The Wartime “Special Relationship”, 1941—45: Isaiah Berlin, Freya Stark and Mandate Palestine

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In 1972, the world renowned Oxford academic Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) invited "historians to say whether the beliefs and policies of those who followed Weizmann - the men of the centre, amongst whom I count myself - were written in water, built on shifting sands."1 In taking up this invitation, this study uses an entirely new research path to establish Berlin's role in arranging for Freya Stark (1893-1993), the leading British Middle East explorer and best selling travel writer (attached to the wartime British Ministry of Information in the Middle East), to undertake a speaking tour of the United States in late 1943 and early 1944. At the time, in the run-up to Roosevelt's 1944 re-election campaign,2 increasingly radicalized US Zionists within the key Democratic Jewish constituency mounted sustained attacks on British policy, including the first official demand for an independent Jewish state in the Biltmore Resolution of May 1942 and pleas for the recruitment of a Jewish army in Mandate Palestine, thereby potentially embarrassing the wartime Anglo-American alliance. On arrival, Stark's outspoken anti-Zionism and support for the con troversial, anti-immigration 1939 British White Paper on Mandate Palestine triggered a wave of protests, given that many wartime Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe vainly sought a refuge willing to accept them.

Adopting a fresh approach leads to a new reconstruction of the story and its repercussions for Berlin and Stark, both during the war and in the decades afterwards. The available evidence suggests that a combination of Berlin's complicated wartime attitude to pre-state Zionism and his "anxiety to please" his Foreign Office colleagues may be a plausible explanation for an apparent paradox: why did an apparently life-long Zionist3 (albeit of a hesitant,

1 Isaiah Berlin, "Zionist Politics in Wartime Washington: A Fragment of Personal Reminiscence - The Jacob Herzog Memorial Lecture" (hereafter, ZP), Jerusalem, 1972, in Isaiah Berlin, Flourishing: Letters IÇ28 1Ç46 (hereafter, Li), ed. Henry Hardy (London: Chatto & Windus, 2004).

2 F. D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), Democratic politician, 32nd US President, 1933-45.

3 See e.g. ZP, 667, "My sympathies had been pro-Zionist since my schooldays. When I read in the memoirs of... Maurice Bowra that my pro-Zionist views seemed to him, in the years before the war, the most prominent and characteristic of all my political convictions, this came as no surprise to me."

Weizmannite variety) such as Berlin admire such a fierce critic of Zionism as Freya Stark? Since the available evidence raises far more questions than it can possibly answer, this study also considers a more speculative, byzantine pos sibility - that Berlin might have advocated Stark's us tour, knowing full well how counter-productive it was likely to be, thereby sabotaging the British anti-Zionist efforts from the inside.

Isaiah Berlin was seen by many as one of the leading liberal thinkers of the twentieth century, a transatlantic public intellectual who argued with great eloquence in his collected writings against deterministic ideologies and total itarian oppression. He maintained 'three strands' in his life - British, Russian and Jewish - which became tightly intertwined during his diplomatic service

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