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The British Empire And Israel


Jon and David Kimche, A Clash of Destinies: The Arab-Jewish War and the Founding of the State of Israel

 (New York: Frederick A. Praeger; 1960), pp. 19-21.


‘Both Rome and the British Empire were at the commencement of a long period of disintegration when the Jewish wars broke out.

But for the crisis of empire in ancient Rome and modern Britain, it is questionable whether the Jewish leaders, then or now, would have embarked on a military challenge to the imperial power, which in both cases had the same limited objective to loosen the imperial grip on Palestine and so bring about the political independence of the Jewish nation. In neither case did the Jewish leaders set out to encompass the defeat and destruction of their imperial opponent; . . .


They failed against Rome because the success of the rebellion threatened the very existence of the Empire; they succeeded against the British because the British did not, in the end, consider the successful Jewish rebellion as a serious threat to their Empire for, among other things, the whole concept of Empire had undergone a revolutionary change in the three fateful years between 1945 and 1948. . . . Zionism underwent a catalytic transformation between 1939 and 1945; the post-1945 Zionist had basically little relation to the pre-1939 Zionist.


From 1945 onwards the British and the Arabs were therefore confronted by something that was quite different from the pre-war Zionism they had come to know during the previous twenty years.


The new Zionism was emotionally super-charged by the catastrophe that had befallen the European Jews and was politically conditioned by the urge to do something for the survivors. . . .

It was the European catastrophe that turned this passive, abstract, religious, emotional, but politically almost ineffective longing of centuries into an irresistible political urge.


It also provided this urge with a supporting moral argument for which the gentile world had no answer and could have no answer.

‘But for the British Labour Government at the beginning of 1947 this was no abstract moral problem.


100,000 British troops in Palestine were concerned with it; so were another 200,000 stationed throughout the Middle East, and many more on duty in occupied Germany, Austria and Italy.

These widely dispersed forces were all involved in the refugee movement to Palestine.

‘The Palestine dispute was thus, at the beginning of 1947, impinging on the duties of some half-million British troops in three continents. Yet, even so, the Labour Government in Whitehall could not isolate the Palestine problem from its other difficulties, which reached a climax during these winter weeks of 1947 such as no other British Government has had to face in peace-time.’




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