Balfour Declaration: New Statesman editorial, November 1917

Painting of the Suez Canal by Albert Reiger (Click to enlarge)

Painting of the Suez Canal by Albert Reiger (Click to enlarge)

“The British Government’s declaration in favour of Zionism is one of the best pieces of statesmanship that we can show in these latter days. Early in the war the New Statesman published an article giving the main reasons why such a step should be taken, and nothing has occurred to change them. The special interest of the British Empire in Palestine is due to the proximity of the Suez Canal. The present war has killed the idea that this vital artery ought to be used as a line of defence for Egypt, and there is a general return to the view of Napoleon (and indeed of history long before his time) that Egypt must be defended in Palestine.

The Hejaz Railway was a narrow gauge railway that ran from Damascus to Medina, through the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, with a branch line to Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea. It was built with support from the British Empire, and threatened British positions on the Red Sea. (Click to enlarge)

The Hejaz Railway was a narrow gauge railway that ran from Damascus to Medina, through the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia, with a branch line to Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea. It was built with support from the British Empire, and threatened British positions on the Red Sea. (Click to enlarge)

To make Palestine once more prosperous and populous, with a population attached to the British Empire, there is only one hopeful way, and that is to effect a Zionist restoration under British auspices. On the other side of the account it is hard to conceive how anybody with the true instinct for nationality and the desire to see small nations emancipated can fail to be warmed by the prospect of emancipating this most ancient of oppressed nationalities. The present position of the Jews as unassimilated sojourners in every land but their own can never become satisfactory. We know, of course, that a prosperous school of Jewish thought is in favour of treating Judaism as a religion only, and everywhere merging its nationality. But some of these very people are strongest in resisting on religious grounds the intermarriage of Jews with Gentiles, and we fail to see how the adherents of such a distinct religion can ever be really assimilated in other nationalities, so long as by non-intermarriage they keep themselves also a distinct race. It is far better– without prejudice, of course, to the retention of their existing status by those who prefer it — to make a nation of them.”

(November 7, 1917. The New Statesman is a British political and cultural affairs magazine, founded by prominent members of the Fabian Society in 1913, and which historically has been aligned with the Labour Party)

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