According to Chaim Weizmann (Evidence to the ‘Peel Commission’, recorded in ‘Trial and Error’. Hamish Hamilton, 1949. page 473; ), concerning the meaning of the ‘Balfour Declaration’, Lord Robert Cecil said, “Arabia for the Arabs, Judea for the Jews, Armenia for the Armenians”.

If Cecil (who was a cousin of Arthur Balfour) actually said this it shows a remarkable failure to understand both the geography and the political nature of the region. It is matched by Weizmann’s own twisting of history in that same evidence. The history lesson he delivered to the members of that commission is the kind of historical reinvention that gives history a bad name. Among other interesting notions is that the events – either of AD 70 or AD 135 – were a ‘destruction of Palestine as a Jewish political entity’. Strangely, in his evidence he hints that Jews remained in Palestine, they did, although in vastly reduced numbers and for some period without access to Jerusalem. He then claims that in every century Jews attempted to come back. Three important things to note here.

There is no evidence anywhere for a concerted political or national or communal plan or programme to ‘return’ to Palestine in any part of Jewry until well into the second millennium. Second, nothing prevented Jews from visiting and remaining in the land until very late into that second millennium. Third, by the time of the first Jewish war a significant proportion of the Jewish population had become followers of ‘The Way’, Christians. As many as one-fifth of the population of Jerusalem (see the early chapters of Acts) were Christian and Jewish, they continued to attend synagogue and temple. These Jewish Christians did not participate in either of the Jewish rebellions, taking Jesus words and escaping to the hills.

To return to Lord Robert Cecil: If he really meant Judea, and if Weizmann wanted a ‘political’ entity then the Judea of the Maccabees was really quite tiny, the immediate area around Jerusalem. Which begs the question, what is meant by ‘Arabia’ and the further question, which Arabs; those of the Nejd, those of the Hejaz, the Syrians, Yemenis, or…?  And, if Armenia is brought into the equation, what of the Assyrians, (the Iraqis), of Turkey and Kurdistan, not to mention Persia (Chaldea/Iran).  Decisions of such import should not be based on such ignorance and hubris.

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