Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Picture a Day - Winston Churchill's Visit to Jerusalem 1921

The great British leader Winston Churchill visited Palestine in 1921, relatively early in his career while serving as Colonial Secretary.  He was attending a conference in Cairo, and, according to Churchill, he was invited to Jerusalem by his friend the British Commissioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel.

Churchill and Samuels
on Mt Scopus

While in Jerusalem he attended a tree-planting ceremony at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus with Sir Herbert Samuel. (pictured right)

From the left, Churchill,
Lawrence and Abdullah

Perhaps one of his most important meetings -- related to the division and leadership of the Middle East -- was a secret meeting with Emir Abdullah (later King Abdullah of Transjordan) and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).  A photograph from the meeting was preserved in the Library of Congress collection.

He also met with the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leadership of Jerusalem.  In an incredible film clip, Churchill takes leave of the leading rabbis of the time, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic community; Rabbi Joseph Chaim Zonnenfeld, Chief Rabbi of the ultra-Orthodox Eidah Charedis community; and Rabbi Jacob Meir, chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community.

To the left of the door is Emir Abdullah.  Note the faint recognition Rabbi Kook gave him and Abdullah's lengthy gaze at the departing rabbi.  What does it signify?  We will probably never know.

Churchill also met with a former mayor of Jerusalem and Arab leader, Musa Kazim el Husseini.  Husseini was related to the Jew-hating Mufti Haj Amil el-Husseini and father of the notorious Arab militia fighter, Abdul Khadar el-Husseini.  The Husseinis' hatred of Jews was only matched by their hatred for King Abdullah, and  Husseini clan members were involved in Abdullah's assassination on the Temple Mount in 1951.

Musa Kazim el Husseini petitioned Churchill to stop the immigration of Jews into Palestine and claimed that life for the Arabs was better under the Ottomans.  Churchill responded with his famous rhetorical brilliance.
You have asked me in the first place to repudiate the Balfour Declaration and to veto immigration of Jews into Palestine. It is not in my power to do so, nor, if it were in my power, would it be my wish. The British Government have passed their word, by the mouth of Mr. Balfour, that they will view with favour the establishment of a National Home for Jews in Palestine, and that inevitably involves the immigration of Jews into the country. This declaration of Mr. Balfour and of the British Government has been ratified by the Allied Powers who have been victorious in the Great War; and it was a declaration made while the war was still in progress, while victory and defeat hung in the balance. It must therefore be regarded as one of the facts definitely established by the triumphant conclusion of the Great War. It is upon this basis that the mandate has been undertaken by Great Britain, it is upon this basis that the mandate will be discharged. I have no doubt that it is on this basis that the mandate will be accepted by the Council of the League of Nations, which is to meet again shortly.... 
Moreover, it is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews and good for the British Empire. But we also think it will be good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine, and we intend that it shall be good for them, and that they shall not be sufferers or supplanted in the country in which they dwell or denied their share in all that makes for its progress and prosperity. And here I would draw your attention to the second part of the Balfour Declaration, which solemnly and explicitly promises to the inhabitants of Palestine the fullest protection of their civil and political rights. I was sorry to hear in the paper which you have just read that you do not regard that promise as of value....

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