Weekend long read

Our weekly round-up of Middle East related background reading.

1) At the Spectator, Jake Wallis Simons proposes that “The left’s sinister disdain for Israel betrays their movement’s pro-Zionist origins“.

“In the beginning, the Guardian was a friend of the Jews. Or rather, those Jews who believed that after millennia of persecution in exile, they deserved the right to live freely in their ancestral homeland. The overwhelming majority, in other words. The Zionists. The Labour party liked them, too. Three months before the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s key declaration of support for Jewish national aspirations – the centenary of which will be marked next month – Labour compiled a memorandum of policy priorities. ‘Palestine should be set free from the harsh and repressive government of the Turk,’ it said, ‘in order that the country may form a Free State, under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish People as desired to do so may return, and may work out their salvation, free from interference by those of alien race or religion.’”

2) The Jerusalem Post recently published an editorial titled “Celebrating Balfour“.

“More pernicious, however, than the attempt to discount the Balfour Declaration’s importance or to claim that it was the product of a British government under the sway of Christian Restorationists (which has no basis in documented facts) is the ongoing attempt to discredit the declaration as a criminal act committed against the indigenous Palestinian people.

If 20th century history has taught us anything it is that the real “crime” committed by Britain was the postponing of the creation of the State of Israel. If Britain’s 1939 White Paper had not been issued as Nazi Germany prepared to articulate and implement its Final Solution, millions of Jews living in Europe at the time could have been saved. Six years later, when six million of them were dead, the British remained steadfast in their opposition to immigration.”

3) The National Library of Israel has a post about “The Secret Drafts of the Balfour Declaration“.

“On November 2nd, 1917, a declaration that changed the course of history was published.

The document that would become the foundation of the state of Israel was sent in the form of a letter by Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild. Rothschild was to pass it on to the Zionist Organization headed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann.

The unpublished drafts of the declaration open a window to an entirely different and equally significant history.”

4) Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks reflects on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

“First of all, this was the ultimate anti-imperialist gesture. Don’t forget, between the Roman Conquest and the First World War, Israel had simply been a part, an administrative district, in an empire. Christian empires, and then the various Islamic empires, ultimately by the Ottoman Empire. So it had never been a nation in its own right. So as part of this new world brought into being in the First World War, one consequence of which was the final death of the Ottoman Empire, was the sense of giving lands back to their original inhabitants. All the lands given back to Arabs, given back to Jews. So it was the anti-imperialist gesture.”

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Weekend long read

Our weekly round-up of Middle East related reading.
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