So, let’s move forward now into the 20th century which is where we’re going to be mainly focusing on.
During the First World War, the tectonic plates of international politics were moving and there was a growing consensus around a principle that president Woodrow Wilson of the United States had articulated in his 14 points.
The idea of the ‘universal right to self-determination’ he made in his speech of 1918. But it was clear that other leaders, including British leaders, were already aware of this political philosophy, and as a result, there was a feeling that, after the end of the First World War, something would have to be done to meet the aspirations of both Arab nationalists and Zionists. And that is indeed what we saw.
So, there was growing support for both of those movements right across Europe and not just in the UK.
The first promise that the British government made was to the Arabs, to the Sharif of Mecca (Hussein bin Ali Al-Hashimi, Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 and King of the Hejaz between 1916 and 1924), who was considered to be the leader of the Arab world at that time.
Via the correspondence with McMahon in 1915-16, essentially, what the what the British were doing was rewarding the Sharif for his support for the British in the military struggle against the Turks. And what we, the British, said to him was that ‘once the war is over, we will ensure that you will have a large Arab state which will comprise most of that particular southern portion of the Ottoman Empire, with the exception of what subsequently became known as Palestine’.
That led to a lot of dispute, and it is still disputed to this day as to whether or not that British promise included Palestine.
Anti-Zionists will say it included Palestine. McMahon himself later clarified that he was very clear to King Hussein that Palestine was excluded and that he was sure that King Hussein understood that point very well.
So, that was the first promise.
The second promise was made to the Jewish people, to the Zionists, and we don’t need to dwell too much on this. I’m sure you’re all very familiar with the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
The key point about it being that it was a declaration of principle. It was a declaration of the view of the government. It didn’t have any legal status whatsoever. All it stated was the government’s view that Palestine should be established or that within Palestine should be established a national home for the Jewish people.
So, that was the second promise.
Here’s a crucial event which resulted in the British, very early on, antagonizing both of the parties to whom they had made promises, both the Arabs and the Jews.
This phrase ‘perfidious Albion’ came to be used by both of them.
Certainly, the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between Britain and France (with assent from the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy, to define their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in an eventual partition of the Ottoman Empire) was a secret one. It came to light in the columns of British newspapers about a year later, a year after the agreement was signed, but it was never implemented.
And what was happening here was that the victorious powers, the French and the British had decided, regardless of the promises they’d made to the Arabs and the Jews respectively, that they were going to carve up the Ottoman Empire between themselves because there was nothing in the Sykes-Picot Agreement that made reference either to an Arab state or a Jewish state. So, that absolutely infuriated both parties to whom promises had been made.
Nevertheless, events began to evolve in such a way that it became clear that the intention was that, at least part of the Ottoman Empire would be turned into a Jewish state or a Jewish homeland, and part would be turned into an Arab state.
But I want to draw your attention to something that happened before the Balfour Declaration. And this is something that very few people are aware of, it somehow has got lost in the mists of time.
The Balfour Declaration was not the first great power declaration in favour of Zionism.
The first such declaration came from France. From Jules Cambon, who was Head of an important section of the French Foreign Ministry. And it was issued in writing several months before the Balfour Declaration.
And this is what Cambon wrote with the approval of his government colleagues.
“…it would be a deed of justice and of reparation to assist, by the protection of the Allied Powers, in the renaissance of the Jewish nationality in that Land from which the people of Israel were exiled so many centuries ago.”
So, there’s the Cambon Declaration that really ought to have its place restored in the annals of Israel and Zionism. [E11]
We see also there was a major influence of the Bible and Christians upon the Balfour Declaration, and a partnership which was made between Chaim Weizmann and Lord Balfour.
Interestingly, Weizmann wrote about how political leaders of his day were sympathetic to Zionism on the basis of the Bible.
Weizmann addressed the Jewish Board of Deputies in 1917 and said:
Quoted in Tuchman Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour. New York: New York University Press, 1956, p. 311.
And Barbara Tuchman writes about this and speaks about the influences upon Balfour. She says:
And this led to the British government approving the Balfour Declaration which of course says:
After, the Declaration was ratified by the League of Nations at the San Remo Conference in 1920, which confirmed the Mandate of Palestine to Britain and supported the concept of the Balfour Declaration.
And many have said that without this, it’s unlikely that U.N. would have passed the resolution
for the partition of Palestine in 1947 which led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. [E12]
As I mentioned earlier, the Balfour Declaration was simply a statement of the government’s view. It had no legal validity. What changed all that was the incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into the San Remo Resolution at a conference of the principal allied powers.
This was just at the time that the League of Nations was being established. The principal allied powers decided that they would support the Balfour Declaration, incorporated it into this San Remo Resolution that is often called the Jewish Magna Carta, and, as a result of an extremely complicated series of meetings and conferences, in the course of what collectively have become known as the post-World War I Peace Conferences, eventually, the Mandate for Palestine was handed to Great Britain.
It was finalized at the Treaty of Lausanne which marked the end of the Ottoman Empire and that San Remo Resolution actually provides legal legitimacy for Zionism which is still valid to this day, because it was incorporated into the UN charter in 1945 under article 80.
It’s no coincidence that just a few weeks before the San Remo Conference, violence broke out; well, that’s one way of describing it, actually, more accurately, violence was instigated by this character, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who is widely regarded by Palestinian nationalists as their first real leader.
Then, in anticipation of the San Remo Resolution, which he realized was going to give international legal validity to the Balfour Declaration, he decided to stir things up by launching attacks on Jews in various parts of Palestine in 1920, and then in 1921.
And the British were already in the territory – bear in mind that General Allenby had entered Palestine in 1917 and so the British were occupying Palestine prior to receiving the Mandate from the League of Nations – so, they were in control of the territory.
The British weren’t able to arrest the grand Mufti al-Husseini but they did sentence him to 10 years in jail in absentia but then promptly, the next year, appointed him to the extremely influential role of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
The reason I mentioned this character is that he was an out-and-out anti-Semite. An anti-Semite to the core. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, he wrote an autobiography where he’s quite open about it. He never demonstrated any remorse for example for his support of Hitler. And it’s quite clear that he gave undertakings to Hitler that, should the axis powers win the war, he, al-Husseini, would implement the ‘final solution’ in the Middle East.
So, that was the fate that awaited the Jews of Palestine had Hitler and his ally al-Husseini won the war.
Incidentally, al-Husseini’s number two, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, was also a Nazi, Nazi sympathizer; actually, he was a Colonel in the Wehrmacht, and both of these characters were branded as war criminals at Nuremberg.
But nothing was really ever done to apprehend them or bring them to justice. And they both spent their last years, both died at a ripe old age in Lebanon.
That was one of the more shameful aspects of the post-World War II de-Nazification process, that those two were allowed to get off scot-free. [E13]
Okay, let’s move on to the Palestine Mandate itself. I’ve already mentioned the role of the League of Nations, this new international body, the forerunner of the United Nations, which created the mandates as paths to self-determination.
It was quite clear that that was their purpose. Now, the Palestine Mandate that was given to Britain, as the term suggests, instructed Britain to ensure Jewish immigration and close settlement of the land.
Those are quite explicit phrases within the terms of the Mandate which was eventually relinquished by the British in 1947. They just got fed up with the whole situation and left.
To this day, there is a dispute as to what the borders of the Palestine Mandate were, and even amongst Israeli historians there is a dispute about this.
On the one hand, on the left-hand side, you can see there the original map of Palestine which includes today’s Jordan. And, on the right, you can see the Mandate which has been divided into two, not into two equal halves. Nearly four-fifths was turned into, effectively, an embryonic Arab state, trans-Jordan.
I think what is interesting is that I got these maps from the BBC, and, on this occasion (we often criticize the BBC for their coverage of the conflict), on this occasion, they’re spot on because, actually, both maps convey a truth. The original Mandate did indeed include the whole of what became trans-Jordan, today’s Jordan, the Hashemite kingdom.
But, in the course of the evolution of the Mandate, between 1920 to 1923, at repeated international conferences, the British effectively rewrote the terms of demand.
They were permitted by a clause in the original draft of the Mandate to enable trans-Jordan to be created, which is what they did. But effectively, the Jewish national home was at that point confined to Western Palestine, West of the Jordan.
Then follows a rather tragic history in which Britain retreated from the Mandate after having created trans-Jordan.
In 1922, they passed a series of white papers in response to growing Arab violence. Effectively, what they were doing was implementing the ‘policy of appeasement’ which ultimately led to the Second World War.
By 1937, the situation had got so bad that the British set up a commission of inquiry, the Peel Commission, which suggested a second partition. That was the partition of Western Palestine.
By this point, only 17% of Western Palestine was being offered to the Jews which, incidentally, the Jewish leadership accepted. It ‘stuck in their throat’ but they accepted it, whereas the Arabs rejected it.
And that was a disastrous event because, well, had there been a Jewish state in the 1930s, maybe some of those doomed millions might have been saved.
Then, after the war, the United Nations General Assembly passed its Partition Resolution of 1947.
Again, the Zionist leadership accepted it despite the fact that they weren’t going to get Jerusalem, they weren’t going to get Zion in that, in other words.
Nor were they going to get their ancestral Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria but nevertheless, in the interests of peace, they accepted it. But, as we know, the Arab leadership rejected it entirely.
And that led to the Arab-Israeli conflict proper. There were two phases to that conflict:
- there was there was a civil war initially between November 1947 and May 1948.
- And in May 1948 David Ben-Gurion decided that he was going to declare Israel’s Independence which he did. And, in the process, extended the hand of peace to Israel’s new state’s Arab neighbours which, again, they rejected. [E14]
So, we can see that there is a historical link which goes from the time of the Reformation, particularly through the 19th century, up until the founding of the State, of Christians who supported the idea of a return of the Jews to Israel and the establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine to become the State of Israel.
Sadly, of course, we have then the horrors of the Holocaust and even the betrayal of the Balfour Declaration by the British in Palestine.
But these couldn’t stop the fact that in 1947 the U.N. voted for the partition of Palestine which led to David Ben-Gurion pronouncing the establishment of the State of Israel on May the 14th 1948. [E15]
As a result of that war first civil war, and then the international war, a refugee problem was created. first of all an Arab refugee problem that the Arabs called the Nakba (‘the disaster’) and that led to around 700,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing or, in a minority of cases, being expelled.
Simultaneously, there were about 850 000 Jewish refugees that were kicked out of Arab countries over the course of the succeeding few years. So, there was a Jewish Nakba which has been pretty much erased from history in terms of the accepted narrative of this conflict.
In the course of the creation of the Arab refugee problem, the U.N. stepped in and created a special agency UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Association) which was supposed to be temporary.
It’s the only agency that has been set up to deal with one specific refugee problem and has been maintained by the international community ever since.
So now, the descendants of those original refugees number nearly six million who claim the so-called ‘right of return’ for which there is no basis in international law yet they are led to believe that they have a right of return to Palestine.
The UNRWA is a huge organization. It has received massive funding over the year over the years and has become very much part of the problem rather than the solution to this conflict. [E16]
So, how does this affect Christians post Holocaust and post the establishment of Israel?
Of course, the Holocaust itself led to great soul-searching amongst major denominations of the church. It led to some repentance for anti-Semitism, to a rejection of the ‘Jews-killed-Jesus’ theology at an official level.
Here’s a statement from another book which tells us about these things Hear O Israel by Grattan Guinness. In Darmstadt in 1948 the Evangelical Church in Germany acknowledged Christian involvement in the appalling wartime Jewish tragedy and said:
It led to repentance within the Catholic church as well. We see that there was a change of heart.
Pope John XXIII said shortly before he died in 1963:
Apart from dealing with the Holocaust, once the state of Israel was established, we saw that many Christians saw in this the fulfilment of Bible prophecy, the restoration of Israel.
Many supported the right of Israel to exist and, in the following years, numerous organizations developed believing that the State of Israel and the existence of Israel is right in the sight of God and is the fulfilment of prophecy.
Christians also recognize Israel’s immense achievements as a sign of God’s favour for Israel, including his victories in wars against all the odds in 1948, 1967, 1973, and even in events like the Entebbe rescue.
Christians saw the hand of God in Israel’s victories, particularly in 1967, when the fact that Jerusalem was now in Jewish hands was seen by many as an encouragement to the ultimate redemption of Israel and Jerusalem being no longer trodden down of the gentiles but becoming again the Jewish capital of the State of Israel.
It’s actually at that point that I came into the picture, because I remember that, in 1967, I was in my second year at university, studying for my exams and reading the news, and the feeling that there was some important taking place in the Middle East and a very pro-Israel feeling and I even hitchhiked down from Cambridge to London to offer my services at the Jewish Agency.
They didn’t need them because, in six days, they did pretty well without me! But I had this feeling there was something important taking place there. I couldn’t explain why.
I wasn’t a Christian then, and I’m not Jewish, but when I became a Christian three years later and read the Bible, I began to see the significance of these events and the significance of Israel’s restoration. [E17]
Let’s fast forward now to the Six Day War just in case there’s any doubt about this.
Those of us who were around at the time remember very well the blood thirsty threats that were issued by President Nasser of Egypt (in power between 1954 and 1970) and indeed by other Arab leaders and it was quite clear to the Israelis that they were facing an existential threat.
That was a war they really had to win and they knew they had to win it, and they did win it. Now, that was another ‘bullet dodged’ in terms of Jewish survival that led and turned the United Nations Security Council passing Resolution 242.
And it’s here that I’d like to bring the focus back on to the role of the British, because as a permanent member of the Security Council by this point, the British, along with the Americans drafted Resolution 242 in a very subtle and clever manner.
Those were the three key principles. And the one I want to draw your attention to is the middle one there:
A requirement for ‘Israeli withdrawal from territories’, territories occupied in the recent conflict.
In the French version of the Resolution, which was a translation from the original version, somehow or other – I think, probably, there was some ‘jiggery-pokery’ went on by the French delegation – but they inserted the definite article (the ‘territories’) and that’s why, to this day in 2021, Israel’s Arab opponents demand that they withdraw from all of the territories occupied in 1967, even though Resolution 242, which Israel accepted and the Arabs rejected, did not require that. But it required a withdrawal from some of those territories in the context of a peace treaty which, as we know, has never come about. [E18]
Video-to-text timing reference points:
[E11] To minute 6:30 in the recording
[E12] To minute 9:04 of the recording
[E13] To minute 13:37 of the recording
[E14] To minute 18:36 of the recording
[E15] To minute 19:19 of the recording
[E16] To minute 21:10 of the recording
[E17] To minute 24:47 of the recording
[E18] To end the of the recording