Saturday, December 17, 2011

Creating Arab States from the Ottoman Empire

Nadene Goldfoot
The Sheikhs of Araby
The British had their problems getting their stories straight when they were given the mandate of the land of Palestine in 1918.  The Ottoman Empire, which was ruled by the Turks, had sided with the Axis or German side.  They lost in WWI.  The empire was by then bankrupt and in the hands of the allies who held mandates over the land.  The Arabs didn't like being in the Ottoman Empire under Turks anyway. 

Born in 1853 was a Sheikh, Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Emir of Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia.  He held title to "King of the Arabs."  This leader was the great grandfather of the present day King Hussein, and was the leader of the Great Arab Revolt.  A Sheikh is an Arab chief.  In his case, his family had held this title from 1201CE to 1925.  He died in 1931.  This was at a time when Russian Jews were making aliyah to the land and developing kibbutzeem, draining swamps, planting Eucalyptus trees,  killing mosquitoes, tilling the land and fighting off raiders.  They had bought land from absent Arab land owners who were having a gay old time in Paris, no doubt. 

Abdullah and Faisal were his sons.  There was a great battle between the Turks and the Arabs.   The British made promises to the Arabs and promises to the Jews.  The promises were about the same piece of land.  This Hashemite family, descending from Muhammad,  secured Arab rule over Transjordan, Iraq and Arabia.

Faisal was the 3rd son of the King of the Arabs.  On January 3, 1919, he signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement for Arab-Jewish cooperation.  He knew about the Balfour Declaration as well.  He was the king of Syria in 1920 and then king of Iraq from 1921 to 1933.  He wanted a very large Arab state for himseslf including Iraq, Syria and the rest of the fertile Crescent.

Two weeks prior to signing the agreement, Faisal stated:

The two main branches of the Semitic family, Arabs and Jews, understand one another, and I hope that as a result of interchange of ideas at the Peace Conference, which will be guided by ideals of self-determination and nationality, each nation will make definite progress towards the realization of its aspirations. Arabs are not jealous of Zionist Jews, and intend to give them fair play and the Zionist Jews have assured the Nationalist Arabs of their intention to see that they too have fair play in their respective areas.

 Everything was predicated on the Arabs gaining their independence.  "The Arabs did not obtain their independence and the Faisal-Weizmann agreement survived only a few months."  It wasn't up to the Jews to give them this independence; it was the British. 
Though Weizmann argued in 1947 that Britain had given the Arab independence, they actually wanted more.  The catch was that Sharif Hussein formally endorsed the Balfour Declaration in the Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August 1920, along with the other Allied Powers, as King of Hedjaz.  The treaty was still binding.  The UN did not go along with it." 

Transjordan was created in 1922 and Jordan was created in 1946.
Iraq was created in 1958 and Lebanon in 1943.  Syria was under the French mandate and was created in April 1946.  Egypt has been Egypt forever, but also went through changes.  1954 saw a government.  Iran, which was Persia in bible days, had a government in 1953.  Israel was created May 1948. 

If the British had played their cards a little differently, Faisal and Weizmann could have been successful in their goals to bring these two semitic cousins together, but it was not to be.  Weizmann settled for the poorest portion of the original Jewish Homeland promised to the Jews and was rightfully  happy that he had something that had been lost to us.  Each Sheikh in this Hussein family wanted his own kingdom.  If one brother was promised land, the others wanted their fair share as well.  Our forefathers meant well.  Little could they imagine that we'd still be fighting over the right to have Israel after 63 years of their original declaration.  It's too bad that out of all those Sheikhs there isn't another like Faisal, who saw the good in the Jews coming home. 

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