CO-OPERATION WITH THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT
I. THEODOR HERZL AND HIS PROPHET
WHEN Theodor Herzl stepped into the foreground of Jewish history more than fifty
years had passed since Charles Henry Churchill had voiced his passionate demand
that the Jews should take their place in world politics. Now Herzl was about to
satisfy this demand. He achieved almost overnight a great historic success. All
the various segments of Jewry that were already imbued with the idea
of Jewish renascence -the Hovevei Zion in the East and in London, the nationally
minded students in Vienna, an ever-increasing number of
important, individuals, writers and professional men, some of the religious
leaders, and men who were known in the economic field, rallied around him.
Before long he was the recognised leader of a consolidated Jewish political
movement, for which one of its foremost champions, Nathan Birnbaum,
even before Herzl's appearance, had created the term "Zionism".
And yet, in spite of this amazing achievement, Theodor Herzl felt deeply
disappointed. There was no doubt that his plan had been rejected by the
overwhelming majority of Jewry. He had been ridiculed in the influential German
and Jewish press and bitterly opposed by liberal rabbis, the "protest rabbis".
Moreover, he had failed to gain any foothold in the world of international
politics, and saw no prospect of breaking through the bathers that
separated him from the true political forces in the
In those early days after the publication of Der Judenstaat (February
1896), when everything was still in the balance, William Hechler (see p.
105) entered Herzl's life. It looks, in retrospect, almost like a
providential coincidence that the man who was the very embodiment of
the British Movement for the Restoration of the Jews was chaplain to the British
Embassy in Vienna at the moment when the Zionist movement was born in that city.
After the publication of the broadsheet The Restoration of the Jews to
Palestine, Hechler had continued to study this question and only two years
before the appearance of Der Judenstaat he had, on the basis of a
prophesy from the time of Omar (637-8 C.E.), predicted that 1897-8 would be the
years of Israel's deliverance. No wonder, therefore, that when a friend of
Herzl's, S. R. Landau, showed Herzl's pamphlet to Hechler, the chaplain rushed
to the Ambassador Monson and said, "The prophesied movement is here". A few
days later, on March 10, 1896, he called on Herzl.
"The Reverend William H. Healer, Chaplain of the English Embassy here, came to
see me. A sympathetic, gentle man with the long beard of a prophet. He is
enthusiastic about my solution of the Jewish question. He also considers the
movement a 'prophetic turning point' which he had foretold two years before. . ."
Thus Herzl recorded the visit in his diary.
Herzl knew nothing about the British Movement for the Jews. According to his own
statement he had been entirely ignorant of his predecessors in the Zionist
movement. He was therefore unable to realise that not merely the chaplain of the
British Embassy but the spokesman of a widely and long since recognised doctrine
had come to him. He had not come to Herzl to bring him only the good tidings of
his occult computations, but, as he expressly declared, because he wanted to
help him. And the help he was able to offer Theodor Herzl was just what Herzl
needed most at that moment, help to open the doors of the state chancelleries.
Nobody was better equipped to assist Herzl in the great political task Colonel
Churchill had dreamed of than this late representative of the traditional
restorationist school. He not only possessed diplomatic abilities but was, above
all, persona grata to the highest ranking personalities in England and
Germany. The Grand Duke of Baden himself, a pious Protestant and believer in the
Restoration of the Jews, had already been informed by Hechler about the advent
of the prophesied movement. As a result of the meeting, Hechler went to
Karlsruhe on behalf of Herzl six weeks later, and arranged an audience with the
Grand Duke for him, which took place a few days later.
In the course of the two and a half hours spent with the Grand Duke,
the "good, wise and great man" for the Zionist cause. It was Herzl's first
diplomatic success, and a decisive event in the history of the Zionist movement.
For the Karlsruhe audience gave birth to spectacular political activity which
culminated in Herzl's two audiences with the German Kaiser in Constantinople and
Jerusalem in October and November, 1898. Although the aim of these interviews
and of the preceding conversations with German statesmen -the establishment of
German protection for a Jewish Chartered Company with the consent of the Sultan
- was not achieved, the campaign had a lasting effect. Theodor Herzl had
acquired the prestige of a political leader who enjoyed both the authority of
the Jewish people and the confidence of statesmen. Hechler's meeting with Herzl
undoubtedly led Herzl to make use of Germany's growing influence upon the
After Laurence Oliphant's co-operation with the Hovevei Zion,
attachment to Herzl and to the Zionist movement was the most affectionate and
most lasting devotion to the Jewish cause shown by an advocate of the
Restoration idea. With the publication of his interview, in the second issue of the Zionist organ, Die Welt,
on June 11, 1897, the voice of the Restoration Movement entered the Zionist
press. Hechler attended the first Zionist Congress at Basle, August 29-31, 1897,
as one of the three invited non-Jewish guests. He helped to arrange Herzl's
spectacular meetings with Kaiser Wilhelm II, and accompanied him on his historic
visit to Palestine. He made numerous though vain attempts to arrange for Herzl
to meet the Czar, and tried, after the failure of the German campaign, to win
the support of the Prince of Wales for Zionism. Glorified by Herzl in his Altneuland as the tolerant
English preacher Hopkins, Hechler survived the man whose prophet he was. Living in London on a small pension,
in his old age the consummation of that alliance between the British Movement
for the Restoration of the Jews and Zionism of which he had been one of the main
II. AT THE ARCHIMEDIAN POINT
Although it happened that the British Restoration Movement met Zionism in
Vienna, Zionism had even earlier links with Britain. In November 1895, Herzl
was in London where he met Israel Zangwill, Sir Samuel Montagu and several other
outstanding members of the British Community, and made his first public
appearance before a Jewish audience. In a visit to Cardiff he met Colonel (then
Lieutenant) Albert E. Goldsmid, Hechler's Jewish counter-part and the living
embodiment of Daniel Deronda. The son of baptised Jews, on becoming aware
of his origin he had embraced Judaism, studied Hebrew and participated in the
foundation of the Hovevei Zion in England. He showed Herzl their flag
with the emblems of the Twelve Tribes -a visible symbol of the tradition
preserved from Manasseh ben Israel's days -and assured him not only that he
himself would fight with Herzl for the liberation of Israel, but also that
"devout Christians will help the Jews to return to Palestine". When Herzl
recorded these words in his diary, he unconsciously sealed his alliance with,
the British Movement.
It was also in England that Herzl's Zionist programme was published for the
first time. A summary of the ideas which were to be developed in Der
Judenstaat appeared in the Jewish Chronicle of January 17,
1896, under the title A Solution of the Jewish Question. He proposed the
creation of two Jewish bodies, "A Society of Jews" and "A Jewish Company". The
same proposal reappeared in Der Judenstaat with an additional suggestion,
the establishment of a Company "which might be called a Jewish Chartered
Company" in London. Two years later, in February 1898, in his letter to the
Chairman of the Zionist Clerkenwell Conference, he wrote: "From the first moment
I entered the Movement my eyes were directed towards England, because I saw by
reason of the general situation of things there that it was the Archimedian
point where the lever could be applied".
Herzl was tireless in his efforts to seize this Archimedian point. In 1896, five
months after the appearance of Der Judenstaat, he hurried to London from
his audience with the Sultan in Constantinople to address an enthusiastic mass
meeting in the East End. He received encouragement also from non-Jewish British
quarters. On February 21, 1896, a letter had appeared in the Jewish Chronicle from the famous painter
William Holman Hunt advocating the resettlement of
the Jews in Palestine, "both for the sake of the advantages which would accrue
to the Jews themselves and in order to remove a bone of contention out of the
way of the European Powers". Having been written on January 6, 1896, the letter
thus preceded the publication of Herzl's article. A copy of Der Judenstaat
sent by Samuel Montagu to Gladstone prompted the grand old man to reply with
a declaration of sympathy for Zionist aspirations in words destined to be
re-echoed in the Balfour Declaration: "My inclination would be to view with
favour any reassembling of Jews under Ottoman Suzerainty".
The most important symptom of England's favourable attitude
towards the rising
Zionist movement was, however, the continuous attention paid to it by the
English press. On the occasion of Herzl's visit to London in 1896, the Daily
Graphic and Sunday Times published Zangvill's and Lucien Wolf's
interviews with him, and when in 897 the First Zionist Congress was held in
Basle, practically every London paper reported the meeting of the first "Jewish
Parliament" at length.
In October of the following year, Herzl again visited London and
spoke in the
Assembly Hall to an audience of some ten thousand people gathered inside and
outside the Hall. Herzl's speech, full of emotion and exaggerated hopes, roused
boundless enthusiasm in the vast audience. One of the speakers from the floor
was Father Ignatius (Joseph Leycester Lyne), an Anglican Deacon. Like Hechler, a
lover of the Jewish people, he had linked up with the Zionist Movement in its
very early days. In October 1896 he had lectured about "The World's Debt to the
Jews". George Eliot's Mordecai had not pleaded more passionately against
assimilation and for the revival of the Jewish nation than this ardent
Christian. Father Ignatius, in an article published in one of the first issues
of Die Welt (July 12, 1897), declared his solidarity with the
movement in the name of "the English who venerate the Jews, seeing in them the
source of blessings in the sphere of politics, morals and religion". Standing in
the Assembly Hall before the Jewish masses, Father Ignatius confessed that he
had experienced the proudest joy of his life. Turning to the "so-called Reform
Jews", he assured them that "Judaism is Zionism, Zionism is the Judaism of God".
A new link had been added to the chain which from now on united the Restoration
Movement with Zionism.
The year 1900 may well be regarded as a landmark in the history of Anglo-Jewish
relations in the sphere of the Restoration Movement. In that year, following the
foundation of the Jewish Colonial Trust in London, the Fourth Zionist Congress
was held in the capital of the British Empire. Almost 250 years had passed since
the Whitehall Conference where Menasseh ben Israel had pleaded for the
readmission of the Jews to England on the ground that this was the means for
achieving the Restoration of the Jews and the coming of the Messiah. Now Theodor
Herzl had come to London with another prophecy which was like the logical
conclusion of Menasseh's prediction -"England the great, England the free,
England with her eyes fixed on the seven seas, will understand us. From this
place the Zionist movement will take a higher and higher flight, of this we may
be sure". A tone of respect, of recognition and admiration permeated all
newspaper comments on the aims of Congress. "Palestine for the Jews" became the
slogan of the day. The principles of the Restoration Movement were no longer
tenets of sectarians. They had become a public opinion.
In 1899, furnished with a letter of introduction from Max Nordau to Alfred
Austin, the Poet Laureate, Herzl had attempted to approach Lord Salisbury, the
Prime Minister at that time. But in the middle of the Boer War there was no
opportunity of an interview with the Prime Minister. On the occasion of the
Fourth Congress, Herzl was introduced by Sir Francis Montefiore to Sir Eric
Barrington, Salisbury's secretary, and Loa Lansdowne, the Foreign Secretary. It
was Herzl's first meeting with English statesmen, and inaugurated a contact
which was to result in the British Palestine Mandate.
Two years later, Herzl was summoned to London to testify before the Royal
Commission on Alien Immigration. Avoiding the question of Jewish immigration to
England, he pleaded for the fulfilment of the Basle Programme. A few months
afterwards, Herzl was received by Lord Lansdowne, Foreign Secretary in Arthur
Balfour's Unionist Cabinet, and by, Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary for the
Colonies. The meeting was not only a turning point in the life of Herzl and of
the Zionist movement. For the first time since Menasseh ben Israel's appeal to
Cromwell, the Restoration of the Jews had become a subject of negotiation
between leading English statesmen and a political leader of the Jewish people.
By historical irony the question of resettlement in Palestine was, however,
barred from the talks on this propitious occasion. The international situation
had radically changed since the days of Disraeli and Laurence Oliphant.
Germany's growing influence in Constantinople which, with Hechler's help, Herzl
had in vain tried to utilise for Zionist aspirations, effectively precluded
British intervention. Egypt and East Africa, not Palestine, were now Britain's
main colonial concern. Herzl himself looked in this direction for a land near
Palestine where the Jews in their increasing need could settle before the final
Restoration. Thus the project for a settlement in El Arish on the Sinai
Peninsula was born, although it, too, proved a 1failure because of Egypt's
opposition, the formal offer Herzl received from the Foreign Office in a letter
dated December 18, 1902, written on behalf of Lord Lansdowne, relative to the
proposed establishment of a Jewish Colony in the Sinai Peninsula, was the first
implicit recognition of the Zionist Organisation as a diplomatic entity.
An even more momentous declaration followed the negotiations on
spontaneous offer of an East African Territory ("Uganda") for a Jewish Colony.
Almost immediately before the Sixth Zionist Congress, Herzl -then in Russia- received
Lord Lansdowne's assurance that should a suitable area be found, he would "be
glad to consider favourably proposals for the creation of a Jewish Colony or
settlement under such conditions as will seem to the members (of the next
Zionist Congress) to guarantee the retention of their national customs". Jewish
governorship and autonomy were expressly offered in the letter. Even though the
offer almost led to a schism in the Zionist movement and notwithstanding the
eventual cancellation of the whole project, the British Government's East
African offer was Theodor Herzl's greatest diplomatic achievement. It was also
the climax of all efforts made until that moment in the long history of the
British Movement for the Restoration of the Jews towards the realisation of
Jewish national aspirations. From the outset Herzl clearly realised that the
historic significance of the offer did not consist so much in its problematic
colonising possibilities as in its political implications. In the main speech to
the Sixth Zionist Congress dealing with the offer, he solemnly declared: "Our
hearts are filled with the deepest gratitude for the statesman-like generosity
which Great Britain has displayed in these negotiations toward the Jewish
A common opinion became manifest in the political acts of a group of
statesmen who were in full agreement with the public feeling towards Zionist
aspirations. The consistent and vivid interest of Lord Lansdowne, Foreign
Secretary in the years 1900-1905, in the Jewish national cause, reminds one of
Lord Palmerston's attachment to the idea of Jewish renascence. His offer of
December 18, 1902, of a Jewish colony on the Sinai Peninsula had paved the way
for the development which resulted in the Balfour Declaration. He also
wholeheartedly backed Joseph Chamberlain's East African project. Chamberlain
himself conceived the idea of an autonomous Jewish colony, out of his sincere
pro-Zionist sympathy which he had publicly expressed long before his
conversations with Theodor Herzl. Lord Cromer, too, felt that the Jewish
question was to be solved by a large-scale resettlement of Jewish masses. In
Lord Alfred Milner, High Commissioner for South Africa, the Zionist movement
gained a particularly outspoken and helpful friend. His unprecedented decision
to invest the president of the South African Zionist Federation with all
functions of a consul was one of the earliest and most radical pro-Zionist
measures on a governmental level and was acclaimed as such by the Sixth Zionist
Congress. Herzl and his friends were equally aware of the strong sympathy shown
to the Zionist movement by the brilliant lawyer and future Prime
Minister, David Lloyd George. But no fact illuminates the genuineness of the
link which had been created between England and Zionism in Theodor Herzl's
lifetime better than the coincidence that Arthur James Balfour was Britain's
Prime Minister at the time of Herzl's campaign for gaining a foothold for
Israel's independence within the orbit of the British Empire.
Herzl's negotiations with the British Government at
the beginning of the century
were the very prelude of the great political drama which was to unfold during
World War I and closed with the issue of the Balfour Declaration. Tragically, it
was not given to Herzl to take part in it. He died less than a year after
receiving Lord Lansdowne's historic assurance, but he had lived long enough to
see that England had indeed proved to be the Archimedian point of the Zionist
III. THE NEW "DECREE OF CYRUS"
The story of the events which, in the course of World War I,
culminated in the crowning achievement of all the forces working for the Restoration of the Jews
-the statement of the British Government known as the Balfour Declaration- is beyond the scope and purpose of
this study. The reader may be referred to the general histories of Zionism and to special inquiries into
the subject. The task before us can merely be to throw some light on the basic features of the historical process,
insofar as they were related to the non-Jewish pro-Zionist efforts involved.
While in previous stages of the Restoration Movement the initiative
had been taken, mainly, by the restorationists. Zionism had now become the dominating influence. In fact,
if England was the Archimedian point for Zionism, the latter was to perform the same function with regard
to the Restoration Movement. The ideal proclaimed long before by Charles Henry Churchill, Hollingworth and
George Eliot had been at last fulfilled. The Jewish people had created a political instrument which the
Restoration Movement had been unable to establish. By the formation of the Zionist Organisation and by its
recognition an address had been made available to be used one day for the awaited call. The rise of Zionism
exerted an equally profound effect on the spiritual and political tenets of the Movement,
although the traditional Doctrine remained still potent in various quarters (as late as 1914, the Christadelphian
Frank Jannaway published a book, Palestine and the Jews, which ran to two editions).
The acceptance of the strictly Zionist ideal even by a religious leader like Father Ignatius was general.
One could speak of an identification of the Restoration Movement with Zionism, save that there remained
in the religious section of the Movement the latent hope of eventual conversion. In fact it became customary
for non-Jewish pro-Zionists to call themselves Zionists, although this term by virtue both of its origin and
meaning (implying self-emancipation, religious and national renascence) logically applies only to Jewish adherents
of the movement.
The process of mutual approach and adaptation was precipitated by the
outbreak of the war in which Turkey sided with the enemies of England, her immemorial friend and protector.
Immediately after Turkey's entry into the war, on November 9, 1914, Prime Minister Asquith declared in
the House of Commons: "It is the Ottoman Government and not we who have rung the death-knell of Ottoman
dominion, not only in Europe but in Asia". The statement sounded like a trumpet call for all the
friends of the Restoration idea.
Jewish and non-Jewish papers teemed with comments and suggestions for
securing Palestine for the Jewish people. The most dramatic voice was that of H. G. Wells who in
the Daily Chronicle addressed to Israel Zangwill the question: "And now, what is to prevent
Jews having Palestine and restoring a real Judea?" Here, surely, was the indication that the millennial
question of the Restoration of the Jews had become a general political issue.
The Manchester Guardian became the foremost champion of the
Zionist cause. Moreover, Charles Prestwich Scott, its editor, made contact with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, in order
to be helpful. Through his intervention, Dr. Weizmann was introduced to Mr. Lloyd George and thus the
first overture was made to the negotiations which finally resulted in the issue of the Balfour Declaration.
Like Hechler's longing for the Restoration of the Jews, Scott's pro-Zionism was rooted in religious feelings
which had been cultivated in the house of his Unitarian father. In fact, not only he but all those who,
from different quarters, now came to support the Zionist aspirations were steeped in the religious and humanitarian
tradition of the late Victorian era. They fully accepted Zionist aims and were eager to co-operate with Zionist
The close link of the transformed Restoration Movement with Zionism found
its visible expression in 1916 in the formation, in Manchester, of the British Palestine Society consisting
of Jews and non-Jews. The main object of the group was to establish a community of ideals and interests between
Zionist and British policy. A weekly paper, Palestine, published from January 1917 to July 1924;
published from February 1936 to May 1940), was the organ of the group. Herbert Sidebotham, a leader-writer for
the Manchester Guardian (afterwards with The Times), and one of the founders of the Society,
became the eloquent spokesman of these united pro-Zionists and Zionists. His contributions
to Palestine and his book, England and Palestine Essays towards the Restoration
of the Jewish State (1918), reflect perfectly the spirit which permeated the Movement during the war.
A quotation from England and Palestine may illustrate the link which had been established between the
ancient Restoration idea and the modern ideals current in the war:
Before the magnitude of this war, most ideals seem to shrink in size.
But one ideal is the peer even of this war in magnitude and grandeur. It is the ideal of the restoration of the Jews
to a country which, small and poor as it is, they made as famous as Greece and as great as Rome. And lastly,
there is no ideal . . . that would exhibit the contrast between English and German political ideals so favourably
to us, and so eloquently, vindicate our own, as the establishment of a Jewish State under the British Crown.
The credit for having undertaken the earliest step to influence
Governmental policy in this direction is due to Mr.(now Viscount) Herbert Samuel, statesman,
philosopher and member of the Cabinet who took advantage of Turkey's entry into the war
to approach Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, to secure his support for "the restoration of a Jewish
state" after the prospective downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Grey was impressed by the
idea and pursued it during his period of office. His instruction to Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador in
St. Petersburg, of March 13, 1916, to induce the Russian Government to a serious consideration of the project,
has to be regarded as the first diplomatic correspondence of an English statesman on behalf of the
Restoration of the Jews. Asquith did not approve of Grey's efforts and they remained without any practical
Soon after the outbreak of the war, Mr, Herbert Samuel drew up a
memorandum, The Future of Palestine, which circulated in governmental circles and gained many friends
for Zionism in these and other distinguished quarters. The same purpose was served by a collection of essays
published under the title Zionism and the Jewish Future by the Zionist leaders. The ranks of the pro-Zionists
swelled so rapidly that the critics of Zionism were driven to the defensive. Viscount Haldane,
the philosopher and Lord Chancellor, Lord Bryce, famous jurist and historian, Josiah Wedgwood, the brilliant
parliamentarian, destined to become one of the most courageous fighters for the Zionist cause, were among these
proselytes. Lord Cromer, now in his seventy-fifth year, in an article on Zionism and the Jewish Future which
appeared in the Spectator, July 1916, wrote :"Before long politicians will be unable to brush it
aside as the fantastic dream of a few idealists", unconsciously alluding to a statement made
by The Times seventy-six years earlier (see page 61).
In the meantime the great political drama which preceded the issue of the
Balfour Declaration had begun. In October 1916, the Zionists presented their first proposals to the Foreign Office.
An astounding number and variety of non-Jewish protagonists were ready to play their part.
The Liberals, Scott and Sidebotham, were joined by the Roman Catholic Mark Sykes and the Armenian Catholic James
A. Malcolm. These two had in common a thorough knowledge of the Middle East, and combined with their attachment
to the Arab and Armenian peoples an ardent belief in the justice of the Zionist idea. It was an interview between
Dr. Weizmann and Sir Mark Sykes, brought about through Malcolm's mediation, which actually opened the negotiations
between the British Government and the Zionist leaders. In the following stages of the negotiations other new
friends of the Zionist aspirations, Leopold Amery and Major (then Captain) W. Ormsby-Gore, were most helpful.
In the Cabinet itself, the decisive work rested upon men whose sympathies for Zionism were of long standing.
Lord Milner, an ardent pro-Zionist during Herzl's lifetime, and Lord Robert Cecil, a supporter since 1906,
played an outstanding role in hammering out the final formula.
But above all, the two' men into whose hands the destinies of both England
and the Jewish people, David Lloyd George and Arthur James Balfour, were soon to pass, had been influenced towards
Zionism since their early days. Moreover, both of them had been in personal relations to the Herzlian phase of the
Lloyd George's Welsh national feelings, combined with a fervent
affection for the Old Testament, produced that frame of mind which throughout the centuries had given birth
to the belief in the Restoration of the Jews. He had known Theodor Herzl, and it was his firm of solicitors
which had been entrusted with the drawing up of the Charter for the East African project. Thus, from the first
meeting with Dr. Weizmann which C. P. Scott had arranged, Lloyd George was favourably disposed to the creation
of a Jewish National Home, an attitude which he faithfully maintained during his Premiership.
Lady Blanche Balfour, daughter of the second
Marquis of Salisbury, Lord Balfour's mother, was, in her son's own words, "a
woman of profound religious convictions". The belief in the Second Advent
and the preceding return of the Jews was a part of these convictions, and many a chapter from Isaiah
was read at the regular family reading at Wettinghame. "
"It is the God according to religion, and not the God
according to metaphysics,
whose being I wish to prove", Balfour declared in Theism and Humanism.
He regarded human history much as Judaism does, as "an instrument for carrying out a
Divine purpose". During the General Election campaign of 1906 Balfour asked why the
Zionists had refused the East African offer made by Mr. Balfour's government in 1903.
The answer he received from Dr. Weizmann, then lecturer in chemistry at Manchester University,
that the Jews could not take anything in exchange for Jerusalem just as the English would
not exchange London for Paris, remained in Mr. Balfour's memory. "It was from that talk
with Weizmann", he himself recorded, "that I saw that the Jewish form of
patriotism was unique". When, after eight years, he met Dr. Weizmann again, he linked the memory
with a prophecy. "You know", he said to Dr. Weizmann, "I was thinking of that conversation
of ours and I believe that when the guns stop firing you may get your Jerusalem". Finally, when
visiting the United States, in 1917, Balfour met Justice Brandeis and found in him that ideal type of Jew
who combined with his Zionism a genuine feeling for the allied cause, his resolution turned into action.
With Lloyd George and Arthur James Balfour at the head of the Government,
the most auspicious moment in the history of the Restoration Movement was approaching. A grave peril arose,
however, when the Zionist proposals met unexpected opposition in 1917. The opposition came from Jews. The President
of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (which in 1842 had turned down the Colonel Churchill suggestion to initiate
a Jewish national policy) and the Anglo-Jewish Association, David E. Alexander and Claude G. Montefiore, in an open
letter to The Times of May 24, 1917, attacked the whole scheme of a national Jewish resettlement in Palestine.
The anti-Zionist spokesmen found a very powerful ally in a fellow-Jew, Edwin Samuel Montagu, Secretary of State
for India, who even distributed a memorandum which supported their attitude.
At this critical moment, the pro-Zionist forces inside and outside the
Cabinet stood the test. Some 250 Jewish institutions, communities and organisations all over the country passed
resolutions in favour of a National Home for the Jewish People. The election of a new President of the Board of
Deputies, Sir Stuart Samuel, was the symbol of the community's rejection of the Alexander-Montefiore letter.
The Cabinet itself, although far from abandoning its restorationist policy, yielded to some extent to the pressure
of the Jewish opposition. It modified the Zionist formula and invited representative Jewish leaders, both Zionist
and non-Zionist, to present their views in writing. In the revised governmental version, the substitution of the
phrase "the establishment in Palestine of a National Home" for "the reconstitution of
Palestine as the National Home of the Jewish People" was a setback suffered by the restorationist and
Zionist cause. As subsequent events have shown, it had even more serious consequences than was realised by
the Zionist leaders who felt that they had to accept it in the then prevailing circumstances. Nevertheless,
even with this modification, the basic principle of a Jewish National Home had been adopted by the Government
and a victory won in the long struggle of the Restoration Movement and Zionism for its recognition.
The representatives of the opposition raised objections even against
the new formula and tried desperately to eliminate the decisive term "National". In this
fateful battle of opinions the Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Dr. J. H. Hertz's inspired and well-considered endorsement
of the Zionist-aspirations made the deepest impression and strengthened the Cabinet in its pro-Zionist attitude.
In the last stage of the campaign, help came again from non-Jewish quarters. Letters of sympathy and support were received from President Wilson of the U.S.A. and from Monsieur J. Cambon of the French Foreign Office.
Indeed, in those days, men in many lands were stirred by the spirit of Cyrus. By a fortunate coincidence,
General Allenby had just entered Palestine on his march towards Jerusalem. Thus the hour had struck for a
Dated Foreign Office, November 2, 1917, and signed by Arthur James Balfour; the "Declaration of
sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which had been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet" read:
"His Majesty's Government 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,
it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil
and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights
and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
John Milton would hardly have recognised it as the "Wondrous Call" he had looked for.
It was different even from the "commandment to return" which Isaac Newton had expected from
a "kingdom friendly to the Jews", or Napoleon Bonaparte's more advanced offer
of "Israel's heritage" to the Jewish nation.
But all these visions had been milestones on the road to the target
which had now acquired the name "Balfour Declaration". Lord Shaftesbury, Mitford, Disraeli
and all those who had eagerly awaited a new "Decree of Cyrus" had come amazingly close to the
formula of the Declaration. Although no name was worthier to be forever linked with it than that of Lord Balfour,
it was not the work of one man, nor even of a group of men. Neither was it merely the outcome of a
particular historical situation, nor the bare application of the principle of "self-determination"
which had become potent during the war and which certainly had a share in the approval of the Declaration.
With the hard struggle which preceded its creation, with its deep roots in Jewish Messianism and English
religious tradition, the Balfour Declaration was clearly the common work of many Jewish and British generations
which was completed in one of England's "finest hours". In this spirit it was enthusiastically
acclaimed by the entire English press, by the most noted men of the nation and by the general public.
On December 2, 1917, thousands gathered in the London Opera House to celebrate the event. Under the chairmanship
of Lord Rothschild, non-Jewish speakers, among them Lord Robert Cecil, Sir Mark Sykes, Captain W. Ormsby-Gore and
others, including an Arab, joined the Jewish representatives -the Hon. Herbert Samuel, the
Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz, Dr. Moses Gaster, Mr. Israel Zangwill, Mr. James de Rothschild and Dr. Chaim Weizmann,
in welcoming the rise of a Jewish National Home in the Land of Israel. This splendid meeting was in many ways
the closing scene of an epoch.
On April 24, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Peace Conference at San
Remo resolved to incorporate the Balfour Declaration in the Peace Treaty with Turkey and to confer the Mandate
for Palestine upon Great Britain. Within the lifetime of one generation the Jewish National Home was built
and the Land of Israel made by wonders of human achievement -as Henry Finch had predicted-
"more fertile than it was". Finally, on May .14, 1948, the State of Israel was
established, though not before more than one-third of the people of Israel had perished in the most
shameless massacre of all times.
The role England had played in this historic process
is beyond the scope of this survey. But it may, in conclusion, be placed on record that with champions
like Lord Wedgwood and Norman Maclean in revolt against Britain's Palestine policy, with Orde Wingate inspiring
and organising the fighters for Israel's liberation, with men like Justice Rand,
William L. Hull and Lester Pearson, the head of the Canadian Delegation in the United Nations,
openly supporting the Zionist aspirations, the British Movement for the Restoration of the Jews at
the time when the fulfilment of Israel's and England's ageless common dream was at stake stood the hardest
test in its history. The British men and women who were engaged in this great spiritual adventure have
kept up the belief in the indestructibility of Britain's perennial vision.