Curzon’s warning

Print edition : December 08, 2017

Lord Curzon. Photo: The Hindu Archives

“…I find a fundamental disagreement among the authorities quoted there as to the scope and nature of their aim. A ‘national home for the Jewish race or people’ would seem, if the words are to bear their ordinary meaning, to imply a place where the Jews can be reassembled as a nation, and where they will enjoy the privileges of an independent national existence. Such is clearly the conception of those who, like Sir Alfred Mond, speak of the creation in Palestine of ‘an autonomous Jewish state’, words which appear to contemplate a state i.e., a political entity, composed of Jews, governed by Jews, and administered mainly in the interests of Jews….

“The same conception appears to underlie several other of the phrases employed in these papers, e.g., when we are told that Palestine is to become ‘a home for the Jewish nation’, a ‘national home for the Jewish race’, ‘a Jewish Palestine’, and when we read of ‘the resettlement of Palestine as a national centre’, and ‘the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people’. All these phrases are variants of the same idea, viz., the recreation of Palestine as it was before the days of the dispersion….

“Now what is the capacity as regards population of Palestine within any reasonable period of time? Under the Turks there is no such place or country as Palestine, because it is divided up between the sanjak of Jerusalem and the vilayets of Syria and Beirut. But let us assume that in speaking of Palestine in the present context we mean the old scriptural Palestine, extending from Dan to Beersheba, i.e., from Banias to Bir Saba’.… an area of less than 10,000 square miles…. What is to become of the people of this country, assuming the Turk to be expelled, and the inhabitants not to have been exterminated by the War? There are over half a million of these, Syrian Arabs—a mixed community with Arab, Hebrew, Canaanite, Greek, Egyptian, and possibly Crusaders’ blood. They and their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years. They own the soil, which belongs either to individual landowners or to village communities. They profess the Mohammadan faith. They will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants, or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water to the latter.

“Further, there are other settlers who will have to be reckoned with. There are 100,000 Christians, who will not wish to be disturbed; east of the Jordan are large colonies of Circassian Mohammadans firmly established; there are also settlements of Druses and Moslems from Algeria, Bulgaria and Egypt.”

This was first published by Lloyd George in 1939 in his Memoirs of the Peace Conference.

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