Britain and France put down unrest stirred in East and West by a Dream of Dominion

London, Nov. 6—Europe has all but forgotten the story of those fearless horsemen with the new creed who swept from the deserts of Arabia thirteen centuries ago when most of the “civilized” Western World was in the grip of the Dark Ages.

In a little over a century, by stupendous military effort, they had carried the banner of the crescent over a vast crescent-shaped area stretching from the Indus to the Atlantic. The new civilization of Arab learning appeared as far east as central Asia, as far south as the shores of the Red Sea and across all North Africa, as far west as Spain and the Pyrenees.

Present-day Europe has forgotten this episode in its past, although loyal Italians still gape at huge maps along the Via dell’ Impero showing the smaller empire of ancient Rome. But educated Arabs of today have not forgotten. The dream of a new Arab empire of ancient Rome. But educated Arabs of today have not forgotten. The dream of a new Arab empire or federation is working sinister magic throughout the present-day  Arab world, with results which are not pleasant for the great imperial governments of Britain and France.

Widespread Unrest

Today there is a stirring of unrest accompanied by bloodshed in widely scattered parts of the empire which the Arabs once ruled, In Syria, at the northern tip of the resent-day Arab crescent, the Pan Arab Congress met recently with anti-Zionism as its rallying cry, but with the Arab federation as its distant goal, In Palestine Britain is trying to put down Arab “terrorism,” which derives some of its motive power from Pan-Arab dreams.

Unconfirmed reports of disorder have come from Transjordan. Where Arab nationalist are said to be angry at Emir Abdullah because of his friendship with Britain. Far to the west in French Morocco troops have occupied the Medina or holy Place, of Fez after finding evidences of a plot to overthrow French rule and reconstitute an Arab empire.

Superficially it would seem that events of the past weeks fit into a single pattern of nationalism. But the specter of a new Arab empire is not what worries government officials here or in Paris at the present moment. Those who have served in eastern lands are confident that jealousies between Arabs of various countries and various tribes are strong enough to prevent the Pan-Arab movement from being more than a dream, Syria, to take one example, is a hodgepodge of discordant sects and constantly clashing interests. The Arab rulers of the Hedjaz and Yemen cannot be brought together except by a victory of one over the other. Moreover, the Pan- Arabs at all.

Interests Threatened

                What disturbs the British and French alike is the simultaneous threat to their strategic interests in the existence of armed unrest among the natives, One of the chief motives behind the partition of Palestine in its proposed form was the necessity of Keeping a British hold on the Eastern Mediterranean and thereby on the Suez Canal and the gateway to India. Similarly, rioting in Morocco threatens the great reservoir of supplies and man power on which France counts in case of another conflict with Germany.

In each case foreign “outsiders” have fished in these troubled waters but not as effectively as one might believe from reading the Italian or German press or listening to their broadcasts. The Royal Commission on Palestine warned that it would be making “ the same old mistake” to imagine that Italian propaganda engendered the riots of last year. Italian propaganda is known to be active throughout the near East and North Africa, but other countries are engaged in the same pastime. The French in Morocco have some basis for the belief that every German travelling salesman in that territory is, in a sense, an agent of the Nazi regime. The British and French agree also that the Third International has been guilty of at least as much pro-Arab propaganda in Palestine and Morocco as the Fascist powers. And if one at tributes some of the mischief in French Morocco to broadcast from the Spanish Rebels in Seville, one must also blame the Valencia Government, which has been trying to produce an anti-Rebel uprising in Spanish Morocco and unwittingly encouraged a similar revolt against the authorities in the French Zone just across the border.

Apart from the ferment of Arab nationalism, the real causes of the discontent are the same at the eastern and western ends of the Arab world, namely economic grievances and weak or foolhardy administration. The economic complaints of Palestine Arabs are well known; they can be paralleled by the shrill grievances of the natives of Morocco who complain of the falling price of wheat and shift of the “European situation” to their country, which they argue has dispossessed them of their land. Likewise the royal commission’s charge of the “defeatist or apologetic” attitude of the Palestine administration can be matched in the story of French Northern Africa under the rule of the Front Populaire Government in Paris. Socialist emissaries from France have unwisely pledged their sympathy and friendship for the natives behind the backs of the Native sultans and another tribal rulers upon whose cooperation the entire structure of the French North African regime has been based.

Work for Peace

Yet at each of the focal points of discontent in Palestine and Morocco recent disorders have been working toward strengthening the government concerned. The weak administration of Sir Arthur Wauchope in Palestine is being recast and replaced with new leadership and stronger methods. France has acted promptly to establish a North African Coordination Committee of her ablest colonial administrators and has put down disorder so firmly that there is peace again throughout Morocco.

There is still time. In the opinion of both governments, for remedying economic grievances. If this accomplished and if the administrations are strengthened, both London and Paris are confident that foreign propaganda will have little or no effect. As for “the Arab dream,” both governments regard it as one of those distant aspirations which they need to watch but need not fear just yet.

Source: Britain and France put down unrest stirred in East and West by a Dream of Dominion: New York Times **(PDF available on NYT website)