Calculating the “economic absorptive capacity” of Palestine: A study of the political uses of scientific research

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From the Balfour Declaration to the establishment of Israel, there was a marked shift of Zionist attitudes towards the “economic absorptive capacity” of Palestine. In the early years of the Mandate, many Zionists did not themselves adopt an unrestricted definition of how many Jews could live in Palestine. On the contrary, confronted with an undeveloped and neglected country, leaders like Ruppin felt it could be disastrous for Zionism if too many pioneers came, only to be disappointed by what they found. Thus, the initial Zionist response to the British formula was not critical. They adopted a gradual approach to the colonization of Palestine. Although it was anticipated that the country could absorb millions, it was generally assumed that this would require time. Changed political circumstances forced a change in attitude. By the 1930’s the Arab pressure on the British to restrict Jewish immigration and the Nazi pressure on Jews to leave Europe forced a rethinking of the Zionist settlement program. Models for development had to be formulated that would allow for immediate absorption of large numbers of refugees. This required a shift from conceiving of Palestine essentially as an agricultural country to envisioning it as an urban and industrial society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-38
Number of pages20
JournalContemporary Jewry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies

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