A tragedy – Palestine Papers

In 1914 {First World War} Palestine consisted of some 500,000 Muslims, 60,000 Jews and 60,000 Christians. Palestine was then part of the Ottoman Empire also known as the Sick Man of Europe.

During the First World War, the British promised the Jews to set up a state for them in Palestine. The promise was made to persuade the Jews in America, Russia, and the Jews in the German army to support the British in their fight against Germany.

Similarly, the British promised to give Palestine to the Arabs to persuade them to rise up and fight the Ottoman empire.

These two incompatible promises gave rise to the tragic and intractable conflict in the Holy Land between Israel and the Arabs which continues to plague the Middle East.

Doreen Ingram is the wife of a colonial officer stationed in Yemen. She travelled extensively in Yemen and Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. She is also a prolific writer of the social and economic conditions in Yemen and Iraq. {p 200}.

In this book published in 1972, she has compiled original documents culled from secret minutes of Cabinet meetings, telegrams and letters of the officers and statesmen to show the motives and decisions made in 1917 – 22, the years which shaped the future of Palestine and also sowed the seeds of conflict.

The first document examined is the Balfour Declaration, named after the British Secretary Arthur Balfour. He was the one who issued the letter to Lord Rothschild on 2 Nov 1917. Lord Rothschild was a leading British Zionist. The formula was first proposed by Lord Rothschild and drafted by Balfour. But it was Lord Milner, Minister without Portfolio and a Member of the War Cabinet who redrafted the declaration which was finally issued after receiving comments from inter alia Lord Rothschild, Lord Curzon, Weizmann. {p 12}. This is a very important book that shows the British’ s predominant objective was to win the war, irrespective of the noble intentions for the Jews and the hardship that would be caused to the original Arab inhabitants of Palestine. The end justifies the means.

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