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The Aaronsohn family in 1914 (jwa.org)
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The Jewish Spies Who Helped the British Defeat the Ottoman Empire in World War I

Douglas J. Feith

One-hundred years ago this month, the Ottoman Turks, then in control of Palestine, rounded up and destroyed a Zionist intelligence network that made a decisively important contribution to the British invasion and liberation of Palestine. This is the group’s story.

The Great War of 1914-18—now called World War I—ended the Ottoman empire’s control of the Near East and allowed both Zionism and Arab nationalism to advance. After Britain invaded Palestine in 1917, its officials would run it for three decades and relinquish it only under pressure. Because they exerted themselves to hold on to the Holy Land, one might suppose they had jumped at the opportunity to conquer it.

In fact, they hadn’t.

The government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, which took Britain into the Great War, had little to no interest in Palestine. It focused chiefly on Europe’s Western front and, in line with liberal principles, opposed enlarging the British empire at all. Even after the Ottoman empire joined with the Central Powers and became an enemy, Asquith’s War Office begrudged resources for efforts against the Turks. It planned to defend Britain’s control of Egypt but to let others fight in the Near East, which top British generals deprecated as a sideshow.

To read the full piece on the Mosaic Magazine website, click here,.

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