Sunday, March 31, 2013

Britain in Palestine: The Exploitation of the British Empire (or the Pimping of a Pimp)

            Problematic trends exist across the modern international globe in the majority of geographic places touched by British imperialism.  In many post-colonial territories, such as Burma and Jamaica, political power voids left behind by the evacuation of colonialism unleashed domestic political struggles and instability which have never been recovered from.  In other post-colonial territories, such as Pakistan carved from Indian borders or Kuwait carved from Iraqi territory, border conflicts were left behind in the aftermath.  Even in the United States remnants of the British imperial-economic system of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which was a colonial system before the creation of the United States, has left serious economic and social issues behind.  While British imperialism has impacted, and to an extent exploited, a majority of the globe, there is no other geographic region touched by the British Empire that has resulted in such uniquely negative fallout or has had such an unsettling impact on the modern international stage as the territory briefly named Palestine.

Before Palestine

            In the aftermath of World War I, the newly established and soon to fail, League of Nations split the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East into entities referred to as mandate territories.  These post-war League of Nation mandates in the Middle East were split between Britain and France, with “Syria and Lebanon, awarded to France; Iraq, awarded to Britain; and a new entity called Palestine, which was also placed under British control”[1].  In the calm after distribution, Britain “found itself in charge of a radically and religious divided province” with the worst physical ethnic clashes and political developments to come [2].

            The ethnically driven political movement of Zionism, which would eventually wield enough influence on British and United Nation leaders to achieve the creation of the modern nation-state of Israel, was not a creation or byproduct of World War II.  The Zionist movement originated during the waning decades of the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I and held several regional goals, such as encouraging Jewish immigration and the easing of restrictions on Jewish land purchasing under the Ottoman Empire, with the ultimate objective of establishing an ethnically Jewish state.  Contrary to popular misconceptions, Jews in the Ottoman Empire were allowed to buy land and immigrant into Ottoman territories.  This style of liberal Ottoman governance allowed “waves of Jewish immigration during the last decades of 19th century” and saw mass land purchasing which resulted in “restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine” being implemented in “1882, and limitations on acquisition of land by Jews went into effect in 1892” [3].  Between the years of 1882 and 1908 alone, twenty-six Jewish colonies were created in what would become British Palestine, and Jewish population numbers in the territory grew from about 20,000 to 80,000.

            Between the time of implementation of restrictions on Jewish land purchasing and Jewish immigrants who “were well-financed and had means to buy up large areas of land for their settlements” entering the Ottoman Empire until the beginning of World War I, the Zionist network worked diligently with local leaders in various individual communities, Jew and non-Jew alike, throughout the Ottoman Empire [4].  Zionist leaders utilized tactics such as “the formation of a press network” through the “purchase of already existing periodicals or by the creation of new newspapers” and the “infiltration of community institutions”, along with economic-political tactics that would also be practiced during British possession of Palestine and later on within the United States during the decades that followed the creation of the modern nation-state of Israel [4A].

British Possession of Palestine

            The British Empire remained unbiased to the regional ethnic issues of Zionism and Arab displacement prior to and after World War I mainly due to “the vitally important oil trade which existed between Britain and the Arab states and the close relationships built during Britain’s Empire-building and its role as a Great power” [5].   After the assumption of British responsibility for Palestine, all previous Ottoman restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchasing were no longer a hindrance to the Zionist goal of an ethnic Jewish state, and by 1933 there were 200,000 Jews in Palestine and ethnic tensions had begun increasing to incendiary potential [6].  In an attempt to keep a balance of stability in the protectorate of Palestine, Britain was forced to impose similar Jewish immigration restrictions in 1930, and illegal immigration continued to be a major issue that Britain was forced to deal with in the aftermath of the decision.  The decision was not a favorable one among the Yishuv, the Jewish population in Palestine, who were already establishing nationalist armed militias.

            The 1917 Balfour Declaration, a “declaration prepared by Zionists with Lord Balfour’s approval”, was a sign of the ethnic displacement to come as it basically recommended that “Palestine should be reconstructed as the national home of the Jewish people” and had no real “stipulations regarding Palestine’s majority non-Jewish inhabitants” [7].  During the period of British authority in Palestine, Zionist tactics among the growing Yishuv in Palestine, as well as the Jewish population in Britain, worked toward achieving political goals in similar systematic fashion as they did under Ottoman rule, only now they had the ears and were filling the pockets of Christian parliamentary leaders in Britain instead of the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire.

            As the splintering and state alliance-making, which would ultimately result in the failure of the League of Nations, became evident and the reemergence of Germany as a threatening economic and military power rivaling the British hegemony became a reality, Jewish persecution increased under the nationalist government of Hitler.  Jewish immigration numbers increased drastically during the years leading into World War II and the rapidly changing demographics of Palestine sparked the Arab Revolt of 1936 through 1939 when “Arab leaders overcame their rivalries and joined forces to protest Zionist advances” [8].  The consolidated Arab leadership during the Arab Revolts sought three demands from their British protectorate: “cessation of Jewish immigration, an end to all further land sales to the Jews, and the establishment of an Arab national government” [9].  The lopsided death toll at the end of the three year period referred to in history books as the Arab Revolt shows that “a total of 415 Jewish deaths were recorded during the whole 1936-1939” period and “the toll on the Arabs was estimated to be roughly 5,000 dead, 15,000 wounded, and 5,600 imprisoned” [10].  The numbers clearly illustrate which side of the conflict was in political and economic control within the British protectorate system, and the importance of international economic support for arming Jewish extremist military groups in Palestine, such as the Irgun, which conducted terrorist attacks against the British government structure in Palestine and the Palestinian population. 

            In the face of a possible Second World War, losing control of a crucially positioned territorial possession to ethnical conflagrations and the outbreak of physical violence was not what Britain needed or wanted.  The Peel Commission, a Royal Commission on Palestine, was dispatched to Palestine and in 1937 reported that the situation between the Zionists and the native Arabs had reached the point of no return and that the issues in Palestine could no longer be reconciled, recommending that “the only hope of a cure lies in a surgical operation” [11].  The Peel Commission report from 1937 clearly showed that the British government would support partition.

Christian Zionism and Representative Democracy

            The ideology of Christian Zionism centers on the belief that supports “Jewish people to return to their homeland on scriptural grounds”, which can be argued as an irrational basis for international political decision-making since the authorship of biblical scriptures remains unverified [12].  The Restoration Movement, which referred to the establishment of a Jewish homeland, was the origin of Christian Zionism in organized format and ideology, and came into official existence during the 18th and 19th centuries with the emergence of British “theologians, writers and politicians” such as Thomas Newton, the Bishop of Bristol, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, George Gawler (1796-1869), Edward Cazalet (1827-1883), Lawrence Oliphant (1829-1888), and William H. Hechler (1845-1931), Chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna.  The international Zionist movement, utilizing earlier methods of political propaganda and influence successful under the Ottoman Empire, found the expanded political atmosphere of Palestine under British rule favorable for accomplishing a Jewish state.  Britain was a free market society which allowed the purchasing of newspapers and periodicals which could be used for propaganda dissemination concerning a Jewish state, the government structure was a representative democracy which allowed the buying or influence of individual parliamentary votes, and the majority of the British population was Christian and had been indoctrinated to support the so-called Holy Land and a Jewish return based on Biblical text.  The similarities in composition, and the shared international alliance, between Britain and the emerging power of the United States during and after World War II would eventually secure the establishment of the modern nation-state of Israel which would displace and cut off, in apartheid style manner, an entire native population from the international community.

The Creation of Israel

            In the aftermath of World War II, mistakes that had contributed to a second war and the failure of the League of Nations, such as allowing each member state equal veto power, were corrected in the form of the United Nations Security Council, which gave veto power to only five permanent Security Council members, four of which were predominately Christian populations to include the free market economic and military powers of Britain and the United States.  On November 29, 1947 the “United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181” [13].  The age of individual nation-state colonialism was ending and the first phase of economic globalization born from Bretton Woods was emerging after World War II in the form of the Marshall Plan, while at the same time “Israel and Jordan were both created by the United Nations in 1948 when the UN partitioned the Palestinian Mandate”, the land that Britain had received after World War I through the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire [14].  Just as the lopsided death tolls during the Arab Revolt of 1936 through 1939 reflected, the last days of the British Mandate “witnessed a massacre of 240 Arabs, including women and children, by a Jewish unit at Deir Yassim.  This incident helped trigger a mass exodus of Palestinians and, by 1949, 720,000 refugees had fled either to Gaza or Jordan” [15].  The wretched violence and the spilled Palestinian blood during the last days of the British mandate was an ominous sign of conditions and trends to come.  The withdrawing British Empire attempted to maintain, or at minimum present, a middle road position as the “controlling consideration behind British policy was how to limit the damage to the interests of the British Empire that was bound to result from relinquishing direct control over Palestine” [16].

            After the declaration of Israeli independence on May 14, 1948, a full blown conflict exploded between “Palestinian Arabs attached to local units of the Arab Liberation Army composed of volunteers from Palestine” and Jewish forces “composed of the Haganah, the underground militia of the Jewish community in Palestine, and two small irregular groups, the Irgun, and LEHI” [17].  Between the months of May and June in 1948, the surrounding states of Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt, coincidently all previously under British control, came to the aid of the Palestinian onslaught and displacement.  Surprisingly, the infant nation-state of Israel beat the three intervening Arab states back in a display of military might which presented suspicious questions concerning whether military arms and technology had come from the international free market or was the remnant weaponry supplied by the British during World War II.   On May 31, 1948 the Haganah was renamed the Israel Defense Forces and by the time of the 1949 ceasefire, the state of Israel had expanded by 25 percent of the original partitioned territory.

            At the conclusion of war in 1949, the entire landscape of what had been Palestine had been altered.  Described in a 1954 Foreign Affairs article entitled  The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile by Don Peretz, “nearly half of the new Jewish immigrants live in homes abandoned by the Arabs. They occupy nearly 400 Arab towns and villages.  The Arabs left over 10,000 shops and stores in Jewish hands. The Israel Custodian of Absentee Property took over more than 4,000,000 dunams of former Arab land, or nearly 60% of the country’s cultivable area. This was nearly two and a half times the total Jewish-owned property at the time the state of Israel was established, and include most of its olive orchards, a large part of its fruit and vegetable cropland and almost half the citrus groves” [18].  By the time that the new nation-state of Israel was secured and fortified, a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees had been forced to “Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank” [19].   A new nation-state, Israel, had been created over an entire existing native population, behind a long-term meticulous Zionist planning process that began prior to World War I under Ottoman rule, and was finalized by the creation of modern Israel and ethnic cleansing committed on a large scale.

            In 1967, a sequel to 1949 occurred as Israel again took a military offensive which was politically termed in modern history books as ‘a pre-emptive strike’.  As a result of the 1967 Israeli military offensive, the nation-state of “Israel gained control over the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem” which brought the number of Palestinian refugees to an approximate total of “more than 1.4 million” living “in 58 recognized refugee camps” [20].  The British had failed in their assignment as protectorate for Palestine and the people of Palestine, and as a result of that failure an entire Arab population had been displaced and a new state entity on the international stage would begin taking advantage of a wide spread Zionist political network in funding and protecting the newly established ethnically Jewish state, which would often find itself exempt from international condemnation and law. 

Jewish Immigration to Britain and the United States

During the century preceding the establishment of the modern nation-state of Israel, mass immigration of Jews into Britain and the United States, which mingled with Christian Zionist support, succeeded in the establishment of a deeply entrenched international Zionist political network.  Mass Jewish immigration to the west started in the 1890s and continued “to the present time” resulting “in large increases” in England and the United States, which shifted more in favor of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and by 1924 “two million Jews had arrived from Eastern Europe” to the United States [21].  In 2000, it was reported by the New York Times that the Jewish population of the nation-state of Israel would soon outnumber the 5.5 million Jews in America [22].

As the declining British Empire conducted colonial withdraws around the globe and dealt with rebuilding an economically war-torn Europe with the help of the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development after World War II, the United States had emerged as a capitalist heavyweight power in the early years of globalization, and would become the lone hegemonic force after the end of the Cold War which would usher in the unfettered freedom of globalization.  The United States was ripe for the Zionist economic and political networking that had made gains under the Ottoman Empire and had successfully pimped the British Empire in order to establish a Jewish state.  The United States was a free market, which made economic networking and the acquisition of media outlets easy enough to purchase, the United States government maintained a representative democracy from its days of British colonialism, which was easy enough to manipulate for votes, and the American empire was predominately Christian in population with growing Evangelist and Christian Zionist movements inspired by national propaganda focused on the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust in Germany.

The one-way U.S.-Israel alliance that exists today continues to be driven by the same international Zionist network in the form of powerful political lobbyist organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which diligently steered U.S. foreign policy through economic and political influence on Congressional votes to ensure goals such as 3 billion dollars annually in U.S. foreign aid to the nation-state of Israel, which has been paid out each year since 1950, economic sanctions against regional enemies of Israel, and the utilization of the U.S. veto in the United Nations Security Council against all international resolutions condemning Israeli human rights violations on Palestinians in Gaza.  Over 50 years after the establishment of the nation-state of Israel, the Palestinians have still not been allowed statehood and live under apartheid-like military occupation, military checkpoints, and an economically debilitating trade embargo enforced by the Israeli military.


            After conducting two centuries of colonial exploitation around the globe, Britain only had possession of Palestine for three decades.  The British had successfully subdued and exploited a multitude of national movements in colonial territories during British imperial history, but Britain was unprepared to deal with such a subversive, borderless and ethnically nationalistic movement as Zionism upon inheriting Palestine.  Britain’s failure in Palestine resulted in the displacement of an entire geographic human population and the creation of a nation-state that has committed human rights violations and has repeatedly broken international laws during its short 60 year existence, due in part to the dispersed political Zionist network spread throughout the most powerful representative democracies in the West and the Christian Zionist support within those states.  Unlike other post-colonial or post-protectorate states that Britain possessed during colonialism, where post-colonial problems remain domestically debilitating, the British failure in Palestine created massive repercussions not only in the Near East, but on the international stage.     


1.  Ian Bickerton & Carla Klausner, A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 4th ed. (New York: Prentice Hall, 2001), 43-44.

2.   Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), 406.

3.  Esther Benbassa, “Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the 19th and the Beginning of the 20th Century,” Studies in Zionism 11, no. 2 (1990): 128,

4.  Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), 407.

4A. Esther Benbassa, “Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the 19th and the Beginning of the 20th Century,” Studies in Zionism 11, no. 2 (1990): 134,

5. Victoria Honeyman, Britain, Palestine, and the Creation of Israel; How Britain Failed to Protect its Protectorate, (University of Leeds School of Politics and International Studies, 2012), 5.

6. Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), 407.

7. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmad, The Origins of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict: Settler-Colonialism, Apartheid and Political Zionism, IPRD Briefing, January 5, 2009,,%20Apartheid%20and%20Political%20Zionism.pdf

8. The 1936 Riots, Jewish Virtual Library, 2013,

9. The 1936 Riots, Jewish Virtual Library, 2013,

10. The 1936 Riots, Jewish Virtual Library, 2013,

11. Peel Commission Report on Palestine, Public Domain, 1937, Jewish Virtual Library, 1937,

12. Malcolm Hedding, Christian Zionism 101: Giving Defintion to the Movement, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem,

13. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, United States Department of State Office of the Historian,

14. Endicott, Johnson & Papp, American Foreign Policy: History, Politics and Policy, (New York: Pearson Longman, 2005), 172.

15. Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995), 563.

16. Avi Shlaim, Britain and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Journal of Palestine Studies,,%20Britain%20and%20the%20Arab%20Israeli%20War%20of%201948.pdf

17. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, United States Department of State Office of the Historian,

18. Don Peretz, “The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile,” Foreign Affairs, October 1954, 137-138.

19. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948, United States Department of State Office of the Historian,

20. Palestine Refugees, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East,

21. Jewish Immigration to the United States: Immigration of Eastern European Jews, Holocaust Center,
22. Gustav Niebuhr, “Israeli Jews To Outnumber Those in U.S.,” New York Times, September 11, 2000,

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