All-Inclusive Palestine

An Arab protest gathering in session. Palestine, 1929.

A Jewish army unconnected with Palestine is no concern of the Arabs in Palestine or of the Arab States. But will the Zionists be content with a Jewish army divorced from the Jewish National Home or Zion (Palestine)?

If there is any intention of recruiting such an army in Palestine or using it in Palestine or neighbouring Arab countries, the Arabs are bound to consider that the intention is to force the Allied Nations to accept the Zionist demand for a Jewish State and that this army’s ultimate purpose will be to fight the Arabs for the possession of Palestine.

As you know some Jews are boasting that already in Palestine they have the nucleus of an army with stores of rifles, machine guns and grenades. I am inclined to disbelieve this, but if such claims continue to be made they will cause further alarm to the Arabs there.

Dr Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, in an article in Foreign Affairs, an American quarterly, for January 1942, again urges the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and writes as if it is bound to be established after this War.

Prom 1919 to 1922 he expressed the same views, then, when he realised the strength of Arab opposition to these claims he modified them. Now he has revived them.

I feel that if the United Nations made a definite pronouncement now to the effect that they will not support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine but adhere to the policy laid down in the White Paper of 1939 the Zionists would make protests of course but would accept the decision as final.

They believe that it is possible in the course of a great struggle such as the present war to exact promises which would not be made in a time of peace. So their extreme claims should be refused categorically now.

At the same time, if you agree with my suggestion, it would be possible for the United Nations to guarantee the future of the Jewish National Home as it exists at present in Palestine with all the possibilities of its normal semi-autonomous development within the fabric of a greater Syria and an Arab League.

I invite your consideration of these matters as I am of the opinion that, unless both the Zionists and their British and American sympathisers cease their propaganda during the war, the Arabs will start their own propaganda and that the Axis Powers will seize the opportunity, so presented, to create bad blood between Great Britain and the Arabs of the Near and Middle East.

Whatever happens in Syria or Palestine has some repercussion in Iraq. Although for centuries the Jews enjoyed complete liberty in Iraq and lived on excellent terms with their Muslim neighbours yet violent anti-Jewish feeling has been aroused by the events in Palestine.

This hostility has been fanned by German Radio propaganda. As a result in 1941 when an interregnum existed in Iraq and the forces of law and order were out of hand, the mob looted the peaceful non-Zionist Jews of Baghdad and murdered a number of them.

For this reason, responsible statesmen in the Arab States, where large Jewish communities are residing, are always apprehensive of the effect in their own countries of what happens in Palestine. This also applies to all that occurs in the non-independent Arab regions.

Of all the various problems facing the Arab countries, that of Palestine is the most difficult and calls for most serious attention, because the policy hitherto followed has resulted in obvious injustice to its original inhabitants, the Arabs, who still constitute two-thirds of the population.

The Arabs of Palestine want to live independent in their own country; but the Zionist policy aims at wresting the land from the hands of its legitimate owners in order to transform it into a Jewish state.

The Arabs do not hate the Jews, but they abhor the Zionist policy which aims at the annexation of their country.

The Zionist movement is backed by unlimited funds, powerful institutions and political parties, as well as by distinguished personalities of great influence in Great Britain and America, while the Arabs of Palestine can only rely on the justice of their cause and their own exertions.

Although the Arabs of Palestine have the moral support of Arabs in all neighbouring countries these countries, have been powerless to help them, materially or militarily, owing to their alliances, in force or contemplated, with Great Britain or France. Moreover, the Arab States want a peaceful settlement by agreement not by force.

The Arabs from the very beginning believed that the pledges that Great Britain gave to the late King Hussein (both when he was Sherif of Mecca and later when he was King of the Hejaz) included Palestine, Trans-Jordan and most of Syria.

The declaration stated :

“That subject to certain modifications (which excluded Mersin, Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the West of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo) Great Britain is prepared to recognise and uphold the independence of the Arabs in all the regions lying within the frontiers proposed by the Sherif of Mecca.”

The British government has never seriously challenged the Arab contention that Palestine was included in this pledge conveyed through Sir Henry MacMahon in 1915.

The Balfour Declaration was made subsequent to this definite pledge. When its contents alarmed the Arabs, the British government sent a special envoy, Commander Hogarth, to set the doubts of King Hussein at rest.

King Hussein was assured that “Jewish settlement in Palestine would only be allowed in so far as would be consistent with the political and economic freedom of the Arab population.”

While the terms of the Palestine Mandate give special rights to the Jewish Agency and Jewish settlers in Palestine, it nowhere lays down that the Jews are to have a Jewish state in Palestine. (The Arabs, of course, have never accepted the Mandate as legal or binding on them and in the Mandate, they are not even mentioned by name).

In successive Statements of Policy, published as White Papers, in 1922, 1930 and 1939, Her Majesty’s Government declared that “it is not part of British policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State”.

When Great Britain accepted the mandate for Palestine her first concern was to facilitate the creation of a Jewish National Home by assisting the Jewish Agency and other Jews to purchase land and by arranging the peaceful transfer of the Arab cultivators of such land. She also endeavoured to secure Arab goodwill for the Jewish National Home.

The Mandatory was also occupied in establishing efficient administration and essential public services. So, for many years she made no serious effort to carry out the duty imposed upon her of assisting the inhabitants of Palestine to advance towards self-government.

Unfortunately, when she eventually did consider how best to execute this part of her task, Arab fears of ultimate Jewish dominance and hostility to the Mandate had become so intense that it was impossible to secure their cooperation in any proposed legislative or another assembly which might have paved the for self-government.

Upon careful examination by a special Boundary Commission, the partition of Palestine into separate states was found to be impracticable.

But this Commission did not examine the possibility of creating a Jewish enclave or enclaves, with special rights on the Maronite model, inside a Palestinian State or a greater Arab state which would include Syria and Trans-Jordan.

The partition of Palestine into two independent states and a Mandated area, which had pleased nobody, was declared impossible and the final policy of Great Britain was made public in 1939 after the Palestine Conference bad broken down.

In the White Paper of 1939, Her Majesty’s Government declared that:

“(l) The objective of His Majesty’s Government is the establishment within ten years of an independent Palestine State in treaty relations with Great Britain

(2) The independent state should be one in which Arabs and Jews share in government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community are safeguarded.”

All that remained was to establish self-government in Palestine in such a way as would best safeguard the rights of the Jews who had settled in Palestine under the terms of the Balfour Declaration.

All Arabs and particularly those of the Near and Middle East have deep down in their hearts the feeling that they are “members one of another”.

Their nationalism’ springs from the Muslim feeling of brotherhood enjoined on them by the Prophet Muhammad in his last public speech. It differs therefore from a great deal of European nationalism and patriotism.

Although Arabs are naturally attached to their native land their nationalism is not confined by boundaries. It is an aspiration to restore the great tolerant civilisation of the early Caliphate.

Adapted from Arab Independence and Unity, by General Nuri As-sa’id (1943.) Photograph courtesy of Ping News. Published under a Creative Commons license.