Legacy of Empire: Britain, Zionism and the Creation of Israel
(SAQI, 352 PP, £20)
Tablet bookshop price £19 • Tel 020 7799 4064
A few years ago, I was standing with an Israeli acquaintance on a viewing platform looking across Jerusalem. The panorama before us, he assured me, would tell me everything I needed to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To the West, on the Jewish side, neighbourhoods lush with greenery and interspersed with cranes suggested an industrious citizenry eager to develop the city. To the East, the Arab areas appeared drab and underdeveloped. The former, my companion said, cared for the land; the latter neglected it.
My interlocutor’s musings about the cultural roots of the conflict are hardly original. For many, the struggle over the Holy Land is a manifestation of a “clash of civilisations”, a fight between enlightened Israelis and backward Palestinians. Another, more prosaic explanation for the violence that dogs the eastern Mediterranean is that two national movements with equal claim to the territory wish to build their respective nation-states on the same plot of land; less clash of civilisations, more clash of political movements.