Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Palestine" Was Not Promised to the Arabs

I came across this resource and quickly reading through, realized that it contains a remification on exactly what "country" the Arabs were demanding prior to World War I and before.

First, we have this letter:

Lord Kitchener to Sir Edward Grey.
F.O. 6672/6672/14/44.
(No. 22.) Secret.
Cairo, D. February 6, 1914.
R. February 14, 1914.

The Sherif Abdullah, son of the Sherif of Mecca, is now staying in Cairo on a short visit called upon me yesterday.

He begged me to convey to you his father's compliments, and said that affairs in the Hedjaz not going on as well as could be wished owing to the recent appointment of a new Turkish Vali who combined civil and military functions and who is not in sympathy with the people and does not act harmoniously with his father in the conduct of the internal affairs of the holy places as well as for the comfort and security of the Moslem pilgrims from all parts of the world which his father as Sherif has been so long responsible.

He wished me to ask you whether in case this friction became acute and an attempt was made by the Turkish Government to dismiss his father from the hereditary office of Sherif of the holy places, you would use your good offices with the Sublime Porte to prevent any such attempt. He pointed out that his father had always done his best to assist Indian Moslem pilgrims amongst whom he had many friends. He stated very decidedly that in case the Turkish Government dismissed his father the Arab tribes of the Hedjaz would fight for the Sherif and a state of war against the Turkish troops would ensue. He hoped in such circumstances that the British Government would not allow reinforcements to be sent by sea for the purpose of preventing the Arabs from exercising the rights which they have enjoyed from time immemorial in their own country round the holy places.

He wished his remarks to be kept very secret and on no account to be known in Constantinople, and he also asked me whether you would send his father some message. I said I thought would be improbable that you would do so.

I have, &c.

In my reading, the country he desired liberated with British help from the Turkish Ottoman rule did not inlcude "Palestine" but was restricted to the Saudi Arabain Peninsula.

Nevertheless, you might presume that "holy places" still would include Jerusalem, yes?

Well, look at this in context:

Lord Kitchener to Sir Edward Grey.
F.O. 15883/4588/14/44.
(No. 58.) Confidential.
Cairo, D. April 4, 1914.
R. April 11, 1914


In the enclosure to Sir Louis Mallet's despatch No. 193(1) of the 18th ultimo of which His Excellency forwarded me a copy, I notice it is stated that the Sherif of Mecca sent his son, Abdullah Bey, to me. This does not, however, quite accurately represent what took place, as Abdullah Bey was actually on a visit to the Khedive and only called on me quite unofficially, and some time after his arrival in Cairo, when he spoke to me as reported in my despatch No. 22 Secret,(2) of the 6th of February last. You will remember that he received no sort of encouragement from me.

I quite agree with Sir Louis Mallet in thinking that great care will have to be taken in dealing with the Arab question, so as not to wound Turkish susceptibilities and arouse their suspicions. At the same time we cannot afford to lose sight of the interests which Great Britain must always take in the Holy Places, owing to the annual pilgrimage which is attended by thousands of Indian Moslems and also by many Egyptians. The welfare and indeed safety of these pilgrims is intimately bound up with the maintenance of order in the districts in question and of a good relationship between Turks and Arabs whose animosity has undoubtedly been roused by the recent Turkish policy of centralization adopted during the last few years and more especially by the proposal to push forward railway communications which would cause great pecuniary loss to the Arabs who live on their camel hire.

I take this opportunity of saying that the suspicions entertained by the Grand Vizier with regard to my interest in the case of Aziz Bey el Masri are quite groundless (see Sir Louis Mallet's Telegram No. 191 of March 27th(3) ). Egyptian public opinion has been genuinely and sincerely aroused by the arrest and trial of this officer, and so far from taking the initiative in pressing the matter at Constantinople I have had some difficulty in calming the resentment caused by the proceedings of the Turkish Government. Nothing is known here of his alleged intrigues with the Arab leaders in Mesopotamia and his arrest is generally attributed to the personal animosity and. jealousy of Enver Pasha.

I have, &c.

This correspondence, at the highest levels of British-Arab communications, would at the very least, cast doubt that the British in any way could have presumed that "Palestine" would be under Arab control after the war but rather it was outside any Arab sphere and most definitely could have been promised to the Zionist movement.

1 comment:

NormanF said...

This was THREE YEARS before the Balfour Declaration. At most the British promised the Arabs freedom from the rule of the Turks. It did not promise them a specific territory - and certainly not what later became known as Palestine.