November 02, 2015

98 Years Ago

World War One changed everything.

On this date in 1917 the Balfour Declaration was announced.

This effectively eliminated other areas from consideration for the location of a Jewish state. For several years up to this point, Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar* had been proposed as Jewish homelands by the British and French governments in cooperation with the Zionist movement (which had begun actively looking for a homeland for Jews in part as a result of the Dreyfuss Affair). However, it was always a low priority. Part of the reason for the declaration, and certainly the motivation behind sending it to lord Rotshchild, was that Balfour wanted to do something for their mutual friend Chaim Weizman, a brilliant chemist who had saved Britain from defeat early in the war by inventing a means of making artificial acetone (thereby breaking the German near monopoly on the stuff). However, the overriding motivation was the Sykes Picot treaty that resulted in the British and French** carving up Arabia. With the French getting Lebanon and Syria, the British needed some way to get non-arabs to move to the Trans-Jordan /Palestine region and so the idea of a Jewish homeland went from "nice idea, let's maybe do it sometime" to "something in the strategic interests of the Empire". 

One of the first things that was learned (to the European's surprise and dismay), was that the Ottomans had, in fact, been keeping the more egregious anti-Semitic tendencies of the Palestinians in check by threat of military force. Shortly after the British took over, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem began a series of pogroms against Jews aimed at their extermination. Of course, with the Jewish homeland now designated by the worlds largest empire, the other options fell by the wayside and Israel became the last best hope, especially after the post-Holocaust exodus and this ultimately resulted in the formation of the state of Israel in 1947. 

* Interestingly, Nazi Germany revived the Madagascar plan in 1940-42 and made it part of their program of Jewish expulsion until they decided on total extermination in 1942/43. This does add an intriguing note to certain recent assertions that have caused so much sturm and drang. 

** The Russians were promised things in Sykes Picot too, and this was affirmed after the February Revolution, but following the fall of Kerensky and the ascension of the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution, France and Britain decided it was time for some white-out. Russia had been promised Istanbul (probably to be renamed Constantinople) Turkish Armenia and control of the Sea of Marmara and Bosporus. While invoking that treaty is certainly dubious to say the least, Russia has had considered the area to be of profound importance and a high priority for bringing into its sphere of influence since Catherine the Great and their interest in the region was the main focus of the Crimean War. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 12:11 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 You know what's funny, there's a designated Jewish land in Russian Far East as well, with a capital in Birobidjan. I think it was probably some kind of Stalin's machination to prevent Jews from going to Israel. But officially it remains until today, although I think it's not one of the 86 Subjects of Federation, but rather an Autonomus District of some kind. Probably has more Chinese than Jews nowadays.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Mon Nov 2 16:45:52 2015 (XOPVE)

2 Sorry coming so late to this, but I've been doing other non-anime fan stuff last couple months...  The Grand Mufti was a creature of grotesquely inept British colonial policy.  He was a rabble-rousing fire-breathing terror in his early twenties, when the office opened up and the British commissioner of Palestine decided, for reasons that I still can't quite parse, that this raving thug would be a good fit for the most influential Muslim position in the mandate.  Since the commissioner was a British Jewish Zionist, it was pretty much an own-goal, one that the Zionists would rue for decades afterwards.  Best guess is that Herbert Samuel was trying to bend over backward to prove to British military anti-Semites active in the occupying forces that he wasn't biased towards the Zionist settlers, and ended up passing over the most recommended, most popular, and most recommended Muslim scholars in favor of a political activist with almost no religious qualifications.

Posted by: Mitch H. at Fri Nov 13 15:16:52 2015 (jwKxK)

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