Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mid East Conflict Part I: TE Lawrence and the Zionists

In my last post I discussed how TE Lawrence (ie Lawrence of Arabia) played a historical part in the future state of Iraq. He was also instrumental in creating the current day struggle between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. Interestingly, I think if he could see the outcome of his efforts today, he would be mortified. As the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished". And that is exactly what has happened.

In yesterday's post I talked about his efforts to unite the Bedouin tribes to fight against the Turks and help them have a position of power to negotiate from and, hopefully, gain the free, united Arabic state from the colonial powers that were sweeping the region. One thing is clear, throughout his association with the Arabs, and despite his love for their culture and people, he was ultimately an Englishman who understood his duty to country and king. I think that this had a profound effect on him. Torn loyalties forced him to make decisions that were often contrary to his deepest feelings.

For instance, his torn loyalties forced him to support a government plan that he felt was contrary to the well being of the Arab culture and he was probably right, but he did as all good Englishmen do, stiff upper lift and act for King and country. What did he do? He convinced King Hussein and Prince Feisel to consent to the large scale immigration of the Zionist element to the area formally known as the Palestine Mandate before the break up of the area. This Zionist element was later the movement that declared Israel a free and independent state in 1948.

If you would like to learn more about the politics of the situation and Lawrence's part in it, go to the inner sanctum.

Let's take a look at some of the characters and issues of the time to better understand how this started the boulder rolling down hill to our current situation:

King Hussein: nominally the king of the Hedjaz (now a minority tribe in Saudi Arabia as well as the tribe of the current ruling king of Jordan). He didn't become and stay king just from birthright. He was a savvy statesman. He knew how to play differing factions off of one another until he got, if not a victorious outcome for himself and his tribe, a moderately successful one that would allow him to continue working towards his goals. He was largely pragmatic when it came to retaining his kingdom and it's power.

Prince Feisel: a fiery revolutionary that felt, and rightly so, that his people would be better served if they united and showed force to any would be colonizer as well as other instruments for negotiating from the then colonial empire governments who were mostly concerned about keeping the Suez canal open for trade.

Lawrence: English officer in the World War I British Army. He had been assigned to survey tasks in the area pre-war, mostly to prepare for the up coming conflict. He lived and breathed the Bedouin tribe atmosphere, but could never forget he was an English officer with loyalties to Britain first. The guilt of betrayals and the pain of his experiences in the war seemed to weigh heavily on him in later life.

General Allenby: Commander of the Army in Palestine. He was about British victory in the region first and foremost. Loyal to Britain. All other considerations were secondary. He was not above using whatever he could get from anyone to make it happen. There were many countries vying for Hussein's attention and he made many a bold promise without much authority in order to win Hussein's assistance.

Lord Balfour: Part of the British contingent that supported a resolution to the "Jewish problem" in Europe. Author of the Balfour Declaration. It is important to remember that even prior to World War II and the Holocaust, the Jews were not a well loved race. Their business acumen as well as the Jewish banking community's tendency to make risky loans at high interests rates to many government endeavors over centuries, had never endeared them to the people nor the governments of these countries. Further, they had "foreign ways" and, in an ultra Christian culture, they had been considered the murderers of Christ. During the Crusades, it was just as common for the Jewish communities of the middle east to be ransacked and destroyed as well as the people to be slaughtered along with any other "infidels" in the town. Through out the history of Europe, anti-semitism was very common. Balfour was one of the first to put together a proposal for the development of a Jewish state.

Chaim Weizman: Zionist Movement in Britain. He was one of those responsible for the immigration of Jews to the Palestinian territory which had been going on for over a decade. The area that they had settled was largely rocky with some swamps. The Jewish immigrants set about draining the swampy areas and creating arable farm land. At first, the immigration was not overwhelming, but the turn of the century saw more and more immigration to the area. Remember at this time the area was under the control of the British as the Palestinian territory, later referred to as the "mandate"

Aaron Aaronsohn: Zionist Zealot who worked within the Jewish community in Palestine and was hot for a Jewish state. He had many meetings between himself, Weizman and Lawrence in an attempt to get Lawrence to work on the Arabs in agreeing to the situation. Lawrence did not agree and felt that the Jewish community should allow itself to be integrated and assimilated into the Arab culture. Aaronsohn looked on the Arabs of the area as stupid goat herders (which many were, hoat herders that is) and had no sympathy towards them. One could even say he was quite prejudice which was not uncommon for many Europeans of any race or ethnicity who came to the area, but he did not ingratiate himself to Lawrence.

Clayton: General Allenby's advisor on Mid East Affairs from the Foreign Office. His and Lawrence's understanding and far seeing insight to the inherent problems turn out to be quite true although they are not heeded.

The Zionist lobby, which many scoff at today as a derogatory term by the Arabs, was alive and real at the turn of the century. Since the 1890's, Jewish immigrants had been flooding the Palestinian territory. In Europe, they had been subject to many pogroms and degradations. Their property had been confiscated ex-judiciously throughout the centuries and they were looked on with suspicion. While kristallnacht is remembered as the start of the holocaust, there had been many incidents before that that resembled that day, well before. If there was crime in an area and there was a large Jewish population, the Jews were often first looked at for suspects. This could have been perpetuated by the fact that most pawn shops or areas for "fencing" stolen property were owned by Jews in the area.

The Zionist lobby was most interested in creating a state in the Palestinian territory. While the British supported their efforts to immigrate, the governors of the area understood the tensions that such immigration was causing within their Arab communities. Through out that period, the Arab tribes had been known to attack some settlements and kill the inhabitants and actually sell off the women and children into slavery (yes, even at the turn of this century). The Jews were not unknown to retaliate for such offenses. So, well before the declaration of Independence of Israel, the Arab and Jewish communities were having difficulties.

The Zionist lobby was supported by Lord Balfour. Of course, immigrant "colonists" were not the only Jews in the area. There were "Arab Jews" that had been there for centuries and spoke the Arab language. In a 1917 letter to Mark Sykes, the author of the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement with the French, Lawrence outlines what some of the problems were with the immigration and Zionist lobby:

'You know of course the root differences between the Palestine Jew and the colonist Jew: to Feisal the important point is that the former speak Arabic, and the latter German Yiddish. He is in touch with the Arab Jews (their H.Q. at Safed and Tiberias is in his sphere) and they are ready to help him, on conditions. They show a strong antipathy to the colonist Jews, and have even suggested repressive measures against them. Feisal has ignored this point hitherto, and will continue to do so. His attempts to get into touch with the colonial Jews have not been very fortunate. They say they have made their arrangements with the Great Powers, and wish no contact with the Arab Party. They will not help the Turks or the Arabs.


The immigrant Jews from Europe were insular and rather biased against not only the Arabs, but their fellow Arab Jews. The question of "repressive measures" was concerning the immigrant Jews penchant for clearing certain lands and claiming it as their own although the Arabs and Arab Jews had been using the areas as a "free range" for their goats and sheep. They were also very expansionist within the villages and the sprawl was taking over areas originally inhabited by the Arab contingent, whether Muslim or Jew. Lastly, the immigrants were very protectionist and a militant about protecting their new settlements. This caused quite a bit of unrest.

The Palestinian territory was considered by the Arabs, particularly Feisel, to be part of their territory. They were also participating with the British at this time in an uprising against the Turks, which was keeping the Turkish army from sending men to the frontlines between the German axis of allies and the British, French trenches. Feisel wanted to know if they were going to join him or fight against him. In this case, the immigrant Jewish community declined to join either endeavor and felt that they had no reason to communicate or negotiate with Feisel as they were in the territory at the leisure of Britain and France.

'Now Feisal wants to know (information had better come to me for him since I usually like to make up my mind before he does) what is the arrangement standing between the colonist Jews (called Zionists sometimes) and the Allies . . . What have you promised the Zionists, and what is their programme?

'I saw Aaronson in Cairo, and he said at once the Jews intended to acquire the land-rights of all Palestine from Gaza to Haifa, and have practical autonomy therein. Is this acquisition to be by fair purchase or by forced sale and expropriation? The present half-crop peasantry were the old freeholders and under Moslem landlords may be ground down but have fixity of tenure. Arabs are usually not employed by Jewish colonies. Do the Jews propose the complete expulsion of the Arab peasantry, or their reduction to a day-labourer class?

'You know how the Arabs cling even to bad land and will realize that while Arab feelings didn't matter under Turkish rule . . . the condition will be vastly different if there is a new, independent, and rather cock-a-hoop Arab state north and east and south of the Jewish state.

I can see a situation arising in which the Jewish influence in European finance might not be sufficient to deter the Arab peasants from refusing to quit - or worse!


So, here we see the beginnings of the current problem. Already, the economic impact of a Jewish contingent was being felt. Lawrence also confirms that the land the Jews were taking over was not exactly choice land, but it was considered Arab land. And, he wanted to know if the Jews were going to purchase the land or just summarily throw the freeholders (free rangers) from the land and take it over which would result in large scale degradation of the Arab population (whether Jew or Muslim). Of course, he predicts the exact problem that was to arise: "or worse".

Historically, both things that he wondered about happened: the Jews would buy large tracks of land from largely absentee Muslim land holders and then they would toss the tenants off the property. Some were used as day labourers, but the European Jewish community had it's own prejudices and were concerned largely with their own success and not the impact on those that were losing out. Other land was taken over by expansion and growth first and then some sort of payment was worked out, but the take over was "fait accompli".

Again, the land was not prime land, but it was Arab land.

Enter the second blow to the situation:

The risk of declining morale among Feisal's present forces was no less worrying: 'This was now 1918, and stalemate across its harvest would have marked the ebb of Feisal's movement. His fellows were living on their nerves (rebellion is harder than war) and their nerves were wearing thin. Also the big war was not looking too well.'2

These difficulties had to be seen in the context of a much wider anxiety. Since the autumn of 1917, the Anglo-Arab alliance had been under great strain. The cause was Arab knowledge of the Sykes-Picot terms (greatly exploited by Turkish propaganda) and of the Balfour Declaration. These agreements affected Syria, Lebanon, Mesopotamia and Palestine. If they were implemented, only the Arabian Peninsula would be autonomous. In other words, the richest and most fertile of the Arab provinces had been reserved for the Allies, and political independence was to be denied to the overwhelming majority of Turkey's subject peoples. Arab leaders felt cheated of much that they had been fighting for, and bitterly angry that they had not been consulted about these agreements.


They had become aware of secret agreements. The Sykes-Picot agreement ceded Syria and Lebanon to the French as "mandates" or colonies a the war's end. The Balfour Declaration supported a Jewish proxy state under the protection of the British.

In 1918, additional issues arise. Weizman is directed by the British to make some sort of amends with the Arab contingent and allay their fears about the purpose of the Zionist intentions in the area. He meets with Feisel and assures him that the Jews have no desire to create a state governed separately from the Arab provinces, but does desire to spread the Jewish community through the whole area of "Judea", once the Jews original kingdom that had been smashed by successive invasions of other countries and empires including the Romans and then the Ottomans.

The reasons are multi-faceted. Mostly, the British had made one too many agreements that contradicted each other and they were trying to keep the peace long enough to win the war. It seemed opinions were that these issues could be resolved after the end of the war, but the continued assistance of the Arabs in keeping the Turks busy in the region would go a long way towards this conclusion. On the other hand, some were still working diligently to insure that the Arab allies were treated fairly and Clayton from Britain's Mid East Affairs office suggest that the Arab cooperation in the matter would go a long way to improving the possibility of an Arab state:

He had written to Sykes on February 4th: 'I have urged Lawrence to impress on Faisal the necessity of an entente with the Jews. [Feisal] is inclined the other way, and there are people in Cairo who lose no chance of putting him against them. I have explained that it is his only chance of doing really big things and bringing the Arab movement to fruition.'30


Lawrence is still a British officer, but one can see that his loyalties are starting to be torn over the situation:

Subsequently, Lawrence had told Clayton: '[As] for the Jews, when I see Feisul next I'll talk to him, and the Arab attitude shall be sympathetic, for the duration of the war at least. Only please remember that he is under the old man, and cannot involve the Arab kingdom by himself.' He would advise Feisal to visit Jerusalem when the demands of the campaign permitted, and 'all the Jews there will report him friendly. That will probably do all you need, without public commitment, which is rather beyond my province.'31


A meeting was arranged between Weizman and Feisel and the outcome is noted as such:

'Sherif Feisal expressed his opinion of the necessity for co-operation between Jews and Arabs . . . As regards definite political arrangements, [he] was unwilling to express an opinion, pointing out that in questions of politics he was acting merely as his father's agent and was not in a position to discuss them . . . Dr. Weizmann pointed out that the Jews do not propose setting up a Jewish government, but would like to work under British protection with a view to colonizing and developing the country without in any way encroaching on anybody's legitimate interests . . . Feisal declared that as an Arab he could not discuss the future of Palestine, either as a Jewish colony or a country under British Protection. These questions were already the subject of much German and Turkish propaganda, and would undoubtedly be misinterpreted by the Bedouin if openly discussed. Later on when Arab affairs were more consolidated these questions could be brought up.

'Sherif Feisal personally accepted the possibility of future Jewish claims to territory in Palestine . . . but he could not discuss them publicly'.33


In other words, Feisel was willing to consider the Jewish requests, but he did not want to do so until the outcome of the war and the Arab claims could be resolved. Further problems compounded the issues as neither people involved in the discussions actually had the complete power to make any agreements. It is during a later visit to Allenby's office that Lawrence learns the situation:

'Dr. Weizmann hopes for a completely Jewish Palestine in fifty years, and a Jewish Palestine, under a British fa├žade, for the moment. He is fighting for his own lead among the British and American Jews: if he can offer these the spectacle of British help, and Arab willingness to allow Jewish enterprise free scope in all their provinces in Syria, he will then secure the financial backing which will make the new Judaea a reality . . . Weizmann is not yet in a position, as regards Jewry, to make good any promise he makes. In negotiating with him the Arabs would have to bear in mind that they are worth nothing to him till they have beaten the Turks, and that he is worth nothing to them unless he can make good amongst the Jews . . .

'Until the military adventure of the Arabs under Feisal has succeeded or failed, he does not require Jewish help, and it would be unwise on our part to permit it to be offered.'34


However he did see that a future compact with the Jews could be very helpful in the future of securing Syria for the Arabs. Largely by giving credence to the Jews, particularly those backed by the Americans as well as money that could be used to buy out or finance any war against the potential revolting Syrians:

However, Lawrence thought that in the more distant future Feisal might have something to gain from co-operation with the Zionists. As soon as the Turks had been defeated, vociferous factions in Syria would turn against the Sherifians. Much of the upper-class intelligentsia would prefer autonomy, while the Maronite Christians and other pro-French elements would side with Paris in calling for the introduction of French advisers and capital. At this point Feisal might, with advantage, turn to the Zionists: 'If the British and American Jews, securely established under British colours in Palestine, chose this moment to offer to the Arab state in Syria help (1) against the Syrian autonomous elements, [and] (2) against the foreign railways, ports, roads, waterworks and power companies, Sherif Feisal would be compelled to accept the help, and with Anglo-Jewish advisers could dispense with the effendim and buy out the foreigners. This would give time for a development of an Arab spirit in Syria from below'.35


However, it's at this moment that the battle with the Turks begins to heat up and Lawrence must turn away from this situation and prepare. In the meantime, Sykes from Mid East affairs is busy re-assuring the French that they have no worry that the British will not hold up their part of the agreement (Sykes-Picot). Towards the end of 1918, Lawrence is back on the question of this agreement and the Zionist issue and sends a long telegram to Clayton in Mid East Affairs:

'The arrangement for a division of the independent Arab area into an 'A' and 'B' sphere, the one controlled by France and the other by Great Britain, presents almost insuperable practical difficulties from an administrative point of view. If an Arab Government is to function with any degree of efficiency, it must have a system of administration applying equally to all areas under its control and operating from one central [point], which in this case must be Damascus. (...)

French and British methods of administration are widely different, and confusion and inefficiency must result. Worst of all, such an arrangement contains the seeds of future friction between France and Great Britain in a region where the policies of the two countries have been in opposition for many years.'39


Clayton proposes a compromise with the French which would include that Britain acts as a trustee over the Arab government in Damascus. France decides to play hard ball at that moment and insists that the letter of the agreement between Britian and France be adhered to and the French Foreign Minister sends a letter to Clayton:

'on no point, whether at Damascus, Aleppo, or at Mosul, is [France] prepared to relinquish in any way the rights which she holds through the 1916 Agreement, whatever the provisional administrative arrangements called for by a passing military situation.'41


At the same time, Clayton realizes that the Zionist question would continue to stir up trouble and suggests that the Zionist lay low and suspend overt activities towards the realization of their dreams as he realizes that the whole situation is just short of a powder keg. However, Weizman has already formed a relationship with Feisel and believes that he can win the support of the American government for the Arab cause in post war negotiations. For Feisel's part, he was looking at the potential capital that would be brought into the area should it be improved. This would go a long way towards supporting the Arab government once it was established. Of course, one should understand that oil had been found on the Arab peninsula by that time, but the Arabs had yet to see it as a steady and prodigious source of income. Agreements for the oil were, to put it bluntly, a theft of the resources.

According to his own contemporary account, Weizmann assured Feisal that the Zionists in Palestine 'should . . . be able to carry out public works of a far-reaching character, and . . . the country could be so improved that it would have room for four or five million Jews, without encroaching on the ownership rights of Arab peasantry.'61


Fiesel was convinced and desperate for whatever help he could get to secure his and his father's dream of an Independent Arab state. He comments about the long standing relations between Jews and Arabs:

'it was curious there should be friction between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. There was no friction in any other country where Jews lived together with Arabs . . . He did not think for a moment that there was any scarcity of land in Palestine. The population would always have enough, especially if the country were developed. Besides, there was plenty of land in his district.'6


Of course the problem was prejudice of the European and American Jews against the Arabs as well as some contingent of the Arabs who looked down on the Jews. It is important to remember, while Feisel comments on the good relations between Arabs and Jews, that non-Muslim citizens of Arab provinces were considered second class citizens and did not have exactly all the rights of a Muslim Arab. They had a separate taxation system and a social system that did not permit interaction between the "infidel" and the Muslim beyond commerce. As a matter of fact, part of the fighting had occurred between the new Jewish immigrants and local existing Arab citizenry because the new Jewish contingent did not understand nor wish to abide by these unwritten laws of society.

One incident reported at the time concerned the social practice of Jews or infidels and Muslims not walking on the same side of the street. If a Muslim approached, the infidel was supposed to cross to the other side and allow the Muslim to pass "unmolested". One of the new immigrants did not adhere to this rule and, as a sheikh and his body guard passed, remained on the sidewalk with them. The sheikh was greatly offended and had his body guard hack the man to pieces. This caused a short incident of attacks and reprisals on both sides, only to be eventually pacified by the British in the area.

But, both Weizman and Feisel largely ignored these issues as little effect on their larger over all desires for Arab and Jewish states. However, Feisel was not totally unaware of the problems and neither was Lawrence. In their final memorandum regarding the Arab case to the peace conference in 1919, the memo states:

' . . . In Palestine the enormous majority of the people are Arabs. The Jews are very close to the Arabs in blood, and there is no conflict of character between the two races. In principles we are absolutely at one. Nevertheless, the Arabs cannot risk assuming the responsibility of holding level the scales in the clash of races and religions that have, in this one province, so often involved the world in difficulties. They would wish for the effective super-position of a great trustee, so long as a representative local administration commended itself by actively promoting the material prosperity of the country. . . .'70


Basically, the Arabs will accept Jews into the area, but the potential for problems is already apparent. While Feisel agrees that the Jews may come, he does not agree whole sale on the establishment of a Jewish state. He prefers it to stay under Arab rule where the capital from such endeavors will be re-invested in the Arab state, but he does not want to be responsible for keeping the peace and he is asking for the British to appoint a trustee over the area who will control the situation.

During the peace process, Clayton again acknowledges the problems that the British now have due to too many agreements:

'We are committed to three distinct policies in Syria and Palestine:-

A. We are bound by the principles of the Anglo-French Agreement of 1916 [Sykes-Picot], wherein we renounced any claim to predominant influence in Syria.

B. Our agreements with King Hussein . . . Have pledged us to support the establishment of an Arab state, or confederation of states, from which we cannot exclude the purely Arab portions of Syria and Palestine.

C. We have definitely given our support to the principle of a Jewish home in Palestine and, although the initial outlines of the Zionist programme have been greatly exceeded by the proposals now laid before the Peace Congress, we are still committed to a large measure of support to Zionism.

'The experience of the last few months has made it clear that these three policies are incompatible . . . and that no compromise is possible which will be satisfactory to all three parties:-

a. French domination in Syria is repudiated by the Arabs of Syria, except by the Maronite Christians and a small minority amongst other sections of the population.

b. The formation of a homogeneous Arab State is impracticable under the dual control of two Powers whose system and methods of administration are so widely different as those of France and England.

c. Zionism is increasingly unpopular both in Syria and Palestine where the somewhat exaggerated programme put forward recently by the Zionist leaders has seriously alarmed all sections of the non-Jewish majority. The difficulty of carrying out a Zionist policy in Palestine will be enhanced if Syria is handed over to France and Arab confidence in Great Britain undermined thereby.

'It is impossible to discharge all our liabilities, and we are forced, therefore, to break, or modify, at least one of our agreements.'7


Clayton stated that these issues would result in Britain, if maintaining the Palestinain Mandate, having to retain a large army of occupation. It would also interfere with their own aspirations in the region as they would have been seen to have sold out the Arabs. He actually suggested that Britain and France give up their mandates for Palestine and Syria and turn it over to the Americans as a neutral source that would allow them to continue to support the Arab confederation of states. However, there was still an insurmountable problem: the French refused to give up Syria and, thus, Damascus where the Arabs had desired to set up their capitol as well as integrate the Arabs living there in their independent state.

In which case, Clayton was sure that the whole Zionist programme, which had been accepted by the Arabs on condition, would suddenly turn into a burning problem and it did. Weizman, who had been dealing with Feisel, did not actually control the Zionist movement. His handshake deals and signed agreements could not stand against the more radical and powerful Zionists within his group. At the peace conference in Paris, the Zionists were adamant about their desire to create a Jewish Commonwealth. The issue was coming to a head although the Great Powers tried to ignore it:

Stephen Bonsal, one of the aides in the American Delegation, was embarrassed when Lawrence brought to him a draft memorandum in which Feisal expressed mounting anxiety on the matter. In outline, according to Bonsal's memoirs, the memorandum ran: 'If the views of the radical Zionists, as presented to the [Peace Conference], should prevail, the result will be a ferment, chronic unrest, and sooner or later civil war in Palestine. But I hope I will not be misunderstood. I assert that we Arabs have none of the racial or religious animosity against the Jews which unfortunately prevail in many other regions of the world. I assert that with the Jews who have been seated for some generations in Palestine our relations are excellent. But the new arrivals exhibit very different qualities from those "old settlers" as we call them, with whom we have been able to live and even co-operate on friendly terms. For want of a better word I must say that new colonists almost without exception have come in an imperialistic spirit. They say that too long we have been in control of their homeland taken from them by brute force in the dark ages, but that now under the new world order we must clear out; and if we are wise we should do so peaceably without making any resistance to what is the fiat of the civilized world.'23


Feisel believes that the issue can be resolved and that the Jews can live peaceably with the Arabs, but the new settlers must be made to understand that the area is Arab land and that they, the new settlers, are subject to Arab rule. The Zionist element for their part is insistent on the creation of the Jewish state.

In the end, it is France above all others who gets what it wants from the peace conference. Syria and Lebanon are handed to them as Mandates. The Americans under Wilson refuse take over the Palestinian mandate as it would constitute imperialism which Wilson was want to avoid. The remaining areas are broke up and retained somewhat by the British. Palestine stays in their lap. The Trans-Jordanian area is theirs as well and King Hussein (Feisel's father) is appointed King of Jordan and nominal ruler of the Arab confederate states which now only includes the Arab Peninsula (including the current Gulf States) and Trans Jordan. Mesopotamia (Iraq) is created as it's own Mandate and held by the British as well.

The stage was set for more conflict and conflict came. Clayton's concerns about the need for a large British force of occupation in Palestine becomes true as well as the future civil wars and Arab uprisings. From this moment on, the outcome is nearly unavoidable. It should be noted that neither Lawrence, nor Clayton nor Feisel had totally given up on the process to create an Arab independent state and their attempts continued on until 1921, when Feisel is eventually given "Iraq" as his own kingdom and it is essentially brought into the Arab confederation with Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia). At the same time, on the Arabian Peninsula, a new movement is growing that will eventually divide the Arab state into multiple countries and provide the impetus for the Israeli declaration of Independence.

This era will be our next topic of discussion.

Note:I highly suggest that, after reading this discussion and the previous one, you should rent and watch "Lawrence of Arabia". Many of the political issues are covered in this movie accept for one. You will note that the Zionist issue is largely glossed over and the Sykes-Picot agreement is pointed to as the main source of problems. The movie was made in 1962, barely 17 years after the end of World War II and the great holocaust and 15 years after the Israeli war for Independence. Sensibilities seemed to have precluded the portrayal of the Zionists as part of the agitators of the issues. However, if you watch the movie, you can at least get a sense of the characters and their interactions with each other. In particular, Peter O'toole's, occasionally over wrought, portrayal of Lawrence as torn between his loyalty to Britain and his love of the Arabs.

Note:I largely relied on this one source of information because it draws from multiple sources of memorandums and correspondence as well as Lawrence's first hand experience with the situation and seems somewhat objective.

Note:The area referred to as "Palestine" had not been referred to as such for many years between the Roman occupation and the British occupation. The people there were not referred to as "Palestinians", but were Arabs and the Arabs were very insistent that the area belonged to them and not a separate people referred to as "Palestinians".

Sources:

Lawrence of Arabia: TE Lawrence and the Zionists

5 comments:

Donal said...

Intresting post Kat, thank you for providing a good overview of that period. You stated that Jews made "...risky loans at high interests rates to many government endeavors over centuries..." in fact the Jews were the only people who would make loans of any kind- usuary was a sin in the Christian faith (the Muslim faith also). It's also why the pawn shops were owned by jews it was a form of usuary. At the time you describe the conflict was not inevitable- it wasnt until the programs by the Nazis and the USSR that Jewish imigration reached explosive levels, otherwise the migrations may have remained small and blended peacefully into the society already present.

Kat said...

Well Donal, you would be correct in the middle ages, usary was against Christian tenents and the Jews were pretty much the only ones that would do it, but it didn't make them anymore loved by the people or the governments. Not saying they deserved that treatment necessarily, just pointing out that it was.

As for the inevitability of the clash of cultures being reliant on the NAZI pogroms, I don't think so. I mean, maybe it wouldn't have happened as soon, but it was bound to happen period. Well before the Nazi Pogroms, the immigrating Jews and the local Arabs were having problems and Feisel, Clayton, Lawrence and Weizman recognize this. In all of their memos and personal correspondence, the difficulties are apparent, though out of all of them, Feisel and Weizman are the most hopeful that it can be avoided, but Clatyon understands all the players and what they want and what they want is completely contradictory to each other.

Israel's war for independence would have occured sooner or later, but I will agree that the Nazi pogroms sped it up considerably.

Jason Rubenstein said...

And, during the middle ages, Jews were used as tax collectors in some kingdoms - definitely not a way to become endeared to the local populace.

Regardless, the problems in the middle east are compounded by the sudden immigration of ashkenasi (the European Jews you mention above) and the local Mizahim and Sephardim, who spoke not only Arabic, but some Turkish and Farsi as well. The language gap is only a small part of an immense culture-clash between Jews, let alone between Jews and Arabs.

I can understand why Feisel and Weitzman chose to ignore the problem..

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" illustrates beautifully the love/hate relationship between European nobles in the middle ages, and Jews. The protagonist's allies rescue Abraham the Jew because his financing operations are vital to their program of bringing Richard Coeur de Lion back onto the throne of England; but at the same time Ivanhoe himself addresses him as "you dog of a Jew".

Money-lending (usury) brings wealth; wealth brings power; power brings the rivalry (and yes, hatred) of those who want power. Hence pogroms. Hence persecution. In a way, Judaism was the "America" of medieval Europe, because, as Meyer Rothschild (a Jew) once said: "Give me control over a nation's currency, and I care not who makes the laws." America's addition to the Jewish survival mechanism, is to add military might and information technology juice. That brings us the same hatred that the Jews got, but nobody would dare try to push us into trains headed to Dachau--they'd have to try conclusions with cruise missles first, most likely.

Nazi propaganda found extremely fertile soil in the Arab world, although, to be fair, before the Nazis the Jews were referred to as "people of the Book", and not particularly persecuted by Muslims.

Donal said...

Yes Kat a state of Israel was inevitable although prehaps without the push from the Nazis it would have remained slow and many problems that excaberted the violence could have been avoided. After all, they didnt declare Israel a state for 30 years- soon after the holocaust.