No Palestinian Independence Promised by British
by Nadene Goldfoot
In the beginning, the few Arabs living in Palestine had no thought of having their own state of Palestine. The few who came there from other regions simply were looking for work with the Jews who were arriving on the 1st and 2nd Aliyahs.
During World War I, the area was under the control of Turkey. Hussein ibn Ali ( b: 1854 in Istanbul, Turkey -d: June 4, 1931in Amman, Jordan) was appointed by Turkey as the Sherif of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1908. His job was to take care of the shrines in the Hejaz there. It was the site of Islam's holy places, and he was a Muslim spiritual leader. By July 1915, he sent a letter to the British Sir Henry MacMahon, the High Commissioner for Egypt, telling him of how the Arabs would fight in the war against the Turks. He was a turncoat against the country that appointed him his job. By 1916 he was influential in an Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire of Turkey.
The letters between these two people did not mention Palestine. They did talk about other places that Britain would cede to the Arabs. Hussein declared himself King of the Hejaz and king over all the Arabs. He aligned himself with Germany in WWI.
Sir Henry McMahon stated: "I feel it my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein."
The Palestinians have tried to say that the letters were a promise of independence for the Arabs.
He finally went to live with his son Abdullah, who was declared King of Jordan. His son Faisal was King of Syria and Iraq. In the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Alec Guinness portrayed Prince Faisal.
The reason that Palestine was left out of the equation was that in 1915, the Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France was signed. It provided for an international administration in Palestine.
Then in 1917, the British government published the Balfour Declaration for the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. To get this promise from the British, the Jews made significant contributions to the British war effort. The British intention was to establish a Jewish state as soon as the Jews became a majority in the nearly empty country which held 90,000 Jews. They had already created the Arab states in Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia, semi independent with British mentors and advisers in Jedda, Damascus and Baghdad. The British controlled the administration in Cairo and Khartoum. Britain now felt they had control of the whole Middle East from the Mediterranean to the borders of India. The French then waived their claims in Palestine. The Times on September 19, 1919 wrote: "The Jordan will not do as Palestine's eastern boundary. Our duty as the Mandatory is to make Jewish Palestine not a struggling State but one that is capable of a vigorous and independent national life."
Lord Robert Cecil said in a London public meeting, "The keynote of our meeting this afternoon is liberation. Our wish is that the Arabian countries shall be for the Arabs, Armenia for the Armenians and Judea for the Jews."
Later, Jews helped the Arabs in this endeavor politically. The Emir Faisal wrote on March 3, 1919to Felix Frankfurter: ""Dr. Weizmann has been a great helper of our cause, and I hope the Arabs may soon be in a position to make the Jews some return for their kindness."
Their return was to lop off 3/4 of the area promised to the Jewish people. The British then threatened to decline the mandate and take back their protection from the Jewish restoration. Therefore Transjordan was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. So much for promises from friends.
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