Lord Balfour’s Letter Was 1917’s “Fake News”

by James M. Wall

Thursday, November 2, will be the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

To commemorate that event, the current British Prime Minister Teresa May, will attend a London dinner party at the home of Lord Rothschild, heir to the recipient of the infamous letter from Arthur James Balfour, Britain’s then Foreign Secretary.

She will be joined at the dinner by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister, along with the dinner host, Lord Rothschild, and the current Lord Balfour, a descendant of Arthur James Balfour.

The Balfour Declaration (it was actually a letter) was issued November 2, 1917.

It is that 1917 “declaration”, which this 2017 London dinner party celebrates.  

The letter was sent from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (left) to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader in the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

The pertinent segment exposes its Zionist bias:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”  

This was not a British governmental action. It was a 1917 version of what President Donald Trump enjoys calling “fake news”, a neologism he uses when a statement or action is contrary to reality as he wants it to be.

The president claimed this week that he coined the term, fake news. Not true. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers reported:

Trump rewrote history when . . . in his conversation with [Lou] Dobbs: “I think one of the best names is — you know, I’ve really started this whole ‘fake news’ thing. Now they’ve turned it around and then, now, they’re calling, you know, stories put out by different — by Facebook ‘fake.’”

Borchers refutes that claim. “Trump posted his first-ever tweet containing the phrase ‘fake news’ on Dec. 10, 2016, more than a month after Election Day”. By then, the press had reported extensively on the way social media platforms such as Facebook facilitated the spread of fake news articles.

More than a year before the war ended on November 11, 1918, this version of “fake news” arrived on the scene. It emerged in the form of Lord Balfour’s letter, which “promises” the creation of a Jewish state, and the protection of Arab rights. 

The letter was one-half false, the Arab side, a “fake news” promise from November 22, 1917.  The letter was designed to reassure the Zionist movement, then, as now, a strong influence in British policy-making. 

The promise to the Arab tribes was a lie, a spin that pretended justice for the Arabs. The Sykes-Picot secret agreement signed on May 9, 1916, by two French and British agents, reveals what the Allies intended for the Levant.

Britain had experience in such matters, having ruled the Indian subcontinent since 1858 “when the rule of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (who in 1876 was proclaimed Empress of India)”. (Wikipedia).

That rule lasted until 1947, “when the British provinces of India were partitioned into two sovereign dominion states: the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan”. (Wikipedia).

The Turks had been more passive in their role as empire rulers. They respected, for example, the Arab customs that allowed for the development of tribal structures. 

The Jewish minority in Palestine, 10 per cent of the 1917 population, had strong backers in Britain and the United States, a benefit the Indians of the India subcontinent and the Arabs of the 1917 Levant, did not possess. 

When Lord Arthur James Balfour, former British prime minister and in 1917, the foreign minister, sent his letter to Lord Rothschild, the letter promised that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. 

This reveals an attitude of superiority toward Arabs, a blatant racism that describes the Arabs as “existing non-Jewish communities”, who were promised only civil and religious rights, not political.

That fake lie in the 1917 letter was written to reassure British citizens that their rulers knew “we” are superior to non-whites, but like whites dealing with black slaves in 19th century America, “we” will be fair and kind.

The truth was that Britain officialdom cared little for the Arabs in Palestine. They actually viewed them as inferior and a “problem”. Britain’s goal was to help the Zionists establish a Jewish “homeland” on territory which was home to Arabs. 

Aided by reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust, the Zionists finally got their state in 1948. The promise not to prejudice “the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” was left to the new colonial government of the state of Israel.

These promises about Palestinian “rights” were as fake as a magician’s rabbit. The new state even codified the lie-promise in its Declaration of Independence, adopted in May, 1948. It was a promise that has consistently been broken: 

“The State of Israel will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. 

Tim Llewellyn is a former BBC Middle East Correspondent and author, and now an associate of the UK-based Balfour Project.

He writes in Mondoweiss this week that the League of Nations imposed on Britain a “sacred trust” when it gave Britain “the mandate to rule Palestine after the First World War”.

Llewellyn writes this stinging analysis of the anniversary that united May and Netanyahu for their dinner party:

 The 100th anniversary of Mr. Balfour’s great deception is not, after all, turning out to be the unalloyed celebration the Zionists and their stooges in Westminster and Whitehall had planned.

Rather the reverse: a continuing parade of British self-examination, throughout society, and the intention to put matters right at last for the Palestinian people.

He then points to a series of counter-events in Britain denouncing the May-Netanyahu dinner celebration. The Balfour Declaration is being understood in Britain for what it was from the beginning, a deception designed to create a new state on stolen land.  

Samia Khoury, an indefatigable Palestinian activist and blogger, has lived in the West Bank her entire life. She understands colonizers.

The latest posting on her blog, Reflections from Palestine, exposes the latest ploy of Prime Minister Netanyahu to deny Palestinian freedom.

Khoury (left) begins:

Colonizers are supposed to be experts on the “Divide and Rule” policy.  We have not only  read about it in history books, we have watched it, and lived through it.  So it is not surprising that Israel is now putting conditions for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians after the agreement of reconciliation between Fateh and Hamas has taken place. 

What is surprising is that Israel continues to claim that it has no peace partner, and it cannot resume negotiations with the PA when there is a split between Fateh and Hamas. Now that the Palestinians are in the process of reconciliation, Israel is putting its conditions. It is very clear that Israel is not interested in peace.  It is simply interested in being left in peace [on] . . .Palestinian land.

Fake news in any era, like Netanyahu’s newly-minted “conditions”, has a limited shelf life.

Over time, the contents of the shelf begin to smell. The good news is that more activists and bloggers like Samia Khoury, are asking the world, “Do you smell what is decaying on that shelf? “

In the picture at top, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. at Downing Street in London, Feb. 6, 2017. (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP). Lord Balfour’s picture is from Wikipedia.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to Lord Balfour’s Letter Was 1917’s “Fake News”

  1. Patricia says:

    It is so disgusting, what has happened to the Palestinian people. Comparisons can be made with indeginous Indian Tribes in AMERICA and Hawaiians. We are seeing more and more ZIONIST influence challenging the First Amendment. In the US, UN, EU, etc.

  2. Charlton Price says:

    Thank you, Jim. As for “existing non-Jewish communities” — of course, overwhelmingly, Palestinian Arabs, who at the time were subjects of the Ottoman Empire — which was in its death throes? Thank you for using this anniversary date of the Balfour Declaration to make people aware “lest we forget” or have never known about it, or didn’t know that they didn’t know about it, or don’t care that they didn’t know that they didn’t know.don’t know that they don’t know..

  3. Rolly Kidder says:

    Jim: “Poor” old Balfour. Thought he had pulled a rabbit out of the hat for the British Empire. Same results really with all of the other 1917 partitions… Iraq, Syria, etc. The “deep thinkers” in White Hall didn’t quite have it all figured out. Rolly

  4. wallwritings says:


    Writers like Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy, are “making people aware”.
    Here is the link to his column on Balfour. bit.ly/2z33ScI Pass it on.


  5. Samia Khoury says:

    Thank you Jim. I suppose it might be mission impossible for Theresa May to atone for what Britain has done to the Palestinians, but if she had some decency or integrity, the least she could do is avoid a pompous celebration with flying flags

  6. wallwritings says:

    Samia, Thanks. One of my readers wrote to point out I had omitted the Sykes-Pico agreement, which then led to my revising the posting. In a later posting I will cite a new Guardian piece call on May to recognize Palestine as a state, an act of atonement. This is the link http://bit.ly/2A0uycj

    I continue to admire what you do. Jim

  7. Robert Assaly says:

    Balfour Declaration = Middle East original sin

  8. John Will says:

    The wise part of any action is to sort out the real from the fake, for only then can all parties make any progress toward rapprochement. Thank you for shedding more light on the real in this case.

  9. withacane says:

    Thanks for your reminder about the Balfour fakery.

  10. Mike says:

    MS Teresa May should be ashamed of herself to be photographed with a colonial killer of infants and old people

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