Balfour in the Dock (Skyscraper Publications) is published in the year when many supporters of Israel celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the British government letter that led to the transformation of Arab Palestine into a Jewish state. Colin Andersen presents a very different picture of Balfour and his Declaration, as seen through the eyes of J.M.N. Jeffries (1880-1960), a British journalist who published a classic account of the truth behind Britain’s betrayal of the Palestinian people, a truth that has been largely concealed in spite of Jeffries’ best efforts. The book, in which he told the shameful story, Palestine: The Reality (1939), has been unavailable for nearly 80 years, and Andersen has produced a biography of Jeffries, along with an account of his writings, including extracts from Palestine: The Reality and his other works, which convey a stark message of deceit and injustice by the British government, and record Jeffries’ frustration at trying to make the story of Palestine’s betrayal more widely known.
In 2017, in response to a campaign seeking an apology for the Balfour Declaration, the British government responded: “The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which His Majesty’s Government does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel... The Declaration was written... in the midst of the First World War and in the twilight of the Ottoman Empire. In that context, establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in the land to which they had such strong historical and religious ties was the right and moral thing to do, particularly against the background of centuries of persecution.”
In fact, the Declaration was neither right nor moral. In the words of the Briton who arguably did the most to expose it and reverse the course of British policy in the postwar period, J.M.N. Jeffries, it was “the most discreditable document to which a British Government has set its hand within memory.”
Balfour in the Dock tells the story of this almost forgotten journalist, scholar and activist. It is equally the story of his almost forgotten book, Palestine: The Reality, at once a classic, scholarly study of the deep roots of the Palestine problem and a searing indictment of the British wartime politicians, principally Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and, in his capacity as postwar Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill, who were collectively responsible for betraying their wartime Arab allies, and, in Palestine, creating the mother-of-all international running sores.
Should Britain’s colonial crimes against Arab Palestine ever appear before the fabled Court of History, one need look no further for a brief than Jeffries’ forensic masterwork, Palestine: The Reality.
Colin Andersen studied Arabic at Sydney University’s Department of Semitic Studies from 1977-79. His discovery of J.M.N. Jeffries’ all but forgotten book, Palestine:The Reality, sparked an all-consuming quest for information about the man and his book, and reveals new information about a witty and passionate advocate for justice in Palestine.