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Attlee Explains Why He Thought the Balfour Declaration a “mistake”

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Earl Attlee, Prime Minister of the late Labor Government, explained today what he meant when in a recent speech in the House of Lords he referred to the creation of a National Jewish Home in Palestine as a “mistake” by Britain. In the same speech he also objected to New York as the site of a summit meeting on the Middle East because of the city’s large Jewish population.

In an open letter published in the “World Jewry,” the former Labor Party head declared: “I should have thought that having regard to the relationship of Britain to the Moslem world and its strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean this was a statement of an obvious fact. Britain has often been accused of being actuated by imperialist ambitions. This was clearly an instance where altruistic motives prevailed.”

Commenting on the other point he made in the House of Lords, Earl Attlee said: “I think it is an advantage if international conferences take place on neutral grounds. I should therefore prefer Geneva as a meeting place for a discussion of Middle East problems to New York where there is a very large representation of people interested in one side of the controversy. The same reasoning would dictate that Istanbul would not be a good choice.”

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