Shaftesbury saw his opportunity. Using religious justification in his 1839 “State and Restauration of the Jews” he attempted to secure British political dominance in the area by advocating a return of the Jews to Palestine, under Turkish rule but protected by the British. This position provided the British with a direct land route to India, as well as providing new avenues of commercial markets for British wares, and giving them a distinct advantage over the French in the competition to control the Middle East.
In 1840, the London Times reported that a restoration of the Jews to Palestine was being seriously considered by the nation’s politicians. Shaftesbury himself, thatt stame year, took out a paid advertisement in The Times once again using religious justification for thet political maneuver, setting the stage for the imminent implementation of dispensationalism’s theological, and England’s political, agenda.
Near the turn of the 20th century, William Hechler, an Anglican priest, son of LJS missionaries, chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna, and ardent premillennialist (who even specified 1897 as the year of the restoration of the Jews), wrote his 1894 “The Restoration of the Jews to Palestine,” endorsing political Zionism with religious justification according to his interpretation of Old Testament prophecies. He would become an ally of Theodor Herzl, a secular Jew and one of modern Zionism’s most influential figures.
William Hechler embodied the absurdity and stupidity of the dispensationalist twisting of scripture, arguin gthat there were 42 “prophetic months” (1260 years) from Omar (673 C.E.) until 1897-1898, at which time the Jews would be restored to Palestine. Hechler impressed Herzl which his models of a rebuilt Jewish Temple. What makes Hechler’s theology particularly important, however, was his belief, not that the Jews would be restored to Palestine as a result of their conversion to Christianity, which was the belief of previous millennialists (both postmillennialists and premillennialists), but that it was the Church’s role to politically generate such a restoral of the Jews to Palestine.
While the ascent of David Lloyd George, a committed Zionist, to the position of Prime Minister in 1916, was an important advance in the political program of Zionism, it was not until the next year that Arthur rJames Balfour penned the now famous Balfour Declaration in 1917. Balfour was highly influenced by dispensational theology, and met with Chaim Weizmann, professor of chemistry at Manchester University, to discuss the implementation of the return of Israel to Palestine. It may be of some interest that it was this same Weizmann who had assisted the British in the development of the explosive “acetone,” leading the aforementioned David Lloyd George to utter the words “acetone converted me to Zionism.”
In 1917, Balfour was offered a draft by the Zionist Organization of a paper asking the British government to restore the Jews to Palestine through political means. Later that same here, he presented the final draft to Lord Rothschild. This became known as the Balfour Declaration.
Balfour amended this to emphasize the prerogative of the British government. On the 2nd November 1917, Lord Balfour made public the final draft of the letter written to Lord Rothschild on the 31st October which became known as the Balfour Declaration. It read as follows:
‘His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of that object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done, which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish Communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’
Of course, the indigenous Arab population was prejudiced by this very “restoration.” Writing to Lord Curzon two years later, he said:
‘For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country …the Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land … I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs … in short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.’
In other words: Ready or not, here we come! 90 percent of the area were Arabs, and 10 percent were Christians, although Balfour did not seem to think it relevant to first consult with them for their opinion on the matter. It was in this confluence of British imperial interests and dispensational theology that modern Zionism found its legitimacy. It was the Balfour Declaration, thanks to the British, that eventually led to the (in)famous 1947 Partition Plan and the resulting recognition of Israel as a nation by the UN, thanks to the Christian Zionist element of England’s Cabinet, the strategic placement of Palestine, and the diligent activity of modern Zionists.
Sizer, Stephen. The Road to Balfour: The History of Christian Zionism, Retrieved from: http://www.balfourproject.org/the-road-to-balfour-the-history-of-christi…