Arthur James Balfour
Arthur James BalfouriStock

The UK’s Guardiannewspaper provoked anger and disbelief from Jewish groups and the Israeli government after it called its 1917 editorial support for the Balfour Declaration one of the newspaper’s “worst errors in judgement over 200 years.”

The statement was made in a feature story on the newspaper’s 200th birthday, titled "What we got wrong: The Guardian's worst errors of judgement over 200 years."

The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the eventual creation of the State of Israel, was a public decree by the British government during the last years of WW I that announced support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in historic Palestine, then an Ottoman region.

“A daily newspaper cannot publish for 200 years without getting some things wrong. This one has made its share of mistakes,” the article stated.

It continued, “When Arthur Balfour, then Britain’s foreign secretary, promised 104 years ago to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, his words changed the world. The Guardian of 1917 supported, celebrated and could even be said to have helped facilitate the Balfour declaration.”

The article said that at the time the newspaper’s editor CP Scott was a “supporter of Zionism and this blinded him to Palestinian rights.”

The article went on to say, “In 1917 he wrote a leader on the day the Balfour declaration was announced, in which he dismissed any other claim to the Holy Land, saying: “The existing Arab population of Palestine is small and at a low stage of civilization.”

The Guardian’s early support for Zionism is summed up as, “Whatever else can be said, Israel today is not the country the Guardian foresaw or would have wanted.”

In a statement on Friday, the Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl called the Guardian’s article “breathtakingly ill considered.”

“In its eagerness to disassociate itself in any way from its early support for Zionism, the Guardian chooses not to focus on the simple fact that had such a national homeland existed even a decade earlier than 1948, many millions of Jews — our close relatives — murdered in the Holocaust might still be alive,” she stated.

She accused the Guardian of seeming “to do everything it can to undermine the legitimacy of the world’s only Jewish state.”

The article also noted the Guardian’s support for the Confederacy during the American Civil War and its slandering of Abraham Lincoln as a “fraud” and someone who was responsible for “an evil day for America and the world.”

The ADL tweeted its outrage over the article. “By expressing regret for supporting Zionism, alongside regret supporting the Confederacy & British imperialism, @guardian traffics in the blatantly #antisemitic view that, of all people, only Jews lack the right to self-determination in their homeland,” the ADL wrote.

Israeli UK embassy spokesperson Ohad Zemet wrote on Twitter, “So we are not up to the @guardian’s standard. More interesting is what CP Scott would have thought about The Guardian’s shameful coverage of Israel today.”

The Guardian also included with the article a photo of its original editorial where it expressed support for the Balfour Declaration, in which it wrote, “We speak of Palestine as a country, but it is not a country; it is at present little more than a small district of the vast Ottoman tyranny. But it will be a country; it will be the country of the Jews.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)