Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Creation of the Middle East Crisis

Don't know much about history
Don't know much geography
Don't know much about an atlas book
Don't know much about languages I took
But I do know that I (Europe) love you
And I know that if you (Middle East) would love me too
What a wonderful world this would be
... Sam Cooke, R&B Hit Song 1958 (Revised)

Is there no greater truth, that ignorance of world events in the past has lead us to continue the same mistakes that still plague the world today. A perfect example is the conflict in the Middle East that simmered after WWI to boiling over during recent decades. Europe, mainly England and France, continued to assume that imperialism was their right and duty by remaking the geography and politics of the Middle East, ignoring the historical, cultural and religious aspects of the former Ottoman Empire. 

How did this minor conflict generate into a global issue?  Let’s ask the same questions as journalist:  Who - What - Where - When and How?  Most of the answers are self evident in three major documents:
Sykes - Picot Agreement  1916
Balfour Declaration  1917
Hussein-McMahon Correspondence 1915-1916

SYKES-PICOT AGREEMENT: A secret agreement between the British and French governments outlining the partition of the Ottoman Empire among the Allied Powers, designed by Sir Mark Sykes of England and Georges Picot of France. It divided the Arab region into zones of influence. Lebanon and Syria were assigned to France, Jordan and Iraq to Britain and Palestine was to be internationalized. Think hegemony.

Balfour Declaration Britain promised the Jews a Jewish "national home" in the Middle East. In 1917 The British government issued the Balfour Declaration, the establishment of a haven for the Jewish people in Palestine and soon after Palestine evolved into the independent country of Israel, attracting hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide.

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". 

Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, This was an exchange of letters between the titular head of the Arab world, Hussein bin Ali and Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner of Egypt, concerning the future political status of the lands under the Ottoman Empire.  Aided by the Arabs,  (Lawrence of Arabia)  the British captured Palestine from the Turks and promised them,  “THE ASSURANCES,”  independence of their countries after the war now known as Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and Saudi Arabia. After the war, a revised Sykes-Picot Agreement nullified the assurances leaving Hussein only Arabia.

Najib Azouri, a founder of Arab nationalism (1904) commented on the  "the awakening of the Arab nation, and the effort of the Jews to reestablish the kingdom of Israel."  

His conclusion was prophetic:   "These movements are destined to fight each other continually until one of them wins." 

My version of this is:  "These movements are destined to fight each other continually until they both lose." 

If you want to learn more about this subject, I recommend A Peace to End All Peace, by David Fromkin.  The critically acclaimed account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today.

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