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These three books cover three different phases of the emergence and evolution of Zionism. Their common theme is the Jewish search, not for a safe haven or place of refuge from persecution, but for a sovereign national identity. It was Winston Churchill who, in 1921, told a Palestinian Arab delegation that had demanded a halt to all future Jewish immigration: "It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home, where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?"

Churchill's White Paper of the following year, accepted by the League of Nations as the blueprint for the governance of Mandate Palestine, stated that the Jews were in Palestine "of right, and not on sufferance". But the Balfour Declaration of 1917 had explicitly stated that, in the creation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". Of those communities, the Muslim Arab community was the largest. 

The clash of Jewish and Arab nationalisms preceded the Balfour Declaration.
Geoffrey Lewis, in his thoughtful account, notes the letter written in 1891 by the Jewish thinker and Zionist pioneer Ahad Ha'am (Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg), in which he says, "If ever we develop in Palestine to such a degree as to encroach on the living space of the native population to any appreciable extent, they will not easily give up their place." In 1899, only two years after Theodor Herzl had issued the Zionist programme at Basel, Yusuf Ziya al-Khalidi, from a distinguished Palestinian Arab family, wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France, Zadoc Kahn: "The reality is that Palestine is now an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and what is more serious, it is inhabited by others...Even those nations most favourably disposed towards the Jews, the English and the Americans, would never consent to go to war against the other inhabitants of Palestine to help the Jews settle in Palestine...In God's name, let Palestine be left in peace." On the eve of the First World War, the two Jerusalem Arabs elected to the Ottoman parliament in Constantinople both stood on an emphatically anti-Zionist platform.

Lewis explores with skill the diverse forces that produced the Balfour Declaration, including Britain's desire to obtain the support of both American and Russian Jews for the flagging war effort, and the fact of Jewish nationalism. On the eve of his declaration, Balfour told the War Cabinet of the "intense national consciousness held by certain members of the Jewish race", who regarded themselves "as one of the great historic races of the world, whose original home is Palestine", and that these Jews had "a passionate longing to regain once more this ancient national home".

British self-interest and Jewish national aspirations combined, once Britain had driven the Turks from Palestine, to create a Jewish National Home into which, between 1920 and 1939, more than half a million Jews joined the existing 50,000 Jews who were living there in 1914. But in that same interwar period, Arab immigration from as far west as Morocco and as far east as Afghanistan helped raise the Arab population of Palestine from half a million to a million. Britain had envisaged what Churchill called "a great Jewish State" numbering millions emerging in Palestine as a result of Jewish immigration. But with successive Palestinian Arab riots, culminating in the Arab revolt against the British that broke out in 1936, the chance of a Jewish majority by immigration had receded. 

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