Don’t blame Balfour. It was the wily wizard

David Lloyd George – known at the time as ‘the wily Welsh wizard’- prepares a pre-election broadcast, probably 1931. He was Prime Minister of the Wartime Coalition Government (1916–22). He was a major player at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 that reordered Europe after the defeat of the Central Powers. By the 1930s he was a marginalised and widely mistrusted figure. Wiki

Mr. Lloyd George Explains Jewish National Home Policy: I Was Prime Minister when Balfour Declaration [issued]

Address to English Zionist Federation, London
April 13, 1931

Posted by JTA Archive, 2017

Words can hardly express the gratitude I feel to you for the enduring honour you have conferred upon me by attaching my name to a colony in the Vale of Jezreel, Mr. David Lloyd George said, speaking at the dinner given in his honour by the English Zionist Federation at the Savoy Hotel last night.

You will not be offended, he went on, if I tell you that the names of these valleys and hills in Canaan are as sacred to the Gentile as they are even to the Jew. I heard of Jezreel and Esdraelon, of Carmel and of Zion before I knew of the existence in my own land of the Valley of Glamorgan or of Plinlimmon. I am deeply gratified that you should think service such as I was able to render to the idea of a Jewish National Home is worthy of such commemoration.

I was Prime Minister of this country, Mr. Lloyd George said, when the idea of the Jewish National Home took form as an act of State policy in the Balfour Declaration, and I presided over the Councils of the Imperial Cabinet which gave expression to that policy, and secured for it the sanction of our Allies. I was the principal delegate of the British Empire at San Remo where the Mandate for Palestine received its final shape and was conferred upon Britain.

I shall never forget, Mr. Lloyd George proceeded, how eleven years ago, almost to this week, there assembled in that beautiful town on the shores of the Western Mediterranean the leading Ministers of three great Powers, representing one-third of the inhabitants of the globe, to decree the conditions under which a small country on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, small but one of the most famous in history, should be governed and developed under the supreme control, guidance and protection of the civilised nations of the world.

By the terms of that document recognition was given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, and the grounds for reconstituting their National Home in that country. At that gathering you had Lord Balfour, the distinguished statesman whose name will for ever be linked in history with that policy, you had also there the real originator and inspirer of that policy, a man who possesses that rare combination of seer and statesman, which when they appear, make history. Israel was fortunate in possessing at the moment of its great opportunity, a patriot and a statesman capable of taking advantage of it for the benefit of his people.

I need hardly say that I refer to Dr. Chaim Weizmann. At that gathering also I had the privilege on behalf of the British Empire, of offering to another distinguished Jew the position of the first Hebrew Governor of Jerusalem for over 2,000 years, and worthily did he fulfil the expectations which were formed of him on his appointment.

Dr. Chaim Weizmann

That was eleven years ago-only eleven years ago. The progress which has been made since then is incredible to those who knew what Palestine was at the time, and what difficulties there were, and still are in the way. There were inherent difficulties in the backward state of the country, in the path of any effort at development. Few countries have ever been so badly let down. As the result of centuries of strife, neglect and misrule a land of great natural fecundity had been reduced, as to the greatest part of it, to a stony and swampy wilderness. A land of great natural beauty had been stripped of its verdure, starved and left bare and haggard to the eye.

Picking oranges in Jaffa’s fruitful citrus grove, 1920s.

It was not a home for any people, but a ruin; at best it was a site for a home. In the country itself there was no wealth left to draw upon for its restoration. What once provided abundance for five millions, now only furnished a beggarly subsistence for less than a million. You could not hope in a decade to restore land reduced to such a state.

In addition to that there were racial and religious suspicions and prejudices. These can always and everywhere easily be worked up into antipathies and antagonism. Pride of race is a fierce thing, very susceptible and quickly roused to anger. All religion is necessarily beyond and above reason. That may perhaps account for the fact that so many religious people are not amenable to reason. To carry through a challenging policy like that of the Jewish National Home needed great tact and forbearance, but it also required unswerving courage and determination on the part of all those who were engaged in it. Zionism throughout the world had a decisive part to play.

It was essential in a poverty-stricken land as Palestine was, that plentiful aid should come from outside, and it came, thanks to this mighty organisation, under the leadership of its distinguished chief. Only eleven years have passed, and since then a fertilising stream of wealth, energy, zeal and brains has poured steadily into Canaan, gradually laving the thirsty land and invigorating and vitalising its withered strength.
Barren and malarial swamps have been converted into happy, healthy and fertile settlements. Science has harnessed to the service of man waters that have run wild and waste since the creation, and science has also brought to the cultivation of the soil means of fertility unknown to the peasantry who once, with their own hands, made Canaan a garden.

Kabara marshes drainage works in 1925. Photo from Wikipedia.

Educational institutions, of which any country might be proud, have been erected and endowed. The Jewish population has more than doubled already, and, let it be noted by all critics of the Jewish National Home, that the Arabs have simultaneously increased in both numbers and prosperity. The revenue of the State has leapt up and the Arab population have had more than their full share of the benefit. Zionism has brought to an old land, a renowned but a ruined old land, new wealth, new energy, new purpose, new initiative, new intelligence, a new devotion and a new hope. Zionism has not finished its task, far from it, but it has already accomplished so much as to demonstrate that the land flowing with milk and honey was no baseless legend.

[The sections in italics – capitals in original – appear to be quotes from Stop Press notices in contemporary newspapers]

Mandatory power must discharge its function with fidelity and resolution: whatever doubts were raised by egregious White Paper been laid to rest by Mr. MacDonald’s letter to Dr. Weizmann: mandate is to be carried out in letter and spirit says Mr. Lloyd George: every facility must be given for establishment  of Jewish National Home: Jews have special claim to Canaan: only people who have made success of it during past three thousand years and as race have no other home.

There has been some trouble and much mischief, Mr. Lloyd George continued. That was to be expected. Can you recall any movement worth prosecuting that has not encountered obstacles? Can you recall one persevered in with courage and faith where such obstacles have not been overcome in the end? If Judaism were to [sic; end of sentence lost]

The Mandatory Power, Mr. Lloyd George said, must also discharge its function with fidelity and resolution. Whatever doubts were raised by that egregious White Paper have been laid to rest by the correspondence between the Prime Minister and Dr. Weizmann. The Mandate is to be carried out in letter and spirit. It is a Mandate to respect the rights of all dwellers in this land but consistently with that to carry out the decree adopted by 40 civilised nations as a world policy, that every facility must be given for the establishment of a Jewish National Home. This Mandate must be carried out not nervously and apologetically but firmly and fearlessly.

The Jew at Tel Aviv has as much right to protection as the Mohammedan in Cawnpore. The honour of the British flag is involved in guaranteeing protection to both.

Above all, it must be borne in mind that the first duty of a Government is to protect the lives and property of all its citizens without respect of race or creed. If it fails in that elementary duty it has no right to occupy the seat of Government. The Jew at Tel Aviv has as much right to protection as the Mohammedan in Cawnpore. The honour of the British flag is involved in guaranteeing protection to both.





Photo of barren Palestine put out by the Lamb and Lion Ministries, “proclaiming the soon return of Jesus Christ!”

The Government of Palestine pleaded surprise last time there was trouble, Mr. Lloyd George proceeded. The greatest surprise of all is that they should have put up such a plea. But the element of surprise can no longer be called in aid to excuse failure in this primary function of Government. It is heartening to know that those who were driven out of their homes by violence have returned to rebuild them, and I feel confident that the Jewish people throughout the world will show the same spirit as the men and women of their own kin in Palestine, and that the answer of Israel to its assailants will be to redouble the efforts of the past eleven years.

There is plenty of room in Palestine for a Jewish National Home without rendering any of its present dwellers or their children homeless

There never has been any question of expropriation of the peoples or inhabitants of any other race or creed that have made Palestine their home and have an attachment not merely to its soil, but also to its shrines. There has never been any question of injustice to Moslem or Christian. Their rights must be respected. Both Arabs and Christians have so far thriven owing to the success of the Zionist movement. And the greater its success in the future the more must they benefit.

There is plenty of room in Palestine for a Jewish National Home without rendering any of its present dwellers or their children homeless. Palestine maintained five times its present population before science had increased indefinitely the possibilities of development, and before Canaan had become a land of such universal renown that it attracts the thought and attention of the whole world. No land has benefited less from its fame. It is not the possibilities of soil and climate alone that have been neglected in this country. The infinite allurements of its story have never been turned adequately to the material advantage of the country and its inhabitants.

The Jews surely have a special claim on Canaan. They are the only people who have made a success of it during the past 3,000 years.  They are the only people who have made its name immortal, and as a race, they have no other home. This was their first; this has been their only home; they have no other home. They found no home in Egypt or in Babylon.

Since their long exile they have found no home as a people in any other land, and this is the time and opportunity for enabling them once more to recreate their lives as a separate people in their old home and to make their contribution to humanity as a separate people, having a habitation in the land which inspired their forefathers. Later on it might be too late.

Prosperity has greater dangers in store for Judah than persecution. The acid of persecution kept their national faith bright and free from rust. There never has been such an experiment as this attempted in the history of the world. It is an inspiring ideal. Here is a race which, when it was a small peasant people made a greater contribution to the spiritual elevation of humanity than any that ever dwelt on this earth, the people from whom sprang Moses, and Isaiah and Jesus of Nazareth.

To-day the Jews are the same people that were scourged by the oppressor from their native land, yet not the same, for they have acquired experience no other race can claim. Driven into exile nineteen hundred years ago, without a National Home, scattered over the face of the globe, mingling with every nation, yet preserving their own strong individuality, absorbing the best of every civilisation, yet retaining their own ideals, they now have an impulse to rebuild their old home, to live their own national life, to renew their contribution to human thought on the same hills, under the same skies.

Those whom Zionism is assembling in Palestine come, and will continue to come from every quarter of the globe, from every form and fashion of national life, which they have each lived, whilst preserving the integrity of their Hebrew souls. Since they come enriched by contact with every national civilisation on each, Mr. Lloyd George concluded, we are entitled to expect great things from such an experiment, not for Palestine alone, but for the world, not only for the children of Israel, but for all the children of men.

es are growing and houses being built: White Paper cannot destroy national home.

This is a solemn moment in the history of our movement, Dr. Weizmann said in proposing the health of Mr. Lloyd George. We are assembled to-night to pay a tribute of deep respect and profound gratitude to a man who together with the late Lord Balfour has been primarily responsible for the act of the historic Balfour Declaration.

Sixteen years ago, Dr. Weizmann said, I was introduced to the guest of honour and although he was occupied with the enormous responsibility of the war, he yet found time and patience to listen to a short expose of what was then meant to be Zionist aspirations and the Zionist movement. Then with the intuition characteristic of Mr. Lloyd George he suddenly seized upon the essentials of the movement, understood its moral and intellectual bearings in the life of the Jewish people.

A ‘stony wilderness? Sifting grain from the husks, nr. Ramallah 1938. The rhetoric about Palestine as a wasteland was mainly anti-Ottoman /Turkish

propaganda.I think the causes responsible for this ready understanding of our purpose and aspirations are manifold, but chiefly they are that Mr. Lloyd George is a great son of a small people. He comes from the hills of Wales, so similar to the hills of Judea; reared in the traditions of the Bible and the Prophets. Intuitively he understood the essentials of the Zionist movement coupled with the tribulations of the Jewish people in the war and from that moment he has been the devoted friend of the movement and has placed the Jewish people under a heavy debt of gratitude. He not only initiated the Balfour Declaration but followed the development of the Zionist movement and the upbuilding of Palestine with keen and friendly interest in every stage.

As a token of our gratitude we think that in a modest way we can best express our gratitude to him by actual performance in Palestine, and we have decided to call by his name one of our settlements in Palestine in the very centre of our colonising work.

I have just come back from Palestine, Dr. Weizmann continued. A great deal has been heard in the last two years about Palestine. We have had the Shaw Commission, the White Paper and papers of all sorts and colours. We have been tested and analysed as much as any people. And we survive. The trees are growing, the houses are being built and the people are working unconcerned. The National Home goes forward in spite of these two years of trial and tribulation.

I think one is more concerned with political discussion in London than in Jerusalem and one is sometimes more frightened of political problems in London than in Palestine. I think what one sees at present is encouraging in spite of the great economic crises and of all political difficulties. I don’t think White Papers can destroy the National Home. There is room in Palestine for the legitimate aspirations of the Arabs as well as the legitimate aspirations of the Jews. As soon as both parties realise that we Jews are there as of right and not of sufferance as the Arabs are there of right-and no one wants to encroach on their rights–the sooner there will be peace and stability. There is a growing volume of feeling and opinion in Palestine which is anxious to end the futile political discussions and get on with the job of upbuilding, which is essential to both parties working in Palestine.

Dr. Weizmann replies to Mrs. Snowden’s fear that the haluzim (pioneers) are not religious: one can worship God with spade and by tilling soil he says: all being done in Palestine is animated by religious fervour: cause is strong and does not depend on any one man Dr.Weizmann replies to *Mr. Nathan Laski urging him to remain as leader. 

Referring later in his closing speech to something Mrs. Philip Snowden had said in addressing the gathering, Dr. Weizmann said that Mrs. Snowden had suggested that the Haluzim, the young pioneers in Palestine were perhaps not so imbued with old traditions as Gentiles would like to see them. I think, he proceeded, that this is a somewhat mistaken idea. Chief Rabbi Kook was told that the new young Jews do not seem to be as permeated with that respect for tradition as we should like them to be. He replied that when the Temple existed no one could enter the Holy of Holies except the High Priest on Yom Kippur and in special dress, but when the Temple was being built the builders went in in ordinary clothes, on ordinary days.

Vera Weizmann, Chaim Weizmann, Herbert Samuel, Lloyd George, Ethel Snowden, and Philip Snowden

Perhaps distinguished visitors come to Palestine as to a museum, Dr. Weizmann said, and when they admire and reverence, say where Gideon fought, they must remember that those there are part and parcel of Gideon. One can worship God with a spade and by tilling the soil, and all those who obs[e]rve must see that all that is being done is animated by religious fervour. It is a new life and a new worship. And they worship God in their own fashion.

Referring to the speech delivered by Mr. Nathan Laski, who speaking of the “persistent rumour that Dr. Weizmann will not stand to be the leader of the Jewish cause”, had said that as Chairman of the Palestine Committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies he wanted to make this announcement:

“There is no other leader possible for our great cause than Dr. Weizmann. We say to Dr. Weizmann, never mind the Passfield White Paper*** .  We demand that you be our leader and the Mandatory Power will have no other”, Dr. Weizmann said that Mr. Laski had ventured into the dangerous domain of politics, and he did not want to venture into that domain. The cause, he declared, is strong, and it does not depend on one man or another.

Sir Herbert Samuel recalls his High Commissionership of Palestine: his advice to Government which led to 1922 White Paper: was essential he says to make clear what was meant by national home; not all Jews could go to Palestine and not all Palestine could go to Jews: if Jews appreciate Arab standpoint in time Arabs will come to appreciate Jewish standpoint.

Our guest presided over the Government of Great Britain at the moment when a policy was adopted which opened a new era for Palestine, enlarged the hopes of the Jewish people, and conferred on Britain an additional and most honourable task-the guardianship…[sic; broken sentence]

It was not fully realised that there was already  a population of half-a-million people settled on the soil of Palestine, belonging to a proud and ancient race

It is more than thirteen years since the Government of which Mr. Lloyd George was the head issued the Balfour Declaration, Sir Herbert went on. Ministries of all parties since then have endorsed its fundamental purposes. The League of Nations, through its Mandates Commission, has never wavered in maintaining it.

Not all the Jews could go to Palestine; and not all Palestine could go to the Jews, on account of the rights of the people already there

Sir Herbert Samuel, L, alarmed at the wild statements being made.

There have been difficulties-and serious difficulties-in applying it. They were due to some misconception at the outset as to the conditions that were to be faced. Phrases were used about “the land without a people for the people without a land”. It was not fully realised that there was already then a population of half-a-million people settled on the soil of Palestine, belonging to a proud and ancient race, a population destined steadily to increase its numbers.

It was, indeed, well understood that not all the Jews could, in any circumstances, go to Palestine. A country so small could by no possibility absorb and maintain 16 millions of people. Not all the Jews could go to Palestine; and not all Palestine could go to the Jews, on account of the rights of the people already there-rights which, in accordance with fundamental principles of British administration, were as clearly recognised in the words of the Balfour Declaration as were the rights of the Jews to re-establish their National Home.

In some Jewish quarters, Sir Herbert said, though not among the official leaders of the Zionist movement, the essential facts of the situation were not fully realised. It fell to me, as High Commissioner, to advise the Government of that day to issue a clear statement of policy. That was done in 1922. The Jews of the world, the Arabs of Palestine, the British people as Wardens of the Holy Land, and the League of Nations-all had the right to know what was meant by the National Home, and what was meant by the rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.

A declaration was made in 1922**, and that declaration has been endorsed by each Government since then. It is essential that whatever policy is pursued should be not only just and practicable, but also continuous and consistent. Nothing is worse than a course of action which first satisfies one side and offends the other, and then, in order to put matters right, sets out to satisfy the second at the cost of offending the first. A policy of equilibrium is one thing, a policy of oscillation is another.

How is it that every person who goes to Palestine however enthusiastic a Zionist comes back an anti-Zionist?

I believe, Sir Herbert declared, that if in word and in action the Jews appreciate and respect the Arab standpoint, in time the Arabs will come to appreciate and respect the Jewish. Meantime, what is most needed is that the Administration of Palestine should maintain peace and order-that is the first requisite of all. That it should proceed actively with the work of economic development, agricultural and industrial, for the benefit of all sections of the population. That it should raise the standards of education, and endeavour in ever-increasing degree to safeguard the people’s health. That by promoting the general prosperity of the country it may enlarge the public income, while lightening the burden of taxation on the individual citizen. Those are the conditions which will best promote peace and goodwill among all the elements in that varied community. That is the environment in which the Jew may best rebuild in Palestine his National Home, and, living under his own vine and his own fig tree, may find spiritual rest for his soul, wearied by the wanderings of 2,000 years.

Friends of Zionism cannot throw aside every other thing to devote ourselves solely to Zionism Mrs. Philip Snowden says: can do more by winning people than forcing them.

How is it that every person who goes to Palestine however enthusiastic a Zionist when he goes come back an anti-Zionist, I was asked two days ago by a well known politician, Mr. Philip Snowden, the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said. My reply was, she proceeded, that I did not think it was true, and I said that my visit had strengthened my friendship for the cause.

We political friends of Zionism have our difficulties, she went on, difficulties which some of our Zionist friends make for us. I don’t mean those present to-night. I mean others younger than those here, young men and women who are in a desperate hurry and who cannot understand why we can’t lay aside every other cause solely for this. We friends of Zionism cannot throw aside every other thing to devote ourselves solely to Zionism. Even in the Zionist movement there are young critics of the friends of the Zionist movement who because we do not serve the cause in their way consider us a faithless lot, but it is not so. Speaking as a friend I say that you can do far more by winning people than by forcing them. Never doubt our love of this cause and that in spite of all difficulties we abide the sincere friends of Zionism not only because it is a fine ideal but because it is based on the great and inviolable principle of justice.

When she had visited Palestine, Mrs. Snowden remarked, she had been astonished when she visited certain hallowed places, for example where Gideon fought, to find that her heart throbbed more loudly than that of the young men who conducted her. She would whisper in the ear of those who felt religion to be something of contempt that if they felt that way they should remember that the strongest friendship in Great Britain for Zionism was due to the Bible tradition.

Sir Norman Angell, M.P., the Earl of Lytton, the Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz, and Mr. Nahum Sokolov, also addressed the gathering.


*Nathan Laski was the chairman of the Jewish Council in Manchester and president of the Great Synagogue there. He was also a member of the executive of the “King’s Fund.” His son, Neville Laski, was one of the outstanding leaders of British Jewry and was for many years the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Another son, Harold J. Laski, is a professor of political science and author of many books on the political and economic scene. From JTA

** From the June 1922 White Paper
The tension which has prevailed from time to time in Palestine is mainly due to apprehensions, which are entertained both by sections of the Arab and by sections of the Jewish population. These apprehensions, so far as the Arabs are concerned are partly based upon exaggerated interpretations of the meaning of the [Balfour] Declaration favouring the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, made on behalf of His Majesty’s Government on 2nd November, 1917.

Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become “as Jewish as England is English.” His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab deegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded `in Palestine.’ In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims “the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development.”

***  The Passfield White Paper, issued by the colonel secretary Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb), was a formal statement of British policy in Palestine made in the aftermath of the 1929 riots. The Hope-Simpson Report had recommended that such a statement be made, in the hopes of clarifying unresolved questions concerning the British Mandate for Palestine and the Balfour Declaration. The paper was issued in October, 1930, and like the Hope-Simpson Report, was considered very favourable for the Arabs.

Contrary to Zionist claims, the White Paper stated that the development of a Jewish National Home in Palestine was not considered central to the mandate. However, the paper claims that the British did intend to fulfill their obligations to both Arabs and Jews, and would resolve any conflicts that might surface as a result of their respective needs. By Jewish Virtual Library

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