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How Jewish trade unionists persuaded the Labour Party to embrace Zionism.

By Dr. Ronnie Fraser.

Contrary to popular belief, the Labour Party’s support for Zionism did not originate with the Balfour declaration but with the Party’s own War Aims memorandum which was published in August 1917, three months before Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothschild. It set out a socialist and labour vision for the future once peace had been achieved and included a section on the Jews and Palestine.  Their interest in Jewish civil and political rights started earlier, not with the Labour Party, but with the trade union movement and how Labour was persuaded to embrace Zionism is one of the forgotten stories of World War One.

The memorandum may have been overshadowed by the Balfour Declaration but it has a unique place in history because the Labour Party was the first political party in Britain to declare their backing for the right of the Jewish people to return and live in Palestine. It was achieved not by the efforts of Chaim Weizmann and his fellow Zionists but by the hard work and determination of the Jewish working classes, the Jewish socialist group Poale Zion, and one Jewish trade union leader in particular, Moses Sclare. Weitzman credited Poale Zion for the inclusion of Jewish rights in the memorandum. 

The following articles explore some of these ideas, facts and people in greater detail:

1. How Jewish trade unionists persuaded the Labour Party to embrace Zionism     click here 

2. Poale Zion and Labour‘s War Aims Memorandum     click here

3. Moses Sclare – a forgotten Zionist     click here  


Dr Ronnie Fraser is an independent scholar and Director of the Academic Friends of Israel.  He was awarded his doctorate in 2014 by Royal Holloway College, London for his research into the British trade union movement and their attitude to Israel between 1945 and 1982.

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