Skip to main content
The Aaronsohn family in 1914 (jwa.org)
jwa.org

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,.

Related Articles

What Is Illiberalism? Answering Joshua Muravchik

John Fonte

Freedom House, biased against conservatives, is no longer a reliable source of ratings for nations’ democratic policies...

Continue Reading

50 Years Ago, A Marine Victory in Vietnam Was Considered a Defeat by the Media

Arthur Herman

A mainstream media that reshapes reality to fit a preordained political agenda isn’t something that started only recently...

Continue Reading

Make Washington’s Birthday Great Again

John Fonte

We once celebrated the individual greatness of George Washington on his birthday, February 22. Historian James Thomas Flexner called George Washingt...

Continue Reading