Monday, May 09, 2016

Yikes. Lawrence and Sykes-Picot

I found this document, and accompanying explanation here.  Just in time for the JCPA conference on Sykes-Picot (and here) next week* (and read their paper).

On Septembert 7, 1917, prior to the Balfour Declaration and the official establishment of the Jewish Legion, T.E. Lawrence dealt with the issue of whether the Jews will have a future in the area of the Arab Middle East that they wished to reconstitute their ancient historic homeland.  Obviously, he was aware of the divisions that were to be of the Ottoman Empire territories if England won the war, if not their exact delineations.

As the commentary makes clear, Lawrence writes to his superior at the Arab Bureau, General Clayton, to ask whether he should send a letter he has composed to Sir Mark Sykes. In it, he asks about the aims of the Zionists. He knows already that an area of the regiom, "the Jewish section" exists and needs to be "cleared up" just as there is a "French section" which he nevertheless feels "we may (if we win) clear up...ourselves.” 

Clayton advised Lawrence not to forward his letter to Mark Sykes – but a record of the unsent letter survived nonetheless. 

Again, as per the commentary, the letter is crucial to understanding exactly why Lawrence wanted the “Jewish section cleared up” – and addresses, en passant , Lawrence’s conflict with the Zionist pioneer Aaron Aaronsohn and, by extension, those Zionist converts within the British establishment, like Sykes (and Balfour, Orsmby-Gore, Deedes and Meinertzhagen), whom Aaronsohn had influenced.

The text:

“General Clayton showed me a letter from you which contained a message to myself - and this has prompted me to ask you a few queries about Near East affairs. I hope you will be able to give me an idea of how matters stand in reference to them, since part of the responsibility of action is inevitably thrown on to me, and, unless I know more or less what is wanted, there might be trouble. “About the Jews in Palestine, Feisal has agreed not to operate or agitate west of the [Wadi] Araba-Dead Sea-Jordan line, or south of the Haifa-Beisan line . . . 

This is quite important because it puts the lie to the Arab claim that the area that was to become the Palestine Mandate was somehow stolen from them without their knowledge as in the infamous McMahon-Hussein correspondence.

Lawrence continues:

“You know of course the root differences between the Palestine Jew [that is, the Sefaradi, who originates from an Arab country - YM] and the colonist Jew: to Feisal the important point is that the former speak Arabic, and the latter German Yiddish. He is in touch with the Arab Jews (their H.Q. at Safed and Tiberias is in his sphere) and they are ready to help him, on conditions. They show a strong antipathy to the colonist Jews, and have even suggested repressive measures against them [!]. Feisal has ignored this point hitherto, and will continue to do so. His attempts to get into touch with the colonial Jews have not been very fortunate. They say they have made their arrangements with the Great Powers, and wish no contact with the Arab Party [eventually, Weizmann & Feisal met and agreed on an outline of coexistence 16 months later]. They will not help the Turks or the Arabs. Now Feisal wants to know (information had better come to me for him since I usually like to make up my mind before he does) what is the arrangement standing between the colonist Jews (called Zionists sometimes) and the Allies . . . What have you promised the Zionists, and what is their programme? “I saw Aaronson in Cairo, and he said at once the Jews intended to acquire the land-rights of all Palestine from Gaza to Haifa, and have practical autonomy therein. Is this acquisition to be by fair purchase or by forced sale and expropriation? The present half-crop peasantry were the old freeholders and under Moslem landlords may be ground down but have fixity of tenure. Arabs are usually not employed by Jewish colonies. Do the Jews propose the complete expulsion of the Arab peasantry, or their reduction to a day-labourer class? “You know how the Arabs cling even to bad land and will realise that while Arab feelings didn't matter under Turkish rule . . . the condition will be vastly different if there is a new, independent, and rather cock-a-hoop Arab state north and east and south of the Jewish state. “I can see a situation arising in which the Jewish influence in European finance might not be sufficient to deter the Arab peasants from refusing to quit - or worse!” 

The commentary concludes:

Lawrence’s reference to Aaronsohn’s remarks is particularly interesting, inasmuch as Aaronsohn left an account of the meeting at which he made them. “This morning I had a conversation with Capt. Lawrence,” he wrote in his diary on 12 August 1917. “An interview without any evidence of friendliness. Lawrence had too much success at too early an age. Has a very high estimation of his own self. He is lecturing me on our colonies, on the spirit of the people, on the feelings of the Arabs, and we would do well in being assimilated by them, by the sons of Arab etc. While listening to him I imagined to be present at the lecture of a Prussian scientific anti-Semite expressing himself in English. I am afraid that many of the archaeologists and reverends have been imbued by 'l'esprit boche'. He is openly against us. He is basically of missionary stock.” Aaronsohn’s assessment of Lawrence as an anti-Semite stands in stark contrast to Chaim Weizmann’s opinion that Lawrence’s relationship to the Zionist movement was a very positive one, in spite of his strongly pro-Arab sympathies.


100 Years Since Sykes-Picot Agreement:
Lessons for the Middle East

The borders of the countries that were created artificially after the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain a hundred years ago have not withstood the test of time. The Middle East is ablaze with bitter wars between neighboring countries, between tribes, and between warring religious groups.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung will hold a conference on the lessons from the Sykes-Picot Agreement for today's Middle East. Participants include Israeli and foreign scholars from Turkey, the UK, France, the UK, Russia and the U.S.  

Conference Program
Opening Remarks
Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
Amb. Patrick Maisonnave - French Ambassador to Israel

First Session: 9:30-10:45
Historical Overview of the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Chair: Amb. Freddy Eytan - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Westphalian Arab Nation-States in the Middle East: A Failed Experience
Prof. Shlomo Avineri - Hebrew University
Sykes-Picot and the Zionists
Dr. Martin Kramer - President of Shalem College
Sykes-Picot: Myth and Reality
Prof. Efraim Karsh - King’s College, London
Sykes-Picot Agreement: The French Perspective
Dr. Richard Rossin - Former Vice President of the European Academy of Geopolitics 
Coffee Break

Second Session: 11:00-12:30
The Collapse of Borders – a Future Perspective: Lessons from Other Countries
Chair: Dan Diker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
How Resilient is the Current Middle Eastern State System?
Amb. Prof. Itamar Rabinovich - Tel Aviv University
Earthquakes of the Middle East
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
An American Perspective on the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Dr. Scott B. Lasensky - Senior Advisor to the United States Ambassador to Israel 
12:30-13:15 Break

Third Session: 13:15-14:15
Legal Aspects and International Law
Chair: Amb. Alan Baker - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Some Historical Facts about the Egypt-Israel Border
Prof. Ruth Lapidoth - Hebrew University
League of Nations Mandates and Subsequent Nation State Borders
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich - Northwestern University and Kohelet Policy Forum 

Fourth Session: 14:15-15:15
Strategic Perspectives: Then and Now
Chair: Dr. Michael Borchard - Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel
The Russian Strategic Perspective
Alexey Drobinin - Senior Counselor at the Russian Embassy in Israel
Turkish Foreign Policy and the Specter of Sykes-Picot: A Hundred Years Later
Dr. Ahmet K. Han - Kadir Has University, Turkey
Strategic and Geopolitical Aspects
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser - Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs



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