By Alexander Schloch
As the Ottoman Empire began to open to European penetration, between 1831 and 1840, the various Powers, including the British, strengthened their presence in Palestine and their footholds in the empire by establishing diplomatic missions and setting up religious missions supporting particular minorities. Well before the establishment in strength of the Zionist Movement at the end of the century, the British sought to exercise their influence in the Levant by converting Arab and other Christians to Protestantism, creating their own proteges. The British were less successful with converting the Jews, in Palestine and particularly in Jerusalem, but instead established themselves as the protectors of the Jewish community.
The resulting influx of missionaries, pilgrims and tourists these processes encouraged, and the increasing British sympathy, organised by British Evangelical Christians, for “the restoration of the Jews” to the Holy Land, were well in train by the middle of the 19th Century, forming a solid basis for the pro-Zionist policies of Balfour and his Government 60 or so years later. The start of the story of Britain’s essential role in making the state of Israel a reality is explained here in detail and in its political and historical context by the German professor of contemporary Middle East history, Alexander Scholch.
Alexander Scholch (1943-1986) was a professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history at the University of Erlangen, Germany. This article was extracted and adapted from the chapter "European Interests in Palestine" in his classic Palestine in Transformation, 1856-1882: Studies in Social, Economic and Political Development, which has been translated into English from the original German for the first time and was published by The Institute for Palestine Studies in 1992. The full chapter deals in equal measure with the interests and activities in Palestine of England, Russia, France, and Prussia.
Below is a pdf download of the full paper published in the Journal of Palestine Studies
BRITAIN IN PALESTINE, 1838-1882: THE ROOTS OF THE BALFOUR POLICY