Page 3, 10th March 1939

10th March 1939
Page 3
Page 3, 10th March 1939 — Douglas V. Duff Sums Up Palestine's Problem

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Locations: Jerusalem, Mecca, Damascus


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Douglas V. Duff Sums Up Palestine's Problem


"Sanctions" Not Yet Forgotten




It is not yet officially admitted that the deadlock is final, but, so far, no new basis for discussion has been found.

Below, Mr Douglas V. Duff, who was for many years in an official capacity in Palestine, and who is a recognised authority on the tangled problems of the Holy Land, gives a clear picture of the present impasse what led up to it—and the sole way out.

He claims that the present situation in Palestine is the result of Great Britain's fatal policy of " Sanctions " against Italy.

In Palestine itself, he writes, " Mr Malcolm MacDonald has never realised that it. is not Jews and Arabs whom he must pacify, but the princely families of Husseini and Nashashibi.

"If that were done the Palestine problem would solve itself tomorrow."


At the London Conference the delegates have wrangled interminably over two documents—the Balfour Declaration, a 126-page letter addressed to Lord Rothschild on November 2, 1917, by Balfour, and the papers of the socalled MacMahon correspondence,

The first is a promise, made before we had conquered Palestine, that We ehoUld allow a National Home for the. Jews to be set up within it.

The second is a collection of letters passed to and fro between Sir Henry MacafLahon, then our representative in Egypt, and the late Sherif Hussein, of Mecca. These promised that autocratic, ignorant and intolerant old man an Arab Empire if he helped the Allied cause against the Turks.


The question at present is Whether these letters excluded the territoru now known as Palestine front that proposed Empire.

Successive British Governments have Maintained that they did, hut, now that they are available for public examination, it seems evident that they did not, although what is to-day Frenchmandated Syria and the Lebanon most definitely is excluded from the territories offered the Sherif. • To take a normal view it is practically certain that the fierce fanatic of Mecca must have thought that he was to have possession of the Holy City of Jerusalem. To be Caliph, his ultimate ambition, that was very necessary. It is said that Arab desires were for Damascus, that they had no wish for Jerusalem—which is self-evidently absurd.

Hussein did aid us. as everyone who has read the Lawrence epic knows—but, though this is a mere quibble, his men did not fight in Palestine, and the native Palestinians, except for that glorious handful who were all Palestinian Jews, did not raise a finger to aid the Allies. The Arab delegates claim this as their charter to Palestine!


But, if the matter is to be based on documents only, the Jewish case is equally good. They helped us greatly in our War effort, they did what they could to earn the reward promised in the Balfour Declaration. They have poured millions into the country. They have died by hundreds in reclaiming the malarial swamps. To many scores of thousands their little farms are their only homes—they can go nowhere else in the world. They relied on a great Empire's promise—and now they are in a fair way to seeing it repudiated.

It is useless and idle to proceed only on questions of theoretical right in Oriental matters, when factual right is so much stronger. Both Jew and Arab have their rights based on documents. So far as they are concerned Britain stands foresworn and shamed.

But this matter goes far beyond trying the case as though It was between two litigants in a British Court. The situation has profoundly changed since those documents were signed, probably each one in ignorance that the other was in existence. That may sound an exaggerated plea, but one has only to remember the Arabian situation during the last War to realise its soundness,

Then there were ruling kings and princes actually being armed and equipped by different British State departments to litalce, war.upon each other, each. Office believing that they were attacking Turkish allies.

Confusion in Near Eastern matter's is no new growth.

it is necessary to note several things before coming to any judgment upon, the justice of the Palestine solution.

First, that there is no real dispute between the vast bulk of the native Palestinians, called, for political purposes, the Arabs, and their Jewish fellow-countrynten. That may sound surprising, yet it is liter',/{y true.

But there is a profound dispute between a very small but intensely powerful section of Palestinians and the Zionists.

The Palestinian, until 1936, was unconscious of any national feeling. That is hardly surprising when it is remembered that, until 1918, the Holy Land was merely an obscure Turkish Province with no nationalistic traditions. Propaganda, mainly from the totalitarian countries, aided by this small section of extremists, has raised the nationalist question.

A ceaseless stream of radio propaganda has been poured out of the free receivers given by interested nations to the Palestinian peasants, and this has been supported by a wave of terrorism caused by the same countries giving these extremists financial aid, coupled with plenty of arms and ammunition.


The present situation in the Holy Land is a direct result of the Sanctions crisis.

Certainly there were rebellions before that date, but they were mere local affairs, and always directed against the Jewish settler's, never at. Britain. , Now that is all changed. The reasons are easily to he found.

Until the panctioris crisis Palestine was of very small importance to Britain's Imperial strategy—since then, it has become paramount—both from the point of view of communications in the event of the Suez Canal being destroyed -and also as a base from which to threaten Italy in the rear, and to hold the Eastern Mediterranean quiet. For that reason Palestine is swarming with British troops, has a fine naval base, and is covered with sites for aerodromes.

IHEDIOCRE ADMINISTRATION Because Britain was not deeply interested in the Holy Land prior to this date, she allowed an extremely mediocre Administration to govern it. Little was done in any way. An easy-going dictatorship that seldom dictated, Crown Colony government in other words, was allowed to languish under leaders supremely unfitted for their task.

The Arab leaders, most of them completely and cynically indifferent to the welfare of the Arab masses were permitted as much rope as they desired. (The term " Arab " is used for convenience.) Palestine saw the rebirth of one of its ancient feuds. The princely Houses of the Nashashibis and the Husseinis were permitted to carry on as they had done for over a century, and they split the country into two rival factions.

This might not have been so bad if it had not happened that Raj Antin Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerwsalent, and head of his clan, is a man Of the most intense ambition. He saw himself as Caliph and Emperor of the Arabs, and he subordinated else to this consideration.

His rival, Ragheb Bey Nashashibi, Was, consequently, forced into the role of being a lukewarm British supporter.


Both sides used the Jews as a whipping-post. To rouse the illiterate fellahin, they had to pretend that the Jews were a threat to the Religion of the Prophet. There were several attempts at this, prior to 1035, but the. Palestinian fellah, like ail peasants, is a man of shrewd intelligence, and he soon saw where he was being led.

Haj Amin, therefore, was forced hack onto the ,support of some of his upperclass paupers and on foreign mercenaries, such as the notorious Fauzi el Kawakji. Ha instituted a reign of terror.

Far more Arabs haucbeen killed by his gunmen than Jews Ms or British.

The Palestinians, seeing that it was hopeless to rely on the British-manned Palestine Government for protection, that law and order had completely broken down, that public security no longer exists from Dan to Beersheba, closed their lips and said nothing to betray any band of terrorists whom they might see in their villages.


For a long time the Nashashibis were also forcibly silent, then, at last, they managed to gain sufficient confidence to proclaim themselves leader's of a Moderate Party. Hai Amin countered by proclaiming the Jihad, the counterCrusade, the Holy War, and immediately brought in the surrounding Arab governments. They would have preferred to have said nothing, to have quietly watched events, but Haj Amin's envoys roused their populations with the lie that Islam itself was threatened by the British and Jews in Palestine.

Worst of all. they effectually raised the old bogey of Pan-Islamism in the minds of the British Foreign Office—a ghost that has never existed, and never can, at least for centuries, as Lawrence himself admits in his Seven. Pillars.

TliE CRUX Hordes of the Mufti's political opponents amongst the Arabs are being shot—British troops and police are being murdered—and Jewish settlers dying in ambushes.

Thus stood the situation when the present Conference was called in the hope of reconciling the irreconcilable.

Mr Malcolm. MacDonald has never re'al'ised rho a is not Jews and Arabs whom Itc moNt pacify,,but the princely families of 11 usseini and Nashashibi. If that were done the Palestine problem, would :wive itself to-morrow,

The Arab princes so grandly attending the conference, all of them split by feuds and jealousies, know perfectly well that they can do nothing. None of them dares take single action. and, collectively, any alliance or agreement would not last six months, between people so bitterly hostile as they are.

They realise that the welfare of. the tiny, cross-bred inhabitants of Palestine, none of thorn of even fifty per cent. pure Arab blood, is no concern of theirs. They are pawns, dragged in by the success of the Mufti in scaring the British Government with the gibbering, but decomposing, dead-head of PanIslam.

THE ONE WAY OUT If we hand the Jews over to an Arab majority, no matter what the safeguards, they naturally fear a repetition of the fate of the Assyrian minority in Iraq, where we delivered an ancient Christian people to massacre, and stood by whilst they were martyred for their race and belief in Christ.

There is one way out. and one only; Mr Malcolm MacDonald can do it if he is man enough—make peace between Nashashibi and Husseini. There is no real, irreconcilable hatred between Jew and Arab in the Holy Land.

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