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September 18: British Mandate

4 Pages

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 347
Julie Norman

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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2012: British Mandate  There was a heavy British presence in the Middle East region going into world War one—although the Ottoman Empire existed at this time, the European powers had already begun to chip away at the region.  In Word War One, the Ottoman Empire allied with Germany as a response to the European powers exerting control over Ottoman land.  The British start to make deals with a number of actors in the region who at that point seem to be in the best position to help Britain (in the war effort and in the post-war context). They tried diplomacy with: a. Arabs (ex. McMahon-Hussein Correspondence) b. Western powers –notably the French (ex. the Sykes Picot Agreement) c. Zionists (ex. Balfour Declaration)  What was the role of the British in either creating or aggravating the Israel-Palestine conflict?  McMahon-Hussein Correspondance (1915-1916):  It was a correspondence through letters between McMahon (British High Commissioner in Cairo, when Britain already had a presence) and Hussein (the Sharif of Mecca at the time and the Amir of what is present day Saudi Arabia).  McMahon is telling Hussein that if they are willing to fight the Ottomans in the war, the British will help them set up an Arab state after the war. It appealed to the Arab nationalism.  “Great Britain is prepared to recognized and support the independence of the Arabs…”  “Great Britain will guarantee the Holy Places against all external aggressions….”  Hussein assumed “external aggressions” would include mass migration and the attempt to establish a homeland by another group, but different people saw different things into it.  The letters were very vague about the borders of the region, what is included (ex. what do they mean by “the Holy Places”  Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916)  Skyes was a British representative and Picot was a French representative.  The greed to split up the Middle East in the post-war era into “spheres of influence.” Britain would get influence over what is now Jordan and Iraq, and the French would have control over present day Syria and Lebanon.  Some people say it is contradictory to the McMahon letters, because the British agreed to support the Arabs in taking this land for an Arab state, but the Sykes-Picot agreement was preserving European interests in the region.  Balfour Declaration (1917)  "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 the 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".  Jews would be dissatisfied with the language, which says it wants to “establish” a national home, but the Zionists saw it as a return and would have wanted language to express this. There is also a lot of ambiguity in the border of the region itself (a segment of Palestine, the whole, something within Palestine?).  “National Home” also seems like very deliberate wording—it doesn’t say “State.”  Arabs noted that it says it will respect the civil and religious rights but leaves out political rights. Arabs also didn’t like that it called them “non-Jewish communities,” which was perceived as a slight that Palestinians and Arabs specifically weren’t recognized (others say it was an attempt to include both Muslims and Christians).  Britain was trying to negotiate short-term interests while also balancing long-term interests for after the war effort.  “Correspondence” has an allusion of informality whereas a “declaration” seems far more formal because it is a piece of state poli
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