Masalha writes that as the centenary of the Balfour Declaration approaches it is timely for a reassessment of the impact of the statement and British policies towards Palestine and its indigenous people.
The Declaration is commonly attributed incorrectly to military needs such as protection of the Suez Canal, getting America into the war etc. But Masalha shows that the project to get the Jews to Palestine started long before the Declaration or the First World War. Lord Shaftesbury was driven by Christian messianic prophecy and believed that ‘Jewish Restorationists’ would hasten the second coming of Jesus. He used the term ‘a nation without people for people without a nation’ He was instrumental in setting up the British Consulate in Jerusalem and getting another Restorationist, James Finn, appointed as the Consul. His family links with Palmerston enabled him to influence government policy and this was half a century before Herzl’s Zionism started.
Masalha emphasises the importance of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Shaftesbury was at its first meeting and chaired some of it. ‘The Biblical archaeology, mapping and study of the topography carried out by [the PEF] have remained basic data for many Israeli archaeologists, geographers and official strategy planners of today in their efforts to Judaise the Old City of Jerusalem.’
The Bible has been (and remains) central to Western support for the State of Israel. Both Lloyd George and Balfour were members of Protestant churches which shared the Christian Zionist belief that Old Testament Jews should be “restored” in Palestine before the Second Coming of Jesus.
Full article is in the Middle East Monitor
Review by Roger Spooner