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Britain’s Hegemony in Palestine and the Middle East, 1917–1956: Changing Strategic Imperatives, by Michael J. Cohen ( London: Vallentine Mitchell , 2017 ; pp. 260) The English Historical Review, Volume 134, Issue 569, August 2019
  English Historical Review    EHR  © Oxford University Press 󰀲󰀰󰀱󰀹. All rights reserved. BOOK REVIEW  Britain’s Hegemony in Palestine and the Middle East, 1917–1956: Changing Strategic Imperatives  , by Michael J. Cohen (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2017; pp. 260. £50).This book is an anthology of Michael J. Cohen’s articles and reflects the author’s growing interest in the military and strategic aspects of the Palestine question. The fourteen chapters explore the radical changes in British imperial policy in Palestine and in the Middle East from the Balfour Declaration of 􀀱􀀹􀀱󰀷 to the Suez Crisis of 􀀱􀀹󰀵󰀶. The first six chapters chart the srcins of Britain’s presence in Palestine, analysing the Balfour Declaration and the importance of Zionist capital for Britain’s imperial endeavours. With Chapters Seven to Ten, Cohen turns to the end of the mandate and to the early consequences of the Cold War in Palestine and in the Middle East. In the final four chapters, the anthology closes with an analysis of the Suez Crisis and of Britain’s imperial twilight in the wider region. While there is an important and growing historiography on Britain’s moment in the Middle East, some of the chapters make a significant contribution to the literature. This is mostly because Cohen began his research on Palestine in 􀀱􀀹󰀶􀀹,  just as the fifty-year closure period for British official documents was reduced to thirty years. Some of Cohen’s research, especially on the Mufti of Jerusalem, relies on German archives and therefore brings to light new, interesting elements. Using recently declassified documents from the Truman era, Michael Cohen also provides a reassessment of America’s policy towards Palestine and, later, Israel, in the 􀀱􀀹󰀵􀀰s.One of the main interests of the book is to engage with some of the major historiographical questions regarding Britain’s imperialism in Palestine. Scholars have emphasised how the evangelical support for the return of the Jews to the Holy Land had entered the realm of British politics in the late nineteenth century, and how this played a role in the Balfour Declaration and, later, in the growing support for the mandate in Palestine. Studies have also emphasised the role of pro-Zionist figures in British politics, such as Churchill, for example. Indeed, Balfour’s champion and architect of the extension of Britain’s empire in the Middle East, Lloyd George, had been brought up in an evangelical home. However, Cohen argues that it was mostly the fear of an American-sponsored peace in the Middle East that prompted the Balfour Declaration.Cohen reminds us that, in October 􀀱􀀹􀀱󰀷, none of the members of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet had envisaged the long-term implications of the Declaration. In the early 􀀱􀀹􀀲􀀰s, British officialdom felt ill at ease with unrest in Palestine and the promotion of Jewish immigration and settlement against the will of the Arab population. Anti-Semitism also still loomed large in British politics and society. Cohen demonstrates that, after 􀀱􀀹􀀱󰀸, the Balfour Declaration had many opponents among British politicians at home, especially in the right wing of the Conservative Party, but also among British officials in the Middle East. Yet if, in the 􀀱􀀹􀀲􀀰s, the Declaration was often at risk, in the 􀀱􀀹󰀳􀀰s there was a broad consensus regarding the mandate in Palestine D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  omh  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   eh r  /   a d v  an c  e- ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /   d  oi   /  1  0 .1  0  9  3  /   eh r  /   c  ez 2  8 2  /   5  5 4  8  9  8 7  b  y  Uni  v  er  s i   t   y  of  W ar wi   c k  , g. c r  o uz  e t   @w ar wi   c k . a c . uk  on 0 4 N ov  em b  er 2  0 1  9   EHR  Page 􀀲 of 􀀲 BOOK REVIEW  among British politicians. Cohen argues that the Palestinian Mandate became a  fait accompli   for strategic reasons. British officials saw Palestine as a buffer to Egypt and as a means to extend Britain’s power in the Eastern Mediterranean,  which had been limited until the aftermath of the First World War to Cyprus.  As Cohen stresses, for British officialdom, Haifa was never to replace Suez and Port Said. Nevertheless, from 􀀱􀀹󰀳󰀵 onwards and the construction of the Iraq–Mediterranean pipeline, Haifa gained a new importance for the British Empire, and for British oil companies exploiting oil in Iran and Persia. Crude oil extracted in Iraq and Iran was exported to Europe via Haifa. Sadly, the oil factor does not feature in Cohen’s chapters on Haifa and Palestine’s new strategic importance for the British Empire in the 􀀱􀀹󰀳􀀰s.For Cohen, in 􀀱􀀹􀀱󰀸 Palestine was an underdeveloped rural province of the Ottoman Empire. He reminds us how the economy of the Palestinian mandate grew mostly thanks to Zionist imports of capital from American Jewry. The First World War had left Britain impoverished and overburdened with an empire which had considerably expanded and Zionist capital helped develop the Jewish national home. This windfall of capital enabled Britain to maintain its administration in Palestine, but also to expand its imperial presence in the region. Cohen argues that, despite the pious intentions embedded in the Balfour Declaration, Britain diverted the flow of Zionist-generated capital to serve its own imperial ambitions. Jacob Norris’s recent study, Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development, 󰀱󰀹󰀰󰀵–󰀱󰀹󰀴󰀸   (􀀲􀀰􀀱󰀳; rev. ante  , cxxxi [􀀲􀀰􀀱󰀶], 􀀹󰀵􀀱–󰀳) has nuanced this perspective on British development, showing that, while differences existed, the late Ottoman state pursued in Palestine, and more widely in the Eastern Mediterranean, similar colonial development policies.Some of the most interesting chapters focus on the period after 􀀱􀀹󰀴󰀵. Two chapters analyse British policies towards the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husayni. Discussing the evidence of Amin’s collaboration with the Nazis and his plans to eliminate the Jews of Palestine, Cohen argues that Haj Amin was never put on trial for reasons of realpolitik  , as the British feared his trial would trigger a new wave of violence and unrest in Palestine. Two chapters provide an interesting reassessment of America’s ambiguous policy in the Middle East after the Second World War, notably under Truman. Discussing the career of William  A. Eddy, who served as US minister to Saudi Arabia from 􀀱􀀹󰀴󰀴 to 􀀱􀀹󰀴󰀶, Cohen explains that American oil companies and especially Aramco (the Arabian– American Oil Company) feared that US support for Israel could damage their position in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East. Eddy was hired by Aramco in 􀀱􀀹󰀴󰀷 to form an anti-Zionist lobby in Washington. Aramco sent Eddy and other executives to the Middle East, whose views and reports were discussed at length by the US civil and military administration. Cohen also demonstrates, through an analysis of as yet unpublished material, that Truman, who figures in the ‘pantheon of Zionist and Israeli heroes’, held personal prejudices against the Zionist lobby. According to Cohen, if Truman’s resentment was partly due to his racist bigotry, his support for the Zionist cause in 􀀱􀀹󰀴󰀷–󰀸 was a pure pragmatic choice, made to help him win the US presidential election.In summary, then, this anthology makes a significant contribution to the literature on Britain’s imperialism in Palestine and in the Middle East. GUILLEMETTE CROUZETdoi:􀀱􀀰.􀀱􀀰􀀹󰀳/ehr/cez􀀲󰀸􀀲   University of Warwick  D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  omh  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   eh r  /   a d v  an c  e- ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /   d  oi   /  1  0 .1  0  9  3  /   eh r  /   c  ez 2  8 2  /   5  5 4  8  9  8 7  b  y  Uni  v  er  s i   t   y  of  W ar wi   c k  , g. c r  o uz  e t   @w ar wi   c k . a c . uk  on 0 4 N ov  em b  er 2  0 1  9 
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