Sunday, July 10, 2011

If Only…

Of the following three historic figures, who was the anti Semite? Was it T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia? Was it British author, Poet, and Nobel Laureate, Rudyard Kipling? Or was it British Prime Minister during World War II, Winston Churchill?

One might think that the answer is obvious. It is Lawrence of Arabia who championed and fought for Arab Independence and nationalism. But one would be wrong. It was Kipling. So says historian Sir Martin Gilbert in an Azure article in 2009 - republished with permission at

T.E. Lawrence did not only work for the Arab cause, he worked for the Zionist cause. It was Kipling who conditioned a request by Lawrence for a review of his work ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ that it not be pro ‘Yid’.

Who can ever forget the heroic Lawrence of Arabia played by Peter O’Toole (pictured above in that role) in the 1962 classic movie by the same name.

In 1917 and 1918 he participated as a British officer in the Arab revolt against the Turks, a revolt led by Sharif Hussein played by Omar Sharif in that same movie. Does that mean that Lawrence was anti Zionist? Hardly.

History has recorded that Lawrence was as pro Jewish nationalism as he was pro Arab nationalism. As was his boss Winston Churchill after he was appointed Colonial Secretary. At a time where many of the Arab states of the Middle East were just being formed it was T.E. Lawrence who met with Chaim Weitzman and came up with a formula that would give the Jewish people a homeland that spanned in one direction from the Mediterranean all the way to the Jordan River.

This of course included all of Jerusalem and the entire West Bank. Syria would be given to Emir Feisal (later at Churchill’s suggestion giving him Iraq instead). His brother Abdullah was to be given Jordan (then known as Trans-Jordan). Emir Abdullah was in complete synch with Weitzman, Churchill, and Lawrence.

The idea was that Zionism would bring the entire Middle East into the 20th century - the Zionist pioneers bringing European technology with them. They would first build up Palestine and then share their technological advances with their neighbors. From the article:

On March 1, 1919 Lawrence, while in Paris as the senior British representative with the Hedjaz Delegation, drafted and then wrote out in his own hand a letter from Feisal to the American Zionist Felix Frankfurter. In this letter, Feisal declared, “We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement.” Feisal went on to say that Weizmann “has been a great helper of our cause, and I hope the Arabs may soon be in a position to make the Jews some return for their kindness. We are working together for a reformed and revived Near East, and our two movements complete one another.”

The Jewish movement, Feisal continued, “is national, and not imperialist: our movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed I think that neither can be a real success without the other.” Feisal then added, in strong, optimistic words: “I look forward, and my people with me look forward to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their place in the community of the civilized peoples of the world.”

Both Churchill and Lawrence had mandated that Feisal and Abdullah over whom they felt they had sufficient British influence work to eliminate opposition to Zionism. They told Abdullah that his authority would end at the eastern bank of the River Jordan; that the Jews were to be established in the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (“Western Palestine”); and that he, Abdullah, must curb all anti-Zionist activity and agitation among his followers.

Imagine what Israel would be like today if all those expectations had come to fruition.

But the more successful the Zionist enterprise had become, the greater the resentment. Zionism was never accepted by the Arabs. We all know what happened instead. As immigration to Palestine increased so too did Arab resentment. Instead of looking at Zionism as a key to entering the 20th century, all they saw was Jews usurping ‘their’ land. Instead of appreciating offers of help from their Jewish neighbors to develop themselves as modern nations they sought to drive the Jews into the sea.

When the UN voted to partition Palestine giving the Jewish people a much smaller portion of land than that envisioned by both Churchill and Lawrence, all the surrounding Arab nations attacked it. Arabs who were told to flee their homes. As the Israelis made advances in Palestine those who fled ended up living in squalor in Jordanian refugee camps on the West Bank of the Jordan River. The Six Day War gave the West Bank to Israel and suddenly these refugees were in Jewish hand making it their problem. The refugee population grew and terrorism took center stage.

Except for the American people, the world has now embraced the Arab narrative and is pressuring Israel to ‘take chances for peace’.

How sad. None of this had to happen. Both Churchill and Lawrence were visionaries. If only things had gone according to plan. There would be no refugee problem. No wars. And no terrorism. There would instead be a mighty Middle East with the State of Israel one of many power house states in the region. Imagine what a united Middle East would look like today.

Alas it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead the only growth is the hatred of the Arab toward the Jew. And that seems to be an insoluble problem.