British Foreign Secretary Skips Celebration of Balfour Declaration

A celebratory luncheon here Wednesday marking the 70th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration took place without representation from the British government.

Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe declined to attend, and the British Zionist Federation, which organized the function, had not invited anyone else from the Foreign Office.

The luncheon, held at the National Liberal Club, was attended by Lord Arthur Balfour, great-nephew and namesake of the famous Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour. On Nov. 2, 1917, he sent a 118-word letter to Lord Walter Rothschild promising a Jewish national home in Palestine.

Rothschild’s great-nephew, Jacob Rothschild, was chairman of the commemorative gathering in the club’s Lloyd George Room, named for David Lloyd George, who was Britain’s prime minister when the Balfour Declaration was issued.

The event was largely ignored by the media, save for The Guardian. Its predecessor, The Manchester Guardian, played a major role in securing the declaration.

The Manchester Guardian’s editor, C.P. Scott, introduced Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the leading British Zionist, to George. And two of its journalists, Herbert Sidebotham and Harry Sacher, were among the founders of the Manchester-based British Palestine Committee, which beginning in 1961 campaigned for a British pledge to the Zionists and the incorporation of Palestine into the British Empire once it was captured from the Turks.

On Monday, the Guardian reprinted the leading article from its predecessor’s Nov. 9, 1917 edition, welcoming Britain’s decision in favor of a Jewish national home in Palestine. However, the Guardian seemed embarrassed by those activities.

The Guardian has often been critical of Israel and sympathetic to the Arab cause during the past 30 years, and it marked the anniversary with an article blaming the failure of Britain and the Jews to honor the rights of the Palestinian Arabs as pledged in the Balfour Declaration.

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