By Jane Harries, Cymdeithas y Cymod peace activist, human rights observer and Wales for Peace Learning Coordinator.
The Marble Hall of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff was packed to overflowing on the evening of 18th October 2017, the air thick with expectation. The Cardiff Branch of the United Nations Association (UNA) had brought together two eminent speakers to talk about the historical context and present consequences of the Balfour Declaration – a document whose centenary is marked today, 2nd November. It was clear we were in for an interesting evening.
So what was the Balfour Declaration, and why should we remember it today? Does it have any significance for us in Wales?
The Balfour Declaration is in fact in the form of a letter written by Arthur James Balfour, Foreign Secretary in David Lloyd George’s wartime coalition government, to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Britain. The key words are as follows:
‘His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’
The first speaker, Avi Shlaim – Jewish historian, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and married to the grand-daughter of Lloyd George – started off the evening with a historical analysis. He defined the Declaration as a typical colonialist act. The British had no moral or legal right to give a ‘national home’ to Jewish people in Palestine, having consulted neither with the Arab leaders, nor the Jews nor the British population. Nor was Palestine theirs to give.
Behind the scenes there were political motives. David Lloyd George wanted Palestine for the British in order to gain influence over the French and because of access to the Suez Canal. He also wanted to dismember the Ottoman Empire and was willing to engage in double dealing to do so. Overtures were made both to Arab leaders and also to the Zionists, whom Lloyd George regarded as powerful and influential.
Jews had lived scattered across the globe before the First World war but at the end of the 19th century a nationalist Jewish campaign grew up in the form of Zionism, whose aim was to establish a national home for the Jews. Zionism particularly appealed to Lloyd George, steeped as he was in the Biblical passages and hymns of his chapel upbringing. This deep emotional connection may have been one reason why he became influenced by Dr Chaim Weizmann, Zionist Leader in the UK and later first President of Israel. And so Lloyd George’s government bowed to Zionist pressure and issued the Declaration, ignoring other Anglo-Jewish voices at the time, including Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in the cabinet.
The second part of the Declaration is often forgotten – that is that the civil and religious rights of ‘existing non-Jewish communities’ in Palestine (over 90% of the population at the time) should be respected. The British Mandate in Palestine, issued by the League of Nations in 1923, included a responsibility to implement the Balfour Declaration. The Mandate was, however, essentially pro-Zionist and led inevitably to the series of events we are familiar with today: the Arab revolt of 1936 – 39, the rise of Zionist terrorist activity against the British and Palestinians, British withdrawal from the region, and the foundation of the State of Israel mirrored by the Palestinian Nakba (= catastrophe, mass migration) in 1948. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is one of the most entrenched in the world and continues to blight lives today. This is particularly true for the Palestinians, who have seen their homeland shrink and their human rights whittled away under a now 50-year military occupation. Even the area which the British government recognises as a future state for the Palestinian people is now occupied by 700,000 Israeli settlers.
The second speaker, Professor Kamel Hawwash of Birmingham University, Palestinian commentator on the Middle East, explained the consequences of Balfour today. He outlined the effects of the Israeli Occupation for those living on the West Bank, including loss of land, freedom of movement and livelihood, difficult access to education and health care, and subjugation to continuous harassment and violence. In the Gaza Strip the population essentially lives in an open prison, deprived of many resources we take for granted, including clean water and proper sewage systems. He then turned his talk to address an unusual question. The state of Israel is more or less exactly the same size as Wales. What would be the situation today if the Balfour Declaration had promised a homeland for the Jewish people in Wales, not in Palestine? Using parallel maps, he brought this supposition to life, with swathes of Welsh land having been taken up into the State of Israel and Cardiff a divided city. This helped us to see the Declaration from a different perspective.
As the evening wore on, there was strong feeling from one young member of the audience that the speakers were one-sided; she pleaded to hear the other side. A student of Atlantic College, it appeared that she had spent a lot of time listening to the arguments of Palestinian and Israeli students living in her house. So what can we say about the Balfour Declaration that is more balanced and even positive?
The Balfour Declaration was of its time – as Avi Shlaim said essentially a colonialist document – so perhaps it should be judged as such. It feels obvious from the wording of the document that the author was trying to balance what was felt to be a justified case for the Jewish people to have a homeland with the rights of the indigenous population. The problem is that this double-dealing didn’t work out in practice, with both sides seeing the British as compromising their cause. And are we really justified in thinking that such a declaration or deal couldn’t be made today – for oil, or influence, or post-Brexit trade deals?
It is true that Jews have been persecuted over centuries, including in pogroms in the late 19th and early 20th century. In a humanitarian global society, we surely would applaud the attempt to offer a safe haven for the persecuted, and the Balfour Declaration can be seen as such. What wasn’t foreseen, however, was that those persecuted may turn persecutors in their turn and deprive the indigenous population of their rights. What would the authors of the Declaration today say to the descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians forced to flee their homes in 1948 – and some again in 1967 – many still living in refugee camps across the Middle East?
Theresa May has talked about her ‘pride’ in the Balfour Declaration and in the creation of the State of Israel, a key ally for Britain in the Middle East. Whilst rejoicing that persecuted Jews, including Holocaust survivors, found a homeland in Palestine, what do we feel about the plight of the dispossessed? Theresa May’s current government supports a 2-state solution in principle. What does the perpetuation of a military occupation do to the soul and psyche of the Occupier? Surely a conflict that is allowed to go on for so long cannot bring good for either side.
The Balfour Declaration is not a document that people know much about in the UK. In Palestine it is part of everyone’s awareness – generally recognised as the starting point from which everything began to unravel, leading to a continuous process of dispossession which continues today. To illustrate this point let me take you back to an August evening in East Jerusalem in 2012. At the time I was serving as a human rights observer on the West Bank and that evening we were called to an incident in Silwan. When we arrived we realised that the cause of the problem was seemingly small: an Israeli settler had parked his car in the middle of the road, preventing people from moving up or down. It was however Ramadan, and just before the breaking of the fast, and tempers get frayed. As we started talking to local residents and the Israeli armed police who had inevitably arrived, the expected question came: “Where are you from?” “Britain”, we said. “Ah, Balfour!” the local resident retorted – and went off into a tirade. The good thing was that once this had blown over he started joking with us, and the tension was released. The settler moved the car, and the incident passed off without any repercussions. This was not a lone incident, however. I have lost count how many times I have had to apologise for Balfour on the West Bank.
Bearing everything in mind how do we, the present generation, view the Balfour Declaration? On the positive side, we can see it as an attempt to be balanced and to provide safety and security for persecuted Jews. It certainly was instrumental in the events leading to the creation of the modern State of Israel. It can also be seen as an essentially political deal – an attempt to favour those who were believed to have influence whilst paying lip-service to the Arab leaders. It is hard to avoid the reality however, that the Declaration set off a string of events in the region which still have repercussions today, resulting in one of the world’s most intransigent conflicts and spelling death, dispossession and poverty for thousands.
The Balfour Declaration – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration
The Balfour Declaration – New Statesman, a more critical view: https://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/08/arab-palestine-jewish-rights
The Balfour Project – Lloyd George – critical view of Lloyd George’s part in the Declaration: http://www.balfourproject.org/lloyd-george/
Avi Schlaim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avi_Shlaim
What is Wales had been offered as a Jewish Homeland – Middle East eye> http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/what-if-wales-had-been-offered-jews-homeland-palestine-zionist-israel-526573400
Article on Theresa May’s stance – Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/balfour-declaration-israel-palestine-theresa-may-government-centenary-arabs-jewish-settlements-a7607491.html
Chaim Weizmann: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Weizmann
Palestine – Israel: Effects of Occupation – an educational pack (from the US): http://www.palestineinformation.org/dig_deep
Jane Harries’ blog from Palestine: https://janeharries.wordpress.com
Maggie Smales, volunteer with Wales for Peace, explores different perspectives on Temple of Peace founder David Davies.
I am currently helping to sort out the archives belonging to the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA). In a box with materials about the Temple of Peace and Health, I found the transcript of a BBC radio programme which provides an unusually intimate portrait of Lord Davies: the Liberal statesman, philanthropist and the force behind the Temple.
The BBC’s Home Service in Wales commemorated the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff in 1963 with an hour-long radio documentary on the life and work of David Davies, “A man and his monument”. John Griffiths– who compiled and narrated the programme- used a mixture of interviews and recordings with people who had known Davies well, from his associate Sir Wynn Wheldon to his chauffeur. The documentary built a picture of the man and the two causes to which he devoted his life: social health and international peace.
David Davies was born into a wealthy family and given the same name as his grandfather, David Davies of Llandinam. The Welsh industrialist and Liberal politician had first founded the Ocean Coal Company in the Rhondda, before building Barry Docks and the connecting railways to export his coal. Like his grandfather, David Davies was a Calvinistic Methodist by upbringing, a teetotaller and firm about his Sunday observance.
Davies inherited his grandfather’s industrial wealth and landed estate when he was just eighteen and had the confidence which great wealth brings. He was essentially a very wealthy country gentleman, devoted to field sports. His neighbours remembered him as “a big man in a pink coat”… “hunting his own hounds in all weathers in all hours” and “driving open cars at terrific speed – he had 2 Talbot Darracqs…”. According to Sir Wynn Wheldon “he was almost unsurpassed in his ability to go on hour by hour…for more than a day…if it would be a fox, he’d find it and would follow that fox until it was 36 hours had expired and he’d have nothing to eat in the meantime.”
Davies’ private secretary recalled that he was never “really interested in business at all… and left as much work as he possibly could to other people”. His real passion was his various philanthropic causes. Here, as his one of his employees noted “He worked himself hard and he expected everyone else to do the same”; “…he was an inconsiderate employer in that he didn’t spare himself and he certainly didn’t spare other people”. “He had no concept of family life – he worked at home and his time over the weekend would be divided between his study, where he would be closeted with secretaries… and the great outdoors.”
In 1906, at the age of 26, Davies became MP for Montgomeryshire. Apparently, it was touch and go which party he would join, his grandfather having broken with the Gladstonian Liberals over Home Rule for Ireland. But in the end, as Sir Wynn Wheldon put it “the Liberals got hold of him first and they found him for a good many purposes a very valuable Liberal.” In his early days in Parliament Lloyd George apparently dismissed Davies as “the Golden Calf”, just a rich son of a rich father, but he soon began to demonstrate the shallowness of this judgement.
Davies was prominent in the 1910 public meeting in Shrewsbury to decide how Wales could best commemorate the recently deceased monarch. He was a driving force behind the decision to set up the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association (WNMA) for the eradication of tuberculosis, a particular scourge in Wales at the time. He himself gave £150,000 towards the eventual £300,000 raised and his sisters Margaret and Gwendoline also made substantial donations. He continued to be heavily involved with this health campaign after the war. In 1920 he endowed a Chair for the study of tuberculosis in the Medical School at Cardiff University. Following the 1921 Public Health (Tuberculosis) Act, which compelled all local authorities to make some provision for TB, he, “moved heaven and earth”, according to his private secretary, to ensure that the WNMA would cooperate with the national scheme and become, in effect, a joint board for the whole of Wales.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Davies was given the command of the 14th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He is recorded as having driven his men and officers to the limits of their endurance when they were training in Llandudno to make them war ready – perhaps he had an inkling of what was waiting for them in France. Once in the field he also, “made good certain deficiencies of supply out of his own pocket, providing his men with fishing waders (to wear in the trenches) …and his unit with field telephones”. It is recorded that he did not get on well with the Higher Command and was perhaps “too original for them”.
Towards the end of 1916, Davies-who was still a serving MP- was brought back from the front to become Lloyd George’s Parliamentary Private Secretary. He lasted for less than a year in the post as he was far too opinionated for Lloyd George.
Davies’ experience in the trenches made him a passionate advocate for peace-making. In 1917, before the end of the First World War, he founded the League of Free Nations Association with HG Wells and Gilbert Murray. In 1918 this merged with another group, the League of Nations Society, to form the League of Nations Union, with former Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey as President. Davies was later to endow the organisation in Wales with enough money to meet the cost of its administrative staff. In 1919, he also funded the world’s first Chair of International Relations at Aberystwyth University College.
Davies had many other interests. He realised the importance of better housing, especially in the fight against TB, and encouraged T Alwyn Lloyd to develop model housing estates in places such as Machynlleth and Wrexham, and after the First World War, Rhiwbina. He was interested in agriculture, bailing out the debts of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show on more than one occasion, and loaning out prize bulls and stallions to local farmers in his county to improve the quality of livestock locally. He gave away parcels of his own land to form playing fields in Machynlleth and Caersws and encouraged neighbours in mid-Wales to do the same; he helped fund village institutes including the pavilion in Newtown and also sent one of his staff to help set up the first Miners’ Welfare Scheme in the Rhondda.
But the League of Nations Union was his abiding passion. Davies was never a pacifist – his vision of the League of Nations included the concept of an International Court of Equity to intervene in disputes and an International Police Force to carry out its decisions. Here he parted company with much of the interwar peace movement, including the Peace Pledge Union, and what he saw as “negative disarmament”. After resigning as an MP in 1929, he spent much of the 1930s campaigning for an armed League of Nations, including founding an organisation called New Commonwealth in 1932 to promote the idea of an International Police Force and writing several books and political tracts.
In the late 1920s a plan was emerging to build a headquarters for the WNMA in Cathays Park in Cardiff on a site donated by the City Corporation. Davies saw this as another opportunity to promote the cause of peace by including in the proposal offices for the League of Nations Union in Wales and a Temple of Peace “which will be an example for the whole world”. This inevitably involved considerable extra expense, especially as Davies envisaged a grand Hall of Peace built with material from all parts of the world. The WNMA agreed to contribute just £12k (the capitalised value of its £500 annual rent) towards the eventual £85k cost, and David Davies provided much of the remaining funds whilst furnishings in the Temple were the gift of Misses Margaret and Gwendoline Davies. Davies’ factotum Captain Glen Jones noted that while Davies had a proper familial affection for the two “he always brought in his sisters… he always wanted to screw out of them any contributions” for whatever project was occupying him at the time.
The foundation stone for the Temple of Peace was laid by Viscount Halifax in 1937. Ironically, Halifax went on to be Foreign Secretary and one of the architects of the policy of appeasement towards Hitler which David Davies himself resolutely opposed. By the time the Temple was formally opened in November 1938, Hitler had already marched into the Sudetenland, and despite PM Chamberlain’s hope of “peace in our time”, war was in the offing.
Sir Wynn Wheldon believed that Davies’ premature death from lung cancer in June 1944 was caused at least in part by his feelings of impotence in the face of the second great war of his lifetime. “He had to pay the price physically – he didn’t live to be an old man”. Davies had become embittered in the 1930s when he could see that war was imminent and governments and politicians refused to heed his warnings. As Wheldon explained, “if you have one thing burning in you all the time, people tend to avoid you. He didn’t always find the welcome that the splendour of his own ideas and the amount of work, money and time he had given to it, really deserved. He became in a sense tedious”.
Posthumously, of course, Davies’ ideas influenced the writing of the United Nations Charter, especially with regards to sanctions and the transition of national armies to an international police. In his own words: “We shall never get prosperity and security until we get peace: we shall never get peace until we get justice and we shall get none of those things until we establish the rule of law by means of a really effective International Authority equipped with an equity tribunal and an international police force.”
“A man and his monument” was broadcast on 21 November 1963 by the BBC Home Service in Wales.
By Jeffrey Mansfield
“Presented by Russian Youth Delegation to IVS/UNA International Service Workcamp Butetown 1966”
The IVS (International Voluntary Service) began life as the British branch of Service Civil International. The UNA (United Nations Association) in Wales is today UNA-Exchange, based at the Temple of Peace. ‘Workcamps’ are two to four-week, community-based volunteering projects for international volunteers.
The doll had been cracked and repaired at some time. The factory label under the base showed it had been made in 1966 in the city of Semyonov, Russia, a major centre for traditional handicrafts.
As a new volunteer at Wales for Peace my job was to discover the hidd
en history of our ‘matryoshka’: how had she got here, and what was the workcamp referred to in the inscription?
The only other information we had was a photograph from Robert Davies‘ book All Together, showing a group of volunteers at the 1966 workcamp mentioned on the doll. Robert is a distinguished pioneer of international volunteering and founder of VCS Cymru, today the oldest volunteer bureau in the UK.
Searches through the Temple’s own archive and the South Wales Echo of 1966 drew a blank. Our doll’s hidden history was indeed well-hidden! Undaunted, we pressed on and we were able to locate an audio recording of an interview between Robert Davies and the volunteers recruited for the camp.
There were several VCS/UNA/IVS international workcamps in Cardiff during the 1960s. In 1964 a project was based at the former Rainbow Club, a children’s club in Butetown, Cardiff’s docklands. The following year, another camp helped to create a playscheme for children in the Splottlands area of Cardiff. There were four workcamps in Cardiff alone in the summer of 1966.
At the time of the visit by the Russian Youth Delegation in August 1966, a workcamp was in progress at Butetown Community Centre, in co-operation with Family Service, another UNA-IVS project in Butetown. There were 6 volunteers, from Israel, Germany, France and Czechoslovakia, brought over by IVS and UNA-International Service (now UNA-Exchange). Two volunteers were assigned to each of three families, selected by the Family Welfare Association (now Family Action). Each family had at least 6 children and the mothers were alone in caring for them. The purpose of the camp was not to build anything but to help the mothers to cope. This was the workcamp referred to on the doll!
Thanks to Robert’s excellent record-keeping we learnt that the doll was presented to him, representing UNA/VCS/IVS, on 21st August 1966 at Butetown Community Centre, by a group of 30 Russian Youth Leaders on a visit organized by Eifion Hopwood, of what is now WCVA.
There was a strong tradition of volunteering in Soviet Russia. Members of the Komsomol, a youth organization controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, often provided free labour or volunteer work, such as helping collective farmers with the harvest.
It was interesting to note in the VCS Chronicle audio recording that there were volunteers from Czechoslovakia at the 1966 Family Service project. At the time, that country was a member of the Soviet Union.
What makes the Russian visit to Cardiff so significant is that this was a time of great tension in international relations. The Cold War had turned into a hot war in Vietnam, with the Russians supporting the Communist North Vietnam and the UK government lending support to the Americans. Opinion in the UK over Vietnam was deeply divided: Prime Minister Harold Wilson had to face a vote in Parliament in 1966 demanding that he stop supporting the USA.
The symbolic value of our ‘matryoshka’ was now plain to see. Against a backdrop of war, intolerance and tension, the work of building international cooperation and understanding had never ceased. Indeed, two young people from the other side of the Iron Curtain had come to Cardiff to volunteer.
Their work, indeed the work of UNA, had been recognised by a visit from a youth delegation also from the other side of the political divide. Thanks to the efforts of UNA and the other stakeholders, the Temple’s message of peace and goodwill had been heard loud and clear and had contibuted to international understanding at such a troubled time.
That will surely be the lasting legacy of our beautiful ‘matryoshka’.
Find out more on People’s Collection Wales:
You can find our ‘matryoshka’ here: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/602309
And a record of ‘All Together – a personal experience of International Voluntary Workcamps’ by Robert Davies here: https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/601820
By Gwenllian Jones
Following the death of thousands of men in the First World War, families and communities were in despair and in need of new hope. This came in the form of a social revolution for peace.
War destroyed the fundamental role women had adopted in Welsh society. The traditional roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were invaluable to Welsh communities; however without sons, husbands, brothers and fathers, women lost the significance of the relationships they had with one another. Women in the interwar period adopted the role of peace pilgrims in Wales, as Welsh women sought to deflect the possibility of another great war to protect future generations from the destruction that war created.
Welsh women’s contribution to peace has been examined by pioneers of women’s writing in Wales by the likes of Katrina Gass and Sydna Williams. Examining the contribution women made to peace campaigns in Wales will not only offer new discussions on women in Wales but also challenge conventional ideas that women were not politically or socially active. The position and role of women in Wales has often been overlooked, neglected or downplayed. A key contribution, often an overlooked campaign, that represented how women in Wales did indeed offer much of their support for the overall fight for peace was the American peace petition and memorial. This petition and memorial was an attempt to appeal to the women of America to plead the American government to join the League of Nations.
The petition was first discussed at the Welsh school of social service in Llandrindod Wells in August 1922. A national conference in Aberystwyth in May, 1923, proposed that the women of Wales had more to offer in their roles as peace pilgrims in Wales and were given the opportunity to take charge of collecting names, forming a committee, creating the memorial, to take the petition and memorial to America and present to Government officials and the American president Calvin Coolidge.
The Welsh council of the League of Nations was founded in 1922, with financial support from the MP David Davis and led by the Reverend Gwilym Davis. Many men from Wales, derived from non-conformist areas, did not desire to fight in the Great War and because of this certain areas in Wales became known as pacifist regions. These men such as the poet Gwenallt desired to create a Welsh council that fought for peace rather than war, in which case the Welsh council of League of Nations gained mass support within Wales. Within three years of its formation, the League of Nations ‘boasted’ a membership of 31,299 with 571 branches in Wales and Monmouthshire. Following the proposal’s made to the women of Wales, the League of Nations fully supported the women’s claim to create a petition and memorial that would appeal to an international nation and collaborate the campaigns of men and women’s organisations and guilds.
To successfully complete the process, a women’s executive committee was created with twenty members including Mrs Hughes Griffiths as president, Mrs Huw Pritchard as organiser of North Wales and Miss E.Poole as organiser in South Wales. A form was created in both Welsh and English and given to each house and farm in Wales. In total the petition was signed by 390,296 women in Wales and Monmouthshire, representing 60% of the female population in Wales.
A script was created for the memorial and was written by Cicely West. The script highlighted the key reasons why women in Wales desired peace through emphasising the connection already made with America through Henry Richard and Elihu Burritt. Another key emphasis and also significant to highlight were how the women portrayed themselves as women who were not motivated politically. The key reasons why the women of Wales campaigned for peace were their concern for the future of civilisation to live in a warless world, to create humanitarian measures for trafficked women and children and to monitor the trade of opium and any other drugs. The repetition of the women emphasising the already connection between America and Wales and emphasis on a warless world highlights how determined these women were to portray themselves as peace pilgrims protecting the next generation from another Great War.
On the 19th February 1924, a delegation consisting of Mrs Hughes Griffiths, Miss Elined Prys and Miss Mary Ellis left for America on the White Starliner Cedric from Liverpool with the memorial and petition. The women arrived in New York and were greeted by the welcoming committee of the United Association of American Women with Mrs James Lees Laidlaw as chairman. In total the welcoming committee were four hundred to five hundred women from America and represented the voices of twenty thousand American women in total. In New York, Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths gave a speech on the origin, nature and purpose of the memorial and petition. The following day the women were taken to Washington for a second presentation of the memorial and petition in order to meet president Calvin Coolidge, other government officials, the Committee of the World Court, the National League of Women Voters and the National Council for the Prevention of War. The Annual Report of the League of Nations in Wales stated in 1924 that the women, addressed their audience in saying “our constant hope and prayer is that our message may contribute something towards the realisation of the proud heritage of a warless world.”
Many national and local newspapers reported on the campaign, ranging from areas such as Belfast and Aberdeen. The Belfast newspaper reported that the script was “regarded as the finest pieces of manuscript written in modern times”, additionally “the first time in history that the women of one country have presented a memorial to the women of another country”. The reports indicate how significant this form of campaigning from women in Wales meant to the league of Nations and to women’s organisations across Wales and Britain.