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Case-Studies in Scientific Statecraft

Case-Studies in Scientific Statecraft: Chaim Weizmann and the Balfour Declaration – Science, Scientists and Propaganda

Barbara P. Billauer
Institute of World Politics; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Scientific Statecraft, a field that studies the work of scientists (or the use of science) in accomplishing foreign policy objectives, can be best appreciated by case-study method in each of six categories: Diplomacy, Propaganda, Subversion, Economic, Military Display and War. In previous articles I have examined the role of Scientist Benjamin Franklin tin accomplishing Diplomatic objectives and the use of (theoretical) science to achieve Joshua’s wartime goals of demolishing the walls of Jericho.

In this article I examine the work of Chaim Weizmann in bringing about the Balfour Declaration, admitted to be a propagandist tool by Prime Minister Lloyd George – at least at the time of its enactment.

Through Weizmann’s scientific contributions to the British War Effort, (through his fermentation process used to manufacture the much needed explosive component, acetone) I argue that Weizmann achieved a level of respect and gratitude unavailable to his fellow Zionists, which he parlayed into influencing key members of the British Cabinet to support the creation of a Jewish Homeland in what was then Palestine.

I also suggest that in addition to furthering the success of the British war efforts , Weizmann also contributed to the political success of Lloyd George and Lord Balfour. This in turn, resultied in their personal interest in fostering Weizmann’s Zionist goals.

While the connection between the Bristish Shell crisis of 1915 and the fall of the Asquith government is well-recognized, the aftermath has not been as carefully examined. In its wake, a new Ministry of Munitions was created with David Lloyd George at the Helm. Lloyd George’s stellar success in that role made him the likely candidate for Prime Ministership in December of 1916 when the provisional (coalition) government failed. And Lloyd George’s success as Minister of Munitions was in no small measure due to the work of Weizmann.

While Weizmann had previously met and proposed his notion of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine to Lord Balfour in 1904 or 1905, it was only after Weizmann’s discovery of the fermentation process in 1912 and its commercialization in 1915 that Balfour became an ardent supporter of the doctrine contained in the document that bears his name.

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