Tied together through bonds of family, betrayal and prejudice, the Arab and the Jew have been at odds for millennia. This tension has erupted into active hostility over the course of this century. The current conflict is thought to be of such ancient origin that it would be pointless to discuss it. Ancient hurts, ancient enmities, ancient history. The trouble with most proposals for peace in the region is that they address the symptoms instead of the root causes because the root causes are presumed to be centuries old. In actual fact the causes of the current conflict are relatively recent and within living memory of some people. I propose a solution which is based on a shared history and thereby cuts through the Gordian knot of this seemingly insoluble conflict.
Let me first remind you that the Jews and Arabs share a common ancestry. The roots of both Jews and Arabs go back over three thousand years to the family of a man named Abraham who along with his nephew Lot left the city of Ur in the region of Chaldea, (in modern-day Iraq,) and settled in the area of Palestine. Abraham had several sons: the firstborn, Ishmael, who was born to the servant of Abraham's wife; Isaac, the "son of promise;" and six sons from Abraham's second wife, Ketura. Lot also had two sons from an incestuous relationship with his daughters.
While Ishmael was the first‑born son of Abraham, it was Isaac who obtained Abraham's inheritance. Of Isaac's two sons, the eldest was Esau, who was persuaded by his younger brother Jacob to give up his birthright. It is from the line of Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, who was himself the younger son of Abraham, that the Jews descended. (Jacobís name was later changed to Israel.) All other Semitic peoples trace their lineage through the sons of either Abraham or Lot. This being true, the irony is that all Semitic peoples share a common Chaldean/Iraqi heritage, (Genesis 11,12,16,17,21,25.)
Religion forms the most obvious demarcation between the Jew and the Arab. While Judaism is a religion, most Israelis are irreligious at best.† Those Israelis who follow Judaism consider themselves to be a chosen people, the heirs of the promises given by God to Abraham---a claim that is supported by the Bible---and as such came to believe in themselves as superior in spite of the biblical statements to the contrary, (Genesis 12,15,17,18,22; Deuteronomy 7:7.)
Arabs are overwhelmingly Islamic and believe the writings of the prophet Mohammed supersede those of both Jews and Christians. Historical Islamic practice was to grant religious freedom, (but limited political freedom,) to both Jews and Christian as they are also "people of the book" and not mere pagans, (who were considered infidels and forced to convert.) (lzzeddin, 22‑24 ; Hitti, 229,279,280.)
Let us leave ancient history and examine the modern roots of the conflict. Before World War I the Arabian Peninsula was under the control of the Ottoman Empire, an empire that had stood for nearly four hundred years but was near collapse. When the Ottoman Empire, (Turkey,) came into the war on the side of the Germans, the Hashemite Arabs under Sharif Husain Ibn 'Ali, (a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed,) were enticed into the war by Great Britain through promises of independence.
Sharif Ibn 'Ali was the guardian of the Holy Places of Islam and the ruler of the Hejaz, a region consisting of the western coastal areas of the Arabian Peninsula and extending north into Palestine. He found it politically advantageous to curry the favor of Britain as he hoped thereby to gain the ascendancy over his Arab rivals to the throne of a united Arabia, (Antonius, 139,140). He established a correspondence with Sir Henry McMahon, High Commissioner in Egypt, and received assurances that at the end of the war Great Britain would "recognize and uphold the independence of the Arabs in all the frontiers proposed by the Sharif of Mecca [Husain Ibn 'Ali,]" (Antonius, 419.)
Subsequent to this agreement---known as the McMahon Correspondence---and unbeknownst to Sharif Husain, the British, the French, and the Russians entered into the Sykes-Picot agreement, dividing the Arab lands between them as colonial possessions. The British role was more deceitful than this as they failed to disclose to the French the existence of the prior agreement with the Arabs, a fact which the French came to resent later, (Antonius, 244‑250; Hitti, 465; Izzeddin, 98,99.)
Before World War I Theodore Herzl, the founder of the Zionist Congress, held negotiations with Turkey, Germany, Russia, and Great Britain as to the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. The negotiations continued throughout World War I, and succeeded when Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which reads, "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 that 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," (Izzeddin, 222‑225; Antonius, 266,267.)
When Sharif Husain heard of the existence of the Balfour Declaration he requested clarification of its aims from the British. 'The response, delivered verbally by Dr. David George Hogarth and written down by Husain, was unambiguous. "Jewish settlement in Palestine would only be allowed in so far as would be consistent with the political and economic freedom of the Arab population." Notice the important expansion of the Balfour Declaration from protecting only civil and religious rights to protecting political and economic rights as well, (Antonius, 267, 268; Izzeddin, 99.)
During the war the Turks attempted to split the Arabs from the alliance by informing them of the Allied Power's designs on Arab territory. On February 8, 1918 the Acting British Agent, Lt Col J. R. Bassett, acting under instructions from Sir Reginald Wingate, High Commissioner of Egypt, gave the following response:
"...His Majesty's Government and their allies stand steadfastly by every cause aiming at the liberation of the oppressed nations, and they are determined to stand by the Arab peoples in their struggle for the establishment of an Arab world in which law shall replace Ottoman injustice, and in which unity shall prevail over the rivalries artificially provoked by the policy of Turkish officials. His Majesty's Government reaffirm their former pledge in regard to the liberation of the Arab peoples. His Majesty's Government have hitherto made it their policy to ensure that liberation, and it remains the policy they are determined unflinchingly to pursue by protecting such Arabs as are already liberated from all dangers and peril and by assisting those who are still under the yoke of the tyrants to obtain their freedom," (Antonius, 253 .58, 431,432.)
On June 16, 1918 a memo was read to seven assembled Arab leaders by an officer of the Arab Bureau, a memo which became known in the Arab world as the Declaration To The Seven. This Declaration was made in response to the request of the seven gathered Arab leaders for clarification of British policy as to the disposition of Arab lands after the war.† The Declaration To The Seven divided Arab inhabited lands into four categories and stated, in essence, that British policy was for the Arabs to have their independence after the war was over, (Antonius, 270‑273, 433)434; Izzeddin, 100.)
It was these statements of the British position which gave birth to the 1918 agreement between the head of the Zionist movement in England, Chaim Weizmann, and Faisal Ibn Husain. This agreement put into affect the Balfour Declaration along with the additional understandings delivered to Sharif Husain; with the McMahon correspondence; the response of the British government to the accusations of the Turks which was delivered to King Husain; and the Declaration To The Seven. Unfortunately this agreement was tied to Britain keeping her promises and was therefore never put into effect, (Izzeddin, 227, 228; Antonius, 284‑286.)
Had the Faisal-Weizmann agreement taken effect it would have changed history. It is a document unique in the annals of Arab/Israeli relations, for it not only recognizes the ancient racial bonds between Arab and Jew, but also lends legitimacy and tacit approval to the idea of a Jewish nation. The main points of the agreement are outlined below:
1)†† The Jewish people were to be granted their own territory to be administered by their own people. This was not to be an independent state, but a special administrative district of the greater Arab state.
2)†† The boundaries of the Arab and Jewish territories were to be decided by an international commission.
3)†† Large scale Jewish immigration was encouraged, but the Arab tenant farmers were to be allowed to live on their ancestral lands.
4)†† Free exercise of religion, and no religious test for political office.
5)†† The various religious holy places would be under the control of their respective religions.
6)†† The Zionists would make a study of the economic potential of the entire region and share the results with the Arabs.† The Zionists would then assist the Arabs in developing that economic potential.
7)†† Any disputes over the carrying out of the Faisal-Weizmann agreement were to be committed to the British government for arbitration.
The existence of this agreement was not published until 1936 when Dr. Chaim Weizmann, in an attempt to prove that the Arabs approved of the way the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine had worked in practice, wrote of it in a letter to the London Times.† The less than timely nature of the revelation coupled with the fact that the Zionist movement was by that time denying the rights of the Arabs in Palestine give credence to the idea among Arabs that the Zionists had no intention of living up to the conditions of either the Balfour Declaration or the lesser known Faisal-Weizmann agreement.
Whether the Dr. Weizmann and the Zionists intended to live up to their end of the bargain or not cannot be decided for certain. What is evident is that they wanted more than the ability to administer an autonomous region within Palestine. Jewish experience over the centuries had proven that the promises of governments to respect the minorities within their own borders cannot be depended on in the long run. The Zionists wanted not just autonomy but a homeland. I suggest the Zionists were willing to settle for the terms of the Balfour Declaration and the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, but being desirous of a homeland were actively seeking it through direct appeals to the British government.
After the war Great Britain received the Mandate over Palestine from the League of Nations, the text of which was written with the assistance of the Zionist movement.† The Mandate was Great Britain's attempt to colonize the Middle East and was a repudiation of the promises made to the Arabs which had enticed them to revolt against the Turks. It negated the McMahon correspondence, the clarification of the Balfour Declaration delivered to Husain by Dr. Hogarth, the reassurances given to Husain by the Arab Bureau, the Declaration To The Seven; and the Faisal-Weizmann agreement.† The Zionist Organization then established the Jewish Agency for Palestine under the authority of an article in the mandate which called for "the cooperation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of a Jewish national home." In time the Jewish Agency became a sort of state within a state; advising the British on the administration of Palestine; acquiring much land upon which to settle immigrants with money donated by Jews and sympathizers from around the world, (and displacing the local peasantry;) and providing jobs to Jews at double the rate paid to Arabs. In affect the Mandate gave preferential treatment to Jewish immigrants while denying Arabs full rights in their own country, (Hitti, 508, 509; Izzeddin, 230‑233.)
The Arab resentment of Israel can be traced to the fact that† Arab lands were taken away from them by force and given to the Jews, and to the fact that Jews purchased land from absentee landlords in other countries and dispossessed the tenant farmers whose ancestors had been farming the same land for generations. The Arab resentment of the Western world can be traced in part to the betrayal of Arab independence and of a united Arabia by Britain and to the division of Arab lands between England and France following the war. The Israeli resentment of the Arabs can be traced to the fact that the British government reneged on its support of a Jewish homeland and in 1939 severely restricted Jewish immigration and land acquisition. (Britain seems to have been attempting to colonize the middle east and exploit its oil reserves. The British capitulation to the Arabs was an attempt to protect their oil interests in the region.) Israelis and Arabs are both mindful of the many wars fought over the years and the memory of the dead on both sides serves to keep passions high.
The foundations of the current simmering hostilities in the middle east can be traced to a series of lies and betrayals by the British† and the willingness of the Zionists to settle on lands appropriated by force from their rightful occupants. I must admit that I am a supporter of Israel on religious grounds, but I am embarrassed by the lack of character shown by the Zionist leaders. The Arabs may have been naive, but at least they werenít duplicitous; the Zionists were motivated by self-preservation; and the British were motivated by pride, greed, arrogance and bigotry.† The price of British imperialism has been paid in the blood of all Semitic peoples.
Any solution to the problems in the Middle East must take the history of the region into account. It must reconcile the claims of the Jews to the land they were forced off of by the Romans and the claims of the Arabs who have inhabited it for the last nineteen hundred years. It must somehow ameliorate the rage the Arabs feel over the loss of there ancestral lands and the betrayal of their hopes and aspirations. It must guarantee the security of the Jews in Israel while providing a measure of autonomy and perhaps even statehood to the Palestinians. It must look for inspiration to the situation which would have existed were it not for British duplicity and Zionist greed.† It must move on from the present arrangement towards a time when Jews and Arabs can deal with each other as members of a common family, divided only by religion.
A formal apology from the former colonial powers to the Arab nations for the dashing of their dreams and the division of their peoples would be nice, as would an admission by Israel that Zionism became not just pro-Jew but also anti-Arab. However, nations rarely admit their wrongs, being much like individuals in this regard. Fortunately apologies and admissions of guilt are unnecessary.
A blueprint for a settlement is found in the agreement reached between Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Sharif Faisal Ibn Husain at the close of World War I, as it pointed the way to a world in which Jewish aspirations would have been fulfilled, while protecting the rights of Arabs. Such an agreement would do much to alleviate the tensions of the region and assure the continued flow of oil from the region. The terms of such an agreement would be patterned as follows:
We the undersigned representatives of our respective nations, being mindful of the ancient racial bonds between our peoples, and realizing that the continuation of our protracted dispute is not in the best interests of either Jews, Palestinians, or Arabs as a whole, and desirous of re‑establishing the good will and understanding which had been the history of our peoples, do hereby recognize the existence of the nation of Israel, conditional upon the adoption of and adherence to these articles by that nation.
Measures shall be taken to allow immigration of Jews and Palestinians and as quickly as possible to settle immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.† In taking such measures both Arab and Jewish settlers shall be protected in their civil, political and economic rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.
No law or regulation shall be made prohibiting or interfering in any way with the free exercise of religion; and further the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination shall be forever be allowed.† No religious test shall ever be required for the exercise of civil or religious rights.
The Islamic and Jewish Holy Places shall be under the control of their respective religions.
All persons born in Israel and the occupied territories who are not citizens of any other country shall be considered to be citizens of the nation of Israel with the full rights, privileges and responsibilities thereof unless said person desires to relinquish Israeli citizenship.
Any matters of dispute which may arise as to the implementation of these articles or any other matter within five years from the date of the implementation of these articles shall be referred to a commission of disinterested parties, to be chosen and agreed upon by both parties the adoption of these articles.
The nation of Israel shall formally annex the occupied territories.† They shall be considered as Palestinian provinces of Israel.† Relations between the Jewish and Palestinian provinces of Israel shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding, and each province shall administer itself under the laws of the national government.
Jewish settlements shall not be built in the Palestinian provinces without the express permission of the local administration.† Likewise Palestinian settlements into the Jewish province shall not be allowed except under identical terms.† Care shall be taken in all instances not to displace the tenant farmers from their ancestral lands.
No preference shall be given to either Jew or Palestinian in the exercise of political, economic, civil or political rights.† All citizens shall have the right to live in whatever district they choose regardless of race or religion.† No restrictions shall be placed on the movement of citizens between districts.
These articles address the concerns of both Palestinians and Jews for security and freedom, while providing a measure of autonomy for both. They allow for continued immigration of Jews into Israel, while restricting the establishment of new settlements in Arab territory. It allows the Palestinians to administer their own territory and allows them to participate in the national parliament. It implicitly recognizes that Israel is there to stay, while ameliorating the most visible and irritating consequences of the British double-cross.
Getting the parties across the table from each other is the next problem. Who should be involved? It seems that every nation with an economic stake in the consequences wants to be part of a conference on the subject. it is equally true that few nations are actually parties to the original dispute. It is therefore necessary that only those parties involved in the creation and maintenance of the present situation be permitted to participate. This would mean that Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Britain, France and the United States be allowed to participate. As no other Arab country shares borders with Israel or was involved in the liberation of Palestine, it would have no claim to a place at such a convention: the same would be true of any other country, with the possible exception of Egypt and Australia, which had troops involved in the liberation of Palestine.
This Gordian Knot will not be cut through in one swift stroke; the unraveling of this situation will take many months and even years of careful negotiation. Convening an international conference on the Middle East would be of little use if the result would mean the opening of old wounds and grievances of the last seventy years. It is in the role of facilitating secret negotiations toward a solution that the international community should play a part.
Is such a solution even possible? That is hard to say. The history of the last seventy years would suggest otherwise. However to people tired of wars and prejudice anything is possible. How for do events have to go to convince the parties to the original dispute that nothing more is to be gained from protracting the struggle? And is their no man with enough vision and determination to shepherd such a process through to an appropriate conclusion?
Antonius, George. The Arab Awakening. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1939
The Scofield Reference Bible. New York, Oxford University Press, 1909
Hitti, Philip K. The Near East. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1961
Izzeddin, Nejla. The Arab World. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company 1953
Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars Of Wisdom. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co. 1938
His Majestyís Government have considered the memorial of the Seven with great care. They fully appreciate the reasons for the desire of its authors to retain their anonymity, but the fact that the memorial is anonymous has in no way detracted from the value which his Majestyís Government assign to that document.
The territories mentioned in the memorial fall into four categories:
(i)††††††††††† Territories which were free and independent before the outbreak of the War;
(ii)†††††††††† Territories liberated from Turkish rule by the action of the Arabs themselves;
(iii)††††††††† Territories liberated from Turkish rule by the action of the Allied armies;
(iv)††††††††† Territories still under Turkish rule.
With regard to the first two categories, [the independent states of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Western coastal regions as far north as Aqaba,] His Majesty's Government recognize the complete and sovereign independence of the Arabs inhabiting those territories, and support them in their struggle for freedom.
With regard to the territories occupied by the Allied armies, [which as of the date of this Declaration comprised most of Iraq and the southern half of Palestine,] His Majesty's government invite the attention of the memorialists to the proclamations issued by the commander-in-chief on the occasions of the capture of Baghdad (March 19,1917) and of the capture of Jerusalem (December 9, 1917). These proclamations define the policy of His Majesty's Government towards the inhabitants of those regions, which is that the future government of those territories should be based upon the principle of the consent of the governed. This policy will always be that of His Majesty's Government.
With regard to the territories in the fourth category, [the unliberated portions of Syria and Iraq, including the northern half of Palestine and Lebanon, it is the desire of His Majesty's Government that the oppressed peoples in those territories should obtain their freedom and independence. His majesty's Government will continue to work for the achievement of that object. They are fully aware of the difficulties and perils which threaten those who are striving for the liberation of the inhabitants of those territories.
In spite of those obstacles, however, His Majesty's Government believe that the difficulties can be overcome, and they are prepared to give every support to those who are striving to overcome them. They are ready to consider any scheme of co-operation which does not conflict with the military operations in hand or with the political principles proclaimed by His Majesty's Government and their allies, (Antonius, 270‑273, 433)434; Izzeddin, 100.)
His Royal Highness the Amir Faisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organisation, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations, is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine, and being desirous further of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have agreed upon the following articles:
[Note that the language of the preamble bases the realization of the Jewish national aspirations on their close racial kinship.]
The Arab State and Palestine in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding and to this end Arab and Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in their respective territories. [The Jewish people were to be granted their own territory to be administered by their own people. This was not to be an independent state, but a special administrative district of the greater Arab state.]
Immediately following the completion of the deliberations of the Peace Conference, the definite boundaries between the Arab State and Palestine shall be determined by a Commission to be agreed upon by the parties hereto. [This article does not specifically exclude any territory in Palestine from being included in the Jewish territory. Article VI excludes only the Moslem Holy Places; thus Jerusalem itself could have been on the table.]
In the establishment of the Constitution and Administration of Palestine all such measures will be adopted as will afford the fullest guarantees for carrying into effect the British Government's Declaration of the 2nd of November, 1917. [The Balfour Declaration.]
All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil. In taking such measures the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights, and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development. [The language suggests that immigrants were to be primarily agricultural and organized similar to a Kibbutz. Territory for settlements could not be obtained by force, but only through legitimate commerce with the native Arabs. Furthermore the native Arab tenant farmers were not to be forced off their land as a result of any change of ownership, but their ancient ties to the land respected.]
No regulation or law shall be made prohibiting or interfering in any way with the free exercise of religion; and further the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall for ever be allowed.† No religious test shall be ever required for the exercise of civil or political rights.† [This is the most far-reaching article as it provides for the political and civil rights of all citizens regardless of religious affiliation, a condition allowing more freedom than currently exists in Israel or in the Arab countries.]
The Mohammedan Holy Places shall be under Mohammedan control. [The Arabs had for many years controlled Palestine and had respected the Holy Places of both Jews and Christians alike.† This article ensured that the same respect would be forever granted to them no matter what the outcome of the Peace Commission.]
The Zionist Organization proposes to send to Palestine a commission of experts to make a survey of the economic possibilities of the country, and to report upon the best means for its development.† The Zionist Organization will place the aforementioned Commission at the disposal of the Arab State for the purpose of a survey of the economic possibilities of the Arab State and to report upon the best means for its development.† The Zionist Organization will use its best efforts to assist the Arab State in providing the means for developing the natural resources and economic possibilities thereof. [This survey, to be carried out by western experts, was to assist the Arab State in the economic development. This addressed the fear among Arabs that the influx of Jews would economically outstrip them due to their western expertise. It was to be hoped that allowing Jewish immigration and territory would lead to benefits for all. Notice also the implicate acceptance of the idea of a united Arabia.]
The parties hereto agree to act in complete accord and harmony in all matters embraced herein before the Peace Congress.
Any matters of dispute which may arise between the contracting parties shall be referred to the British Government for arbitration. [Notice the faith which the affected parties placed in the British Government, a faith which was to be most cruelly betrayed.]
Given under our hand at London, England, the third day of January, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Nineteen.
Provided the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded in my Memorandum dated the 4th of January, 1919, to the Foreign Office of the Government of Great Britain, I shall concur in the above articles.† But if the slightest modification or departure were to be made I shall not them be bound by a single word of the present Agreement which shall be deemed void and of no account or validity, and I shall not be answerable in any way whatsoever.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† FAISAL IBN HUSAIN
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† CHAIM WEIZMANN
 Why is the United States included in the list of nations to be a party to the Arab/Israeli dispute? The answer lies outside the scope of this article, but let me summarize. In 1919 then President Wilson dispatched the King‑Crane commission to study the problem of the Palestinian Mandate; the Commission's report was not favorable to the conditions of the Palestinian Mandate, and was subtlety critical of Western colonialism, (Izzeddin, 228, 229; Hitti, 442.) However after the second World War the United States came down hard on the side of Zionism, pressing the United Nations to recognize Israel, (Izzeddin, 228, 229, 239‑248; Hitti, 442, 510.) Today Israel survives as a viable nation only through the financial support of the United States, receiving over half of the entire foreign aid budget. Significantly the United States consistently uses its veto power to squash any resolution which is condemnatory of Israel. For all these reasons and more the United States has become connected in the dispute, and thus has a role to play in solving it.