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The Middle East and World War I Regarding the Ottoman Empire before WWI, WWI and the Arab Revolt, Zionism and the Balfour Declaration.

Course Code
HIST 1010
William Irvine

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The Middle East and WWI
1. The Ottoman Empire Before WWI
Ottoman Turks controlled a huge part of what is now Central Europe as late as the beginning of
the 19C. By 1914 the Arabs started acquiring nationalist ideas. This took a long time to come
about because even though they were all Muslim, the different sects divided them. Throughout
20thC Middle East was very appealing to Europe especially Great Britain and France. Area was of
great strategic importance. Also before WWI oil was discovered in the Middle East. Nonetheless,
Britain was updating its fleet and started using oil instead of coal. Nov. 1914 the Ottoman
Empire entered WWI on Germany’s side making France and Britain even more interested in the
Middle East.
2. World War I and the Arab Revolt
Britain in an attempt to get Ottoman Empire out of the war encouraged the Arabs to revolt
against them. Hussein, Sherif of Mecca was in charge of the Arabian people unofficially. Sir
Henry McMahon (British diplomat) helped Hussein orchestrate the revolt. The Arab Revolt
however, did not amount to much. Britain was very dishonest at this period to Hussein and the
Arabian people.
3. Zionism
A movement to get Jews to return to Palestine where they will finally have their homeland back.
Anti-Semitism in the 1890’s gave the Zionism movement more velocity, as most Jewish people
wanted to escape the persecution they were receiving from certain countries they were living
in. Dreyfus affair- was when a middle class, Jewish man (Dreyfus) living in Germany was
convicted of a crime he did not commit and was sentenced to serve a life sentence in prison.
The terms of the sentence and the trial were actually illegal and completely unfair however and
were later revoked. This made some Jews believe they could only life safely in Palestine.
Theodor Hertzl was the leader of this movement. Their slogan was ‘A land without peoples, for a
peoples without land’. Zionism acquired allies in non-Jewish people also for example, some
Christians took literally the words of the bible and advocated for Zionism. By the end of 1916
Zionism looks very attractive to the British government and began to consider the prospect of
Jewish homeland. By this time Chaim Weizmann was the leader of the Zionist movement.
4. The Balfour Declaration
This was the basis for the foundation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This is a very messy
document with poor grammar and very unclear sentences. Why is this document so sloppy? It
was made by a committee that was very divided about the issue of a Jewish homeland, also they
met very few times, only about 5. It never spells out: what they’re being given, or where the
Palestine borders were clearly. However, it is important because it gives Jews post war rights.
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