Tuesday, March 06, 2018

The 1922 Arab Hasbara Failure

In 1922, there was an exchange of letters based on meetings held at that time, including the previous year, in London between a Palestine Arab Delegation and representatives of the British Government in an effort by the Arabs to suppress the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a Jewish National Home.

A February 21st letter, signed by Moussa Kazim El Husseini, President.and Shibly Jamal, Secretary (on Shibly, see below), opened thus:

    We would, therefore, submit the following observations:—
Whilst the position in Palestine is, as it stands to-day, with the British Government holding authority by an occupying force, and using that authority to impose upon the people against their wishes a great immigration of alien Jews, many of them of a Bolshevik revolutionary type, no constitution which would fall short of giving the People of Palestine full control of their own affairs could be acceptable.If the British Government would revise their present policy in Palestine, end the Zionist con-dominium, put a stop to all alien immigration and grant the People of Palestine — who by Right and Experience are the best judges of what is good and bad to their country — Executive and Legislative powers, the terms of a constitution could be discussed in a different atmosphere. If to-day the People of Palestine assented to any constitution which fell short of giving them full control of their own affairs they would be in the position of agreeing to an instrument of Government which might, and probably would, be used to smother their national life under a flood of alien immigration.

In the Colonial Office reply for Churchill, signed by J. E. Shuckburgh, Assistant Under Secretary of State, and sent on March 1, the Arabs were told off:

I am directed by Mr. Secretary Churchill to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 21st February on the subject of the draft Orders in Council providing for the Constitution of Palestine. Mr. Churchill has carefully considered this letter and has instructed me to offer the following observations upon it:

...3. Mr. Churchill regrets to observe that his personal explanations have apparently failed to convince your Delegation that His Majesty's Government have no intention "of repudiating the obligations into which they have entered towards the Jewish people. He has informed you on more than one occasion that he cannot discuss the future of Palestine upon any other basis than that of the letter addressed by the Right Honourable A. J. Balfour to Lord Rothschild on the 2nd November, 1917, commonly known as the "Balfour Declaration." You state in your letter that the people of Palestine cannot accept this Declaration as a basis for discussion. Mr. Churchill is unable for the reasons stated above to regard your Delegation as officially representing the People of Palestine. He presumes that your statement is not in any case intended to apply to the existing Jewish population of Palestine, which, so far as he is aware, your Delegation makes no claim to represent.

4. With regard to Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, I am to observe that this Article, in so far as it applies to territories severed from the Ottoman Empire, has been interpreted by the Principal Allied Powers in Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Sevres, Syria and Iraq are explicitly referred to in Article 94 of that Treaty as having been provisionally recognised as Independent States, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Article 95, on the other hand, makes no such reference to Palestine. The reason for this is that, as stated in that Article, the Mandatory is to be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally made on the 2nd November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. There is no question of treating the people of Palestine as less advanced than their neighbours in Iraq and Syria; the position is that His Majesty's Government are bound by a pledge which is antecedent to the Covenant of the League of Nations, and they cannot allow a constitutional position to develop in a country for which they have accepted responsibility to the Principal Allied Powers, which may make it impracticable to carry into effect a solemn undertaking given by themselves and their Allies.

...6. The references in your letter under reply to "a great immigration of alien Jews," "a flood of alien immigration," and "a flood of alien Jewish immigration," coupled with the request that the British Government should "put a stop to all alien immigration," and the reference to the Zionist Organisation in Clause 2 of paragraph (d) of your letter, indicate that your Delegation and the community which they represent, imperfectly apprehend the interpretation placed by His Majesty's Government upon the policy of the National Home for the Jewish people. This interpretation was publicly given in Palestine on the 3rd June, 1921, by the High Commissioner in the following words-

" These words (National Home) mean that the Jews, who are a people scattered throughout the world, but whose hearts are always turned to Palestine should be enabled to found here their home, and that some amongst them, within the limits fixed by numbers and the interests of the present population, should come to Palestine in order to help by their resources and efforts to develop the country to the advantage of all its inhabitants."

This interpretation was endorsed by the Secretary of State in his speech to the House of Commons on the 14th June, 1921. Mr. Churchill is reluctant to believe that your Delegation, or the people whom they represent, can entertain any objection in principle to the policy as thus interpreted.

On Shibly:


Churchill did attempt to placate the Arabs in his June 3, 1922 letter to the delegation which, in part reads:

His Majesty's Government...would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded in Palestine In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at the meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organisation, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims "the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of the peoples an undisturbed national development."

But (a) the Arabs didn't believe him and refused to engage in compromise and (b) Churchill didn't understand that, given the Arab refusal, that 1921 Zionist Congress decision was not in any way contradictory to his policy statement.  In fact, the 1923 Zionist Congress, also held at Carlsbad, reputed his decision to sever the Eastern Land of Israel territories.

"Palestine as a whole", then, included Transjordan, i.e., today's Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.


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