THE ABERRATION OF MR. BALFOUR
As the first decade of the 20th Century grew older the signs of the coming storms multiplied. In 1903 the British Government had offered Uganda to Zionism and Max Nordau had publicly foretold "the future world war", in the sequence to which England would procure Palestine for Zionism. In 1905 the Protocols prophetically revealed the destructive orgy of Communism. Then in 1906 one Mr. Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister of England, met Dr. Weizmann in a hotel room and was captivated by the notion of presenting Palestine, which was not his to give, to "the Jews".
The shape which "the future world war" would take was then determined. Mr. Balfour stood guard over the new century and yielded the pass. A different man, in his place, might have saved it; or another might have done the same, for by 1906 the hidden mechanism for exerting "irresistible pressure on the international affairs of the present" (Leon Pinsker, 1882) had evidently been perfected. Rabbi Elmer Berger says of that time, "that group of Jews which committed itself to Zionism . . . entered a peripatetic kind of diplomacy which took it into many chancelleries and parliaments, exploring the labyrinthine and devious ways of international politics in a part of the world where political intrigue and secret deals were a byword. Jews began to play the game of 'practical politics'." The era of the malleable "administrators" and compliant "premier-dictators", all furthering the great plan, was beginning. Therefore any other politician, put in Mr. Balfour's place at that time, might have acted similarly. However, his name attaches to the initial misdeed.
His actions are almost unaccountable in a man of such birth, training and type. Research cannot discover evidence of any other motive than an infatuation, of the "liberal" sort, for an enterprise which he did not even examine in the light of duty and wisdom. "Hard-boiled" considerations of "practical politics" (that is, a cold calculation that money or votes might be gained by supporting Zionism) can hardly be suspected in him. He and his colleagues belonged to the oldest families of England, which carried on a long tradition of public service. Statesmanship was in their blood; understanding of government and knowledge of foreign affairs were instinctive in them; they represented the most successful ruling class in recorded history; and they were wealthy.
Why, then, did instinct, tradition and wisdom suddenly desert them in this one question, at the moment when their Conservative Party, in its old form, for the last time governed England, and their families still guided the country's fortunes from great houses in Piccadilly and Mayfair and from country abbeys? Were they alarmed by the menace that "the mob" would be incited against them if they did not comply? They realized that birth and privilege alone would not continue to qualify for the function of governing. The world had changed much in the century before, and they knew that the process would go on. In the British
tradition they worked to ensure continuity, unbroken by violence and eased by conciliation. They were too wise to resist change; they aimed at guiding change. Perhaps they were too eager on that account to shake hands with Progress, when it knocked, without examining the emissaries' credentials.
Mr. Balfour, their leader, was a tal1, aloof and scholarly bachelor, impassive and pessimistic; he was of chilly mien but his intimates contend that his heart was warm. His middle-aged love affair with Zionism might be a symptom of unwil1ing celibacy. In youth he delayed asking his ladylove until she became affianced to another; before they could marry her lover died; and as Mr. Balfour was about to make good his earlier tardiness she died. He then resolved to remain unmarried.
Women may not be good judges of a distinguished bachelor who wears a broken heart on his sleeve, but many of the contemporary comments about him come from women, and I quote the opinions of two of the most beautiful women of that day. Consuelo Vanderbilt (an American, later the Duchess of Marlborough) wrote, 'The opinions he expressed and the doctrines he held seemed to be the products of pure logic. . . he was gifted with a breadth of comprehension I have never seen equalled"; and Lady Cynthia Asquith said, "As for his being devoid of moral indignation, I often saw him white with anger; any personal injustice enraged him".
The italicised words could not more completely misportray Mr. Balfour, if the result of his actions is any test. The one thought-process which cannot have guided him, in pledging his country to Zionism, was logic, for no logical good could come of this for any of the parties concerned, his own country, the native inhabitants of Palestine, or (in my opinion) the mass of Jews, who had no intention of going there. As for injustice (unless Lady Cynthia intended to distinguish between "personal" and mass injustice), the million innocent beings who today have been driven into the Arabian wilderness (in the manner of the Levitical "scapegoat") offer the obvious answer.
Anyway, there he was, Prime Minister of England, having succeeded "dear Uncle Robert" (Lord Salisbury, of the great house of Cecil) in 1902. Clearly he cannot at that instant have conceived, from nowhere, the notion of giving Uganda to the Zionists, so that "irresistible pressure" must have been at work before he took office. What went on in that earlier period is all mystery or, in truth, conspiracy ("labyrinthine intrigue"). When he became prime minister the mine was already laid, and to the end of his days Mr. Balfour apparently never realized that it was the mine of which all are today aware.
Dr. Herzl, despairing of the Czar, the Kaiser and the Sultan (the three potentates had been amiable but prudent and non-committal; they knew, what Mr. Balfour never learned, that Zionism was dynamite*) had declared: "England, great England, free England, England commanding the seas wil1 understand our aims" (the reader will perceive for what purpose, in this view,
* See footnote on page 226
England had become great, free, and commander of the seas). When the Uganda offer showed the Talmudic directorate in Russia that Dr. Herzl was wrong in thinking that England would "understand" their needs, Dr. Weizmann was sent to London. He was preparing to overthrow Dr. Herzl and now becomes our chief witness to the hidden events of that time.
A young Englishman, with some modest petition, would have great trouble even today in penetrating the janitorial and secretarial defences of a Cabinet minister's private room. Young Dr. Weizmann from Russia, who wanted Palestine, was quickly ushered into that of Lord Percy ("in charge of African affairs").
Lord Percy was another scion of a great ruling family with an ancient tradition of public service and wise administration. According to Dr. Weizmann, he "expressed boundless astonishment that the Jews should ever so much as have considered the Uganda proposal, which he regarded as impractical on the one hand, and, on the other, a denial of the Jewish religion. Himself deeply religious, he was bewildered by the thought that Jews could even entertain the idea of any other country than Palestine as the centre of their revival; and he was delighted to learn from me that there were so many Jews who had emphatically refused. He added, 'If I were a Jew, I would not give a halfpenny for the proposition'."
Presumably Dr. Weizmann did not inform Lord Percy of the unanimous longing of the Jews in Palestine to remove to Uganda. What he had heard, if his record is correct, was virtually an invitation to get rid of Dr. Herzl and a promise to support the claim to Palestine. He went away to prepare Dr. Herzl's discomfiture. He did not go empty-handed.
Possibly, in the fifty years that have elapsed, British ministers have learned that official notepaper should be kept where only those authorized may use it. On leaving Lord Percy's room Dr. Weizmann took some Foreign Office notepaper and on it wrote a report of the conversation, which he sent to Russia (where, under the Romanoffs and the Communist Czars alike, government stationery is not left lying around). In Russia, this document, written on offical Foreign Office paper, must have aroused feelings akin to those which a holy ikon would cause in a moujik. Clearly it meant that the British Government had no further use for Dr. Herzl and would procure Palestine for the Zionists in Russia. Lord Percy, in today's idiom, had started something.
All else followed as if arranged by Greek gods: the triumph of the Zionists from Russia over Dr. Herzl, his collapse and death, the rejection of the Uganda offer. Then Dr. Weizmann moved to England, "the one country which seemed likely to show a genuine sympathy for a movement like ours", and where he
* For that matter, the successors of the Czars were of just the same opinion. Lenin in 1903 wrote, "This Zionist idea is entirely false and reactionary in its essence. The idea of a separate Jewish nation, which is utterly untenable scientifically, is reactionary in its political implications . . . The Jewish question is: assimilation or separateness? And the idea of a Jewish people is manifestly reactionary". And in 1913 Stalin reaffirmed this dictum. The destiny of the Jews, he said, was assimilation (in a Communist world, of course, in this opinion).
could "live and work without let or hindrance, at least theoretically" (any compilation of classical understatements might include this passage in first place).
Dr. Weizmann chose Manchester for his residence. He says "by chance", but credulity balks. Manchester held Mr. Balfour's constituency; Manchester was the Zionist headquarters in England; the chairman of Mr. Balfour's party in Manchester was a Zionist (today the British Conservative Party is still enmeshed in these toils).
The Greek drama continued. Mr. Balfour's prime-ministership ended in a fiasco for his party when in the 1906 election eight out of nine Manchester seats were lost to it. He then faded temporarily from office. At that moment another personage entered the present narrative. Among the triumphant Liberal candidates was a rising young man with a keen nose for political winds, a Mr. Winston Churchill. He also sought election in Manchester and commended himself to the Zionist headquarters there, first by attacking the Balfour government's Aliens Bill (which set a brake on large-scale immigration from such places as Russia) and next by supporting Zionism. Thereon "the Manchester Jews promptly fell into line behind him as though he were a kind of latterday Moses; one of their leaders got up at an all-Jewish-meeting and announced that 'any Jew who votes against Churchill is a traitor to the common cause' " (Mr. R.C. Taylor). Mr. Churchill, elected, became Under Secretary for the Colonies. His public espousal of Zionism was simply a significant episode at that time; three decades later, when Mr. Balfour was dead, it was to have consequences as fateful as Mr. Balfour's own aberration.
To return to Mr. Balfour: his private thoughts were much with Zionism. At no time, as far as the annals disclose, did he give thought to the native inhabitants of Palestine, whose expulsion into the wilderness he was to cause. By coincidence, the election was being mainly fought around the question of the allegedly cruel treatment of some humble beings far away (this is an instance of the method of stirring up the passions of "the mob", recommended by Dr. Herzl and the Protocols). The electors knew nothing of Zionism and when they later became acquainted with it felt no concern for the menaced Arabs, because that side of the matter was not put before them by a press then "submissive". However, in 1906 their feelings were being inflamed about "Chinese slavery" and (Manchester being Manchester) they were highly indignant about it. At that time Chinese Coolies were being indentured for three years work in the South African gold mines. Those chosen counted themselves fortunate, but for electoral and "rabble-rousing" purposes in Manchester this was "slavery" and the battle was fought and won on that score. The victorious Liberals forgot "Chinese slavery" immediately after the counting of the votes, (and when their turn in office came outdid the Conservatives in their enthusiasm for Zionism).
Thus, while shouts of "Chinese slavery" resounded outside his windows, Mr.
Balfour, closeted with a Zionist emissary from Russia, prepared something worse than slavery for the Arabs of Palestine. His captivation was complete before the interview began, as his niece and lifelong confidante (Mrs. Dugdale) shows: "His interest in the subject was whetted. . . by the refusal of the Zionist Jews to accept the Uganda offer. . . The opposition aroused in him a curiosity which he found no means to satisfy . . . He had asked his chairman in Manchester to fathom the reasons for the Zionist attitude. . . Balfour's interest in the Jews and their history. . . originated in the Old Testament training of his mother and in his Scottish upbringing. As he grew up his intellectual admiration and sympathy for certain aspects of the Jews in the modern world seemed to him of immense importance. I remember in childhood imbibing from him the idea that Christian religion and civilization owed to Judaism an immeasurable debt, ill repaid" .
Such was Mr. Balfour's frame of mind when he received Dr. Weizmann in a room of the old Queen's Hotel in dank and foggy Manchester in 1906. The proposition before him, if accepted, meant adding Turkey, in 1906, to England's enemies in any "future world war" and, if Turkey were defeated in it, engaging in perpetual warfare thereafter with the Arab world.
But calculations of national interest, moral principle and statesmanship, if the above quotations are the test, had deserted Mr. Balfour's mind.
He was in the grip of a "whetted" interest and an unsatisfied "curiosity"; it sounds like a young girl's romantic feeling about love. He had not been elected to decide what "debt" Christianity owed to Judaism, or if he decided that one was owing, to effect its repayment, from a third party's funds, to some canvasser professing title to collect. If there were any identifiable debt and any rational cause to link his country with it, and he could convince the country of this, he might have had a case. Instead, he decided privately that there was a debt, and that he was entitled to choose between claimants in favour of a caller from Russia, when the mass of Jews in England repudiated any notion of such a debt. History does not tell of a stranger thing.
Dr. Weizmann, forty years later, recorded that the Mr. Balfour whom he met "had only the most naive and rudimentary notion of the movement"; he did not even know Dr. Herzl's name, the nearest he could get to it being "Dr. Herz". Mr. Balfour was already carried away by his enthusiasm for the unknown cause. He posed formal objections, but apparently only for the pleasure of hearing them overborne, as might a girl object to the elopement she secretly desires. He was much impressed (as Dr. Weizmann says) when his visitor said, "Mr. Balfour, supposing I were to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" "But, Dr. Weizmann, we have London", he answered. Dr. Weizmann retorted, "But we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh".
Mr. Balfour apparently felt this to be a conclusive reason why the Ashkenazic Jews from Russia should be removed to Palestine. However, the only body of
Jews whose interest he had any right to consider, those of England, had been working hard to dissuade him from getting entangled in Zionism, and he made a last feeble objection: "It is curious, Dr. Weizmann, the Jews I meet are quite different". Dr. Weizmann replied, "Mr. Balfour, you meet the wrong kind of Jew".
Mr. Balfour never again questioned the c1aim of the Zionists from Russia to be the right kind of Jew. "It was from that talk with Weizmann that I saw that the Jewish form of patriotism was unique. It was Weizmann's absolute refusal even to look at it" (the Uganda proposition) "which impressed me"; to these words Mrs. Dugdale adds the comment, "The more Balfour thought about Zionism, the more his respect for it and his belief in its importance grew. His convictions took shape before the defeat of Turkey in the Great War, transforming the whole future for the Zionists". He also transformed the whole future for the entire West and for two generations of its sons. In this hotel-room meeting of 1906 Max Nordau's prophecy of 1903 about the shape of "the future world war" was given fulfilment.
As that war approached, the number of leading public men who privily espoused Zionism grew apace. They made themselves in fact co-conspirators, for they did not inform the public masses of any intention about Palestine. None outside the inner circ1e of "labyrinthine intrigue" knew that one was in their minds and would be carried out in the confusion of a great war, when parliamentary and popular scrutiny of acts of State policy was in suspense. The secrecy observed stamps the process as a conspiratorial one, originating in Russia, and it bore fruit in 1917.
The next meeting between Dr. Weizmann and Mr. Balfour was on December 14, 1914*. Then the First World War had just begun. The standing British army had been almost wiped out in France, and France itself faced catastrophe, while only the British Navy stood between England and the gravest dangers. A war, costing Britain and France some three million lives, lay ahead, and the youth of Britain was rushing to join in the battle. The great cause was supposed to be that of overthrowing "Prussian militarism", liberating "small nations", and restoring "freedom and democracy".
Mr. Balfour was soon to be restored to office. His thoughts, when he met Dr. Weizmann again, were apparently far from the great battle in France. His mind was not with his country or his people. It was with Zionism and Palestine. He began his talk with Dr. Weizmann by saying, "I was thinking about that conversation of ours" (in 1906) "and I believe that when the guns stop firing you may get your Jerusalem".
* An instance of the difficulty of eliciting facts in this matter: Mrs. Dugdale quoted Dr. Weizmann as saying, "did not see him again until 1916", but contradicts this statement by another of her own, "On December 14, 1914, Dr. Weizmann had an appointment to see Balfour". This implicit mention of a second meeting on that date appears to be confirmed by Dr. Weizmann's own statement, that after seeing Mr. Lloyd George on December 3, 1914, he "followed up at once Lloyd George's suggestion about seeing Mr. Balfour".
People who lived at that time may recall the moment and see how far from anything which they supposed to be at stake were these thoughts of Mr. Balfour. In the person of Mr. Balfour the Prophet Monk reappeared, but this time armed with power to shape the destiny of nations. Obviously "irresistible pressure" behind the scenes had gained great power and was already most effective in 1914.
By that time the American people were equally enmeshed in this web of "labyrinthine intrigue", hidden from the general view, though they did not suspect it. They feared "foreign entanglements"; they wished to keep out of the war and had a president who promised he would keep them out of it. In fact, they were virtually in it, for "irresistible pressure" by that time was working as effectively in Washington as in London.