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Time to rethink the
Balfour Declaration



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991
Comments to

August 19, 2006

LONDON - Perhaps it is time if not to re-write the Balfour declaration, at least to re-direct it, back to Europe from whence most Jewish settlers in Israel have come.

The animosity that is making the clash of civilizations a current reality (though historically, pace Samule Huntington, it never was a permanent phenomenon) is driven first and foremost by the unsettled issue of the division of Palestine. If this could be solved Al Qaeda's influence would sharply diminish. So would Hamas' and Hizbollah's. But left to stew as it is now, it is spilling over into Lebanon and perhaps in a few years into a nuclear confrontation between Israel and Iran, or even, if President Pervez Musharaff is assassinated and a more Islamic minded president comes to power, between Israel and Pakistan.

As relations between Jew and Muslim deteriorate not only Israel is becoming unliveable for ordinary people (read Israeli novelist Shifra Horn's new book, "Ode to Joy", if you want to smell the cordite and sense deep in the soul the everyday fear of being blown up) but so are parts of Europe and North America gradually becoming so. Just as Israel has terrorists in its midst so now do the UK, Spain, France, Russia, the U.S. and Canada.

Today it is the fear of another World Trade Center, another Spanish railway station, apartment blocks in Moscow, a tube bombing in London, not to mention the current plot to down airliners leaving Heathrow and the total chaos to hundreds of thousands of peoples' lives this has caused. Do we really want to end up living like the besieged Israelis with an angry Islam world not only without but within our own societies? For surely it is going to get worse, now that George W. Bush and Tony Blair have ratcheted up the degree of confrontation with their counterproductive policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Lebanon, and the central problem itself, Israel/Palestine.

The Jews should never have gone en masse to Israel. The decision of the British foreign minister Arthur Balfour and his prime minister David Lloyd George to support in the British colony of Palestine, in the wake of the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the aspiration for a Jewish "national home" was arguably the single greatest mistake ever made by the leaders of the British Empire.

Lloyd George was a religious man who saw the Zionist cause as one that must be supported by Christian charity. But what sense did it make? If every group of ethnic kin with an ancient pedigree did this where would we be? The Indians could reclaim North and South America, the Moguls Russia and the Hottentots South Africa.

The Jews left what we now call Palestine two millennia ago. In AD 70 after the Jewish insurrection the Roman occupiers destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and the majority of Jews fled to Babylon, modern day Iraq. Other Jews went to Egypt, the Romans enslaved many and others were dispersed by war and catastrophe to Italy, Spain, Gaul and Eastern Europe. Judaism, although it is still by far the smallest of the monotheistic religions, spread by proselytism. By the late Middle Ages the heartland of Jewish settlement was the Polish-Lithuanian state and remained so until the advent of Hitler and Stalin.

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We all know the German and Soviet story, that allowed rampant anti-Semitism to create the concentration camp and the gulag. We all know that without this modern Israel would never have taken off and the Zionist cause would probably have withered quietly in the desert. But today Germany is probably the most welcoming of all European nations to Jewish immigrants and in Russia anti-Semitism is no longer accepted by government. At the University of Moscow, Russia's elite academic institution, the Jewish presence is very marked.

So the European Union and Russia should make an immense effort to attract the Jews back from Israel. For the EU this would mean fast tracking an Israeli membership of the EU. Younger Jews, fearful of the future for their young families, would welcome an easy opportunity to leave Israel. Older Jews could be enticed by the restitution of their families' property.

All in all it should work to make the Israelis who remain feel less besieged and thus be less tenacious and unyielding. Indeed the quid pro quo for EU membership and the economic benefits and security that offers must be that Israel accept King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's peace plan of 2002 which, building on the negotiations conducted at Camp David by President Bill Clinton, foresees a division based on the 1967 borders.

Without such "out of the box" thinking we are all going to be sucked under by the maelstrom being unleashed by what is dangerously becoming a true "clash of civilizations".


Copyright © 2006 By JONATHAN POWER


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