This book was shortlisted for the Palestine Book Awards 2020.
It is now more than seventy years since the creation of the state of Israel, yet its origins and the British Empire’s historic responsibility for Palestine remain little known. Confusion persists too as to the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. In Legacy of Empire, Gardner Thompson offers a clear-eyed review of political Zionism and Britain’s role in shaping the history of Palestine and Israel.
Thompson explores why the British government adopted Zionism in the early twentieth century, issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then retaining it as the cornerstone of their rule in Palestine after the First World War. Despite evidence and warnings, over the next two decades Britain would facilitate the colonisation of Arab Palestine by Jewish immigrants, ultimately leading to a conflict which it could not contain. Britain’s response was to propose the partition of an ungovernable land: a ‘two-state solution’ which – though endorsed by the United Nations after the Second World War – has so far brought into being neither two states nor a solution.
A highly readable and compelling account of Britain’s rule in Palestine, Legacy of Empire is essential for those wishing to better understand the roots of this enduring conflict.
Judges' Notes on why this book was shortlisted:
This is an excellent clear analysis of Britain’s role in the creation of Israel. Starting with the founding of the Zionist movement in the 1870s, Gardner Thompson examines how it seeped into the mainstream of British political thinking, and its gradual acceptance by the British establishment. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire the author examines in detail Britain’s enduring commitment to Zionism, and its active, though often surreptitious, support against the interests of the original inhabitants of Palestine. Britain’s legacy has been to allow the successful establishment of Israel and to be responsible for the effective destruction of the idea of a Palestinian state.
Notes by Alan Waddams, Judge, Palestine Book Awards 2020
Read the Judges' Notes for all the shortlisted books here.