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Conspiracy Against Partition, Lillie Schultz, January 31, 1948.

Southern California Arab American Oil CompanyNo more cynical veto was ever applied by a major power to a United Nations decision than Great Britain’s refusal to comply with the recommendation of the General Assembly on November 29 that “an area situated in the territory of the Jewish state, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for substantial immigration, shall be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than February 1, 1948.”

The reason given by Sir Alexander Cadogan for this refusal was that his government was unwilling to jeopardize an already delicate situation and create new troubles for its security forces in the Holy Land.

Sir Alexander repeated on January 21 what had become the standard British response to all inquiries about cooperation during the U.N. deliberations—namely, that “so long as the mandatory regime is maintained it must retain undivided control over the whole of Palestine.” He added: “For this reason it is not possible for my government to comply with the recommendations concerning evacuation of a Jewish port and hinterland so long as the mandate continues.” Sir Alexander had apparently forgotten that Britain had also undertaken to maintain peace and security in the Holy Land until its withdrawal.

With British troops numbering 80,000 to 100,000 in Palestine, a modern army with modern equipment, it is none the less a fact that since November 30, 1947, there has been raging in that small country fierce warfare, initiated by the Mufti and the Arab Higher Committee, carried out in the first instance by Arabs of Palestine, and supported by the surrounding Arab states and bands infiltrating from these states. Is this a war of such proportions that it could not have been nipped in the bud by the mandatory power? And if it is, why has it not been brought to the Security Council?

When partition was voted, several facts encouraged the belief there would be a minimum of violence, at least until the independence of the two states was established: (1) the presence of large British forces and the declared intention of the mandatory power to maintain security; (2) the existence of the Haganah, and its ability to keep order provided it were recognized—as the U.N. clearly intended it should be—as the armed militia of the Jewish state and promptly supplied with arms; (3) the absence of any important Arab military force inside Palestine and the inability of the Arabs to wage an armed struggle unless supported and directed from the outside; (4) the assumption that open flouting of a U.N. decision would evoke prompt action.

But neither the presence of the British military forces, nor a police department responsible to them, nor 165 emergency-defense regulations—which before partition were applied almost exclusively to the Jews—prevented Arab excesses. In many instances British troops have been passive spectators of attacks on the Jews, and in some, accessories. The British authorities have permitted a band of the Mufti’s henchmen, calling itself the Arab National Guard, to besiege the Old City of Jerusalem while holding 1,700 Jews as hostages, and have even concluded an agreement with this band permitting British troops to enter the old city to distribute food and other necessary supplies. Though the Mufti’s organization, the Arab Higher Committee, is directing the whole operation, not one of its leaders has been arrested. In fact, the Palestine government itself is distributing rifles to Arabs in the villages, ostensibly to enable them to defend themselves. Members of the Haganah, on the other hand, are being systematically disarmed. Recently the British withdrew from Jaffa and Tel Aviv leaving their protection to Jews and Arabs under British command. The Arabs were armed by the British; the Jews were not, on the excuse that they had stores of arms.

Regular incursions into Palestine of Arabs from Syria and Lebanon and other Arab states for the purpose of attacking Jews are openly tolerated.

Far from permitting the Haganah to act as a militia to help maintain order and carry out the U.N. directive, British authorities are treating it as a terrorist agency. Meanwhile the Arab Legion operates in the key Jewish sections of Palestine, and Palestine Arabs are equipped with arms sent in by the Arab states or turned over to them by Arab members of the British police.

Without doubt this reign of terror could be ended without great loss of life and without additional military force. Its continuance is to be attributed directly to British policy, which has countenanced the war in Palestine as a form of political blackmail whose immediate objective is to defeat the partition plan and consolidate the British position in the Middle East. The long-range objective of this policy is to pave the way for the extension of the Truman Doctrine to the whole Middle East. To that extent at least, our State Department is implicated.

Why are the British conspiring with the Arabs to carry out their armed revolt against the Jews? The reasons are simple:

  1. Bevon and some of his Foreign Office colleagues are not averse to a little bloodletting—particularly of Jewish blood.

  2. Britain intends to remain in Palestine. It is therefore ready to help along a situation which will “prove” the partition plan to be unworkable and open the way for some form of the Bevon federation plan as a substitute. As the mandatory power with large forces on the spot, Britain could then be persuaded to handle the carrying out the scheme as agent of the United Nations.
  3. Should this fail, the British have another plan. At the appropriate moment, if nothing disturbs the stage as it is now being set, they will permit Emir Abduallah of Transjordan to overrun the whole of Palestine with troops of the Arab Legion—British trained, officered, and equipped. As a result (a) Abdullah will give up his ambition to annex Syria and Lebanon; (b) the British will be assured of the Negev, bordering on Egypt, of Haifa with its pipe-line terminus and port facilities, and of the port of Aqaba, giving access to the Red Sea; (c) the states of the Arab League will be rid of the Mufti and his rabble-rousing potential which the governing hierarchy in each state fears; (d) the Jews will be herded into a kind of ghetto in a restricted area with limited autonomy, and Britain, in the role of protector, will endeavor to reconcile them to this fate. Thus the primary aim of the Arab revolt—an Arab Palestine—will have been achieved. And Britain will have won.

This is no pipe dream. It is the “reserve plan,” approved in London and worked out by Brigadier Clayton, British military expert in Egypt, with leaders of the Arab League. And the Arab League is still the creature of the British, with Brigadier Clayton the only non-Moslem regularly permitted to attend its meetings. Key officials in the United States Defense and State departments are familiar with the plan.

The prime objective of Bevin’s foreign policy is to assure the continuance of old concessions of their extension—military, political, and economic—in order, on the one hand, to protect Britain’s oil empire and, on the other, to advance the plans of the Anglo-American alliance for containing the Soviet Union. For this purpose bases are needed on both sides of the Mediterranean. These the Arabs could well afford to give in return for being allowed to carry through their revolt.

The first results of this British strategy became evident on January 15 with the signing of the new Anglo-Iraqi military treaty. This was a renewal of the 1932 treaty whereby Britain obtained air bases, facilities for moving troops and equipment, the right to supply military and civilian advisers and technicians, joint control of the British-built railways and the port of Basra, and the right to move in troops if war threatened.

To be sure, under the new treaty Iraq is granted complete territorial independence and with it the air bases of Habbaniya and Shaibah. But Britain retains the right to use these bases until peace treaties have entered into force with all former enemy countries. Britain also continues to sell arms to Iraq. And an annex to the treaty states: “In the event of either high contracting party becoming involved in war or a menace of hostilities, His Majesty the King of Iraq will invite His Britannic Majesty to bring immediately to Iraq the necessary forces of all arms and will furnish to His Britannic Majesty on Iraqi territories all the facilities and assistance in his power. . .” This prize may yet escape the British. Iraqi nationalists are protesting against the terms of the treaty, but this may turn out to be only a maneuver to gain further concessions.

Another treaty which has just come up for renewal is that with Transjordan. Under the present treaty Transjordan is nothing but a British base. The British are not only authorized to station, maintain, and transfer troops and ammunition to Transjordan, but also to train such armed forces as the Emir is assumed to require, with the British undertaking to defray all costs. 

Other negotiations are under way with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and both Syria and Lebanon.

The stakes for which the British are playing in Iran, Iraq and Kuwait include an oil reserve of something over fifteen billion barrels. The exclusive rights to the oil deposits of Iran and Kuwait are held by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The British government owns 50 per cent of the shares of that company.

British and American oil interests mesh throughout the Middle East, and with them military interests as well. The Gulf Oil Company of the United States owns 50 per cent of the Kuwait concession. Socony-Vacuum and Standard Oil of New Jersey own approximately 25 per cent of the Iraq Petroleum Company and all its interests. The largest oil concession—that in Saudi Arabia—is owned exclusively by American interests. It has a reserve of five billion barrels, will run until the year 2005, and last year paid $17,000,000 in royalties to King Ibn Saud.

If Britain has bases in Iraq and Transjordan, the United States now has a base in Dhahran, where our air force operates a field built during the war. A deep-water port is being constructed near Dammam, eleven miles from Dhahran. A pipe line being laid through Transjordan and Syria to port Sidon in the Lebanon is expected to be completed in 1950. It will be capable of delivering 300,000 barrels of oil daily at the Mediterranean port. Last week the United States announced the reopening of a war-time airport at Mellaha near Tripoli in Libya, where the British still maintain control. This, coupled with Britain’s announcement that it plans to use Cyprus as a military base and with the Greek vote against partition at the U.N., gives a clear indication of Anglo-American plans and illuminates some of the reasons why the State Department seems to be conniving at the defeat of the United Nations plan for Palestine.

Posted in: Towards Statehood

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