Review: Zionism and Britain

Zionism and Britain: understanding the origins of Israel

Hester introducing Dr Thompson

On 3rd May we had a fascinating talk by Dr Gardner Thompson about Zionism and the historical background to the origins of Israel. Below is a review of the evening by David Smart. 

Gardner Thompson introduced us to the complex story of the birth of modern Israel, founded upon the Zionist concepts of Theodor Herzl, a dramatist and idealist who died at the age of 44 in 1904. His view that Jews had to have a country of their own was highly controversial, and the minority view of Jews in Europe and America at that time; the historic land of Israel was at the time part of the crumbling Ottoman empire and occupied primarily by Bedouin Arabs.

He introduced us to an extraordinary array of political figures and circumstances which is the stuff of history, of which the Balfour Declaration was just one part and might have been less important were it not such a critical statement that the Zionists were able to use it very much to their advantage, although it contained words to the effect that any Jewish homeland was not to be to the discomfort of the indigenous people presently occupying the area. We know what has become of that sentiment!

The political and strategic issues within the first world war, the personal and often opposed views of such politicians as Lloyd George, Herbert Samuel and Edwin Montagu and even the fact that extraordinary Chaim Weizman, who took over the Zionist leadership had apparently invented cordite and deserved our gratitude, all entered into the mix. The determination of the Zionists, as we know, prevailed. British policy floundered and failed.

Taking questions at the end

It was a fascinating introduction to a subject that is currently of supreme importance. What is going to happen now in the Middle East, with a militant Israel backed by the US and opposed by Iran?