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Was the establishment of a specifically Jewish state in Palestine the most favorable way for Britain to protect its post-WWI imperial interests in the Middle East?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Britain's post-WWI imperial interests in the Middle East
  3. A Brief History of Jews in England
  4. Conclusion

History textbooks that deal with the birth of the Zionism repeatedly take for granted a major component of the movement's early success underlying British support. The beginning of the history of Israel is commonly preoccupied with Theodor Herzl or the Balfour Declaration, but very rarely is the question ever posed, why did the British ever even support Zionism in the first place? Pithy explanations are occasionally given that the British were the only powerful Europeans tolerant enough to accept Jews in the aftermath of dreadful pogroms and from there the Zionist movement was given freedom to flourish. However, such accounts do not fully explain what benefit Zionism would have provided to British policymakers. Conversely, explanations about the British maintaining interests in Egypt and the Suez Canal do not fully address the question of why it supported Zionism, specifically, in order to achieve these goals. Why not simply colonize the Palestinians directly if a buffer state was all that was desired? In light of these historical ambiguities, this paper will attempt to explore what exactly prompted Lloyd George's cabinet to support Jewish restoration to the Holy Land. However, the research focuses on a wide range of historical events and movements, and ironically, virtually no analysis of Lloyd George's cabinet was required to come to the final conclusions. Events of the nineteenth century played the most significant role, as the combination of a waning Ottoman Empire and a growing acceptance of Jewish culture in England coincided to allow the British to merge their ideological principles with the strategic interests of the Empire. The discussion will begin with an analysis of the latter half of this equation.

[...] British Policy in Palestine. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Public Affairs Herzl, Theodor. The Jewish State. New York: Scopus Publishing Company Hyamson, Albert. British Projects for the Restoration of the Jews. London: Petty and Sons (Leeds) Ltd Hyamson, Albert. A History of the Jews in England. Second Edition. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd Katz, David S. The Jews in the History of England 1850. Oxford, Clarendon Press Kedourie, Elie. England and the Middle East, the Destruction of the Ottoman Empire 1914 1921. London: [...]


[...] Such was the context for British policy in the East during a time of intense European competition and serious Ottoman decline, the combination of which forced Britain to think carefully about how to protect its precious domains. Communication with India was always a prominent issue for the imperialists since the traditional route, via sail, took anywhere from five to eight months to complete (Searight, 117). In 1830 the steamship route between England and Bombay was established, and five years later the overland route by way of Egypt was set up, shortening the journey by at least half when compared to the voyage around the Cape (Document E. [...]


[...] While a discussion of Egypt, France, and Russia may at first appear tangential to the issue of British support of Zionism, I have focused specifically on these issues in order to prove two principal arguments: first, Egypt and the Suez Canal were both vitally important to British imperial and commercial supremacy, and second, they were both vulnerable to potential encroachment from the other global Powers. For these reasons, the British needed to adopt a policy that would firmly secure the perpetuation of their Empire. [...]

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