This article aims to expose Britain’s role in Palestine and its hand in establishing the Zionist entity. We will begin by profiling the transformation of Britain from a country locked in the ‘dark ages’ to a dominant global superpower. We will discuss the idea of Colonialism and how Britain adopted it for its global objectives. Following this, we will expose the specific objectives of Britain for Palestine and go into detail on the methods and key milestones in executing its plan to meet these objectives.
Britain and Colonialism
From the period that Britain revived on the idea of Secularism in the 17th century its global influence and impact on mankind was inevitable. Prior to this, it was a land which was socially and politically inept, a land which was ruled by an elitist monarchy and corrupt clergy. Its contribution to human progress was non-existent and it barely fulfilled the needs of its domestic population. It was a far cry from its self-proclaimed title of ‘Great Britain’ and the ‘empire on which the sun never sets’. Meanwhile, the civilisations in the East were thriving. They were leading mankind in the areas of science, technology, literature and politics, beacons of progressive civilisations.
Britain’s transformation began during the Renaissance, a period in European history which began in the 14th century in Italy and lasted into the 17th century. . There was a huge transformation in the thoughts in society including political, economic, cultural and scientific. This led to significant changes in the very structure of society. Following the birth of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ as part of the Treaty of Union in 1707 , the British society continued to evolve with the idea of ‘separation of church and state’ increasingly influencing the direction of society. Over a 200 year period, Britain transformed from a land consumed by internal rivalries to an ideological state . This state innovated in many areas of human life and the fruits of progress were to follow, most significantly in what became known as the ‘Industrial Revolution’. This significant period brought Britain on to the global stage and gave them a significant advantage to dominate other nations and civilisations. Britain’s focus now firmly focused on global supremacy and like any ideological nation wanted to propagate itself externally. The foreign policy Britain adopted to achieve their global aspirations was Colonialism.
Colonialism is a state foreign policy seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of exploiting them for the benefit of the colonising state. Its main motives are economic benefit, but it also utilises the colonies for its political interests in those regions. This includes propagating its viewpoint in life, values, ideas and systems.
Colonialism was not unique to Britain, but rather it was already adopted by other European nations such as Portugal, Spain, France, and the Dutch with reasonable success. But none were to implement it to such a devastating effect as the British. Britain’s initial ventures inspired by the material success from other colonial nations led them to a modest collection of colonies in North America and the smaller islands of the Caribbean. It was after the Industrial Revolution with the use of newfound technologies such as the steamship that Britain really thrived. By the end of Britain’s ‘Imperial Century’ between 1815-1914, it covered 35,500,000 sq. km (13,700,000 sq. miles), 24% of the Earth’s total land area and encompassed 412 million people, 23% of the world’s population at the time.
The effects of Britain’s colonial project are still felt to this day and has caused the biggest impact in shaping the modern world. The destruction caused by economic plundering and political meddling throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East left newly formed nations in turmoil. It was this colonial policy which shaped one of the most significant calamities to face this Ummah in the region of Palestine – the creation of the Zionist entity.
Britain’s objectives for Palestine
Britain’s objectives in the region of Palestine as part of their colonial outlook included key economic interests for the territory. They had to suppress opposition by implementing a ‘divide and rule’ strategy and ensure a compliant subordinate ruling body was present to continue exploiting the region of its valuable resources.
The colonial model fundamentally involved ransacking lands and routing the prized resources back to the colonising state. To achieve this the coloniser ensured the routes back to the homeland were protected and controlled to safely deposit the merchandise. Investments were made in railroads in India and Africa running from crop-fields and mines directly to the coastal ports.
The foreign secretary and a previous viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, in 1920 informed the House of Lords that, regarding Palestine, “we went there…for distinct military and strategic objectives – namely, to protect the flank of Egypt…”. A little later he remarked on expansionist policy in the Middle East, “You ask why should Great Britain push herself out in these directions? Of course, the answer is obvious – India”.
Colonial India was labelled “the jewel in the British crown”, as it contained the most populous and valuable parts of the British Empire. It was critical this route was protected, and control of Palestine was an integral component to achieve this.
Britain ensured investment in the infrastructure of its colonies with the single focus of looting the natural resources. The infamous ‘gift’ of the Indian rail network was first conceived by the East India Company, for its own benefit. Governor General Lord Hardinge contended in 1843 that the railways would be beneficial “to the commerce, government and military control of the country”. The railways were aimed primarily to transport extracted resources to ports for the British to ship home to use in their factories.
Alongside commodities such as tea, spices and precious stones, sourcing the raw materials from India for the textile industry was a major revenue stream for the British empire. This model crippled the Indian manufacturing industry but caused a boom for Britain’s. Britain used the Indian raw materials and exported the finished products back to India and other parts of the world. British exports of textiles to India soared and by 1830 had reached 60 million yards of cotton goods a year; in 1858 this rose to 968 million yards; the billion-yard mark was crossed in 1870.
By the end of the 19th century, India was Britain’s biggest source of revenue, the world’s biggest purchaser of British exports and the source of highly paid employment for British civil servants and soldiers.
The trade routes for Britain consisted of two historically significant land and sea routes – the silk road and the Indian spice route. These prized routes always served historical empires such as the Romans and the Persians. Likewise, control of them were critical for Britain to maintain its global authority and domestic economic prosperity. It would use these intricate networks to connect commodities and people from East to West and back again.
The most important sea route for the European powers was the Suez Canal. This artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connected the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. Essentially offering sea vessels a shorter journey between the colonies in Asia and Britain by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans, in turn reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi).
The British diplomat Sir John Shuckburgh, at Winston Churchill`s Colonial Office commented: Palestine “occupies an extremely important geographical position in relation to the Suez Canal, the main line of communication with India, and many important colonies”.
Alongside this precious sea route, the land of Palestine was the gateway on land between the Mediterranean and the Middle East, sitting at the end of the Silk Road. It was the land controlled by the Khilafah ever since it was first conquered by the Khulafa Rashidun shortly after the establishment of the state by the Prophet (SAW). But now that the Uthmani Khilafah was on the verge of collapse, this route became critical to the Indian trade routes.
Execution of Britain’s Plan
The implementation of this plan involved ingenious political manoeuvres with equal amounts of deceit with collaborators. This section will discuss the key methods Britain employed and the key milestones in the execution of those methods.
The goal was to create nation-states with colourful new flags that would instil nationalism in their respective people and offer leadership to rulers that would enforce the British colonial policy in the newly formed nation. These subordinate states would form the basis of the modern imperialist strategy that we still see present today. The same objective as classical colonialism without the physical presence of the parent state in the colonised land.
The Uthmani Khilafah was near collapse and the scrambling of the spoils that would follow was something Britain would play a key role in. It naturally required key partners that assisted in the execution of their plan for Palestine which consisted of fellow European colonial powers as well as local conspirators. For Britain to achieve its aims for the region it had to ensure the collaborators were given suitable rewards for their efforts, so made numerous promises to secure their support. The deceptive deals to their partners became known as ‘double dealings’, i.e. offering the same thing to multiple partners.
The first documented plan for the region came during the Imperial Conference in 1907. These conferences were periodic gatherings of government leaders from the self-governing colonies and dominions of the British Empire. Commencing in 1887 under the title ‘Colonial Conference’ which was relabelled as ‘Imperial Conference’ as part of the 1907 conference, the meetings were staged in London (except 1894 and 1932), the capital of the British Empire and chaired by the British Prime Minister.
The 1907 Imperial Conference was held from the 15th April – 14th May 1907. The chairman of the conference was British prime minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. In his report, he outlined the British vision for the region –
“There are people (the Arabs, Editor’s Note) who control spacious territories teeming with manifest and hidden resources. They dominate the intersections of world routes. Their lands were the cradles of human civilizations and religions. These people have one faith, one language, one history and the same aspirations. No natural barriers can isolate these people from one another … if, perchance, this nation were to be unified into one state, it would then take the fate of the world into its hands and would separate Europe from the rest of the world. Taking these considerations seriously, a foreign body should be planted in the heart of this nation to prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that it could exhaust its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a springboard for the West to gain its coveted objects.”
The report concluded that the Arab countries and the Muslim-Arab people living in the Ottoman Empire presented a very real threat to European countries, and it recommended the following actions:
- To promote disintegration, division, and separation in the region.
- To establish artificial political entities that would be under the authority of the imperialist countries.
- To fight any kind of unity—whether intellectual, religious or historical —and taking practical measures to divide the region’s inhabitants.
- To achieve this, it was proposed that a “buffer state” be established in Palestine, populated by a strong, foreign presence that would be hostile to its neighbours and friendly to European countries and their interests.”
The European colonial ally for Britain’s vision was France. France was second to Britain as a dominant global superpower and wanted to take its share of the spoils following the fall of the Uthmani Khilafah. This carving up of the Middle Eastern cake was presented in the form of the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The agreement was authored by British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart, François Georges-Picot and officially signed on the 16th May 1916.
The agreement allocated to Britain control of areas comprising the coastal strip between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq and Kuwait. France got control of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Palestine was split between Britain, France and an international zone which included Jerusalem. The same land which would also be promised to other partners as part of Britain’s deceitful plan.
The Jewish Europeans who were facing persecution in central and Eastern Europe had successfully started a political movement known as Zionism in the late 19th century. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people that supports the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Islamic land of Palestine.
Britain would utilise this opportunity for their own interests in Palestine. Britain was not content on the shared occupation plan for Palestine as part of the Sykes-Picot agreement and also had the issue of homing Jewish refugees in Europe and did not want to see them arriving on their shores.
“The British Government did not want to accept many more Jewish refugees. Some were permitted entry as ‘domestics’ or under the Home Office’s Distressed Relatives Scheme.”
By supporting the Zionists and their movement, Britain felt that they could gain a loyal population in Palestine and help facilitate the refugee crisis. Essentially killing two birds with one stone.
This support for the Jewish state manifested into the Balfour Declaration in 1917. The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government during World War I, announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Authored by the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and arrogantly at the time when it was still part of the Ottoman state. The land of Palestine now being promised to both the French and the Zionists. But the double deals would continue with a third partner, the Arabs.
The Uthmani Khilafah was a weak and declined nation by the late 19th century and labelled ‘the sick man of Europe’. Its grip and control of its territory was diminishing, leading to a number of counter movements arising within its borders. The most notable of which was the Arab revolt led by Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi, Sharif of Makkah. From 1908 he was the Emir of Makkah and then became the leader of the revolt aligning with the British to dismantle the Uthmani Khilafah and establish an Arab state. During this period of the late 19th century, the idea of Nationalism was on the rise across Europe and the Middle East. Another movement originating from the heart of the Khilafah was the Young Turk Revolution which was trying to establish a Turkish national state. With the influence of this and recommendations from his sons and advisors Faisal and Abdullah, the conflict between the two for supremacy in the Muslim lands was to commence.
Again, Britain would capitalise on this nationalistic struggle to meet its own interests in the region. Its goal of securing its economic interests could be spearheaded with the influence and resources of the Arabs led by Sharif and its bargaining chips would be the prized Muslim lands that the Arabs wished to consolidate under their Arab state. This included the holy land of Palestine.
The deals were conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner to Egypt in what became known as the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence. Writing to Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary in London: “immediate assurances were necessary if the Arabs were not to be lost to the British cause”. The correspondence was composed of ten letters exchanged from July 1915 to March 1916, following these agreements the revolt began. Britain ensured adequate ambiguity in the wording which led to subjective interpretations on the sovereignty of Palestine, as was also seen in the Balfour declaration.
The formal representation of the Arabs and their demands were presented to the victorious allied powers following the end of World War 1 at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Whereby Sharif’s son Prince Faisal officially requested the Arab state.
So these double dealings had now lead to Palestine being promised to the French, Zionists and the Arab nationalist. All of which were working towards assisting Britain in fulfilling its political and economic interests in the region.
Before the 19th century, the world was generally organised by empires which encompassed and consolidated lands as they grew. However, the world was changing, and the larger empires were losing their grip on their colonies and the lead up to World War 1 weakened them significantly.
As identities and cultures developed alongside their growth and modernisation, a sense of self-sufficiency was emerging amongst the controlled lands. This led to Nationalism becoming a dominant thought across the region. An idea which would be championed by the colonialists led by Britain to meet its objectives for Palestine.
Nationalism is a system characterised by promoting the interests of a nation, particularly with the aim of gaining and maintaining self-governance, or full sovereignty over the group’s homeland. The political idea, therefore, holds that a nation should govern itself, free from unwanted outside interference, and is linked to the concept of self-determination. For the individual, the idea has the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.
This plan really came into effect following the official victory of the allies in World War 1. The defeated Uthmani Khilafah overlooked a large piece of land extending from the fringes of Europe, across the middle east bordering the subcontinent. It was time now for the promises to be fulfilled and the nation states to be born.
The San Remo conference held in 1920 had the objective of distributing the captured lands and to assign mandates for the colonial powers to manage their allocations. It was this conference where Britain was given the mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations. To ensure the newly formed subordinate states including Palestine supported British foreign policy and remained divided, Britain had to strengthen the idea of Nationalism amongst each state. Something which was outlined earlier in the Campbell-Bannerman report of 1907.
It was this same nationalistic idea which accelerated the decline in the Muslim Ummah which contributed to the destruction of the Khilafah. Britain actively supported those groups and encouraged this idea amongst its conspirators to achieve their goals. It was the elite circles amongst these nations who were educated in the cities of London and Paris that adopted and carried these concepts to shape and establish these new nation states.
It was based on the single and corrupt idea of nationalism that fuelled the Young Turks, the Arab revolt and the Zionist to support the objectives in Palestine. But furthermore, this idea of nationalism crept into the hearts and minds of the native Palestinians. They became less concerned with being citizens of the Khilafah state but more focused on having their own homeland – the nation-state of Palestine.
This method of planting nationalism amongst the Ummah supported the implementation of the land divide by the colonialist powers. The divide and rule strategy ensured a weakened Muslim Ummah and a manageable subservient ruling body to implement British interest in the region. A nation bonded on the basis of nationality with a ruler of the same nationality was a model which was being rolled out across the newly formed nation-states, which would fulfil the objective of control in the region and secure both political and economic interests.
The British Mandate was officially presented to the League of Nations and approved on the 24th July 1922. The first group to be betrayed were the Arabs, as Palestine would not form part of any Arab state that they promised. The initial plans included Palestine alongside Transjordan as a complete entity that would be part of the Arab handover, however, the Balfour Declaration which promised a “national home to the Jews” would be eventually implemented by the British.
Naturally, this plan wasn’t accepted by the Arabs in the region, particularly the Arabs living within Palestine and local skirmishes followed. Initially, there was a strong collective objection to this plan by all other local nation states, this however diluted over the generations as they became more nationalistic in their ideas.
The Jewish migration to the land of Palestine was increasing throughout this period. This was fuelled by the uprising of the German based political movement known as Nazism. Their aggressive treatment towards the Jewish people in Europe accelerated migration to the land of Palestine, at the same time as the local Arabs were fighting to save control and sovereignty of their lands.
By 1947 and the outbreak of World War 2, Britain was greatly weakened and was now a shadow of its previous superpower might. Simultaneously, a new superpower had emerged on the global stage, similarly as ideological and with its own plan for global domination – the United States of America.
At this point, Britain could no longer contain the situation in Palestine and had failed in fulfilling its mandate for the region. The League of Nations were being replaced by a new international body with greater influence from the US and the United Nations were officially formed in 1945.
One of the first tasks for the UN was to deliver a mandate for Palestine. In 1947 the UN mandate was published as Resolution 181. It mapped out a new view on Palestine, based on a two-state solution, offering a home to the Arabs and the Jews.
Britain abstained from the vote, but it won a majority for implementation. The next year, on 14th May 1948 the Zionist entity was officially established.
Britain the ideological superpower has had the single biggest influence on the current state of the Muslim world and specifically in the land of Palestine. As soon as it revived on the ideology of Secularism it had a natural global outlook. It used the vile and destructive idea of Colonialism to implement its foreign policy and secure its political and economic interests in Palestine. This colonial idea is what we still see today as devastating the state of the Ummah and maintaining an unstable and divided Middle East.
Britain strategically employed key political manoeuvres to secure its objectives in the land of Palestine:
- Economic interests to safeguard control of the Suez Canal and protect trade routes to India.
- Britain used double deals and bribery with key conspirators and allies alongside encouraging nationalism amongst these groups to guarantee its objectives with Palestine. This manifested in –
- Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916
- Balfour Declaration in 1917
- McMahon–Hussein Correspondence in 1915-1916
Ultimately the colonial meddling in the region leaves the land of Palestine and the adjoining nations in the turmoil that we witness today. The abolishment of the Khilafah lost the protection the Ummah once had and the idea of nationalism furthered their divide. Its only with the removal of the colonial influence and the return of the Khilafah that security and prosperity will return for the Ummah in the Muslim world.
 The belief that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country (Cambridge dictionary)
 Wilson, John (April 1829). “Noctes Ambrosianae No. 42”. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. XXV (cli): 527.
 Islamic Uthmani Khilafah 1299-1924; Mughal Empire 1526 – 1857; Qing dynasty (China) 1644-1911
 The details of the Treaty were agreed on 22 July 1706, and separate Acts of Union were then passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the Treaty and put it into effect. The political union took effect on 1 May 1707.
 The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was popularised by the British economic historian Toynbee to describe Britain’s economic development between 1760-1840
 St Lucia (1605), Grenada (1609), St. Kitts (1624), Barbados (1627) and Nevis (1628). Americas was founded in 1607 in Jamestown, led by Captain John Smith
 Hyam, Ronald (2002). Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion.
 “The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency”. www.cia.gov.
 William M. Mathew, Senior Fellow in History, University of East Anglia. Lecture given as part of the Contemporary Middle East Lecture Programme, School of Oriental and African Studies, 28 October 2014
 Shashi Tharoor – Inglorious Empire (Ch 6, page 135)
 Shashi Tharoor – Inglorious Empire (Chapter 1)
 Shashi Tharoor – Inglorious Empire (Ch 1, page 20)
 NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
 Opened on November 17, 1869
 William M. Mathew, Senior Fellow in History, University of East Anglia. Lecture given as part of the Contemporary Middle East Lecture Programme, School of Oriental and African Studies, 28 October 2014
 Minimum width of channel
 Timeline – World History Documentaries, TVF International
 Campbell-Bannerman report, Imperial Conference 1907
 Dan Bar-On & Sami Adwan, THE PRIME SHARED HISTORY PROJECT, in Educating Toward a Culture of Peace, pages 309–323, Information Age Publishing, 2006
 Sykes-Picot map, The Economist
 Theodor Herzl is considered the founder of the Modern Zionist movement. In his 1896 book Der Judenstaat, he envisioned the founding of a future independent Jewish state during the 20th century.
 Existed between 1920 – 1947; replaced by the United Nations 1948 – present.
 1945 demographic study