MAY 17, 2012 6:07PM

Why Some Germans Felt Betrayed by the Balfour Declaration

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Before one weeps too much over the sense of betrayal of some Germans to the announcement of the creation of a "Jewish Homeland" by British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour in late 1917, not a state note, although it was almost bound to become one, it is worth remembering who the most disapointed people were: the future backers of Adolph Hitler, who were at the core hardened militarists.

The people who felt most bitter about the Balfour Declaration were German militarists who correctly thought they almost won WWI, not democrats in the sense of people who believed in majority rule. That class of Germans Woodrow Wilson thought intrinsically dangerous, which is why he always tilted towards Britain and France n WWI if with formal neutrality, because they were both democracies, and ultimately which was no small reason for entering the war on the side of the Allies.

For all the people here on OS who want to protest the existence of NATO, if you are Jewish, you would seem to lack a certain common sense for doing so, as to not see that locking Germany into an alliance of democracies, plus Spain and Italy, is a good thing in an imperfect world.

Maybe the militarists in a general sense are right, we have them, Russia has them, the Chinese have them, the Israelis have them, that the survival imperative in the end dominates State actions.

Just be wary that when one accepts that survivalist premise at the core of militarism, modern German scholar Schweller has shown that it means you share much in common with fascists, not really a surprise when you think about the subordination of the individual to the State that is part and parcel of the militarist outlook: zero sim.

As to bitterness in some reactionary German quarters over the Balfour Declaration in 1917 creating the foundation of Israel, if you want history without illusions as to who Hitler really was, ask yourself this: How likely is it that an illegal Austrian immigrant would take over Germany, in many ways the most advanced nation in Europe in the late twenties, on the basis of charisma alone, if there were not circles of very, very powerful people who wanted that?

The answer of course is; it's not only unlikely, but impossible.

There was a tragedy in all of this worth remembering, namely, that over 15,000 Jews gave their lives for the Kaiser in WWI, their graves marked as usual with a Star of David.

Basically as to the German militarists bitterness, the British in the Balfour Declaration in 1917 that set in motion the creation of Israel sought to curry favor with Zionists, hoping that would assist in continued financing of the war; see A Peace to End All Peace by Fromkin for details, which involved a lot of British misconceptions that are amusing, if also had tragic results.

As to the tragic results of the Balfour Declaration, unfortunately for Eastern European Jews, who were basically trapped by poverty in Poland and authoritarian Tsars and Commissars in Russia, perceptions have a way of becoming reality, in this case in the sense that Germans in certain militarists quarters after Balfour percieved the Jews as an enemy allied to their enemy Britain.

On the theory of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," since the Arabs were the Jew's enemy, even though they are both in fact Semites versus Indo-European linguistic and somewhat ethnic descent, it was then natural for some Germans of a certain cast of mind to seek to pit the Jews against the Arabs in the Middle East by forcing them to go there.

This explains the use of anti-Semitism in fostering a populist militarist ideology in Germany like Nazism, if there was a substrate of anti-Semitism in Germany proper that wasn't trivial, if certainly before Hitler not as homicidal as in Russia, or even nearly as virulent as in Hitler's native Austria.

If you wanted to find the biggest anti-Semites in the world, prior to the Nazis, and since then, you went to Austria and especially Russia.

That was the function though of anti-Semitism in Nazism fundamentally, beyond its racist character and irrational hatreds, to make the Jews leave Europe and go to the Middle East, where their presence would poison British imperial relations with the Arabs, thereby undermining the British Empire, which is in fact what happened, more or less.

Of course, had the Germans been willing to accept British primacy in the internatioonal system in the first place in 1914, and hadn't insisted on demonstrating their conventional military superiority, then none of that would have come to pass in the first place, for those who like to conduct historical what if arguments, and something for the Chinese to consider too now.

This is just as those Arabs who wish to argue about 1967, 0r 1947 U.N. Partition, 0r 1939 White Plan, or even the Balfour Declaration itself are crying over spilt milk in effect.

On the other hand, perhaps it is of some comfort to modern Israelis if they realize that people didn't just hate them for irrational reasons, but rather have manipulated the possiblities of some latent hatred, but even more created such hatred for reasons of State that have a long pedigree historically speaking, and it is a fact that fear of extermination derivative of the Holocaust is not a small driver of current Israeli foreign policy, as to why care at all about the past.

As to the present, it seems fairly obvious that the Iranian government uses fear of a Zionist enemy in order to unify the people around a common enemy, maintaining the sense of national unity especially among the survivors of the war with Iraq, if of course that's a really dangerous game to play with a people and State of Israel that have a deep and totally understandable fear of where such manipulations of latent ethnic prejudice can lead.

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The Germans should consider themselves lucky that the state of Israel wasn't carved out of their precious Fatherland. The allies had the power to do this after the war, and the Germans deserved it. I don't know how the Israelis would have fared in the midst of a possibly hostile Europe, but it might have been better than what we have now in the Middle East. The Arabs keep making the point that they were not to blame for the Holocaust, but that they got the shaft. Of course, the matter was complicated by the fact that the Zionists, led by Weizmann, considered the Holy Land to be their rightful homeland, and preferred it to any other place.
I don't want to argue about whether NATO should exist, but I do want to argue in general (not how) that NATO should not be doing things than can be construed as military action against Russia, particularly when it has to do with missile shields.

Arthur,
The Arabs in general weren't to blame for the Holocaust, though there were a few minor government practicing antisemitism at the time. However, the Holocaust wasn't completely to blame for Israel; it was just the major catalyst and the major reason founding the State happened so soon after WWII. The Balfour Declaration certainly predates the Holocaust.

The Arab states are to blame for the amount of Middle-East-based immigration into Israel. Jews left all over the Arab world (and Iran) after Israel declared independence to go back to Israel, and most left, not because of faith, but because they were facing local violence and persecution.
That was another tragic consequence of the creation of the State of Israel, as to especially the destruction of the Jewish community in Iraq, 500,000 Jews, most of whom were descended from Jews of the Babylonian captivity who didn't think they should come back.
It's too late now, and I didn't mean to imply the State of Israel is not legitimate, because it is, and earned its existence the hard way.
It also had a price of it's creation that many warned about long before. After Hitler, what could be done?
Moreover, per Arthur's point, the Germans in fact did risk such a "pastoralization" strategy by the Allies after WWII. Saudi King Fahd said the same thing, "Why not make Germany give up land for that State?"
That wasn't feasible. And, the Arabs need to let go of anger over the creation of Israel, and look in the mirror too about how they didn't take in refugees. If they had taken in the Palestinians, recognized the 1967 borders, which now they claim as so sacrosanct, but didn't until their threats made Israel so strong that anything more is lunacy, and everyone knows that, then we wouldn't have the problem we had today.
I didn't mean to offend, but point out something. Hitler was originally a creature of broader forces, mainly German militarists who had a conception of them being the most powerful country in the world by right. That collided with British thoughts the same way, and Germany made a choice to go to the limit to challenge that, if maybe the British would have been wise to make more accomodations in Africa with colonies. That's the great what if of Anglo-German antagonism, plus what happenes if Britain stood aside in 1914 and let Gerrmany win: then what?
In any event, once you created Israel, it was such an obvious German strategy,if you wanted to beat the British, to try anything you could to poison relations between Arabs and the British, lifeline to India, in which forcing the Jews to move, if horrible, does make sense, if you accept that kind of monstrous premise of how far you will go to defeat a rival. I wouldn't do that. People need to learn what I think is the real lesson of strategy there, which is if there are no boundaries morally on the pursuit of power, that's what happens.
I think they don't think about Baltimore how having Germany in NATO protects Jews, as after WWII, there might well have been a bad problem between them, and if we don't do NATO, then you have a race for nuclear weapons with those two, even though, actually, Jews and Germans really like each other it seems to me too, more than the Jews liked the Russians for sure. Some have thought that in general attraction to another group can also trigger problems, as its an emotion that conflicts with other views as to tribalism. That has also been observed experimentally wth some of the people who most hate gays, that if shown pornographic material, they respond more.
Nothing offensive. The question of how much Germany did to drive a wedge between Britain and the Arabs is a good one, though it certainly isn't responsible for Germany's overall actions on Jews.

You're completely right about Iraq, you're completely right about not taking Palestinian refugees, particularly when they advised most of them to leave Israel in 1948 so they wouldn't get in the way of the subsequent fighting, and you're right about how 1967 borders seem so reasonable to them after the fact when they had 1967 borders from 1948 until 1967, though I don't know if they would have lasted forever only because of the Wall. The refusal to take refugees is doubly notable because Israel took in more refugees from them than were created by their independence, so the vacancies certainly existed on that basis alone. Part of what all this says is that the Arabs have been more concerned about who was doing anything to the Palestinians than they have been about the welfare of Palestinians per se.

I will now, for the first time (because it just occurred to me), make a really peculiar prediction:

If the Palestinians ever manage to eliminate the threat level to Israel, Jews will do more for Palestinians than other Muslims will.

And it won't be close.
and I have no idea why protesters would be concerned about a NATO presence in the Middle East, unless it's a holdover from Western involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.