Towards the end of World War I, the fate of empires was at stake. The Ottoman Empire (The Turks), without doubt, would be defeated. Who would take the spoils?
It would be largely Britain and France that would decide.
Britain wanted Palestine. Under the Ottomans, Palestine had been a mere province in Syria. Get that? Pretty amazing considering the narrative that Palestinians promote today as to the importance of Palestine. Yes, it was only a backwater province under the Muslim Ottoman Empire.
The British General Allenby took it late in that war.
William B. Ziff in The Rape of Palestine writes: “The surrender of Jerusalem coincided exactly with the Feast of Hanukkah, which commemorates the recapture of the Temple from the heathen Seleucids by Judas Maccabeus in the year 165 B. C.” Wow! “Lending color to this coincidence, the Englishman, General Allenby said, on entering the city: ‘We have come not as conquerors but as deliverers.” (From the book The Rape of Palestine by William B. Ziff) A nice statement.
The British wanted to be the Protector of Palestine—to work to develop a nation in what previously had been just a province in a Muslim empire. Why did they want this? Many reasons, but here are three main ones:
First, they wanted a land route to India which Palestine would provide.
Second, they wanted to keep Russia out of the Middle East.
Third, some British leaders wanted Palestine for religious purposes. They believed it was time for the Chosen people to get that land.
Stay with me on this brief history.
Some of Britain’s principal leaders carried a lot of sympathy for the Jewish people. They had been steeped in Old Testament history and believed that God wanted His people back in the land. Prime Minister Lloyd-George was one of these. Lord Balfour was another.
Lloyd-George was not educated in an exclusive English public school that stressed the Greek and Latin classics; he was brought up on the Bible. He frequently commented that the place names of the Bible were more familiar to him than the places that figured in the European war. He was brought up in a Disciples of Christ Church in Wales. Hm-m.
There were a considerable number of Jews in Palestine, and a lot in Jerusalem. Quite a few were Zionists--new Jewish immigrants—the beginning of the Zionist state. They really wanted the British to be in control while the foundations of the Jewish National Home were being laid.
And so the Brits took it. The official document making this official is The Balfour Declaration. But not much time elapsed before it became apparent that the entire British military administration was uncompromisingly opposed to the letter and spirit of the Balfour Declaration. The British generals virtually refused to carry out London’s
orders. They didn’t care one whit for the Jews/Zionists.
UNDER THE MILITARY ADMINISTRATION
In April, 1918, General Allenby set up the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration to make the transition easy from the Ottoman administration to the British. But the officials in the British military administration immediately dissociated themselves from what they called the British ”Zionizing” policy! The chairman of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration in a display of anti-Semitism said that the “Jews of Jerusalem were bringing up the rising generation in their schools to be dirty, idle wasters….Their men turn out more idle wasters and their women more prostitutes than the rest of the population put together.” And, he regarded the Jews as an inferior class morally and intellectually. (p. 89, Righteous Victims: Morris: ) Mercy!
Despite the Jews having a majority of the population of Jerusalem, the British Army made the city administration two-thirds Arabic. Horace Samuel wrote: The British officers there regarded the Balfour Declaration as damn nonsense, the Jews as a damn nuisance, and ……..and the Arabs as damn good fellows.”
Before the League of Nations put the Palestine Mandate into effect wherein Palestine would be declared the homeland of the Jewish people by this international organization, the British Military, with conscious purpose, proceeded to foster conflict between the Jews and Arabs, which encouraged the Arabs to make trouble instead of peace!
The generals themselves, according to Ziff, conceived of a pogrom (organized harassment and massacre) in Jerusalem against the Jews, hoping it would provide impetus to the death of the Jewish organization! They supplied the Arab opposition with funds and wrote the anti-Jewish documents for the Arabs. Their intent: the end of Zionism wherein the League of Nations would be forced to favor the Arab native population and crush the Zionist program!
These planned riots were well-timed to hurt the Jewish population. Muslim crowds had gathered for a festival in Jerusalem. The Jewish policemen had been relieved from duty in the ‘Old City’ where most of the Jews lived.
The author, William Ziff, wrote: “Jerusalem had undergone an orgy of slaughter, rape, torture and sack. Everywhere homes and stores were wrecked. Sixty innocents lay dead, and innumerable victims were injured.” And, get this, it
was Zionist Jews that were sentenced to prison--15 years at hard labor!
My beloved Englishmen (my family origins), how could you do this?
But as the news was broadcast to the world, it brought about a huge wave of protests. As it was, England had her hands full with difficulties in Ireland and India, and she couldn’t afford to have her national reputation smeared with this.
So the British officials retreated under a torrent of condemnation.
As for the Jewish leaders at that time, Ziff says they reacted like scared puppy dogs.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Just as Israel’s ancient approach to the Promised Land was challenging and their battles were many to secure the land, so with the modern day return to the Land. It has been fraught with many difficulties and extreme hardships due to fierce opposition.
This is only the beginnings of British opposition. I have presented a sampling of difficulties the Jewish immigrant-Zionists faced under the Military Administration. Next week, I will elucidate some of the excessively-severe anti-Jewish ordinances and policies put into effect by the Colonial Administration.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
Your name endures through all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion;
For it is time to favor it.
(Psalms 102:12-13 NRSV)
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