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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Zionist attitudes towards Arabs in the wake of the Balfour Declaration

The World Zionist Organization published a book of speeches made by Zionist leaders immediately after the Balfour Declaration, called "Great Britain, Palestine and the Jews." Since the Internet is so filled with (usually bogus) statements of how Zionists were hell-bent on ethnically cleansing Arabs, I thought that it is worthwhile to publish the words of Nahum Sokolow, then secretary general of the World Zionist Congress and as mainstream and important a Zionist leader as any at the time.

We appreciate deeply the important remarks offered by our distinguished friend Sir Mark Sykes on the subject of the relations between the Jews, the Arabs, and the Armenians. My reply to these remarks is: We are Zionists—not only Zionists for ourselves, but also for the Arabs and the Armenians as well. Zionism means faithfulness to one's own old country, to one's own old home. Zionism means consciousness of a nation. Can we Jews be ignorant of the fact that the Arab nation is a noble nation which has been persecuted? Is not the co-operation between the Arabs and ourselves, the Jews, in the Middle Ages for civilisation and for true culture written in our hearts and deep-rooted in our conscience? Our membership of the Semitic race, our title to a place in the civilisation of the world and to influence the world and take our share in the development of civilisation, have always been emphasised. If racial kinship really counts, if great associations exist which must serve as a foundation for the future, these associations exist between us and the Arabs. I believe in the logic of these facts. In the principle of nationality lies the certainty of our justice. There lies also the certainty of our brotherhood with the Arabs and the Armenians. We look most hopefully to the happy days when these three nations will create—in fact they have already created in the consciousness of some of their leaders—an entente cordiale in the countries of the Near East which have been neglected for so long.

We are not going to take away anvbody's property or to prejudice anybody's rights. We are going to find the land which is available and to settle down wherever there is room, and to live in the best relations with our neighbours—to live and to let the others live. Palestine is not yet a populated, civilised, prosperous country. We are going to make it so by investing our means, our energies, and our intelligence. I was glad to hear that some of your speakers had been to Palestine. They have seen how the country looks. You may have read in The Times that one of its correspondents described the hills of Judaea as roadless, barren hills. But they were not always roadless and barren. In old times these hills were covered with terraces. Now the Jews have again gone there and have rebuilt some of these terraces. If there is anything left of civilisation, of modern agriculture, and of industry in the country it is due to the efforts of that handful of Jewish settlers working under the most difficult conditions.

I would like to say also a few words on the religious question. I had the honour to speak on this question to some representatives of the Church of England and to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope. (Applause.) I made to them a statement, which I can repeat to you here. We Zionists hate the word toleration, and Sir Mark Sykes really struck the very point when he condemned the word. We don't like mere toleration by non-Jews, and we don't want them to be tolerated. We know that Palestine is full of sanctuaries and of holy places, holy to the Christian world, holy to Islam, holy to ourselves. Are we blind not to see that there are these places of worship and of veneration? Palestine is the very place where religious conflicts should disappear. There we should meet as brethren, and there we should learn to love each other, not merely to tolerate each other. (Applause.) I declared this to the representatives of the great Churches and I can repeat it here.
Also, in an earlier rally, the crowds heard from two Arabs who felt that the Balfour Declaration would be a precursor to kickstart a similar Arab nationalist movement:

Shahk Ismail Abdul-al-akki then addressed the meeting. He spoke in Arabic, and his speech was translated by Mr. I. Sieff, who mentioned that the speaker was under sentence of death by the Turkish Government for having joined the Arab national movement. Shahk Ismail said he desired to tender deep gratitude to the British nation and the British Government for affording his countrymen and himself help and asylum in their hour of persecution. His country was held in chains by the Turks, who were supplied with German gold, and he looked with confidence to England and France to deliver them from bondage, as he believed in the ultimate good over evil, and was confident in the victory of the Allies. He not only spoke as an Arab, but as a "Moslem" Arab, having studied five years in Theological Schools and being granted a Degree, and it was the duty of every Moslem to participate in the movement for the liberation of their countrymen. The meeting was to celebrate the great act of the British Government in recognising the aspirations of the Jewish people, and he appealed to them not to forget in the days of their happiness that...
An Armenian leader echoed the same sentiments concerning an independent Armenia that could have been heralded by a similar declaration - that never came.