Many Christians saw the return of Palestine to Jewish control as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. For example, on March 2, 1841, a memorandum was addressed to Lord Palmerston (British Church and Political leader) by a group of 320 Christians expressing beliefs that were widely shared by both Protestants and Catholics of the time:
- Your Memorialists beg leave . . . to remind your Lordship that the land of Palestine was bestowed by the Sovereign of the Universe upon the descendants of Abraham as a permanent and inalienable possession nearly 4000 years ago, and that neither conquests nor treaties among men can possibly affect their Title to it. He has also decreed that they shall again return to their country, and that the Gentiles shall be employed as a means of their restoration.
One of the major keys to Zionism founder Theodor Herzl’s thinking and success was the influence of his Christian friends. When Herzl was debating where to find a haven for Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, the Rev William E Blackstone sent him a copy of the Old Testament with prophetic references to the Jews’ return to the Land of Israel marked throughout. And William Hechler, a British chaplain and tutor to German royalty, was instrumental in helping Herzl gain access to Kaiser Wilhelm II, thereby bringing the Zionist cause into the mainstream of European geo-political discussion.
Perhaps more surprising is that at least some Arab leaders also supported Zionism, seeing that the Jewish landowners were capable of bringing prosperity to the region and that the Zionists could be used as leverage toward Arab aspirations for their own independence from foreign domination. For example, Emir Feisal wrote the following to Felix Frankfurter, President of the Zionist Organisation of America, in March, 1919:
- The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.
This letter was part of an exchange of agreements that had the potential for lasting friendship and cooperation between the Palestinian Arabs and Jews, but that hope was frustrated by later events.
Many people who were not sympathetic to the Zionist cause still believed the Jews would improve the condition of Palestinian Arabs. For example, Dawood Barakat, editor of the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram, wrote: “It is absolutely necessary that an entente be made between the Zionists and Arabs, because the war of words can only do evil. The Zionists are necessary for the country: The money which they will bring, their knowledge and intelligence, and the industriousness which characterizes them will contribute without doubt to the regeneration of the country.”
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