“Truth does not become more truth by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it; nor less so, even if the whole world disagrees with it.” [Maimonides]
With the Trump-Netanyahu meeting scheduled for February 16, 2017, during which time the so-called “two state solution” will once again rank top billing, it seems proper that many myths be exposed. To that end, Isaiah Friedman’s “Palestine: A Twice Promised Land? The British, the Arabs and Zionism 1915-1920” will undoubtedly serve for review.
To commence with, Friedman proceeds to debunk the myth that the Arabs were solid allies of the British during WW1 – a British pre-condition for granting Arab independence after the war. In fact, this did not happen and many sympathized with or aided the enemy. Specifically, Friedman shows how the Syrians and Palestinian Arabs aided the Germans and Turks, thus putting paid to the alleged “Arab revolt” led by T.E. Lawrence. This was an exaggeration of Arab power. The Arabs, in other words, did not live up to their end of the bargain
In Chapter 2 on “The ‘Pledge’ to Hussein and the Sykes-Picot Agreement”, Friedman discusses Toynbee’s essay dedicated to the memory of T.E. Lawrence following his accidental death on May 18, 1935. Contrary to Toynbee’s “self-inflicted feelings of guilt” and fanciful portrayal of events, Friedman points to Lawrence’s famous letter to the Times of 11 September, 1919. In this letter Lawrence categorically stated that he saw “no inconsistencies or no incompatibilities in these four documents, and I know nobody who does.” Friedman quotes the four documents:
1.The British promise to King Hussein dated 24 October,1915,which undertook, conditional on an Arab revolt to recognize the “independence of the Arabs” south of latitude 37 degrees, except in the provinces of Bagdad and Basra, and except where Great Britain was not “free to act without detriment to the interests of France.”
2.The Sykes-Picot Agreement of May, 1916. It divides the Arabic provinces of Turkey roughly into five zones.
3. The British Statement to the Syrians in Cairo, dated 11 June, 1917.This assures them that pre-war Arab states, and Arab areas freed by military action of their inhabitants during the war, shall remain entirely independent.
4.The Anglo-French Declaration of November 9, 1918. In this Great Britain and France agree to encourage native governments in Syria and Mesopotamia, and without inspection to assure the normal working of such governments as the people shall themselves have adopted.
Palestine: A Twice- Promised Land, was the 3rd of Friedman’s books on the Middle East. It enjoyed the benefit of the availability of previously highly censored British archived documents. His closely examined Hussein – McMahon publication and in particular a letter dated 24 October 1915 central to the Arab claims, from Sir Henry McMahon ,the British High Commissioner in Egypt to King Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, pledging Arab independence. Friedman was able to demonstrate that this letter was conditional on a general Arab uprising against the Turks.
Predicated on reciprocal action, the letter committed the British to recognize and uphold Arab independence in the areas of the e Crescent once it was liberated by the Arabs themselves. As all evidence shows, few tribes rebelled against the Turks. The Arabs in Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia fought for the Ottoman Empire against the British.
In addition to its non-binding nature, McMahon’s letter has been misinterpreted with respect to the territories it covers. Friedman’s archival discovery of the Arabic version actually read by Hussein indisputably shows that Palestine was not included in the British pledge.
Hence this revelation in conjunction with the other assembled documents enabled Friedman to conclude that the whole sequence of diplomatic publications amounted not to English perfidy but Arab disappointment. Summarizing, the author thoroughly destroyed virtually all historical Arab claims to modern Israel based on this body of literature.
The records also point to Hussein’s welcoming the return of the Jews in a similar fashion to his son Emir Feisal who believed that Arab-Jewish cooperation would be a means to build Arab independence without interference of the European powers.Myth-shattering and meticulously documented, “Palestine: A Twice-Promised Land?” is revisionist history in the truest sense of the word.
In the words of Lloyd George, “No race has done better out of the fidelity with which the Allies redeemed their promises to the oppressed races than the Arabs. Owing to the tremendous sacrifices of the Allied nations, and more particularly of Britain and her Empire, the Arabs have already won independence in Iraq, Arabia, Syria and Trans-Jordania ,although most of the Arab races fought throughout the war for the Turkish oppressors.”
In the matter of betrayal of the Jews by the British, we need to concern ourselves with Article 25 of the Palestine Mandate, which reads:
“In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provision of this Mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions—–”
The wording would suggest that the arrangements were of a temporary nature to facilitate England satisfying a pragmatic move, and to await until the Jewish population had grown to a sufficient majority. Of course this did not happen and only served to add to the problems, we are now experiencing.
It is conceivable that the high level officials who will be attending Wednesday’s meeting do not really understand Islam. To that end, the wisdom of words from a great Jewish leader, Jabotinsky, maybe helpful to them:
“An end must be put to the widely accepted but definitely mistaken view. Many believe that in the eyes of the Arabs, Trans-Jordan is more hallowed than western Palestine – that is a lie. The holy places of Islam are found in western Palestine, in Jerusalem and Hebron. In the Islamic tradition, Transjordan has no recognized position. In the history of Arabs as a people, Amman or as-Salt cannot be likened to Jaffa or Acre – if an Arab nationalist would have to chose one of the two sides of the Jordan, on the assumption that one of them had to come into Jewish hands, there is no doubt he would give up Trans-Jordan. [Shmuel Almog]”
In contemporary times, we are able to appreciate the situational comprehension of Moshe Aarons through his outstanding January 7, 2014 piece in Haaretz, “Two states for two people? When pigs fly.” He explains that what was being demanded by the US, the EU and many countries [ then] is three Palestinian states without a single Jew in any of them; East Palestine [Jordan], West Palestine [Judea and Samaria] and South Palestine [the Gaza Strip] i.e. four states for two people – three without Jews and one whose population is 20% Arab.