Lord Palmerston

Shaftesbury's gentle lobbying of Palmerston proved successful. Palmerston wrote an astonishing letter to Ponsonby, the British ambassador in Constantinople, dated 11 August 1840. It concerned the mutual benefit to both Turkey and Britain of allowing Jews to return to Palestine. Ironically the restoration of the Jews was seen, at that time, as an important means of maintaining the status quo, and of avoiding the disintegration of the Moslem Ottoman Empire. Palmerston wrote,

There exists at the present time among the Jews dispersed over Europe, a strong notion that the time is approaching when their nation is to return to Palestine... It would be of manifest importance to the Sultan to encourage the Jews to return and to settle in Palestine because the wealth which they would bring with them would increase the resources of the Sultan's dominions; and the Jewish people, if returning under the sanction and protection and at the invitation of the Sultan, would be a check upon any future evil designs of Mohamet Ali or his successor... I have to instruct Your Excellency strongly to recommend [the Turkish government] to hold out every just encouragement to the Jews of Europe to return to Palestine.139

Days after Lord Palmerston sent his letter, a lead article in the Times dated 17 August 1840, called for a plan 'to plant the Jewish people in the land of their fathers' claiming such a plan was under 'serious political consideration' and commending the efforts of Shaftesbury, as the author of the plan which it argued was 'practical and statesmanlike.' Tuchman claims the article 'created a sensation.'140 Lady Palmerston supported her husband's stance. A letter to written to Princess Lieven reveals something of her ambivalence toward the involvement of Christian Zionists in the plan to restore Palestine to the Jews,

We have on our side the fanatical and religious elements, and you know what a following they have in this country. They are absolutely determined that Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine shall be reserved for the Jews to return to; this is their only longing to restore the Jews.141

Fuelling speculation about an imminent restoration, on 4 November of 1840, Shaftesbury took out a paid advertisement in the Times to give greater visibility to his vision. The advertisement included the following,

RESTORATION OF THE JEWS, A memorandum has been addressed to the Protestant monarchs of Europe on the subject of the restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Palestine. The document in question, dictated by a peculiar conjunction of affairs in the East, and other striking 'signs of the times,' reverts to the original covenant which secures that land to the descendants of Abraham.142

Wagner summarises Shaftesbury's influence on the rise of Christian Zionism in these terms,

One cannot overstate the influence of Lord Shaftesbury on the British political elite, church leaders, and the average Christian lay person. His efforts and religious-political thought may have set the tone for England's colonial approach to the Near East and in particular the 'holy' land during the next one hundred years. He single-handedly translated the theological positions of Brightman, Henry Finch, and John nelson Darby into a political strategy. His high political connections, matched by his uncanny instincts, combined to advance the Christian Zionist vision.143

Like Moses, Shaftesbury did not live to see his promised land realised, however, through his lobbying, writings and public speaking he did more than any other British politician to inspire a generation of Caleb's and Joshua's to translate his religious vision into a political reality.

In addition to influencing British colonial perceptions of the Near East, Shaftesbury also predisposed the next generation of British Conservative politicians favourably toward the World Zionist movement, which led eventually to British support of the Jewish state.144

What is not generally known is that it was probably Shaftesbury who inspired Israel Zangwell and Theodore Herzl to coin the myth, 'A land of no people for a people with no land.' It is likely that they borrowed the idea from Shaftesbury, who a generation earlier, imagining Palestine an empty country, formulated the slogan, 'A country without a nation for a nation without a country.'145

In 1865, James Finn, the British Consul in Jerusalem and another leading restorationist, established the Palestine Exploration Fund for the purpose of encouraging scientific exploration, archaeological research and the cartographic mapping of the Holy Land. According to Sharif, this was merely one of many organisations and charities offering advice and financial support to encourage Jews to emigrate to Palestine and form agricultural colonies.146

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