had fought and died to liberate the death camps of Europe were now being attacked by the survivors in Palestine. The British hanged Jews for "terrorism". The historian Martin Gilbert, in his new history of Israel, recalls the names of three: Avshalom Haviv, Yaakov Weiss and Meir Nakar.

In revenge, the Jews hanged two British Army sergeants - whose names, Marvin Paice and Clifford Martin, are not recorded by Mr Gilbert in his new book. Their bodies were booby-trapped after their strangulation.

"Must our Boys Die?" the Daily Mail asked, urging an early British retreat. The Mail got its way. The Times commented with prescience that the violence in Palestine was "a fan to flame the smouldering resentment of the Arabs who campaign already that they are victimised by terrorism and now threaten in their turn to resort to force". The British left behind them a resentful Israel and a cruelly dispossessed community of Palestinians, most of whom held deeds to their land issued by the British mandate authorities as well as the Ottomans. Their brown Palestine passports were identical to those of the British, complete with lion and unicorn and "Dieu et Mon Droit" at the top. But they had no rights. The British, for all their First World War promises of independence for the Arabs, no more protected the Arabs of their mandate than the Jews.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

People Change Manager

£260 - £325 per day: Progressive Recruitment: IT Trainer: E-Commerce Experienc...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn