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Promises, Claims and Rights, Notes from Albright, et al, Palestine: A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, Yale University Press, 1947.

• Following the Peace Conference at San Remo, the Arabs were left feeling betrayed and at a loss for control over lands they believed to be rightfully theirs. With British control of Iraq, and the French maintaining most of Syria, Albright, et al, suggest that Palestine became of more interest to the Arab nations, and a region they no longer wanted to compromise on.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 178.

• There are two major points of contention that the Arabs held regarding the Mandate for Palestine-

1.) The Mandate, and it’s founding papers the Balfour Declaration, violate the agreement between the Arabs and the allied forces during the First World War, wherein the Arabs agreed to join forces to overthrow the Turks. This argument holds that by supporting the principle of the establishment of a Jewish land (in the Palestine region), the French and British did not uphold original promises.

2.) The Mandate, in and of itself, violates the right to self-determination of Arab peoples already living on the land. This principle states, “…the right of any settled population to remain in possession of its land and to decide the political character of the country in accordance with the will of the majority of its inhabitants.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 178.

• There was also much discrepancy surrounding the many agreements made regarding Palestine at the time, including the Sykes-Picot agreement and the McMahon-Husain correspondence.

  • The Arabs felt the Sykes-Picot agreement was far too imperialistic in it’s boarders, dividing up land unfairly between Great Britain and France with little consideration for Arab interests. The British and the French would control the more developed areas of Syria and Iraq, leaving underdeveloped lands to Arab “independence”. In addition, the Sykes-Picot agreement took place secretly, while Great Britain was openly negotiating the McMahon-Husain correspondence.
  • The issue taken with the McMahon-Husain correspondence is that of the ambiguity of the wording as to who should control Palestine. Was the region of Palestine considered part of Syria, which under this agreement would be given to the Arabs? Or did the new boarders not specify the areas west of Damascus and south of Beirut, with an implied understanding that Palestine was never intended to be included?

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 179-184.

• Because the wording of the McMahon-Husain correspondence does not lend itself to clear interpretation, both sides continued to argue that their position had been the true understanding. Britain aggravated the dispute by refusing to release the correspondence, in its entirety, for many years. However, when finally responding to demands for clarification, Sir McMahon published a letter in The Times, fifteen years later, including the following statement-

“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.”
Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 186-187.

• Perhaps most interestingly, on January 20, 1921, five years following the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, Winston Churchill stated that in a conversation with the Emir Faisal that day, the Emir had claimed that he was, “prepared to accept the statement that it had been the intention of His Majesty’s government to exclude Palestine.”

Great Britain, Parliamentary Debates, Commons, July 11, 1922, cols. 1032-1034, as cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 187.

• However, regardless of wording or interpretations of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, Albright, et al, point out that the arrangements themselves hold no validity, as they were never supported by Allied powers or the League of Nations. Because Britain did not have sovereignty over Palestine at the time, it could not make unilateral decisions regarding the region’s future, according to international law.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 190.

• The Hogarth Message was the result of a visit by Commander Hogarth (a lead person in the Arab Bureau, in Cairo) to explore the specific implications of the Balfour Declaration for Emir Husain, at Husain’s request. Hogarth relayed quite clearly the intentions of Great Britain to foster a return of Jews to Palestine, and emphasized all parties desire to do so in harmony with the current populations of the region. However, Hogarth did explicitly discuss the intention to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine – and Hogarth mentions in his notes regarding the meeting that although it seemed Husain was willing to accept Jewish immigration to Palestine, Hogarth did not feel Husain understood, or would accept, an independent Jewish state in Palestine.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 191-192.

• Personally, Commander Hogarth seems to have believed that in terms of entitlement, the Arabs had more claim to the land of Palestine. However, despite his own opinions, Hogarth was very clear in agreeing that the Balfour Declaration, as it was written and accepted, exacted the intentions of creating a Jewish state in Palestine and that, “The Balfour Declaration is as binding an engagement as Great Britain has ever been committed to.”

Philip Graves, Palestine, the Land of Three Faiths, London, 1923, p. 6, as cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 193.

• The Declaration to the Seven was a British response to an inquiry made to the Foreign Office during the spring of 1918 (prior to the end of the war). Seven anonymous Syrian leaders, living in Egypt, submitted what could only be assumed to be questions regarding the division of Turkish lands, should the Allies be victorious. The actual content of the written inquiry was not made public. Britain’s response addressed the following four categories of potential land division-

1.) Those lands that were independent before the war.

2.) Territories liberated from the Turks by the Arabs.

3.) Territories freed by the works of Allied coalitions.

4.) Land still under Turkish rule.

Britain’s answers imparted complete Arab independence and control over Ottoman Empire territories described in the first two. The Declaration to the Seven regarding territories covered in category three was as follows-

“It is the wish and desire of His Majesty’s Government that the future government of these regions should be based upon the principle of the consent of the governed, and this policy has and will continue to have the support of His Majesty’s Government.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press. pp. 195-196.

• The Anglo-French Declaration was released in November of 1918, as a means of assurance that the Allied powers were, in fact, in favor of Arab independence. The document refers to Syria and Mesopotamia, but makes no specific mention of Palestine. To quote,
“… France and Great Britain are at one in encouraging and assisting the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia, now liberated by the Allies, and in the territories the liberation of which they are now engaged in securing, and recognizing these as soon as they are actually established.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 197.

• Although disagreements over the specifics of the many correspondences that took place between the Arabs and the Allies (wording and implications of the intended fate of the Palestine region), there is a second, albeit less weighty argument that many Arabs held regarding their position on the issue; their service to the Allies during World War I against the Ottoman Empire, and the considerations they were promised in exchange. Albright, et al, concede that many Arab nationals did in fact assist Great Britain during the war, although those living in Palestine and Syria were more likely to “either remain passive or aid the Turks. All the historians of the campaign agree on this.”

Briscoe Moore, The Mounted Riflemen in Syria and Palestine, p. 64; W.T Massey, The Desert Campaigns, p. 107; Guy Powles, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, p. 266, all cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 206.

• Additionally, in fighting amongst neighboring Arabs (those of different sects or families) made maintenance of a consistent presence on the battlefield difficult. The following excerpt from Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom reveals his perspective-

“Blood feuds were nominally healed… All the same, the members of one tribe were shy of those of another, and within the tribe no man would quite trust his neighbor. Each might be, usually was, whole-hearted against the Turk, but perhaps not quite to the point of failing to work off a family grudge upon a family enemy in the field.”

Garnett, op. cit., pp. 103-104, as cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 207.

• By contrast, Jews around the world fought during the war against the Axis powers. They fought as Americans, British, and French for the freedoms all Allies were fighting for, including those of the Arabs from the Turks. It was not a Zionist design to go to war in exchange for statehood, and yet the numbers of Jews recruited in Palestine during the war is exponentially higher than that of Arabs living there, particularly considering the size of the respective populations. (Albright, et al, report approximately 1200 Jews in Palestine, contrasting only 150 Arabs, whose numbers in the region were then ten times that of the Jews.)

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 208-209.

• As important as it is to emphasize that at no time did the Zionist mission ever seek to offer Allied military services in exchange for land, it is true that much motivation for the Balfour Declaration was a desire to obtain the backing of world Jewry for the Allied cause. As quoted from the Palestine Royal Commission Report,

“… in so far as the Balfour Declaration helped to bring about the Allies’ victory, it helped to bring about the emancipation of all the Arab countries from Turkish rule. If the Turks and their German allies had won the War, it is improbable that all the Arab countries, except Palestine, would now have become or be about to become independent States.”

Great Britain, Palestine Royal Commission Report, p. 24, cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 209-210.

• Albright, et al, concede that the results of the San Remo conference varied quite a bit from the land divisions discussed previously in the McMahon-Hussein correspondence and the Sykes-Picot agreement, and it is understandable how the Arabs would feel disappointment or perhaps even betrayal with the decisions. Even if one does not agree with the Arab position on Palestine, it is possible to see how unhappiness at the San Remo peace conference could translate to an inflated emphasis on non-specified areas south of west of Damascus and south of Beirut.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 212-213.

• As previously discussed, there were two major Arab arguments for their position on Palestine; the first was that of non-specific wording and betrayal of war agreements. Albright, et al, address these grievances but posit that in fact it is the second issue taken which holds more weight, that of the right and principle of self-determination (regarding Arab peoples already residing in the region at the time).

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 213.

• The King-Crane Commission is perhaps the most well known “report” that gives weight to the Arab position for sovereignty. However, as can now be seen through deconstruction of the manner in which the report was conducted, the biased and inaccurate method in which information was collected discredits the content greatly.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 213.

• In February 1919, Dr. Howard Bliss (President of the American University in Beirut) sent a letter to United States President Woodrow Wilson, indicating that the people of Syria wanted an international commission to be sent to the middle east, to assess the “political aspirations” of the region’s people. Bliss felt an inquiry led by the United States and backed by France and Great Britain would be most acceptable.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 214.

• President Wilson was easily convinced of the merit of such a mission. He appointed his delegation from the U.S., including not only King and Crane, but also professor Albert Lyber, Dr. George Montgomery and Captain William Yale. However, although they had originally agreed to participation, France and Britain soon pulled out of the commission entirely, and it was no longer an inter-Allie project.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 214-215.

• Upon review, the King-Crane Commission recommended a single mandate for Syria and Palestine. But based on the methods in which information (polls of the general population) was collected, it is not surprising that the commission reported that it would be next to impossible to facilitate Jewish independence in Palestine. Leading questions such as “Do you want Jewish immigration?” and “Would you like to have a Jewish State?” certainly did not provide reliable data. In addition, it is reported that the French in Syria and the Sherifians openly and regularly accused one another of using threats, intimidation and propaganda to influence people’s response to the inquiries of the Commission.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 217-220, and citing John de Vere Loder, The Truth About Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria, London, 1923, p. 36.

• Equally disappointing is the apparent known anti-Semitic feelings harbored by Mr. Crane. Ambassador William Dodd noted in his personal diary (concerning Crane),
“Jews are anathema to him and he hopes to see them put in their place. His advice to me was, of course- ‘Let Hitler have his way.’”

Quoted from William E. Dodd, Jr. and Martha Dodd, ed., Ambassador Dodd’s Diary, Harcourt, Brace, 1941, p.11 and cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 216-217.

• The reality of the King-Crane commission’s report, in addition to being biased and improperly conducted, is that the solution offered by the commission’s recommendations was not any more workable than the current situation. Quoting Albright, et al,

“The preferred solution, according to the recommendations, was that the United States should assume the mandate over Syria and Palestine. This the United States was not prepared to do; but even if it had been so disposed, the problem of reconciling the Arab demand for complete self-determination with the policy of the Balfour Declaration would have stood, with all its difficulties.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 221.

• Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant posed another question in the argument for self-determination in Palestine. The Palestine Arab delegation suggested to the British government that by agreeing to the Balfour Declaration, direct conflict was met in Article 22, paragraph 4, where it conveys, “the wishes of the communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the mandatory.”

Quincy Wright, mandates Under the League of Nations, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1930, p. 591, as cited in Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 223.

• Winston Churchill, at the time the Secretary of State for the Colonies, supported the League of Nations Covenant in conjunction with the Balfour Declaration. His formal answer to the Arab delegation stated, in part,

“Syria and Iraq are explicitly referred to in Article 94 to 97 of that Treaty (of Sevres) as having been provisionally recognized a Independent States, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Article 95, on the other hand, makes no such reference to Palestine. The reason for this is that, as stated in that Article, the Mandatory is to be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally made on the 2nd of November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 225-226.

• In addition, there were numerous logical points to be made regarding the Jewish right to self-determination; with no unifying territory, the Jews could not possess the ability to exercise their right to self-determination. Choosing Palestine, as opposed to Ireland, or Spain (as the Arabs have argued would never be accepted), was determined based on the “historical connection” for the Jews to the region.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 227.

• Ernst Frankenstein, author of Justice for My People, outlines the varied populations that have inhabited Palestine through history, and points out that according to international law, the Jews never lost their rights to the land.

  • The Jews were the sovereigns of the region for more than 1000 years, until the Romans destroyed the first Temple in 70 B.C.E.
  • When the Romans perished in the land, they left no legal successor.
  • Arab presence began with the conquering of the area in 634 B.C.E., remaining in their possession until 1071, during which times it was under the rule of many different Caliphs.
  • Between 1071 and 1923, the Kurds, the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, and then the Turks conquered Palestine. The Turkish rule came to an end with the First World War, when Allied powers took it.

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 228, quoting Ernst Frankenstein, Justice for My People, Dial Press, 1944, Chap. IX, “The Legal Position,” pp. 82-115.

• Albright, et al, state that with so much emphasis on the goal of maintaining harmony between the Arabs and the Jews, “Even in a Jewish Palestine, the Arabs – in accordance with the Zionist view as well as in accordance with the Mandate- would have a greater degree of genuine self-determination than the Jews have in the Arabic countries.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 232.

• As early as 1818, leaders voiced American support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In a letter to Major Mordecai Noah, President John Adams wrote that he wanted the Jews to experience, “…all the privileges of citizens in every part of the world,” and “I really wish the Jews again in Judea, an independent nation.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 240-241, citing Reuben Fink, ed., America and Palestine, American Zionist Emergency Council, 1944, p. 20.

• This is not to say that U.S. support for Israel has always been unfaltering. In December 1917, during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the Secretary of State Robert Lansing advised a cautionary approach to U.S. involvement in the affairs of Palestine. He gave the President three reasons-

1.) The United States was not at war with Turkey (so taking an interest in the future of the region was not crucial).

2.) There was still some dissent amongst Jews around the world on the question of Zionism and desire for an independent nation.

3.) There would be resentment were the Holy Land given, “to the absolute control of the race credited with the death of Christ.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, pp. 242-243.

• Nonetheless, in March 1919, President Wilson made the following statement to a delegation of the American Jewish Congress-

“As for your representations touching Palestine, I have before this expressed my personal approval of the declaration of the British Government regarding the aspirations and historic claims of the Jewish people in regard to Palestine. I am, moreover, persuaded that the Allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our Government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish commonwealth.”

Albright, et al, Palestine- A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vol. I, 1947, Yale University Press, p. 246.

Summary by Rina Abrams.

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