Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions and Refutations
PART 1: 1948 AND AFTER
Chapter 1:Balfour declaration and its consequences
In this chapter Shlaim's main argument is that the Balfour declaration of 1926 is the starting point of the arab-israel conflict. he argues that the declaration was not viable because Great Britain made promises both to israelis and Arabs that contradict with each other. It was impossible for British to meet all the requirements for both nations.
The author argues that Great Britain wanted to provide Jews a state in the Palestine because she was afraid of French domination in the area. Shlaim agrees that Jewsih lobby, in particular Dr. Weizmann, put a lot of pressure on British politicians, but it is nothing about Britain's altruism and generosity.
The author also presents evidence that there were some British politicians who thought that the declaration would create dire consequences in the future. For example, Lord Curzon, war cabinet member, wrote a letter to the cabinet and said that
"what is to become of the people of the country? .. Arabs and their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years, and they own the soil... they profess the Mohemmedan faith. they will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the latter"
After the years following the declaration, riots started in Palestine. In December 1928, SIr John Chancellor (high commissioner) reached the conclusion that the declaration had been a "colossal blunder", unfair to the Arabs and detrimental to the interests of the British Empire. Sir Chancellor argued that Britain's policy in Palestine was misguided, unjust and impossible to carry out. He proposed to restrict Jewish immigration and land purchases in palestine. the jews took the view that the Arabs of Palestine were free to go to any part of Arabia and that they should be induced to move to Transjordan. Chancellor opposed to any such action on the grounds that it would be inconsistent with the part of the declaration which laid down that in the establishment of a jewish national home, nothing should be done to prejudice the rights of the non-jewish communities in Palestine.
The author also states that Sir John Chancellor acknowledged the difficult situation his country is in. In his letter to the government, Chancellor suggests that "the honest course is to admit our difficulty and to say to the Jews that in accordance with the balfour declaration, we have favoured the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine has in fact been established and will be maintained and that without violating the other part of the Balfour Declaration, without prejudicing the interests of the Arabs, we cannot do more than what we have done."
For Sir John Chancellor, the declaration promised Jews a National Home, not a state. The declaration guaranteed that and the Britain ensured this.
Shlaim also notes that some British politicians criticized the Balfour Declaration on the ground that its language was not realistic because it refers to groups in Palestine as Jews and non-Jews. Jews constituted only 10% of the population at that time. Then, calling 90% Arab population non-Jew shows the unrealistic approach creators of the declaration adopted.