Britain Should Apologize Not for the Balfour Declaration But for Failing to Uphold It

Last week marked the 99th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration—the British pledge to create “a Jewish national home in Palestine.” For this occasion, the House of Lords perversely sponsored a panel supporting Mahmoud Abbas’s urgings that the UK apologize for issuing the declaration in the first place. Richard Kemp notes that, if the UK is to do any apologizing, it should be for neglecting to uphold Lord Balfour’s promise:

Arab Jew-hatred certainly did not start with the Balfour Declaration. But it did intensify afterward. It was this intensification, with its accompanying slaughter, revolt, and rioting against both British and Jews that caused Britain to falter and fail. . . . It caused the British government to introduce White Papers in 1922 and 1939 that sought to appease Arab violence and resistance by imposing restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine and on the development of the millennia-old Jewish presence in the historic Jewish homeland.

It caused Britain to deny Jewish immigration into Palestine even as Jews were being butchered in the millions in Europe. . . . It caused Britain to abstain from the 1947 UN General Assembly resolution that brought about the re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. And even to appoint a British general—Sir John Glubb—to lead the Arab Legion’s invasion of Israel immediately afterward.

It has caused Britain up to the present day to sometimes fail to condemn Arab aggression against Israelis, and to find excuses for such violence. All in the name of appeasing the Arabs and their supporters in the Muslim world and even at home.

Despite all of this, with Britain sometimes sinking into moral weakness over its subsequent failure to support the state that it incubated, the country can be intensely proud that Britain alone embraced Zionism in 1917. And it was the blood of many thousands of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers that created the conditions that made the modern-day state of Israel a possibility.

These men fought and died in the Palestine campaign to defeat the Ottoman empire that had occupied the territory for centuries. One month after the Balfour Declaration, on December 7, 1917, British imperial forces under General Allenby drove the Ottomans from Jerusalem. The day the last Ottoman soldier left the Holy City was the first day of Hanukkah, the celebration of the Maccabean liberation of that city 2,000 years earlier.

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More about: Balfour Declaration, British Mandate, Israel & Zionism, United Kingdom, World War I

 

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays