Saturday, June 16, 2018

It Seemed Like a Jolly Good Idea at the Time

I introduced Thursday's post, Erin Go Brath, with a quote from Ronald Storrs (1881-1955), the British governor of Jerusalem from 1920-26. As indicated, the quote comes from his highly-regarded memoir Orientations (1937). It is obvious from the passage that, at the time of writing his book, Storrs was a starry-eyed admirer of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine. But, as the bloody reality of that project inevitably became apparent, the penny began to drop for him, as those wonderful, enterprising Zionist chappies of the 20s turned on Britain in the late 40s and went for its jugular.

Here's how Zionist historian Rory Miller concludes his essay Sir Ronald Storrs & Zion: the dream that turned into a nightmare (Middle East Studies, July 2000):

"For the Zionists the story [of British involvement in Palestine] concluded well with the birth of the State of Israel. For Storrs the story did not have such a happy ending. By the time of Israel's founding in 1948, Storrs' long-time interest in Palestine had crystallized into a loathing of Zionism. It had even turned into paranoia with Storrs concerned lest his public pronouncements on Zionism might result in his assassination by Zionist extremists and get him 'sterned off', as he liked to phrase it... Entries into his diary such as 'Palestine news is heartbreaking' and 'Palestine is worse than ever... I wish I could let my anxiety, even despair lapse into... indifference' evoke the bitterness, hostility and resignation of a man who had involved himself in the Palestine question for over 30 years. Indeed it is a private note made by Storrs when he was contemplating adding an addendum to the 1948 reprint of the final and definitive edition of Orientations that emotionally and eloquently best sums up the totality of his opposition to Zionism and his belief in the harm wrought by the Zionist experiment in Palestine by this time: 're-reading these chapters I compared what Britain had done for Zionism with what Zionism had done to the British, to the peaceful inhabitants of the Holy Land and to the Middle East, to Judaism and ultimately to world Jewry, to the fair name of the United Nations, to the Anglo-American relationship, upon which the future of humanity depends - then, in the speech of our book of common prayer - 'I held my tongue and spake nothing. I kept silence, yea even from God's* words, but it was pain and grief to me'."

[*The Book of Common Prayer actually says, 'good words'.]

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