The Black Lives Matter protests have brought to the fore the issue of slavery upon which many British fortunes were built. This has led to calls for schools to take another look at their approach to the British Empire and its consequences. In many respects, this is a taboo subject, none more so than Britain's colonial approach to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Britain, Zionism and the Creation of Israel by Gardner Thompson is, therefore a timely publication. As the author points out, Britain was one of the "Great Powers" which worked secretly with the early Zionists to create a Jewish state on land largely inhabited and owned by Palestinian Christians and Muslims.
At its height in 1922, the British Empire covered a fifth of the world's population and a quarter of the land. Although its proponents say that the Empire brought economic progress across the world, its critics point to massacres, famines and exploitation. It was the British, remember, who introduced the concept of "concentration camps" to the world during the Boer War in South Africa.
As a major colonial power with a toe-hold in the Middle East, therefore, it was almost inevitable that Britain would be given the "mandate" to prepare Palestine for independence by the League of Nations as from 1923. In this, "The British record is one of failure," Thompson points out, because the intention was always to create a Zionist state, not an Arab Palestinian state in Palestine. "Perhaps some British supporters of Zionism in the period 1917 to 1922 would have regarded as success the emergence by the late 1930s of a national home in Palestine of around 400,000 Jews," writes Thompson. "But the costs – for example, in money, lives and reputation – had been considerable, and there was every prospect that Britain's legacy would be an ungovernable country. Although for the time being the British remained in power, the government had lost the consent of the governed."
This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2020, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine Book Awards site