Re: Seven Pillars of Wisdom
- From: "Don Phillipson" <d.phillipson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2006 11:06:50 -0400
"Marko Amnell" <marko_amnell@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
I've just started reading this, as I found an inexpensive
paperback edition of it. It's something I've wanted to read
for a long time. Has anyone else read this and have thoughts
to share about it? Didn't Lewis Mammel read it, or was it
some other book by T E Lawrence? I remember he posted
here about the Arab revolt.
Lawrence published two versions of his book. The
shorter, for the book club audience, was entitled
Revolt in the Desert.
I'm curious about the role of Emir Faisal Ibn Hussein in the
narrated events. He was the leader of the Arab nationalist
movement, and was briefly King of Syria after the war.
It is my understanding that the Arab-Jewish conflict in
Palestine started during his short monarchy in 1920, as
Faisal claimed sovereignty over all of Palestine, and had
no intention of allowing the birth of a Jewish State on his
land. This short period determined the nature of the
conflict for decades to come. Obviously still relevant today,
with fears the war in Lebanon could expand into Syria.
1. Arabia was and is tribally organized. The Hashemite tribe
(which Hussein and sons led) dynasty ruled Mecca in WW1
so was the main tribe solicited and helped by the British,
on the promise of independence from Turksh rule.
2. Faisal (son of the tribal leader) expected to become
king of Syria, and may have been promised that throne
by T.E. Lawrence or some other British spokesman --
unaware of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement dividing
the Middle East into British and French spheres of
influence and guaranteeing French control of the north
i.e. Syria. Sykes-Picot governed how the League of
Nations reorganised in 1919 the non-Turkish relicts of
the Ottoman Empire, thus made France the mandatory
power over Syria which then included modern Lebanon.
Britain was given similar mandates over the newly
created countries Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq.
2b. As consolation prizes for the "loss" of Damascus,
the two Hashemite princes were made kings of
Transjordan and Iraq. A couple of years later the
Saudi dynasty seized Arabia from the Hashemites
(after king Hussein had died, I think.) The Saudis
had lived largely beyond Turkish control, thus did
little in WW1. But the League (Treaty of Trianon,
1919) accepted that Arabia had already claimed
its independence, thus did not have to become a
League mandate. (Iraq and Transjordan were set
up with parliamentary elections as well as their
alien kings, and the British mandate ended in
the 1930s, i.e. the League of Nations recognized
both as fully independent states.
3. Conflict in Palestine between Jews and Arabs
began several years after the British mandatory
government had taken over. The practical point
is that the terms of the mandate said Britain
should invent a national government satisfactory
to the people -- but every concrete proposal was
vetoed by either the Arab or the Jewish community,
sometimes both. While various proposals were on
the table 1919-1939 Palestine was changing, mainly
because there was substantial Jewish immigration
but no Arab immigration -- which Arabs complained
was altering the demography of 1919 which the mandate
implied should continue indefinitely.
No claims by Faisal had anything to do with this. The
leading Palestinian politician was the Grand Mufti of
Jerusalem (selected by Britain, as prominent in the
Husseini clan). He encouraged anti-Jewish boycotts
and violence, so Jewish strong-arm squads came into
existence, with a fresh grievance when (after Hitler
came to power) Britain limited Jewish immigration
(cf. interpretations about demography and the mandate.)
Inter-communal violence in the 1930s was largely
between Jews and Arabs, leaving the mandate government
largely untouched. Not until 1944 did Jewish extremists
start attacking British police or military institutions. (The
Stern Gang's assassination in 1944 of Lord Moyne,
British resident minister for the Far East, was the start.) For
whatever reasons, equivalent Arab terrorists did not
attack British authority -- only Jewish communities.
This may have coloured later British attitudes.
Partition into two states rather than a unified Palestine
was proposed in the late 1930s and again in 1946. After
both communities rejected this, Britain gave six months
notice that it would abandon the mandate and simply
quit Palestine. The main difference thereafter was
that the Jewish community proclaimed a national state
(recognized internationally by vote in the United Nations
Organization) but the Arab community of Palestine made
no such proclamation when it had the chance. (Possible
reasons range from the exodus of rich Palestinians to
their other homes in Beirut and Cairo to the advice of
nearby Arab governments to do nothing, until their
armies "swept the Jews into the sea.")
Recommended: A.J. Sherman, Mandate Days: British
Lives in Palestine 1918-1948 (1997) and Collins &
Lapierre, O Jerusalem (1972).
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