Laurence Oliphant

One of those to take up the Zionist mantle of Shaftesbury was another influential M. P., Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888). Unlike many other Zionists, he actually visited Palestine to survey the land and explore prospects for its agricultural colonisation. In 1880 Oliphant published a book entitled The Land of Gilead, in which he reiterated the Zionist case, proposing a detailed settlement scheme east of the Jordan under British protection while acknowledging Turkish sovereignty. Conveniently, Oliphant too recognised the convergence of absolute religious dogmatism and pragmatic political expediency.

It remains for England to decide whether she will undertake the task of exploring its ruined cities, of developing its vast agricultural resources, by means of the repatriation of that race which first entered into its possession, 3000 years ago and of securing the great political advantages which must accrue from such a policy.147

Oliphant also urged the British Parliament to assist the emigration of Jews to Palestine from Russia and Eastern Europe. Controversially he recommended that the 'warlike' Bedouins be driven out, while the more passive Palestinians be moved onto reservations along the lines of the native Indians in North America.148

By 1897 when the First World Zionist Congress met in Basle, Switzerland, Jewish leaders in favour of a Zionist state had sympathetic support from many more senior British political figures. The founder of the Red Cross, the Swiss Christian philanthropist, Henri Dunant, for example, was the first Gentile to be called a 'Christian Zionist' by Theodor Herzl, and one of only a handful of Gentiles to be invited to the Congress.149

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