Toward the Balfour Declaration
IN ENGLAND, during the last years before the First World War, Chaim Weizmann had patiently and deftly sought Gentile support for the Jewish homeland in Palestine. He was working in fertile ground, for many British Christians already had a hazy sympathy for Jewish aspirations, some because they held generally progressive and tolerant attitudes, some because of a vague conviction that the Bible predicted an eventual Jewish return to Zion, and some, Arnold Toynbee has suggested, because of a sense of guilt stemming from subconscious anti-Semitism.
Weizmann's first important convert was former Prime Minister Balfour, in 1906. But Balfour's political career was then in decline, and Weizmann had to look elsewhere. At a party in the autumn of 1914 he met by chance the influential editor of the Manchester Guardian, C. P. Scott, and quickly turned a general conversation on world problems into a specific discussion of Zionist aims. Scott, wishing to learn more of Weizmann's obsession with Palestine, invited him to meet with him again a few days later, and, after listening to a lengthy explication of Zionism, told Weizmann, "I would like to do something for you. I would like to bring you together with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George." And he added, "You know, you have a Jew in the government, Mr. Herbert Samuel."
"For God's sake, Mr. Scott, let's have nothing to do with this man," Weizmann blurted. Samuel, who had held several Cabinet posts in the government of Liberal Party Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, seemed to Weizmann to be "the type of Jew who by his very nature was opposed to us." In this Weizmann proved mistaken.