The shape which “the future world war” would take was then determined. Mr. Balfour stood guard over the new century and yielded the pass. A different man, in his place, might have saved it; or another might have done the same, for by 1906 the hidden mechanism for exerting “irresistible pressure on the international affairs of the present” (Leon Pinsker, 1882) had evidently been perfected. Rabbi Elmer Berger says of that time, “that group of Jews which committed itself to Zionism … entered a peripatetic kind of diplomacy which took it into many chancelleries and parliaments, exploring the labyrinthine and devious ways of international politics in a part of the world where political intrigue and secret deals were a byword. Jews began to play the game of ‘practical politics.'” The era of the malleable “administrators” and compliant “premier-dictators,” all furthering the great plan, was beginning. Therefore any other politician, put in Mr. Balfour's place at that time, might have acted similarly. However, his name attaches to the initial misdeed.
His actions are almost unaccountable in a man of such birth, training and type. Research cannot discover evidence of any other motive than an infatuation, of the “liberal” sort, for an enterprise which he did not even examine in the light of duty and wisdom. “Hard-boiled” considerations of “practical politics” (that is, a cold calculation that money or votes might be gained by supporting Zionism) can hardly be suspected in him. He and his colleagues belonged to the oldest families of
Why, then, did instinct, tradition and wisdom suddenly desert them in this one question, at the moment when their Conservative Party, in its old form, for the last time governed England, and their families still guided the country's fortunes from great houses in Piccadilly and Mayfair and from country abbeys? Were they alarmed by the menace that “the mob” would be incited against them if they did not comply? They realized that birth and privilege alone would not continue to qualify for the function of governing. The world had changed much in the century before, and they knew that the process would go on. In the British tradition they worked to ensure continuity, unbroken by violence and eased by conciliation. They were too wise to resist change; they aimed at guiding change. Perhaps they were too eager on that account to shake hands with Progress, when it knocked, without examining the emissaries' credentials.
Mr. Balfour, their leader, was a tall, aloof and scholarly bachelor, impassive and pessimistic; he was of chilly mien but his intimates contend that his heart was warm. His middle-aged love affair with Zionism might be a symptom of unwilling celibacy. In youth he delayed asking his ladylove until she became affianced to another; before they could marry her lover died; and as Mr. Balfour was about to make good his earlier tardiness she died. He then resolved to remain unmarried.
Women may not be good judges of a distinguished bachelor who wears a broken heart on his sleeve, but many of the contemporary comments about him come from women, and I quote the opinions of two of the most beautiful women of that day. Consuelo Vanderbilt (an American, later the Duchess of Marlborough) wrote, ‘The opinions he expressed and the doctrines he held seemed to be the products of pure logic … he was gifted with a breadth of comprehension I have never seen equalled”; and Lady Cynthia Asquith said, “As for his being devoid of moral indignation, I often saw him white with anger; any personal injustice enraged him.”
The italicised words could not more completely misportray Mr. Balfour, if the result of his actions is any test. The one thought-process which cannot have guided him, in pledging his country to Zionism, was logic, for no logical good could come of this for any of the parties concerned, his own country, the native inhabitants of Palestine, or (in my opinion) the mass of Jews, who had no intention of going there. As for injustice (unless Lady Cynthia intended to distinguish between “personal” and mass injustice), the million innocent beings who today have been driven into the Arabian wilderness (in the manner of the Levitical “scapegoat”) offer the obvious answer.
Anyway, there he was, Prime Minister of England, having succeeded “dear Uncle Robert” (Lord Salisbury, of the great house of Cecil) in 1902. Clearly he cannot at that instant have conceived, from nowhere, the notion of giving
Dr. Herzl, despairing of the Czar, the Kaiser and the Sultan (the three potentates had been amiable but prudent and non-committal; they knew, what Mr. Balfour never learned, that Zionism was dynamite[§]) had declared: “England, great England, free England, England commanding the seas will understand our aims” (the reader will perceive for what purpose, in this view, England had become great, free, and commander of the seas). When the
A young Englishman, with some modest petition, would have great trouble even today in penetrating the janitorial and secretarial defences of a Cabinet minister's private room. Young Dr. Weizmann from
Lord Percy was another scion of a great ruling family with an ancient tradition of public service and wise administration. According to Dr. Weizmann, he “expressed boundless astonishment that the Jews should ever so much as have considered the
Presumably Dr. Weizmann did not inform Lord Percy of the unanimous longing of the Jews in
Possibly, in the fifty years that have elapsed, British ministers have learned that official notepaper should be kept where only those authorized may use it. On leaving Lord Percy's room Dr. Weizmann took some Foreign Office notepaper and on it wrote a report of the conversation, which he sent to
All else followed as if arranged by Greek gods: the triumph of the Zionists from
Dr. Weizmann chose
The Greek drama continued. Mr. Balfour's prime-ministership ended in a fiasco for his party when in the 1906 election eight out of nine
To return to Mr. Balfour: his private thoughts were much with Zionism. At no time, as far as the annals disclose, did he give thought to the native inhabitants of
Thus, while shouts of “Chinese slavery” resounded outside his windows, Mr. Balfour, closeted with a Zionist emissary from
Such was Mr. Balfour's frame of mind when he received Dr. Weizmann in a room of the old Queen's Hotel in dank and foggy
But calculations of national interest, moral principle and statesmanship, if the above quotations are the test, had deserted Mr. Balfour's mind.
He was in the grip of a “whetted” interest and an unsatisfied “curiosity”; it sounds like a young girl's romantic feeling about love. He had not been elected to decide what “debt” Christianity owed to Judaism, or if he decided that one was owing, to effect its repayment, from a third party's funds, to some canvasser professing title to collect. If there were any identifiable debt and any rational cause to link his country with it, and he could convince the country of this, he might have had a case. Instead, he decided privately that there was a debt, and that he was entitled to choose between claimants in favour of a caller from
Dr. Weizmann, forty years later, recorded that the Mr. Balfour whom he met “had only the most naive and rudimentary notion of the movement”; he did not even know Dr. Herzl's name, the nearest he could get to it being “Dr. Herz.” Mr. Balfour was already carried away by his enthusiasm for the unknown cause. He posed formal objections, but apparently only for the pleasure of hearing them overborne, as might a girl object to the elopement she secretly desires. He was much impressed (as Dr. Weizmann says) when his visitor said, “Mr. Balfour, supposing I were to offer you
Mr. Balfour apparently felt this to be a conclusive reason why the Ashkenazic Jews from
Mr. Balfour never again questioned the claim of the Zionists from
As that war approached, the number of leading public men who privily espoused Zionism grew apace. They made themselves in fact co-conspirators, for they did not inform the public masses of any intention about
The next meeting between Dr. Weizmann and Mr. Balfour was on December 14, 1914.[**] Then the First World War had just begun. The standing British army had been almost wiped out in
Mr. Balfour was soon to be restored to office. His thoughts, when he met Dr. Weizmann again, were apparently far from the great battle in
People who lived at that time may recall the moment and see how far from anything which they supposed to be at stake were these thoughts of Mr. Balfour. In the person of Mr. Balfour the Prophet Monk reappeared, but this time armed with power to shape the destiny of nations. Obviously “irresistible pressure” behind the scenes had gained great power and was already most effective in 1914.
By that time the American people were equally enmeshed in this web of “labyrinthine intrigue,” hidden from the general view, though they did not suspect it. They feared “foreign entanglements”; they wished to keep out of the war and had a president who promised he would keep them out of it. In fact, they were virtually in it, for “irresistible pressure” by that time was working as effectively in
[§] For that matter, the successors of the Czars were of just the same opinion. Lenin in 1903 wrote, “This Zionist idea is entirely false and reactionary in its essence. The idea of a separate Jewish nation, which is utterly untenable scientifically, is reactionary in its political implications… The Jewish question is: assimilation or separateness? And the idea of a Jewish people is manifestly reactionary.” And in 1913 Stalin reaffirmed this dictum. The destiny of the Jews, he said, was assimilation (in a Communist world, of course, in this opinion).
[**] An instance of the difficulty of eliciting facts in this matter: Mrs. Dugdale quoted Dr. Weizmann as saying, “did not see him again until 1916,” but contradicts this statement by another of her own, “On December 14, 1914, Dr. Weizmann had an appointment to see Balfour.” This implicit mention of a second meeting on that date appears to be confirmed by Dr. Weizmann's own statement, that after seeing Mr. Lloyd George on December 3, 1914, he “followed up at once Lloyd George's suggestion about seeing Mr. Balfour.”