Quotation from Arthur Balfour “The Four Great Powers ... are committed to Zionism” — Aug. 11 1919

In a private memorandum to the British Cabinet dated August 11, 1919, expresses that the great powers do not care about the Palestinians - 90% of the population at the time - and that with help, Zionism will help solve the "Jewish problem".


… On this point the Covenant [of the League of Nations, 1919] speaks as follows:— « The wishes of these communities (i.e., the independent nations) must be a principal consideration in the selection of a mandatory » The sentiment is unimpeachable; but how is it to be carried into effect? To simplify the argument, let us assume that two of the ‘independent nations’ for which mandatories have to be provided are Syria and Palestine? Take Syria first. Do we mean, in the case of Syria, to consult principally the wishes of the inhabitants? We mean nothing of the kind. According to the universally accepted view there are only three possible mandatories—England, America, and France. Are we going ‘chiefly to consider the wishes of the inhabitants’ in deciding which of these is to be selected? We are going to do nothing of the kind. England has refused. America will refuse. So that, whatever the inhabitants may wish, it is France they will certainly have. (…). The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the ‘independent nation’ of Palestine than in that of the ‘independent nation’ of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are. The four Great Powers [America, France, Great Britain, Italy] are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land. In my opinion that is right. What I have never been able to understand is how it can be harmonised with the declaration, the Covenant, or the instructions to the Commission of Enquiry. I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs; but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine it is not now an ‘independent nation’, nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever deference should be paid to the views of those who live there, the Powers in their selection of a mandatory do not propose, as I understand the matter, to consult them. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate. (...) If Zionism is to influence the Jewish problem throughout the world Palestine must be made available for the largest number of Jewish immigrants.  


Memorandum by Mr. Balfour (Paris) Respecting Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia.  

Foreign Office No. 371/4183 (1919).   

Complete text in Walid Khalidi, “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem Until 1948”, The Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut, 1971, pp. 207-210.


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