After Balfour the war still had to be won
His Majesty’s Government may have viewed with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. In 1917 the British still had to defeat the Ottoman who had ruled for five hundred years.
Pay attention to the gentleman in the 5–in–a–star. He is Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, commander of British and Commonwealth forces in the conquest of Palestine and as it turned out more important to British plans, Damascus and Syria. During the first part of the British Mandate (to create a national home for the Jews) of Palestine, British Imperial Governor.
BTW those letters stand for Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath; Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George and Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Not just Sir but Sir, Sir, Sir. Bet he had no trouble reserving a table.
Commanding generals receive credit for victory but they never do it by themselves. His conquest of Damascus through Palestine would not have been possible without the blood, sweat and tears of other mostly Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) soldiers, vital intelligence from the Jewish NILI† spy network and combat by five battalions of Jewish volunteers, the 38th to 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers.
Although some Arabs, led by Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia contributed to victory, they came from the Hejaz, in what we now call Saudi Arabia. The Arabs of the Ottoman Empire, in the area they now call historic Palestine didn’t raise a finger or a rifle to rid themselves of Turkish sovereignty.
No victory and the Balfour Declaration would have been a dead letter because the Ottoman Empire would mostly have remained in place but what would have happened after British defeat?
The Jews of the Ottoman Empire were terrified that they would share the genocidal fate of the Armenians. The contribution of the Zionists to the Allied cause: intelligence/spying, active troops, money-raising especially in America and President of the Zionist Organization and later first President of Israel Chaim Weizman’s vital development of synthetic acetone for explosives were well-known to the Turks. Fears of massacre and/or expulsion were completely rational. Besides most of the Yishuv (Jewish residents in Ottoman Syria) were not uncomfortable with the status quo.
No allied victory means no division of the empire; no San Remo conference, no Treaty of Sevres, no League of Nations mandates. In short no mandate for modern-day states of Iraq, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and no one would even have heard of the Palestinians!
On the other hand the Balfour declaration was released in the beginning of November 2017. It was a good year for the Allies in the Middle East. The British drove the Ottoman out of Sinai in January; captured Baghdad and most of Mesopotamia in March and broke through Ottoman lines at Gaza on their third attempt in October and November.
War is unpredictable and we know there was plenty of hard fighting to follow. However in football terms (soccer for Americans) the Allies were leading 2:0 at halftime and that’s a comfortable place to be in.
However as we know the Allies won World War I and the Ottoman Turks lost it.
- The Forgotten Truth about the Balfour Declaration, Martin Kramer, Mosaic, 5 June 2017
† NILI is an acronym which stands for the Hebrew phrase “Netzah Yisrael Lo Yeshaker,” which translates as “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie.
Allenby Street sign By Chenspec (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons