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
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
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
“Great Britain will guarantee the Holy Places against all external
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
“National Home” also seems like very deliberate wording—it doesn’t say
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