Lord Bertie’s Diary Relates Views on Zionism Before Balfour Declaration

An interesting chapter in Zionist pre-Balfour Declartion negotiations is made public in the “Morning Post” from the Diaries of Lord Bertie, former British Ambassador to France. The extract, which is dated January 23rd, 1915, reports an interview which Lord Bertie had on that day with Baron Edmond de Rothschild and “with a Russian co-religionist of his established in Manchester”, by which Dr. Weizmann is obviously indicated.

“Edmond de Rothschild came this morning”, the extract begins, “and afterwards sent a Russian coreligionist established in Manchester to ‘talk’ about what I think an absurd scheme, though they say that it has the approval of Grey, Lloyd George, Samuel and Crewe: they did not mention Lord Reading. It contemplates the formation of Palestine into an Israelite State, under the protectorate of England, France or Russia, preferably of England: they did not think that Russia or France would raise objections! Fancy the Christian Holy Places in the custody of the Jews, who would have to keep order between the Roman Catholic priests and the Orthodox Popes-who are in the habit of fighting in the churches with each other, and have to be restrained by the Turkish soldiers! The scheme-maker would be ready to leave the custody to an International Board if necessary-or even the custody of the whole of old Jerusalem: they would build a new one near by. France has an eye on Syria, but I do not think it would be advisable to have France on the borders of Egypt, or Russia either, though the brothers Buxton see no harm in France being there. What would the Pope, and Italy, and Catholic France, with her hatred of Jews, say to the scheme? A portion of Uganda was offered to the Zionists by Chamberlain some years ago, but it was not good enough for them.

“Edmond de Rothschild has spent a good deal of money on the establishment of Jews in Palestine: it is his hobby: he does not wish to go thither himself, for he has become French, he says, but there are thousands of his brethren who, for material and sentimental reasons, long to leave the countries where they now are, and go to the Promised Land again. I told both my visitors that we don’t want to have a protectorate in Palestine, and that France would object to Russia, and Russia would object to France, in that the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and their adherents, would resist to their utmost Jerusalem and the Holy Places being under an Israelite State. My Russian visitor says that such a solution must come within the next 100 years, perhaps in 40 years: he hopes that I don’t think him a dreamer! The Jews are the only people capable of reclaiming Palestine, by intensive culture! However, this scheme, like many others, is a counting of chickens before the issue of the war.”

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