A settler colony and the British knew it: A. Higan, Britain and Zionism: Imperial-Settler Relations in the Palestine Mandate, Doctoral dissertation, University of Exeter, 2021


Abstract: Despite contact with the Zionist movement by some cabinet members prior to the First World War, and efforts to advocate for the movement and gain support for its goals, the British did not fully begin to come to terms with the aims, intentions, and methods of Zionism in Palestine until after the Balfour Declaration. Despite a commitment to support Zionism it was only after 1917 that a serious discussion and analysis of what the Jewish National Home would entail, how it would be achieved, and what British support meant was undertaken. In order to better explore this development, the ideas and history of Settler Colonialism in the British Empire provide a framework within which the relationships that developed in Palestine can be explored. This approach will outline the encounter between the colonial administration on the ground and the settlers, and the efforts of each to influence the imperial governments perspective and policy on settlement. In doing so it will demonstrate the ways in which the practical development of Zionism in Palestine followed a similar pattern in the British relationship with its Setter Colonies. As the British government came into greater contact with, and gained greater experience of, the attitudes and demands of the settlers on the ground, their understanding of what was being facilitated in Palestine grew. Alongside this knowledge and understanding of the settler’s intentions for Palestine, was an awareness of the means by which they would be achieved. As with other cases of settlement the position of the indigenous population, and the autonomy granted to the settlers was a point of contention between the imperial/colonial governors and the local/settler populations. Building on this developing understanding, the thesis will address the emergence of population transfer in the context of radicalisation in Settler Colonies. The British awareness of this option, raised as it was at an early point of British support for the Jewish National Home, demonstrate the initial, explicit indications of the implicit structure, and outcomes, of the Settlement project Britain was bound to facilitate. Alongside this, the concerns of the colonial and imperial governments, their resistance, as well as complicity and enablement will be assessed in the context of their discourse on the Zionist movement and its activities. Furthermore, while the British made these observations and analyses of the Zionist movement and the likely consequences of colonisation, their awareness of prior cases of settlement, and the impact these cases had on British deliberations, will be noted.

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