Guardian says backing a Jewish homeland was among its ‘worst errors of judgment’

Comment came in an article to mark paper’s 200th anniversary


The Board of Deputies president, Marie van der Zyl, has described an article in the Guardian listing its support for a Jewish national homeland as among “its worst errors of judgment”, as “breathtakingly ill-considered”.

The newspaper marked its 200th anniversary on May 5 and is running celebratory articles throughout the month.

On Friday morning, its chief leader writer, Randeep Ramesh, wrote a feature entitled “What we got wrong: the Guardian’s worst errors of judgment over 200 years”.

In a survey of editorials in the paper in the last two centuries, Mr Ramesh picked out the support for Zionism by the legendary Guardian editor, CP Scott, a friend of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizman.

He wrote: “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.

“Scott was a supporter of Zionism and this blinded him to Palestinian rights. 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 civilisation.’ Whatever else can be said, Israel today is not the country the Guardian foresaw or would have wanted”.

The editorial by Scott, famous for his aphorism that “Comment is free. Facts are sacred”, is reproduced alongside Mr Ramesh’s assessment.

Ms van der Zyl said: “That the Guardian lists its support for a Jewish national homeland in 1917 among its ‘worst errors of judgment’ in its 200-year history is 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. Alongside a safe and secure Jewish state, the Board of Deputies supports the creation of a Palestinian state, something the Balfour Declaration does not negate. The Guardian would be best advised to advocate for this as well, rather than its current position, which seems to be to do everything it can to undermine the legitimacy of the world’s only Jewish state.”

There was also criticism on social media. One Twitter user wrote: “The lack of historical understanding is huge. It talks of the failure to take into account ‘Palestinian rights’. When the Balfour Declaration was made (and until 1948), it was the Jews who were called ‘Palestinians’. The Balfour Declaration was all about ‘Palestinian rights’”.

Another, quoting the line “Whatever else can be said, Israel today is not the country the Guardian foresaw or would have wanted”, commented: “The sheer privileged colonial arrogance of that statement by a group of lefties who think they have the right to determine what’s right for the Jews”.


Blogger David Collier noted: “The Guardian thinks supporting the Balfour Declaration was a mistake. If the British hadn’t backtracked during the Mandate, 100,000s of more Jews could have been saved. Clearly the Guardian is upset [that] Balfour and Zionism saved any Jews at all”.


The Guardian has been contacted for a response.

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