secularavatar: November 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
  On the occasion of the 89th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration

Cyrus and the denizens of hell

It becomes, therefore, specially important to foster and develop any strongly-marked Jewish movement which leads directly away from these fatal [socialist] associations. And it is here that Zionism has such a deep significance for the whole world at the present time.....The struggle which is now beginning between the Zionist and Bolshevik Jews is little less than a struggle for the soul of the Jewish people.
---Winston Churchill, 1920

They own the [Holy] land, just the mere land, and that's all they do own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them.
--- Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad, 1894

The dual purpose declaration

Some time ago I attended a workshop on the Palestine conflict held in a nearby Protestant church. You know the sort of church; a liberal American congregation made up largely of aging worshippers who gamely troop off to construct community centers in Central America or cluster bedraggled and clutching flickering candles in ever-diminishing numbers at anti-war vigils.

For the opening act the organizers trundled out an employee from a nearby institution of higher learning who delivered an Introduction to the History of the Conflict in sepulchral tones. When he had done with his twenty minutes of erudition, the professor smirked round at the audience and opened the floor for questions. An elderly Palestinian woman in the audience stood up with considerable dignity and asked why he had dwelt on the secret Sykes-Picot agreement to divide imperial spoils between Britain and France but altogether omitted any mention of the Balfour Declaration which is universally regarded by Palestinians as the founding document of the crime against them. [1] The answer came apologetically vague but the damage had been done. The timeline as delivered no doubt retained its Balfour-less authority with much of the audience by virtue of the subtle relief provided by the insinuation that at least those cheese-eating Roman Catholic surrender monkeys shared some of the blame.

Alas, the good professor is not alone in regarding the Balfour Declaration as insignificant. A majority of the learned interlocutors of the “problem” tend to spin Balfour’s promise as the product of the exigencies of WWI or else evidence of a pottering British eccentricity. Imagine those silly Brits thinking they could give away land not belonging to them: What a good joke! But by trivializing or censoring Balfour yet another layer of cover to the illegality of Israel is provided, a service long and eagerly rendered gratis by western academicians. It is instructive at this point to note that the proclamation establishing British Mandate rule in Palestine and ratified by the League of Nations in 1922 included every single syllable of the Balfour declaration and nary a one from Sykes-Picot.

The drear winter of 2006 is underway, the trees outside my window are now bare and through the still smoldering ruins of Gaza, Iraq and Lebanon we are staring down the 90th year since Balfour put the west’s larcenous intentions in writing. And although our local representative of the American intelligentsia expunged Balfour from his narrative the Arabs were perfectly aware from the outset that Bloody Balfour -- as he was known to the Irish who had felt the sting of his lash -- was no charming British lord but rather the author of a colonial document of cold and malign intent. During Balfour’s 1925 tour of Egypt, Palestine and Syria demonstrations, strikes and editorial denunciation hounded him every step of the way and after spending only a single day in Damascus in which he dared not to leave his hotel room his lordship was bundled hastily and in secret out of town ahead of a furious citizenry. [2]

The timing of his declaration on 11/2/1917 -- those early heady days of the Russian Revolution -- indicates Balfour certainly had red reduction on his mind. Indeed, Zionists both Christian and Jewish had long flogged their ideology as a foil for a disturbing Jewish affinity for socialism. As Herzl made the rounds in Europe searching for a patron he not only adopted the anti-Semitic line that the Jews were the “problem” but eagerly offered Zionism as the solution as he “explained that we were taking the Jews away from the revolutionary parties”. [3]

Touting their ideology as a revolution substitute the early Zionists engineered an ingenious bait-and-switch operation by veiling the messianic-cum-imperialist ideology behind the veneer of a faux secularist labor movement in order to co-opt and divert Jewish revolutionary energies while simultaneously pandering to the anti-Semites. In Palestine the relentless squeezing out of any residual impulse for worker solidarity was embodied in the ominous Zionist slogan of “the conquest of labor” with its promise of violence and exclusion and which complimented the goal of “redemption” of the land.

Not long after the Balfour declaration was promulgated, that well-known warlord Winston Churchill put it rather more plainly in the Sunday Herald op ed piece quoted above which article was appropriately accompanied by a grainy photo of a morose and bejowled Churchill inspecting those doughty defenders of empire, the 4th Hussars at Aldershot. [4] Although Balfour rushed the declaration into print just as the Russian revolution was triumphing the colonies were never far from his sights. In addition to undercutting socialism Balfour hoped to insert a reliable settler European base in Palestine thereby taking up Herzl on his offer of Jewish readiness to "form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism". [5] Thus it was that Herzl first introduced the wall motif which was to become so integral to Zionism, a motif later expanded ferrously and ferociously by Jabotinsky and ultimately made tangible in the concrete monstrosity erected by Sharon.

At the same time Churchill was professing concern for Jewish souls he was busily extinguishing Muslim ones as he presided over the first ever aerial bombardment of a colonial rebellion in his role as titular head of the newly-minted Ministry of Air and War. The resistance subjected to this first test of airpower’s efficacy was led by the Somali poet-warrior and dervish commander Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdallah Hassan a.k.a. the “Mad Mullah” regarded by the British in those days in much the same manner Americans regard Hassan Nasrallah or Muqtada Sadr today. The Mullah had inflicted a humiliating defeat on the British at Dulmadoba in the eastern Somalia in 1913 in which the British commander was killed. Hassan impudently memorialized the event in a poem entitled “The Death of Richard Corfield”:

O Corfield, you are a traveler who
Will not stay long here below
You will follow the path where there is no rest
You are among the denizens of Hell

After twenty years of resistance however, Hassan’s lightly-armed forces proved no match for airpower even in its nascent form. A lethal combination of British aerial bombardment and smallpox decimated the Somali resistance in 1920. As one of the pilots who flew in imperialism’s maiden bombing runs laconically observed, the airplane was a “convenient weapon to bomb the old villain out of hiding place”. [7] The Somali experiment was so murderously successful that an enthusiastic Churchill advocated the use of airpower to subdue a newly conquered Iraq arguing that using air power against the Iraqi rebellion would allow a cutback British ground troops by more than 80%. Spurred by Churchill’s cost-effectiveness analysis, an RAF air campaign was launched and 97 tons of bombs were dropped killing 9,000 Iraqis. [8] Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose. The airborne spirit of Churchill today animates the vicious American and Zionist air campaigns in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. Although nearly a century apart, in each instance the goal was to remotely impose destruction, misery and discipline upon an obstreperous Islam.

I am Cyrus! I am Cyrus!

Balfour’s two-pronged imperial goal of crushing impetus for social and economic equity from within and bludgeoning indigenous resistance in the colonies succeeded even beyond his Lordship’s wildest dreams. The spectacular and continuous success of the declaration is due, I submit, to the innovation contained within it, one which has immeasurably enhanced its lethality and indeed ensured its longevity: The introduction of Old Testament religion as the justification for the crimes under consideration.

Each year that has passed since that dark November day in 1917 has seen the minor and crack-brained ideology of Zionism -- with only a few million official adherents worldwide --going from strength to strength while other ideologies with millions more followers have withered and died leaving not a wrack behind. The persistence of Zionism in spite of its brutal racist underpinnings has puzzled many. In addition to a near universal tolerance and support for its crimes from a plurality of Western governments Zionism has also enjoyed almost complete immunity from effective assault by the left. The continued silence of western progressives in the face of the Iraq and Lebanon wars – let alone the fifty-year war in Palestine – are I believe directly related to the Old Testament-based religious Zionism that originated centuries ago in Protestant Europe and which Balfour finally set down as official imperial policy.

Anyone who has labored in western progressive and antiwar movements has met the energetic and endemic gatekeeping by western progressives on behalf of Israel’s half century of crime. Following the Balfour template, Zionism’s resilience is directly attributable to its proven abilities in combating secularism and social/racial/economic equity that it has executed with a single-minded dedication to assisting the west in its domination of the Muslim Other. The other less understood but even more powerful component of its staying power derives from Zionism’s entirely Christian origins, a subject on which I have expanded in some detail elsewhere. [9]

Although Zionism’s zealousness in furthering the forces of reaction is unexcelled, the left has been unable to combat it precisely because of the ideology’s Christian origins and the deeply ingrained belief held by many in the west, avowed atheists included, that Palestine is somehow legal property of the Jews and Christians. Martin Buber, that premier Zionist bait-and-switch artist put it quite plainly when he wrote: “Where a command and a faith are present, in certain historical situations conquest need not be robbery.” [10] Zionism’s vigor has been ensured by this very fusion of larceny and religion. As product of a country that produced the world’s original Christian Zionists in the 17th century, Balfour finally succeeded in turning the religious formula into official policy.

Hundreds of years of Old Testament delirium overlays nearly all of western Christianity and its influence in enabling Israel to continue in its death’s head trajectory cannot be underestimated. Mark Twain got it in one when in Tom Sawyer Abroad he had Tom -- exasperated by Huck’s inability to grasp the concept of land theft in the name of religion -- state loftily: “[You can’t] try to reason out a thing that’s pure theology by the laws that protect real estate”! Indeed you cannot as Bill Clinton would agree. The ex-President pulled an all-nighter on Sept. 12, 1993, poring over the retributive and genocidal Book of Joshua in preparation for his speech on the occasion of the “historic” Rabin-Arafat handshake. [11] Like a pair of sanctimonious parsons, both Rabin and Clinton quoted the Bible at Arafat in their respective speeches the next day, putting the Palestinians on notice yet again that not only would they not relinquish Jewish and Christian claims of an ownership stake in Palestinian real estate but that they had in hand the legal paperwork to back it up.

The derangement engendered by using Old Testamentary justification for crime cannot be underestimated. Perhaps the finest display of this sort was provided by none other than Harry Truman who in 1953 was introduced at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York as the “man who helped create the state of Israel”. In as splendid a display of egomania suffused with biblical intoxication you could ever wish to see, an indignant Truman is reported to have shouted, “What do you mean ‘helped create’? I am Cyrus! I am Cyrus!” [12] As a beneficiary of an English public school education steeped in biblical and ancient history no doubt Balfour fantasized himself in much the same role – or perchance in one even more Exalted -- as he penned his declaration that has in keeping with its author’s nickname spilled so much blood for so long.


[1] The text of the Balfour Declaration can be found at

[2] A Balfour curse, al-Ahram Weekly, Oct-Nov, 2000.

[3] See Chapter 1 of Lenni Brenner’s excellent Zionism in the Age of Dictators.

[4] Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 8, 1920, p. 5

[5] Gideon Shimoni, Historiographical issues in conveying Herzl's legacy.

[6] Stanza from The Death of Richard Corfield

[7] S. Samatar, The art of oblique communication in somali cultureM

[8] J. Glancey Our last occupation, The Guardian, 4/19/2003.

[9] See Monotheism and Madness and Home court advantage

[10] Martin Buber, On Zion: The History of an Idea, 1974, p. 146

[11] Michael Prior. The Bible and Colonialism, 1997, p.40

[12] Moshe Davis, With Eyes on Zion, 1977, p. 25
The willful failure of western progressives to understand Israel's role as a colonial, theocratic and apartheid entity contributes in large part to progressive inability to successfully oppose both the war in Iraq and America's push for total global domination.
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The secularavatar is a progressive activist grandmother from the Middle West who spent many years studying and travelling in the Middle East.

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