Churchill – A Lifelong Zionist

Britain saw the Jewish national home as creating a reliable client population in a strategically important region.

It helped keep the French, the controllers of neighbouring Syria, out of a territory bordering the Suez Canal area and close to the Arabian Peninsula.

British rule in Palestine lasted for thirty years until the military withdrawal in 1948.

It was continually confronted with the competing claims of the majority Arab population,

which feared displacement by increasing Jewish immigration, and the Jewish population, whose Zionist vision was the consolidation of a homeland as promised by the British.

Overall, however, British strategy in Palestine clearly favoured the Jewish population throughout the 1920s and 1930s in its sponsorship of immigration into Palestine.

This changed the demographic balance in Palestine from 600,000 Arabs and 80,000 Jews in 1917 to one million Arabs and 400,000 Jews by 1938.

The basic policy was set by the 1922 White Paper, drawn up by Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, whose concern was to ensure that no Arab majority could stand in the way of Jewish immigration.

Churchill – a lifelong Zionist  – regularly spoke against the possibility of the Arabs in Palestine achieving self-determination and representative government.

He regarded Arabs as ‘a lower manifestation’ than the Jews, who, he contended, accomplished much more economically in Palestine and were ‘a higher grade race’ compared to the ‘great hordes of Islam’ who were unable to cultivate the land.

Tom Segev, author of One Palestine Complete, claims that Churchill once told his close friend and an elder of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann, that he would support the Zionists “even if they did horribly stupid things”.


Mark Curtis (British Secret Affairs)

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