Scott Anderson, in a recent biography, suggests that although T. E. Lawrence underwent an “apparent conversion to Zionism” after a 1918 meeting with Chaim Weizmann, “there was a marked limit to that conversion.” To Anderson, Lawrence’s support for Zionism was a tactical and perhaps cynical ploy with little staying power. Not so, writes Raymond Stock; Lawrence’s commitment to Zionism ran much deeper:
Lawrence published in the influential British periodical Round Table assessing the Zionist project in Palestine: “The success of [the Zionists’ settlement plan] . . . will involve inevitably the raising of the present Arab population to [the Zionists’] own material level, . . . and the consequences might be of the highest importance for the future of the Arab world. It might well prove a source of technical supply rendering them independent of industrial Europe, and in that case, the new confederation might become a formidable element of world power.”
One can hardly be more pro-Zionist than that—and arguably, no more pro-Arab, either. By placing Lawrence—a champion of both causes—essentially on just one side of that tragic divide, at least in his heart of hearts, Anderson has rendered . . . a less than reliable narrative. That is a pity, for the complex—and balanced—message of this enduringly enigmatic figure has great value both for his time, and our own.