August 9, 2009


How France sank the original Mideast peace (EDWIN BLACK , Aug. 6, 2009, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Arabs were assured a seat at the victors' table in Paris because they fought alongside the British and Lawrence against the Ottomans. Faisal became the face of Arab nationalism to the Peace Conference. On January 1, 1919, he submitted a formal memorandum to the Supreme Council of the Peace Conference outlining his vision for Arab nationalism throughout the Middle East. It was not monolithic or pan-Arab. It sought only one territory: Syria.

"The various provinces of Arab Asia - Syria, Iraq, Jezireh, Hijaz, Nejd, Yemen - are very different economically and socially," asserted Faisal's petition, "and it is impossible to constrain them into one frame of government... [But] Syria... thickly peopled with sedentary [settled] classes, is sufficiently advanced politically to manage her own internal affairs."

As for Iraq, Faisal declared, "The world wishes to exploit Mesopotamia rapidly, and we therefore believe that the system of government there will have to be buttressed by the men and material resources of a great foreign power." He stipulated to a British mandate.

Faisal's petition also stated: "In Palestine, the enormous majority of the people are Arabs. The Jews are very close to the Arabs in blood, and there is no conflict of character between the races. In principles, we are absolutely at one."

That said, he acknowledged that Palestine was important to many faiths and therefore the Arab national movement "would wish for the effective super-position of a great trustee, so long as a representative local administration commended itself by actively promoting the material prosperity of the country." Again, a British mandate was stipulated.

But at the Paris sessions, the French snubbed Faisal. Regardless of prior representations by the British, the French were uninterested in relinquishing their designs on greater Syria, especially since the Lebanon region was overwhelmingly Maronite Christian. Many French officials simply considered the Arabs a threat.

Typical was a memo from the Quai D'Orsay that stated, "Damascus is a Muslim center which is very hostile to France, to tell the truth, the most hostile in all Islam... It is there where all the plots against our authority in the Muslim countries are hatched, and it is there where the agitators come and preach rebellion... Damascus [must] be placed under our control." [...]

FAISAL REMINDED the League of Nations that the stated intent during the Arab uprisings against Turkey was "nothing less than their complete deliverance from a foreign yoke, and the establishment of a free and independent government." Ominously, Faisal added, "The decision of San Remo puts an end to this hope. The moderate elements in the young nation, who... are still endeavoring to guide it toward a policy of sincere collaboration with the Allies, are now discouraged and rendered powerless by this decision."

As the fuse of San Remo burned, Arab militancy and violence across the occupied Middle East - in Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria - already a problem, now ratcheted up.

It's queer that Woodrow Wilson is criticized for being a democratic idealists, when the reality is he was only only too happy to shaft the legitimate political aspirations of any number of peoples if only he got his League. While we obviously should have stayed out of WWI to begin with, the way we ended it made the worst of the "peace."

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2009 8:51 AM
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