The Beginning of Bad Blood
During World War I France and Great Britain vehemently argued over what was left of the Middle East after the Turkish Ottoman empire fell. Both sides were trying everyway they could to gain support in the Middle Eastern territories they wished to control. All in a battle over more land and more resources. It is evident that the start of conflict over Palestine and what is now Israel began and is recorded by 3 documents: The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, The Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the Balfour Declaration.
The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence:
In 1915 the British government called on Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca. They promised him a large Arab country, also hinting at the inclusion of Palestine, to rule over in return for his support and loyalty for Great Britain. This is known as the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. Which turned out to be a very controversial promise, not to be kept.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement:
In 1916 an agreement was made between France and Great Britain over the land in the Middle East. This agreement also stated that both the French and British would have freedom of transit in each other’s areas and there would be no discrimination of goods.
Here is a map of the different French and British areas:
Notice the most crucial area on this map Palestine including Jerusalem are in purple, this signifies neutrality. French and Britain wanted it so bad that neither could approve an arrangement over who would get this little area, so they left it neutral. But all the while the British were having secret meetings and negotiations over how to gain control of Palestine. One of their greatest attempts was by reaching out to the Zionist movement in England.
The Balfour Declaration
In 1917 Foreign Secretary of the British government, Arthur James Balfour, sent a formal statement to Baron Rothschild:
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
Upon receiving this letter Rothschild immediately went to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland to speak with their leaders Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Soholow. Since the Zionists believed in returning to the holy land (which was then Palestine/Jerusalem), this was a great achievement for their followers.
It seems as though this is a nice gesture of support by the British government but in reality one can believe they were telling the Jews of England this so that they would be encouraged to emigrate to Palestine, in turn giving the British more support where it was desperately needed.
All in all it is evident that Great Britain, due to their political and imperialistic agenda, had no intentions of honoring their promises to the Arabs and were instead committed to the Zionists.
Every year on November 2, Israel has a celebration commemorating the anniversary of the Balfour declaration known as Balfour Day. This day is also believed to be a day of mourning in most Arab countries still today.
A closing quote:
“Alot of the problems we are having to deal with now are a consequence of our colonial past. The Balfour Declaration and contradictory assurances were being given to Palestinians in private, at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis- again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honorable one.” – Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary, 2002