Britain did not have a Jewish problem to the extent of other European countries but in the course of its Great War it began to see itself as having an international Jewish problem that obstructed the winning of its War over Germany and the Ottoman Turks. That is the fundamental reason for the Balfour Declaration aside from strategic considerations.
The Balfour Declaration came about through the existence of some of the most powerful beliefs of Anti-Semitism in high places in England. These were that Jewry in Russia, Germany and the United States had secret and powerful international links in finance and government tantamount to a conspiracy. The implication of such an understanding was that the War could be decided by Jewish influence. So Jewish influence needed to be turned through bribery.
Any reading of Imperial writings of a century ago will uncover a sensitive and unmentionable aspect of the Balfour Declaration – the British desire to restrict, or utilise, what it believed to be the global political, economic and social influence of international Jewry. This aspect of the Balfour Declaration can only properly be termed Britain’s ‘Taming of the Jew.’
There is a memorandum to Lord Peel and the other members of the Royal Commission on Palestine in 1936 marked “Private & Confidential,” written by James Malcolm, which sets out the reasons behind the Balfour Declaration:
“I have always been convinced that until the Jewish question was more or less satisfactorily settled there could be no real or permanent peace in the world, and that the solution lay in Palestine. This was one of the two main considerations which impelled me, in the autumn of 1916, to initiate the negotiations which led eventually to the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate for Palestine. The other, of course, was to bring America into the War.
For generations Jews and Gentiles alike have assumed in error that the cause of Anti-Semitism was in the main religious. Indeed, the Jews in the hope of obtaining relief from intolerance, engaged in the intensive and subversive propagation of materialistic doctrines productive of ‘Liberalism,’ Socialism, and Irreligion, resulting in de-Christianisation. On the other hand, the more materialistic the Gentiles became, the more aware they were subconsciously made of the cause of Anti-Semitism, which at bottom was, and remains to this day, primarily an economic one. A French writer – Vicomte de Poncins – has remarked that in some respects Anti-Semitism is largely a form of self-defence against Jewish economic aggression. In my opinion, however, neither the Jews nor the Gentiles bear the sole responsibility for this.
As I have already said, I had a part in initiating the negotiations in the early autumn of 1916 between the British and French Governments and the Zionist leaders, which led to the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate for Palestine.
The first object, of course, was to enlist the very considerable and necessary influence of the Jews, and especially of the Zionist or Nationalist Jews. to help us bring America into the War at the most critical period of the hostilities. This was publicly acknowledged by Mr. Lloyd George during a recent debate in the House of Commons.
Our second object was to enable and induce Jews all the world over to envisage constructive work as their proper field, and to take their minds off destructive and subversive schemes which, owing to their general sense of insecurity and homelessness, even in the periods preceding the French Revolution, had provoked so much trouble and unrest in various countries, until their ever-increasing violence culminated in the Third International and the Russian Communist Revolution. But to achieve this end it was necessary to promise them Palestine in consideration of their help, as already explained, and not as a mere humanitarian experiment or enterprise, as represented in certain quarters.” (Robert John, Behind The Balfour Declaration: The Hidden Origins Of Today’s Mideast Crisis, p.84)
This makes it clear that the Balfour Declaration was a response to a perceived global problem and the Taming of the Jew through relocation to Palestine was taken to be the final solution to the Jewish Question: “to take their minds off destructive and subversive schemes… owing to their general sense of insecurity and homelessness.”
Malcolm’s was just one of the voices encouraging the establishment of a Jewish Nation in Palestine as a solution to the Jewish problem. Halford Mackinder, the famous Geopolitics Professor at the London School of Economics, and advisor to the British Delegation at Versailles, pointed to this aspect in his influential book, Democratic Ideals and Reality, written a year after the capture of Jerusalem in 1917:
“The Jewish national seat in Palestine will be one of the most important outcomes of the war. That is a subject on which we can now afford to speak the truth. The Jew, for many centuries shut up in a ghetto, and shut out of most honourable positions in society, developed in an unbalanced manner and became hateful to the average Christian by reason of his excellent, no less than his deficient qualities. German penetration has been conducted in the great commercial centres of the world in no small measure by Jewish agency, just as German domination in southeastern Europe was achieved through Magyar and Turk, with Jewish assistance. Jews are among the chief of the Bolsheviks of Russia. The homeless, brainful Jew lent himself to such internationalist work, and Christendom has no right to be surprised by the fact. But you will have no room for these activities in your League of independent, friendly nations. Therefore a national home, at the physical and historical centre of the world, should make the Jew ’range’ himself. Standards of judgement, brought to bear on Jews by Jews, should result, even among those large Jewish communities which will remain as Going Concerns outside Palestine. This, however, will imply the frank acceptance of the position of a nationality, which some Jews seek to forget. There are those who try to distinguish between the Jewish religion and the Hebrew race, but surely the popular view of their broad identity is not far wrong.” (pp.173-4)
The Jews were viewed within the British Foreign Office and other Imperial Departments of State as a unitary collective entity rather than a diverse collection of individual communities across the world. They were seen as powerful and they were seen as pro-German and pro-Ottoman and disruptive of British interests. And no distinguishing was made between one Jew and another until a distinction was made between Zionist and other Jews.
Two Irishmen, Gerald Fitzmaurice and Hugh O’Beirne, both products of Beaumont public school, and contemporaries of Mark Sykes (a Catholic convert) were particularly obsessed with the power of the Jew over the Young Turks. O‘Beirne, a Foreign Office official from Drumsna, County Leitrim, suggested in a memo that: “If we could offer the Jews an arrangement as to Palestine which would strongly appeal to them we might conceivably be able to strike a bargain with them as to withdrawing their support from the Young Turk government which would then automatically collapse.” (David Fromkin, Peace To End All Peace, p.198.)
In February and March 1916, O’Beirne wrote two memoranda in favour of the idea of a declaration for a Jewish homeland. Although O’Beirne died before the Balfour Declaration was issued, his influence is described in detail in various Zionist books on the evolution of the document. O’Beirne and Lord Crewe (who was married to a Rothschild, a woman who boasted that all in her house were ‘Weizmannites’) devised a formula for a Jewish state that was, in fact, much more Zionist than the eventual declaration.
O’Beirne drowned with Kitchener in June 1916 when their ship was struck by a mine while en route to Archangel.
Sir Gerald Lowther, British Ambassador in Constantinople before the War, sent a 5,000 word report to Edward Grey on 10th May 1910 which contains the flavour of understanding of the Young Turk revolution, as a ‘Judea-Masonic conspiracy’ inspired by French Revolutionary ideals. It noted how the great Ottoman Jewish city of Salonica produced the Young Turks (Committee of Unity and Progress):
“Jews of all colours, native and foreign, were enthusiastic supporters of the new dispensation… every Hebrew seemed to become a potential spy of the occult Committee, and people began to remark that the movement was rather a Jewish rather than a Turkish revolution… Talaat Bey, the Minister of the Interior, who is of Gipsy descent… and Djavid Bey, the Minister of Finance, who is a Crypto-Jew, are the official manifestations of the occult power of the Committee. They are the only members of the Cabinet who really count, and are also the apex of Freemasonry in Turkey… The invisible government of Turkey is thus the Grand Orient with Talaat Bey as Grand Master… The Jew… seems to have entangled the pre-economic-minded Turk in his toils, and as Turkey contains the places sacred to Israel, it is but natural that the Jew should strive to maintain a position of exclusive influence and utilize it for the furtherance of his ideals, viz. the ultimate creation of an autonomous Jewish state in Palestine or Babylonia… It is obvious that the Jew, who is so vitally interested in maintaining his sole predominance in the councils of the Young Turkey is equally interested in keeping alive the flames of discord between the Turk and his (the Jew‘s) possible rivals, i.e. Armenians, Greek etc… The Jew hates Russia and its Government, and the fact that England is now friendly to Russia has the effect, to a certain effect, of making the Jew anti-British in Turkey and Persia – a consideration to which the Germans, I think, are alive. The Jew can help the Young Turk with brains, business enterprise, his enormous influence in the press of Europe, and money in return for advantages and the eventual realization of the ideals of Israel… The Jew has supplied funds to the Young Turks and has thus acquired a hold on them… Secrecy and elusive methods are essential to both. The Oriental Jew is an adept at manipulating occult forces, and political Freemasonry of the continental type has been chosen as the most effective bond and cloak to conceal the inner workings of the movement…” (cited in Elie Kedourie, Young Turks, Freemasons and Jews, Middle Eastern Studies, January 1971, pp.95-102)
The British Ambassador’s Report goes on, for page after page, about Jewish influence here, there and everywhere with the Ottomans.
These views were widespread across British officials and their departments and persisted through the War. In the opening months of the War The Times accused the Jews of attempting to keep Britain neutral on Germany’s behalf (in its Washington Despatch of 23rd November and the Correspondence Column of 26th November).
During the War itself Britain’s Ambassadors bombarded London with dispatches about the sinister power of the Jews being exercised on the German behalf. George Buchanan, Ambassador in Petrograd complained of the “large number of Jews in German pay acting as spies during the campaign in Poland” against the Russian Ally. In the correspondence of the British Ambassador at Washington, Cecil Spring Rice, between 1914 and 1917 there are continual references to the Jews as German agents ( e.g. “the pro-German Jewish bankers toiling for our destruction.” See Mark Levene, The Balfour Declaration: A Case Of Mistaken Identity, English Historical Review, January, 1992) and the character of the views expressed can only be described as Anti-Semitic.
The Anti-Semites worked hand in glove with the Zionists to secure the transference of the Jews to Palestine. The English Zionist Samuel Landman, in his Secret History of the Balfour Declaration pamphlet, describes how this happened behind the scenes as Lloyd George took power at the end of 1916:
“Through General McDonogh, Director of Military Operations, who was won over by
Fitzmaurice (formerly Dragoman of the British Embassy in Constantinople and a friend of James Malcolm), Dr. Weizmann was able, about this time, to secure from the Government the services of half a dozen younger Zionists for active work on behalf of Zionism. At the time, conscription was in force, and only those who were engaged on work of national importance could be released from active service at the Front. I remember Dr. Weizmann writing a letter to General McDonogh and invoking his assistance in obtaining the exemption from active service of Leon Simon, (who later rose to high rank in the Civil Service as Sir Leon Simon, C.B.), Harry Sacher, (on the editorial staff of the Manchester Guardian), Simon Marks, [J] Yamson Tolkowsky and myself. At Dr. Weizmann’s request I was transferred from the War Office (M.I.9), where I was then working, to the Ministry of Propaganda, which was under Lord Northcliffe, and later to the Zionist office, where I commenced work about December 1916. Simon Marks actually arrived at the Office in khaki, and immediately set about the task of organizing the office which, as will be easily understood, had to maintain constant communications with Zionists in most countries.
From that time onwards for several years, Zionism was considered an ally of the British Government, and every help and assistance was forthcoming from each government department. Passport or travel difficulties did not exist when a man was recommended by our office. For instance, a certificate signed by me was accepted by the Home Office at that time as evidence that an Ottoman Jew was to be treated as a friendly alien and not as an enemy, which was the case with the Turkish subjects.”
A number of influential British writers noted in their writings that the Jews were a significant element in the vigour and success of German commerce prior to the War and it was a priority that they should be removed from this function in German life. It was also said that the Young Turks had been founded by Jews and contained mostly crypto-Jews (Eamon DeValera, another dangerous man for Britain, was later portrayed in England as “the Spanish Jew”.)
The famous writer, John Buchan, had popularised the German/Jewish/Ottoman conspiracy idea in his Thirty Nine Steps/Greenmantle/Richard Hannay series of bestsellers. He was quickly appointed by Lloyd George as Director of Propaganda and put in command of the secret engine of information at Wellington House.
Lord Robert Cecil, deputy to Grey and then Balfour at the Foreign Office said in 1916: “I do not think that it is easy to exaggerate the international power of the Jews.” (FO 372/2817)
The British offer of a Homeland to the Jews in Palestine presented a means of taming and ‘turning’ the Jew from his German, internationalist/socialist proclivities in the world, to being harnessed to more progressive, nationalist and British Imperial, purposes. As Halford Mackinder put it “a national home, at the physical and historical centre of the world, should make the Jew ’range’ himself.”
There was always a fundamental anti-Semitic strain in English culture but the flamboyant anti-Semitism exhibited in other European countries was frowned upon in polite Society. When the Balfour Declaration was published and England announced her intention of repatriating the Jews of the world to where they belonged there was a natural tendency for the anti-Semite to become a Zionist. Anti-Semitism and Zionism were no strangers to themselves.
Al Carthill’s The Lost Dominion from 1923 reveals some interesting assumptions held about Jews in Imperial circles. It was written after the fall in the Coalition that had won the Great War for Britain, an event that became attributed to Jews in high places (something also mentioned by the French writer on English affairs, Andre Siegfried). “Al Carthill” was a senior judge in the Indian Empire:
“Many subversives have been Jews. But there is no evidence that the forces of anarchy were directed by any purely Jewish corporation. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, though possibly published in good faith, were based on older tendencious forgeries or mystifications. A priori, it is extremely unlikely that the Jewish race, which has profited so much in the last century by Western civilisation, should wish to destroy it.
That many subversives should be Jews is not a matter of surprise… It may perhaps be admitted that the Jew, while using our civilisation, has a poor opinion of it. This is not unnatural. He has seen so many civilisations pass. He has used them all. The more degenerate they became, the greater the influence, and thus the greater the profit of the Jew… He was generally able to exercise great influence over the Government, and always found aiders and favourers among the powerful…
The heathen imagines a vain thing, and their devices come to nought, but the Kingdom of Zion is an enduring Kingdom…
The Jew, then, may be perfectly loyal to the ideas of the society in which he lives. Yet his belief in them is not of the degree that is requisite of martyrdom. Just as the most valiant and loyal mercenaries will break and fly after suffering losses which a national and volunteer army would bear without wincing, so the Jew is rarely prepared to stake all on the maintenance of a social state in the absolute value of which he has no belief…
It is but recently that the influence of the Jew in politics, and particularly in foreign and imperial politics, has awakened uneasiness in England… In a country like England, where the small share of power which is not monopolised by wealth was wielded by intelligence, there was thus every probability of the Jew becoming one of the dominant castes. Jews were welcomed as intimates, advisers, and sons-in-law by leaders of both the great parties. Jews provided the empire with statesmen, lawyers, men of the pen, and men of science… For many years they have abstained from an active share in politics…
This latter policy has been abandoned in recent years, to the regret of the old-fashioned pious Jew. And here, I think, the Fromme Jude was right. No one can be blind to the beginning of a reaction against Jewish control… The alleged monopolisation by the foreign Jew of certain reprehensible traffics has revolted the pious. There is therefore a vague anti-Jewish feeling floating about in solution in England which needs but a shock to crystallise it. The fall of the Coalition is principally to be ascribed to an uneasy and probably erroneous idea that the Jew exercised too much power in the counsels of that remarkable body, and that that influence was being applied to unpatriotic ends. Erroneously, no doubt, it was supposed that the last rags of honour of the British people, the last pieces of gold in an exhausted treasury, the last drops of the blood in the lacerated body of the republic, were about to be jeopardised, in order to decide which of certain Jewish financial houses were to have the profitable business of liquidating the Turkish Empire. The mere absurdity of the supposition is convincing proof of the reality of the general uneasiness.
And as usual the uneasiness of the people, though in itself apparently baseless, was not actually without a rational basis. To return to first principles, it is inexpedient, in a world where rightly or wrongly the idea of nationalism has such power, that the affairs of the nation should be conducted by men who, in so far as they are not citizens of a foreign nation, are cosmopolitans by birth, training and inclination…
For the last three generations organised labour must be counted among the subversive forces. In the propagation of Socialistic doctrine individual Jews have taken a considerable part. But to suppose that the diffusion of Socialism among the labouring classes is due to the efforts of a small subversive secret society is ludicrous. All attempts to make Socialism an international church directed by an extra-nationalist directorate have hitherto failed.” (pp.109-116)
Anti-Semitism became a weapon to be wielded against anyone who dared to criticise the expansionist Zionism of the Jewish nationalist state – even against those who had suffered directly at its hands. But it was clear that it was a fundamental ingredient in Britain’s Taming of the Jew and was one of the main driving forces behind the Balfour Declaration.
To be published in The Irish Political Review October 2017