Recovering Evangelicalism – Seeking a Justice-based peace in the Middle East –

Pursuit of Peace

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace and the effect of righteousness will be quiet and confidence for ever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Those who ‘pursue peace’ without regard to righteousness and justice are running after wind. When they ‘catch’ it, their hand is empty. If simple people can see this we must surely tell our leaders that they are like ‘the emperor’ who had no clothes. They may fool themselves, for how long will they continue to fool the people?

When we keep speaking truth and serving justice there will be no need for others to fear us. Those who ‘need to be feared’ because of their own weakness will be exposed as  those most in need of love.

A Final (I hope) post on this subject!

Any fair-minded person reading the correspondence between the Sharif of Mecca (Husayni, or Hussein) and Sir Henry McMahon, HM High Commissioner in Egypt, must conclude that Hussein had been promised an independent Arab nation in the whole of the Arabian peninsula bounded on the West by the Red Sea and Mediterranean, on the South by the Indian Ocean, on the East by the Arabian Gulf and the border with Iran-Persia, and the North along a line just south of parallel 37, subject to the following exceptions.  Britain claimed special rights over Basra and Bahgdad; the Trucial States were excluded and it was claimed by Britain that districts to the west of Damascus, Homs, Ham and Aleppo, not being wholly Arab and being a French interest must also be excluded. As far as Palestine was concerned, it didn’t rate a mention, although special international arrangements were suggested for Jerusalem.

Reading the submissions and conclusions of the Parliamentary Committee of March 1939 into this affair is fascinating.  Included are extracts from a debate in Parliament held in 1923. Earl Grey, Foreign Secretary during WW1 is quoted, “I think we are placed in considerable difficulty by the Balfour declaration itself. … it promised a Zionist home without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the population of Palestine. A Zionist home, my Lords, undoubtedly means or implies a Zionist Government over the district in which te hoome is placed, and if 93% of the population of Palestine are Arabs, I do not see how you can establish other than an Arab Government without prejudice to their civil rights. … I do see that the situation is an exceedlingly difficult one, when it (Balkour) is compared with the pledges which were undoubtedly given to the Arabs.”  Quite so!

In the same debate Lord Buckmaster remarked that there was nothing “in the nature of casual inconsistency”  but “that a deliberate pledge has been given on the one hand, which has been abandoned on the other”. He then summed up his view, ” I think we ought to say what we mean, and I think we ought to do what we say…. We certainly meant what we said in 1915. We did not do what we said in 1918″ and concluded that the British government should “go back to obedience to the promise that we gave at a moment when we were gravely beset by difficulties, to the relief of which the Arab help in no slight degree contributed”

Buckmaster was naive, Britain did not mean what it said in 1915, at least as far as the Eastern portions of the peninsula. In 1915 Britain had already concluded a treaty with Bin Saud who was to rule the Nejd, a significant area of East-Central Arabia. In a speech of 5th January 1918 the British Prime Minister declared “Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine are, in our judgement, entitled to a recognition of their separate national identities.”  There is much more, but how much evidence do we need. Britain promised Palestine to the Arabs, we either lied, or we broke covenant,

If you who are still wondering why the Mufti hated the British and sought help from Hitler in the 1930’s perhaps you should seek help not from history but an analyst, (you may interpret that however you wish).

Shortly before Nakba day I posted In Memorium.   One response seemed to accuse me of defending, even celebrating immorality.  I don’t propose to ‘approve’ the comment since it would occupy the equivalent of 2 pages. But the assertions within it cannot be allowed to stand without response, for the Palestinians are found collectively culpable, through their leaders, for the Holocaust. ‘They knew, they could have acted, they didn’t because of anti-Semitism’. This is the kind of ‘history’ that is taught to Israeli children and it simply is not true.

So, if you are interested, I am making the ‘Comment’ available,together with my response. It runs to 7 pages. The pdf can be found here Memorium-response .

 

My wife hates going to a souk. It’s not just the noise, it’s the constant hassle – people trying to sell you stuff, in broken English. I love it. What we have to understand is that the Arabs do it differently.  On holiday, tourists want the experience and maybe to buy a few souvenirs. We see something beautiful and want to look at it. The shopkeeper sees us looking and thinks, “Ah, that’s what she was looking for”, so when he tries to sell it to us he gets confused because we don’t seem to understand the process. Buying and selling in the Arab world is not merely a business transaction it is personal and, often, communal.

Read the account of Abraham’s purchase of a cave to bury his wife, Sarah, in Genesis chapter 23. From the first seven verses we could get the impresion that Abraham is asking and the Hittites are agreeing  the land as a gift.  Verse 8 to 11 continue the impression with Abraham saying “I’ll give you the market price” & Ephron’s reply “No, I give it”.  In the end, there is agreement, Abraham will have the field and cave and Ephron will receive his asking price of ‘four hundred shekels of silver’.

It is worth bearing that in mind when reading the McMahon-Husseini correspondence. (this can be found as an appendix in ‘The Arab Awakening: the story of the Arab National Movement’ by George Antonius. pub.1938 or in the British Library Archives).  Whilst couched in ‘diplomatic niceties’, from the first letter, from Amir Abdullah to Mr. Ronald Storrs and the subsequent ‘Notes’ between Sharif Husain (sic) and Sir Henry McMahon, they are very much to the point.  In my view McMahon’s Note dated October 24, 1915 gave Husain to understand that Great Britain agreed to independence for the larger part of the Arabian peninsula, excepting Baghdad and Basra, Alexandretta, and ‘portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo’.  That is to say, an independent Arab state including today’s Saudi Arabia, the Sinai, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Syria, excepting the coastal regions, Iraq, excepting Baghdad & Basra, Kuwait and a small portion of southern  Turkey.

It is interesting to note Chaim Weizmann’s conversations with Husseini’s brother, Feisal and their agreement that the Jews and Arabs could work together. Weizmann obscures the Zionist intent to create a Jewish state, while his attitude to democracy and to Arabs is evident in his reaction to the British proposal for a legislative council with Arabs (by far the majority of the population) as a majority; ‘I had pointed out that to talk of elected Arabs representing their people was to contradict the democratic principle which it was supposed to further’.  This at a time when in Britain women had not yet been granted the vote. This from a European from Russia where even today democracy is a strange animal.  For the Zionists democracy must wait until they formed the majority, or, when war in 1939 prevented, they would continue with terror and obtain their land by force.

 

Some people in UK and US will have heard of Balfour, he of the infamous declaration. A few may be aware of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, but I wonder how many are aware of the McMahon correspondence. Two years before Balfour, while secret negotiations were already planned between France and Great Britain to carve up the Middle East post-war into ‘spheres of influence’ (code for imperial control), Sir Henry McMahon, High Commissioner in Cairo wrote a letter to Sherif Hussein in Mecca. This letter, his response to Hussein’s proposal for an independent Arab state incorporating all the Arab provinces of the soon to collapse Ottoman Empire, appeared to Arab eyes to be a promise of independence in return for support to the Allies against the Turks.

An Arab revolt against Turkish rule in the Hedjaz would have the effect of diverting men and weapons to a new theatre of war, thus weakening the force Germany could use on the ‘Western Front’.  The actual effect of the revolt is much debated, including the role of T.E.Lawrence ( read e.g.  Anthony Bruce, ‘The Last Crusade’; James Barr, ‘A Line in the Sand’) but the Arab armies fighting with British help up the peninsula as far as Damascus lost 20,000 men killed. The revolt was undertaken, based on a promise from Great Britain, for the purpose of ‘setting up a greater Arab state’ (Gerald Butt, ‘The Arabs’).  Whilst there is a certain ambiguity in the text as to the precise areas there can be no doubt that the Sherif was justified in believing he had a promise of independence for the greater part of what is now Israel-Palestine- Lebanon-Saudi Arabia-Syria-Jordan.

If Sykes-Picot was merely imperialism in action, and kept  secret for nearly two years, Balfour was a betrayal.  The Wilsonian Principle of self-determination for indigenous peoples, implicit in the League of Nations Articles and explicit in the UN Charter, could be ignored in respect of the Arabs who, unlike the Zionists, had no representatives in Washington and London.

Telling the Arabs, “You lost, get over it” is pointless.  Irish Republicans haven’t forgotten William of Orange and many in the republican southern states of USA have not forgotten the civil war.  In the Middle East the situation is both worse and more recent.  Western influence, mainly for ill, is still felt keenly.  When in 2012 I spoke with a Palestinian woman whose family had been illegally evicted from their home by Israeli settlers with the support of the Israeli army, her anger at me, because I was British, was palpable; it was all our fault. McMahon, Sykes-Picot and Balfour were the context for her anger. British duplicity had let her down, was implicated in the death a few days later of her disabled husband, and is still part of the sub-text of Arab-Muslim suspicions in the region.

If we want to be part of a solution in the Middle East we must stop being part of the problem; we and USA both.

 

In Memoriam

When, in a few days, on May 15th, Israel celebrates 68 years as a nation state, not all Israelis will share in the joy.  Some, Israeli Jews, will have misgivings about the direction Zionism has taken, away from the socialist-utopian ideal of some of the founding fathers.  Others at how distant Zionism is from the cultural or religious Judaism they were taught.  Others again, Arab Israelis; Muslim, Christian, secular; will have mixed feelings: glad they live in a liberal western style state, but as 2nd class.  Christian or Muslim Arabs as citizens in a ‘Jewish state’ is simply a contradiction.  Nor are they allowed to celebrate their own history.

In the illegally occupied territories and externally controlled Gaza there will be no celebration, except in the West Bank in the doubly illegal Zionist-Jewish settlements.

But Palestinians don’t have to wait till 15th May for ‘Remembrance’, for Plan Dalet, their ‘nemesis/Nakba’ had already begun. More than a month earlier, on 9th April troops of the terrorist gangs Stern and Irgun massacred the population of Deir Yassin.  Small wonder the villagers of Qalunya, Saris, Beit Suril Biddu fled their homes in fear. Deir Yassin may be the best known but the massacres and expulsions continued into 1949. Weren’t the Arabs equally guilty? Guilty, yes; equally is too harsh a judgement, they were, after all, defending their homeland from invasion.  The ‘iron wall’ philosophy continues to this day.

For some British and American Christians the events of 1947-49 (and of 1967 and to the present) are justified very simply as ‘God’s plan for God’s people’. It is impossible for this evangelical Christian to see anything just, anything righteous, anything holy, anything remotely Godly in the rape of women, the destruction of children and the exile of the weak and the old.  It is no argument to claim that God willed the event but not the means. Scripturally, it is precisely the means that demonstrates the will. For those who will see it that’s the testimony of the crucifixion.

15th May should be no celebration but a day for reflection on the lost moral compass of parts of Judaism and parts of Christianity. For God’s purpose in Israel in both Old and New Covenants is not a pseudo-ethnic nationalism, not imperialist colonialism, nor religious totalitarianism. Rather it is a kingdom whose Authority is Love and whose Administration is Grace.

Israel, the modern nation state, is one among many attempts of evil to co-opt God into its selfish and self-deluded programme, (IS is another, as were the ‘Christian’ crusades). Sad that so many Christians (and some Jews) have bought the lie.  It must surely be evident that you cannot have Zionism as a political ideology, which it was and is, without what Zionism does. The effect of Zionism is the other side of the ideological coin, you cannot have one without the other.  But it is debased coinage, fools  gold, spiritual, cultural, religious and moral bankruptcy.

Nothing to celebrate – much to mourn – for all the peoples of the region —- and ourselves

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