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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who Are the Arabs?

Who Are the Arabs?

 
How Zionism Turned Palestine into a Jewish State

From Arabian Desert to Revolt Against Turks
America is a long way from the Arab lands of the Middle East. Americans, in general, know very little about the Arab people. The Arab image, for reasons well known to many, has not been handled too favorably by the American press. To understand the message in this book, it is important to have at least an elementary grasp of Arabic history, and to help in that purpose the following quick sketch is presented.

Of the many mixed Semitic peoples of ancient history (Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arameans, Phoenicians, Amorites, Arabians, Hebrews, and others) only the Arabs and the Jews (generally considered as Hebrew offspring) remain as organized religious entities. The only language writings (largely cuneiform) of the groups here mentioned have shown such similarity as to indicate these people all came from a common racial (Semitic) stock or source. Presumably, according to Biblical genealogy, they would be descendants of the Old Testament Shem (or Sem), oldest son of the legendary Noah.

The word “Arab” is the Semitic term for one who lives in the desert, but it would be no more correct today to visualize the wandering Bedouin remnants living in their black goathair tents in the desert as representing the present Arab civilization than it would be to equate Yemen Jewish peasantry with modern Jewish communities in America, England or elsewhere.

From Yemen They Spread
In his book The Arabs, Anthony Nutting, distinguished British diplomat, gives a quick but lucid picture of Arab origins, with an explanation that the earliest mass settlement of the Arab people took place in the Yemen; and when this small corner of the Arabian peninsula became overcrowded, about 3500 B.C., a migrating tribal group pulled away in search of a new and less-­crowded area for themselves and their herds.

They traveled along the west coast of Arabia, circumventing the Red Sea, via Sinai and into Egypt, where the Arabic Semites and the native African Hamites (descendants of Noah’s son Ham) mixed and assimilated “to produce the Egyptians of history and absorbed the elements of science and culture, which are the basis of our civilization.”

Mr. Nutting further explains that another migration from the early Arabian-Yemen inhabitants, going in another direction, reached the Tigris-Euphrates valley where they (the Semites) assimilated with the Sumerians—the people who populated the early Mesopotamian country, known as Sumer. Out of this union of the non-Semitic Sumerians and the migrating Arabic Semites came the Babylonians who gradually developed their own particular customs, culture and life methods.

A thousand years later, further mixtures of the emerging populations, which had spread to Syria and Palestine, produced the Amorites and Phoenicians and other groups that were the early settlers of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean coast, where, several hundred years still later (roughly between 1500 and 1200 B.C.), the sector known as Canaan was invaded by another Semitic division, known as the Hebrews. About the same time, a Semitic grouping, known as the Arameans, established themselves firmly in Syria with Damascus as their capital. Many of the early ethnical and tribal names, particularly as mentioned in the Old Testament, originated out of the geographical section they occupied.

Assyrians Push Empire
Much later, in the ninth century B.C., the Assyrians moved into Syria, and with imperialistic might succeeded in setting up a considerable Empire stretching from Babylonia (the southern Iraq of today) to Armenia and on down to Phoenicia, which roughly is the Lebanon of today. It was the custom of early historians to consider the section we later came to know as Palestine as a geographical part of Syria.

In the wide stretches to the East, during the sixth and seventh centuries (B.C.), the Medians (Medes) ruled a considerable land mass, including ancient Persia and part of what is now Pakistan. In the course of time, this developed into the strong Persian Empire, which included the conquered territory that had, in an Empire sense, first been Assyria and then Babylonia.

For historical reasons, it may be useful to mention that the major religion which preceded Islam in Persia (now Iran) was Zoroastrianism. There is no need here to say more than that this was a very ancient religion, originating as early as 1200 B.C., as estimated by some, while certain early Greek historians placed Zoroaster as hundreds, or even thousands of years earlier. One such authority describes Zoroastrianism as “a pure monotheistic concept of God, Ahura Mazda, the perfect creator and ruler of both the material and unmaterial world.” Its adherents were and are called Parsees. Zoroastrianism appears to have become an official state religion with the rise of the Persian Empire, and remained as such until it was dethroned and largely abolished by the great Arab conflict around 636 A.D.

Sir John Bagot Glubb, in his book The Great Arab Conquests, explains the problem encountered by the Christians, Jews and Parsees in adjusting to the new Moslem masters who, at that time, “had no code of civil law… The only inevitable solution was to allow the Christians and Jews to have their own separate judicial systems, administered by their own judges.” The Turks took over in this area by conquering the Arabs in the sixteenth century. Today there is a small percentage of Iranians who adhere to Zoroastrian beliefs, but the majority are Moslem in faith.

All that is being attempted here is to give a running sketch of Middle East background. To go fully into the play and interplay of countless races, tribes, religions, sects and cultures which spanned thousands of years of history, would require volumes and is not necessary to the basic theme of this book. The main purpose here is to point out how the people we know as Arabs entered the arena of a developing civilization; how they brought a great new religion into being; how they spread in prominence and power to become an extensive empire; how they came to be what and where they are today—and the relation of all of this to the latest conflict (between Jew and Arab) in the eternal battlefield known as Palestine.

One of the earliest onslaughts in this storied battleground, as already mentioned, was when the Semitic Israelites, whom, according to legend, Moses led out of Egypt, crossed the river Jordan near Jericho, invaded Canaan, and in Jericho “utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).

The Rise of Islam and Arabism
While some of the Semitic groups originating in lower Arabia migrated to other Middle East areas, the basic Arab stock gradually became a more organized and stabilized form of civilization, with its population colonized largely in two particular areas of the Arabian peninsula, known as Hejaz and Nejd. These will be defined later.

The beginning of the Arab world, as we know it today (and that is where our interest in the Arabs presently lies) came with the amalgamizing of a religio-political culture through the leadership of the Prophet Mohammed—an accomplishment that has become the outstanding Arab image to the other peoples of the world. The miracle of the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. was undoubtedly the birth of the Islamic religion or faith. Its initiation was solely due to the indomitable will and strong personality of one man—Mohammed. Here is the only one of the great religions that was born in the open view of modern history, where the patriarch was a person of national record with less legend and mystery than that of most of the great religious founders. However, it must be said that Mohammed leaned heavily upon the two other monotheistic religions by interweaving a remarkable system of faith and law, with some cognizance of the mysteries of these two prior religions. What was the urge, the inspiration, that produced this almost miraculous achievement in its time and place?

The story of Mohammed’s childhood and development to manhood and leadership is well told by Sir John Bagot Glubb (Glubb Pasha) in his most excellent book, The Great Arab Conquests (Prentice-Hall, U.S.A.). This book contains many descriptive maps that make General Glubb’s story of the Arabs easy to follow and understand. At the end of each chapter, he provides a chronology of “Notable Dates”—a most helpful publishing variation, especially where history is involved.

Mohammed—the Man
A short sketch of Mohammed should begin with his birth—570 A.D. His father, who was of an important Meccan tribe (the Quraish), died before the boy’s birth. His mother died when the lad was about age six. Young Mohammed was cared for by two or three different people, but was raised mainly by an aged grandfather. It may be mentioned that Mohammed is the most common male name in the Arabic category. Little detail is known of Mohammed’s child life. Sometime before the age of twenty-five, however, he was employed in a business conducted by a well-to-do widow (Khadijah) of a Meccan merchant whom Mohammed, at the age of twenty-five, married. She was fifteen years his senior, and as long as she lived, Mohammed was devoted to her. He had several daughters, most of whom died before adulthood.

All known facts, as well as tradition, would indicate that young Mohammed was disposed toward a studious and meditative proneness that placed him in the category of a spiritual intellectual of his time and place, although it is not known whether or not he could write. When he became well married, he had more time for the indulgence of his bent for speculating on the fate of mankind. From the Koran we learn that from his cave retreat near Mecca, where he spent considerable time in reflective solitude, he heard a voice saying, “Recite thou in the name of the Lord who created.” Later he received more messages, among which was a command to “Arise and warn.” His call to preach was not too dissimilar from that of other prophets and evangelists.

He knew considerable about the Jewish and Christian monotheistic religions and was depressed by his polytheistic environment where the people worshiped a pantheon of divergent idols. He had become convinced that God is One and all-powerful, having created the earth and all living things. He believed that for the righteous there would be a rewarding paradise and dreadful punishment for the wicked. He had become convinced that his mission was to persuade others to believe. He began to preach about salvation and reform. In the main, he was scorned by the people. Besides the loyalty of his wife and a small group of relatives, the few who were at first converted were mostly slaves and very poor people.

The greater number of Meccans liked their ways and pleasures and regarded Mohammed as a nuisance and menace. Opposition to his activities grew to such threatening proportions that finally, as a measure of safety, he had to restrict his public work in Mecca to a point of essential discontinuance. It was at some time during his evangelistic travail that, according to legend, Mohammed was miraculously transported on a nocturnal journey to the Holy City of Jerusalem, extending into a celestial visit to the seventh heaven from the Dome of the Rock, astride a winged white horse. The “seventh heaven” concept of the legend doubtless arose from the quite common belief among the ancients in a plurality of heavens.

NOTE: That this legend of Mohammed is still revered was reflected in the serious arguments that arose between Zionist Jews and Moslem Arabs in the 1929 “Wailing Wall dispute” in the old walled city of Jerusalem. This was a harbinger of the growing conflict between these two groups that culminated in the 1948 war in Palestine. Inside the walled city is a segment of an old wall of huge stones which is supposed to be the only remnant of the last Temple—not Solomon’s Temple, but the one built after the return of the Exiles, known as Herod’s Temple. It was destroyed in the Jerusalem siege by the Roman general Titus, in 70 A.D. Over the years, since the Jewish dispersion, it had been the habit of the few remaining orthodox Jews to visit and pray at the Wall, especially on the 9th of Av (the Jewish 11th month). This Wall has a certain sanctity also for the Moslems, because: (1) the Mosque of Omar is there; and (2) because of the tradition that it was from the Temple area that Mohammed “took off” on his flight to heaven. The 1929, bitter conflict arose when the Arab Mufti started some construction there that interfered with the Jewish performance at the Wall.

One writer describes Mohammed in adulthood as, “Brooding in the gaunt foothills of Mount Hira in the region of his native Mecca, Mohammed came to the strong conviction that idolatry was criminal folly and that God the One commanded utterance against it.” Dr. Kenneth Craig, Professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary Foundation (working and traveling out of Jerusalem), gives that opinion in his book, The Call of the Minaret (Oxford University Press), and goes on to explain in considerable detail that Mohammed’s continued discouragement at the moral wickedness and idol-worshipping of his fellow Meccans drove him on towards the mission to preach and transform the people and conditions of his time.

The Thorny Road
Mohammed did not rise suddenly as a preacher or a religious leader, but in the beginning more as a social reformer. Instead of urging violence and revolution as a cure for the economic and social ills of his time, he took the position that he was called by God to help his fellow men and his country by bringing about moral change. Having some familiarity with Christianity and the prophets of the Old Testament, he took the road of action and persuasion to convince the people that there must be a change in the hearts of men for the judgment of God was at hand. This led him steadily into the role of a proselyting religious leader, which brought increasing hostility from a large proportion of the people of Mecca who were not anxious to change their way of life. It was this opposition that undoubtedly pushed Mohammed on to crystallizing his ideas of moral reform and Godliness in formalizing the religion that became Islam. The road for Mohammed in Mecca was rough, as it was for Jesus in Jerusalem. After ten years of effort, he had attracted only a small following, but had incurred tremendous opposition. The Meccans were strongly against him.

Mohammed, of Necessity, Moves to Medina
As he was considering a different location where there would be less opposition, a provident situation developed in Medina, a city two hundred miles to the north of Mecca, that offered a solution to the Meccan opposition which had almost destroyed his work and his dream. A long internecine or fratricidal war between two Arab tribes had brought a crisis to Medina. Sir Hamilton A. R. Gibbs, professor of Arabic, University of Oxford (at time of writing), in his book Mohammedanism (New American Library, Mentor), explains that the Arab tribes of Medina, exhausted from warring strife “and fearing lest their weakness should be exploited by the Jewish tribes under their control, besought Mohammed to come to Medina as arbitrator and peacemaker.” After long negotiations for guarantees of personal safety and other conditions, Mohammed in 622 A.D. moved his headquarters to Medina and successfully began the building of a strong Islamic movement which stimulated and inspired not only an Arabic order of religious reformation, but extended its strength into an expansion that finally reached out to build one of the great empires of history.

From the new headquarters in Medina, the power and prestige of Mohammed and his movement spread so rapidly that by 628 A.D. the Prophet was able to lead a march of some 1,500 believers triumphantly into Mecca, the city that had rejected him six years before. By 630 A.D., all essential resistance in Mecca had abated and Mohammed returned with power to destroy more than three hundred idols in the established sanctuary.

Immediately following the smashing of the idols there began an influx of tribal delegations into Mecca and Medina to pay homage to the Prophet and offer allegiance to his leadership. This was known as “the Year of Delegations,” and while those who came from near and far may not have represented more than half the population of Arabia (due to the difficulties of communication and transportation as well as inadequate missionary facilities), this did, however, represent the great turning point. His jurisdiction flowed steadily on to encompass most of Arabia, which then, from the standpoint of population, consisted mainly of Hejaz (the coastal strip of Arabia along the Red Sea), Nejd (a central eastern sector sloping off to the Persian Gulf), and the Yemen.

In the tenth year after Mohammed had moved from Mecca to Medina, he made what was to be his final pilgrimage to Mecca. Within three weeks after his return from the pilgrimage to his home in Medina he became ill with severe headache and fever, and within a few days, on June 8, 632 A.D., succumbed to his ailment.

As the force and influence of Christianity had risen from the catacombs to conquer Rome (through expedient acceptance by the Emperor Constantine), so did the growing power of Islam (a word meaning submission or obedience to the Will of Allah—God), inspired and inflamed by the teachings of Mohammed, go forth to conquer.

Of this the distinguished scholar, Dr. Philip K. Hitti, Professor of Semitic Literature, Princeton University, in his book The Arabs (Henry Regnery Company), says: “One hundred years after the death of Mohammed his followers were the masters of an empire greater than that of Rome at its zenith, an empire extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the confines of China, and from the Aral Sea to the lower cataracts of the Nile.”

Arab 1965 Population
Although the political Empire finally disintegrated into sectional controls, ultimately succumbing to subjugation by the rising Turkish (Ottoman) Empire, the religious solidarity of Arabic Islam has steadfastly remained as the major unifying force largely throughout what is known as the Arab world, which embraces some seventeen or more countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Listed below are the approximate population figures for those countries today as given by the Britannica Book of the Year 1965:

Algeria 12,000,000
Iraq 7,039,000
Jordan 1,860,000
Kuwait 333,000
Lebanon 2,150,000
Libya 1,559,000
Morocco 12,700,000
Saudi Arabia 8,000,000
Syria 4,980,000
Sudan 13,011,000
Tunisia 4,546,000
United Arab Republic (Egypt) 28,500,000
Yemen 5,000,000
Aden and South Arabia 1,000,000
Qatar 60,000
Muscat and Oman 750,000
Bahrein 168,493
TOTAL 103,656,493

The Nature of Islamic Worship
The Islamic faith is a monotheistic-type religion. It is dedicated to the universal God, called “Allah” in Arabic. The Jews also use other names for God. The primal tenet of the Islamic faith is to recognize Allah as the One God—and Mohammed as “The Prophet” and “The Messenger of God.”

NOTE: The God of the Old Testament was variously referred to as “El,” “Elohim,” “Adonai,” and most used (nearly 7,000 times in the Hebrew Bible) was the tetragrammaton “YHVH.” This was at first too sacred to be spoken, but later the vowel sounds of Adonai and Elohim were used to represent “the Lord” as YeHoVaM, which the Jewish Encyclopedia says was erroneously misconstrued by non-Jewish users as “Jehovah.” The tetragram of four letters has been variously written as YMVA, JHVH, JHWH, and YHWH. Such words as Yahveh, Jahveh, Jahaveh, Yahweh and others have been used in Jewish literature to represent the supposed original intention.

The “Bible” of Islam is the Koran (which is sometimes spelled “Qur’an,” also Qoran). Professor Hitti tells us in his book, already mentioned, that the first, final and only canonized version of this sacred book “was collated nineteen years after the death of Mohammed, when it was seen that the memorizers of the Koran were becoming extinct…” That would put the date at 651 A.D. The Koran draws, to some extent, on the Old Testament for names and epochs. It recognizes both Moses and Jesus as leaders of their respective faiths and as prophets. As the Christian and Hebrew bibles are accepted by their followers as the Word of God, so is the Koran accepted by Moslems as the Word of Allah, dictated to Mohammed through the archangel Gabriel.

Foundations of Islamic Faith
There are five principal pillars of Islamic devotion: Confession, Prayer, Alms-giving, Fasting, and Pilgrimage. These are described in splendid detail by Dr. Kenneth Craig in The Call of the Minaret (Oxford University Press). In the matter of confession, Dr. Craig brings forward a close comparison with Christianity, and Dr. Erich W. Bethmann (in Steps Toward Understanding Islam) says: “It becomes apparent that man’s relationship to God in Islam is basically the same as in Christianity.”




In the matter of prayer, the demand upon faithful Moslems is to pray five times a day as they kneel and face toward Mecca. Prayer time is at dawn, at midday, in mid-afternoon, at sunset and at nightfall. We once witnessed an example of Islamic devotion en route up the Nile by rail from Cairo to Aswan. In a small area near the rest room in the rear of our car we came upon an Arab kneeling and facing east on his small prayer rug, performing his prayer devotion. One sees this often in many open places in Moslem countries. The deep-seated religious persuasion of the Arab is a main reason why Communism has made no headway among the common people in the Moslem world.

Important among the five pillars of Islamic religion is a pilgrimage as often as possible (at least once in a lifetime if it does not cause family hardship) to the Holy City of Mecca. The Arabic name for the pilgrimage is “hadj,” and when it occurs (in the spring of the year), vast multitudes of pilgrims from all over the Moslem world congregate in Mecca, where tents and other accommodations are prepared for them. Driving in the desert country between Damascus and Saudi Arabia in March of 1966, we met countless trucks and buses filled to capacity with devout Moslems returning from their Mecca pilgrimage.

The prayer ritual is in a large way meticulously prescribed—in fact, the religion of Islam as a whole places real demands upon the faithful. Prayers, however, are not restricted to the set rituals, but may be extempore and at the will of the individual. The official house of Moslem worship is the mosque. In Arabic cities or centers, where there is sufficient Moslem (Muslim) population, there are mosques to which are usually attached a tower structure called the minaret. Near the top of this tower on an outside surrounding balcony, the Muezzin appears at the allotted prayer periods, and in loud rhythmic cadence, issues a call to the faithful for prayer. Often now in the larger places the Muezzin call is recorded for broadcast from the minaret.

The Islamic mosque differs from the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church in architecture, both as to exterior and interior. The fine old Mosque of Umayyads in Damascus (oldest in the world) can serve as an excellent example. The floor of its huge open interior is covered with some 2,500 oriental rugs. There are no seats as in a synagogue or church. The worshipers stand reverently in self-arranged rows while listening to the leader as he speaks or prays. A special section is assigned to women. The Friday noon prayer is the only public service. The Fridays of Islam correspond, in a worship way, to the Saturdays of Judaism and the Sundays of Christianity. The Islamic Friday, however, is not a day of rest as Sunday is generally considered by Christians. Government offices are closed, but shops and other business places continue as usual, except during the time of the Mosque services.

Basic in Islam, as in many other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, is the practice of feasting and fasting. “Another practical commandment,” writes Dr. Erich W. Bethmann, “is that of keeping the month of Ramadan (of the Moslem calendar) for a yearly period of fasting. During Ramadan, the Moslem is not supposed to eat or drink or smoke during his daylight hours, from early in the morning, when the light becomes sufficient to distinguish between a white and a black thread, to sunset. During the night he may eat and drink as much as he likes…” To this it might be added that the heavy Moslem drink is coffee, and not alcoholic mixtures. They are total abstainers. Fasting has the value not only of practicing self-control, but was, when introduced, intended to remind the more affluent of the status of the poor.

One great fast period of the Moslems occupies three days in March. Every Moslem who can afford a sheep buys one and invites his friends to his festive board. We were once in Cairo during this period, and on the day prior to the festival it was a common sight to see fatted sheep being led homeward by their proud possessors. The three days are joyful and colorful, with crowds congregated everywhere enjoying the holiday.

While the Islamic faith is the generally accepted religion of the Arab countries, there are also many Christian Arabs. A substantial percentage of the Palestinian Arabs (most of whom are now living in sordid refugee camps, excluded from their former Palestine homes by the conquering Zionists) are Christians. We have talked with many of them, and it would be difficult not to sympathize with their grievous plight resulting from a disaster, which everybody but the Arabs seems to have forgotten. These Christian Arabs are devout and sincere in their devotion to the same Jesus and Christian traditions to which American and British Christians pay spiritual homage, and yet it seems the ties of Christian brotherhood in this instance, which should produce understanding and sympathy, have eroded under the continuous propaganda blasts that emanate from powerful non-Christian sources.

Amazing Spread of the Islamic Faith
Military expansion of the Moslem (Arab) Empire continued until about 732 A.D. with an amazing record of achievement during the hundred years after Mohammed had set the movement in motion with nothing but a spiritual idealism and a handful of relatives and adherents at the beginning. This greatest of Arabs, with his preaching and dedication, mobilized a following that grew into a vast unbelievable dominion. The fragile bond, before Mohammed, that had held the various Arab tribes of the lower Arabian peninsula together (when it did) was that of tribal kinship. After Mohammed, the far stronger bondage that brought them together for an historic march into world history was the brotherhood of Islam through faith in Allah.

At the death of Mohammed the Prophet in June of 632 A.D., his closest friend and associate, Abu Bekr, was selected as his successor. Abu Bekr chose Khalif (Caliph) as his official title, which merely meant “successor.” From that time on the Arabic leaders of Islam were known to the English-speaking world as “Caliphs,” and the official office was called the “Caliphate” until this title was suppressed in 1924 by the new Turkey. This office, which was revered for its designation of civil and spiritual sovereignty through thirteen centuries, is now nonexistent.

Following Abu Bekr’s accession to the leadership left open by the death of the Prophet Mohammed, there was considerable temporary tribal and party turmoil in the adjusting process, but the new Caliph’s able commander, Khalid ibn-al-Walid, soon had his organized fighting forces ready, not only to handle local disorder, but to start carrying the banner of Islam beyond the limited Arabian borders. Abu Bekr, as a devout believer and disciple of Mohammed, was dedicated to the task of carrying out the late Prophet’s desire to spread the Will of Allah throughout the world. These intentions had been sent out of Medina by Mohammed in 628 A.D. to all known monarchs.

The records of the various rulers who followed Mohammed and his immediate successor (Abu Bekr) cannot be detailed in this short sketch. After Abu Bekr came Caliph Umar, under whom Moslem expansion moved rapidly forward. He was succeeded by Caliph Uthman, under whom the Umayyads (Moslem faction) became strongly entrenched in leadership. Uthman was succeeded as Caliph by Ali (ibn Abi Talib), who was the last of the elected Caliphs. The ruling office from then became a monarchal hereditary succession from the House of Umayya and remained so for approximately 100 years.

Armies March under Banner of Islam
The armies that marched from Arabia were not great as to size—at first only small forces of 3,000 to 4,000 men for each field action, according to H. G. Wells—but in all operations, more important than the prospects of material gain that comes from expansionist conquest, these men were fired with the vigor and passion of a new Faith. This must have been the explanation for their remarkable victories. This sort of aggression would, of course, be generally—but not entirely—condemned by the world today. But at that time, as had been true generally since the dawn of history, invasion and conquest was a matter of common practice.

The first aggressive outside move by the Moslem-Arab armies was into nearby Syria, north of the Arabian peninsula. Two separate armies moving north from Medina struck, more or less simultaneously, one at the river Yarmuk, south of Damascus, and the other at Hira on the Persian frontier, near the river Euphrates. They easily defeated the larger armies they met. The Byzantine spirit was low, and another advantage came from there being many Arabs (some of them Christianized) scattered through Syria—men who as mercenaries had helped both the Persians and the Byzantines in the wars they had been fighting. The inhabitants of the country didn’t seem to care especially whether they paid tribute (taxes) to the Byzantines, the Persians or the incoming Arabs. Wells thinks they may have preferred the Arabs as “the cleaner people, more just, and more merciful.” At any rate, it was a quick and fairly easy victory for the Arabs, when, in 636, they met and defeated a Byzantine army of 50,000 in the hot and dusty Yarmuk valley with a Moslem army of half that number. The change of rule from Byzantine Emperor to Moslem Caliph in Syria was effected readily with the non-Moslems being left freedom under their own religious leaders and with a legal system of their own.

Operating from Syria with Damascus as the Moslem military capital, the Arab armies moved on into Armenia, northern Mesopotamia, and with acquisitional raids penetrated Asia Minor. The ruling banner of Islam was planted in country after country until the Arab Empire at its peak included Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Persia, Babylonia, all North Africa, Spain and a small portion of France, where they were stopped by Charles Martel as head of Frankish armies in a murderous battle (732 A.D.) at a place near Tours in France. This broke the advance of the Arabs into Western Europe. They were pushed back into Spain, with the Pyrenees as their demarcation perimeter.

The Beginning of Empire Disintegration
The way of great empires is to enter massively and heroically upon the stage of history, parade their might and flash their glory, and then disappear as their power evaporates under the disintegrating heat of inherent pressures. The great Empire of the Arabs was no exception. The processes of decay began with the Umayyads becoming dominant under the Caliph Uthman. Opposition to the Umayyads was led by the Abbasids, who were led in turn by the descendants of Mohammed’s uncle Abbas. By 750, the Abbasids had gained dominant power, having largely exterminated the Umayyads. Following this, the regnant Abbasid dynasty transferred the Moslem capital to Baghdad in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). This was the beginning of political divisions or parties that produced disunity within the Empire—symptoms of coming disjunction.

From 750 to 1500, numerous dynasties spread their shadows of influence over the Arab Empire. Following the Umayyads and the Abbasids, there came the Fatimids, the Timurids (descendants of Tamerlane), the Mamelukes, and other groups that played their roles as Arab history unfolded.

It is not the purpose here to give extended detail concerning the internal processes that through the centuries governed and shaped the Arab Empire. All that is being attempted is to present a quick picture of the Arabs as a people, how they came into history, and their status in the present world, especially in relation to the present crisis in the Middle East.

Special mention, perhaps, should be made of the Mamelukes, since this was a “slave” dynasty that dominated Egypt and Syria as sectors of the Arab Empire until 1517. It was the last ruling bloc of the fading Empire. Egypt had come under the control of one of the petty dynasties into which the Empire had been splitting. Following the precedent of the earlier Arab rulers in Baghdad and elsewhere, the Moslem ruler in Egypt had taken in foreign slaves to augment the “national guard.” Gradually some of these slaves, through sheer force of competence and ambition, rose to commanding positions of responsibility, especially in the armed guard forces. One of them, known in history as Baybars (who had once been a Turkish slave), rose in power to become the leader of the ruling dynasty. He was an able military man who also had considerable ability as a political leader. His greatest achievement, perhaps, was in blocking the Mongol hordes as they came roaring down through Baghdad and Damascus, sweeping all resistance before them in streams of blood. Baybars, who died in 1277, made substantial contribution toward minimizing the threat of the Crusaders in Syria and Egypt. He also advanced progress in Egypt by digging useful canals and developing certain institutions of national character.

Instead of recording further details of the Arab Empire story, it is here more important to show briefly the role of the Ottoman Turks in taking control of that far-flung political structure.

Rise and Forward March of the Turks
Around the beginning of the year 1300, a man named Othman (or Osman) managed to make himself Sultan of a small Turkish principality in the area of Anatolia, where he soon began to menace the neighboring Turks as well as the nearby Byzantines. As he grew in power, his followers became known as the Ottoman Turks, the name deriving from “Othman.” He ruled from 1288 to 1326.


Sir Mark Sykes, co-author of the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement, has described the beginning of the Ottoman Turks (in The Caliph’s Last Heritage) as “a small band of alien herdsmen wandering unchecked through Crusades and counter-Crusades, principalities, empires and states. Where they camped, how they moved and preserved their flocks and herds, where they found pasture, how they made their peace with the various chiefs through whose territories they passed, are questions which one may well ask in wonder.” The question that Sir Mark raises in connection with these particular meandering and marauding groups is one that frequently perplexes students of ancient history about most of the mass movements of the early periods. “Gradually,” wrote H. G. Wells, “the Ottoman Turks became important.”
The aggressive Ottomans (by 1400) had taken over much of Asia Minor and invaded Europe, advancing as far as the Danube. They began to purchase firearms from Europe, which gave them a great advantage over the armies they met, most of which did not, at that time, possess guns. In 1453, the Ottomans, under Sultan Muhammad II, captured Constantinople thereby decapitating the Byzantine Empire.

After the conquest of Constantinople, Muhammad looked hungrily toward Italy and would doubtless have taken it next but for his death in 1481. His successor was Bayezid, who reigned from 1481 to 1512 and pushed the Ottoman Empire on to include Poland and a large part of Greece. Selim succeeded him as Sultan in 1512 and with a stroke of strategy bought from a helpless Abbasid (Arab) Caliph, whom he deposed, not only the title of Caliph (thereby himself becoming the Caliph of all Islam which Empire the Ottoman Turks had steadily been taking over), but he obtained also the relics of the late Prophet Mohammed, including the sacred banner. During his eight-year reign, he extended the Ottoman rule over Armenia and Cairo. It was in Egypt that the last control remnant of the Arab Empire was toppled when Cairo was captured in 1517.

This “last remnant” was the so-called “slave” dynasty that had ascended to control of Egypt many years after it had become a part of the Arab Empire and after the great Moslem surge had reached its zenith. Now the Ottoman Turks had come in to take control. The new ruler was the Ottoman Sultan Selim, who was now also Caliph by reason of having purchased that title, as previously explained. He was succeeded by Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled from 1520 to 1566 and extended the Ottoman Empire by conquering Baghdad, much of Hungary, and all of North Africa except Morocco. Ottoman-Turkish control of the former Arab Empire had now been extended to include North Africa (including Egypt), a large part of Asia, and in Europe up to Poland and Hungary.

There is no purpose here to give any great detail concerning the Ottoman-Turkish Empire other than to mark its conquest over the Arab Empire and to show that the Turks were for some four or five hundred years in control of a vast land mass, including the strategic Middle East, until they were evicted from that area by the British (with help from the Arabs) in World War I. This book is concerned principally with the events that followed. To further set the stage for the present Middle East conflict between the Arabs and Jews, it is important to understand the status of the Arabs in the Middle East after the Arab Empire had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks.

Status of Arab World after Loss of Empire
After the Arabs moved out of their original home in Arabia under the Islamic banner of Mohammed (about 634 A.D.)—on through the next thirteen hundred years—the Arabic-Moslem peoples multiplied as they settled and developed in the lands of the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, North Africa and, of course, remaining strong in Arabia, the homeland of the two Holy Cities. Islam (which at one time was better understood in America as “Mohammedanism”) was also penetrating farther east into countries like Afghanistan and India. The people of what is now Pakistan (which became an independent political state in 1947 by seceding from India) had been Moslem for many centuries, according to Sir John Glubb. The same is true of the Sudan, which became an independent political state in 1956. These political changes in 1947 and 1956 were political reorganizations by people who were already predominantly Moslem. The Arab world as we know it today, according to figures listed in this chapter (from Britannica Book of the Year 1965), has a population in excess of 100,000,000.

Of the Moslem countries listed here, it is especially important to make further quick reference to both Egypt and Palestine as Moslem centers at the time of World War I. This period was also the real beginning of Zionism vis-a-vis Arabism—a confrontation that gradually led to the conflict that has made Palestine the powder-keg of the Middle East, opening the gate for Russia to fish in troubled waters.

British Take over in Egypt
In approaching the critical question of Zionism in Palestine, it is important to examine quickly the question of how the British happened to be playing a strategic role in the Middle East.

The answer starts with British interests in India. After Britain became dominant in India by ousting the Mongol (Mogol) Emperors in battles at Plassey (1757) and at Muxar (1764) through the instrumentality of its East India Trading Company, her interest naturally was stimulated in maintaining a Middle East passage to India, with Egypt as the vital gateway.

This interest caused Great Britain to maintain a friendly cooperative relationship with the Arab-Mameluke dynasty in Egypt and successively with the rule of Mohammed Ali, founder of the Khedivial dynasty of Egypt, as a vassal of the Ottoman-Turkish Sultan when the Turks took control of that country. This British cooperation involved keeping their soldiers (and navy) alert in that area. We should add, however, in the words of General Glubb that Britain was always friendly with the Ottoman Empire, in order to safeguard the route to India. Egypt became vitally more important—many times so—as part of this route after 1869, when the Suez Canal was opened. Before that, all shipping had to go around the Cape of Good Hope.

In those early days, England and France were quite continuously and often militantly engaged in competitive colonialism struggles. This happened in India, in America, and now Egypt became the testing ground. Toward the close of the eighteenth century, France received complaint from the French Consul in Egypt that French merchant trading was being hampered by the ruling regime. This gave the French an excuse to intervene in a major design to disrupt the British life line to India. Napoleon Bonaparte (then in his early stages of ascension to power) was authorized to sail with armed forces to “restore order.” However, the instructions to Napoleon from the French Directoire (April 19, 1798) commanded him to

“chase the British from all their possessions which he could reach, and notably to destroy all their stations on the Red Sea; to cut through the Isthmus of Suez, and take the necessary measures to assure the free and exclusive possessions of the Red Sea to the French Republic.”

Napoleon sailed from Toulon with his fleet on May 19, 1798. The British knew nothing of his action until he reached Malta and there took possession from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. When word reached Lord Nelson, who was in command of the British fleet on the high seas, he immediately divined the purpose and set chase. He missed Napoleon’s fleet while it was sheltered at Crete, but finally caught and destroyed it at Alexandria. This left Napoleon stranded in Egypt, and after several dismal and devastating experiences (one of which was a marauding adventure up the Palestine coast as far as Acre) he slipped away, leaving his remnant army in Egypt, and by a narrow margin clandestinely reached France.

NOTE: Napoleon’s adversities on this ill-fated expedition were: (1) losing his fleet to the British; (2) losing a considerable part of his army in a battle with the Turks at Acre; (3) suffering murderous harassment from the Egyptians and Mamelukes in Cairo and Alexandria.

British Forced to Action in Egypt
Egypt was, at the time of Napoleon’s abortive adventure, a Turkish possession and had been since its capture by them in 1517. Turbulent conditions continued in Egypt on through the years of Turkish control, menacing British freedom of action relative to its route to India. This finally caused the British to establish a considerable amount of security protection, which included the sending of Lord Cromer to Egypt in 1883 as British Agent and Consul-General. It is hardly necessary to add that the Suez Canal (opened in 1869) had, during its fourteen years of operation to that time, greatly increased Britain’s security interests in Egypt.

During all these troubled years, however, Britain scrupulously recognized Egypt as a Turkish possession and strictly observed all the treaties it had with Turkey. Remarkable restraint, under the circumstances, was maintained by the British. They could easily have annexed Egypt at any time and ended much of the disorder. In 1907, Lord Cromer was replaced by Sir Eldon Gorst, who was followed in that office in 1911 by the celebrated Lord Kitchener.

The relationship and the situation in Egypt changed to a critically threatening stage, however, when Turkey joined Germany as an ally in World War I. Britain was at war with Germany, and this Turkish action could mean nothing less than that Britain was now at war with Turkey also.

Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall, in his book Egypt from 1798 to 1914 (Wm. Blackwood and Sons, London), stated the case well for British action in forcibly taking control of Egypt by establishing a British Protectorate in that country in 1914. “The anomalous and utterly irregular situation in Egypt,” wrote Mr. Weigall, “was at last brought to an end on December 18, 1914, by a proclamation, which stated that ‘the suzerainty of Turkey over Egypt is terminated’ and that ‘Egypt is placed under the protection of His Majesty and will henceforth constitute a British Protectorate’…”

On the next day, the British issued another proclamation stating that His Majesty’s Government had deposed the Turkish Khedive of Egypt and replaced him with Prince Hussein Pasha, oldest living prince of the family of Mohammed Ali (who, during his lifetime, had worked diligently for Egypt’s welfare) and had bestowed upon Hussein the title of Sultan of Egypt. This seemed to meet the general approval of the Egyptian people. When the British set up an official Protectorate over Egypt in 1914, Sir Henry McMahon, late Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, was sent to Egypt to replace Lord Kitchener and the office title there was changed to High Commissioner.

Arab Importance to the British
It is clear that Britain’s situation in the war was precarious. It was tremendously important that she counter the Turkish peril by in some way securing the loyalty and military cooperation of the Arabs. It was to this end, in 1915, that the new High Commissioner of Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, entered into communications with Sherif Hussein of Mecca, whose religious and political leadership at the time made him a foremost spokesman for the Arab peoples. It was after World War I that Hejaz was made a Kingdom and Hussein became its King.

The communications concerning the Arab posture had been started in August of 1914 between the Sherif and Lord Kitchener and now, under urgent circumstances, were resumed by Sir Henry McMahon in the interests of British security. Out of these negotiations, plainly expressed in a series of letters, the British agreed to the demands by Hussein for Arab post-war independence in return for Arab participation in the war effort to drive the Turks from the Middle East. The Arabs, in good faith, fulfilled their part of the agreement by carrying out the famous “revolt in the desert” of which the immortalized Lawrence of Arabia was a leader.

A little later, and without Arab sanction or even knowledge, a different British government (that of Lloyd George and Lord Balfour), in order to appease the Zionist Jews who had maneuvered their way into the good graces of that particular (and very temporary) coalition government, issued the Balfour Declaration, which meant the virtual giving of Palestine to the Zionists.

Here we have the key to the trouble that has followed between the Arabs and the Jews.



George W. Robnett

Who Are the Arabs?

 
How Zionism Turned Palestine into a Jewish State

From Arabian Desert to Revolt Against Turks
America is a long way from the Arab lands of the Middle East. Americans, in general, know very little about the Arab people. The Arab image, for reasons well known to many, has not been handled too favorably by the American press. To understand the message in this book, it is important to have at least an elementary grasp of Arabic history, and to help in that purpose the following quick sketch is presented.

Of the many mixed Semitic peoples of ancient history (Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arameans, Phoenicians, Amorites, Arabians, Hebrews, and others) only the Arabs and the Jews (generally considered as Hebrew offspring) remain as organized religious entities. The only language writings (largely cuneiform) of the groups here mentioned have shown such similarity as to indicate these people all came from a common racial (Semitic) stock or source. Presumably, according to Biblical genealogy, they would be descendants of the Old Testament Shem (or Sem), oldest son of the legendary Noah.

The word “Arab” is the Semitic term for one who lives in the desert, but it would be no more correct today to visualize the wandering Bedouin remnants living in their black goathair tents in the desert as representing the present Arab civilization than it would be to equate Yemen Jewish peasantry with modern Jewish communities in America, England or elsewhere.

From Yemen They Spread
In his book The Arabs, Anthony Nutting, distinguished British diplomat, gives a quick but lucid picture of Arab origins, with an explanation that the earliest mass settlement of the Arab people took place in the Yemen; and when this small corner of the Arabian peninsula became overcrowded, about 3500 B.C., a migrating tribal group pulled away in search of a new and less-­crowded area for themselves and their herds.

They traveled along the west coast of Arabia, circumventing the Red Sea, via Sinai and into Egypt, where the Arabic Semites and the native African Hamites (descendants of Noah’s son Ham) mixed and assimilated “to produce the Egyptians of history and absorbed the elements of science and culture, which are the basis of our civilization.”

Mr. Nutting further explains that another migration from the early Arabian-Yemen inhabitants, going in another direction, reached the Tigris-Euphrates valley where they (the Semites) assimilated with the Sumerians—the people who populated the early Mesopotamian country, known as Sumer. Out of this union of the non-Semitic Sumerians and the migrating Arabic Semites came the Babylonians who gradually developed their own particular customs, culture and life methods.

A thousand years later, further mixtures of the emerging populations, which had spread to Syria and Palestine, produced the Amorites and Phoenicians and other groups that were the early settlers of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean coast, where, several hundred years still later (roughly between 1500 and 1200 B.C.), the sector known as Canaan was invaded by another Semitic division, known as the Hebrews. About the same time, a Semitic grouping, known as the Arameans, established themselves firmly in Syria with Damascus as their capital. Many of the early ethnical and tribal names, particularly as mentioned in the Old Testament, originated out of the geographical section they occupied.

Assyrians Push Empire
Much later, in the ninth century B.C., the Assyrians moved into Syria, and with imperialistic might succeeded in setting up a considerable Empire stretching from Babylonia (the southern Iraq of today) to Armenia and on down to Phoenicia, which roughly is the Lebanon of today. It was the custom of early historians to consider the section we later came to know as Palestine as a geographical part of Syria.

In the wide stretches to the East, during the sixth and seventh centuries (B.C.), the Medians (Medes) ruled a considerable land mass, including ancient Persia and part of what is now Pakistan. In the course of time, this developed into the strong Persian Empire, which included the conquered territory that had, in an Empire sense, first been Assyria and then Babylonia.

For historical reasons, it may be useful to mention that the major religion which preceded Islam in Persia (now Iran) was Zoroastrianism. There is no need here to say more than that this was a very ancient religion, originating as early as 1200 B.C., as estimated by some, while certain early Greek historians placed Zoroaster as hundreds, or even thousands of years earlier. One such authority describes Zoroastrianism as “a pure monotheistic concept of God, Ahura Mazda, the perfect creator and ruler of both the material and unmaterial world.” Its adherents were and are called Parsees. Zoroastrianism appears to have become an official state religion with the rise of the Persian Empire, and remained as such until it was dethroned and largely abolished by the great Arab conflict around 636 A.D.

Sir John Bagot Glubb, in his book The Great Arab Conquests, explains the problem encountered by the Christians, Jews and Parsees in adjusting to the new Moslem masters who, at that time, “had no code of civil law… The only inevitable solution was to allow the Christians and Jews to have their own separate judicial systems, administered by their own judges.” The Turks took over in this area by conquering the Arabs in the sixteenth century. Today there is a small percentage of Iranians who adhere to Zoroastrian beliefs, but the majority are Moslem in faith.

All that is being attempted here is to give a running sketch of Middle East background. To go fully into the play and interplay of countless races, tribes, religions, sects and cultures which spanned thousands of years of history, would require volumes and is not necessary to the basic theme of this book. The main purpose here is to point out how the people we know as Arabs entered the arena of a developing civilization; how they brought a great new religion into being; how they spread in prominence and power to become an extensive empire; how they came to be what and where they are today—and the relation of all of this to the latest conflict (between Jew and Arab) in the eternal battlefield known as Palestine.

One of the earliest onslaughts in this storied battleground, as already mentioned, was when the Semitic Israelites, whom, according to legend, Moses led out of Egypt, crossed the river Jordan near Jericho, invaded Canaan, and in Jericho “utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).

The Rise of Islam and Arabism
While some of the Semitic groups originating in lower Arabia migrated to other Middle East areas, the basic Arab stock gradually became a more organized and stabilized form of civilization, with its population colonized largely in two particular areas of the Arabian peninsula, known as Hejaz and Nejd. These will be defined later.

The beginning of the Arab world, as we know it today (and that is where our interest in the Arabs presently lies) came with the amalgamizing of a religio-political culture through the leadership of the Prophet Mohammed—an accomplishment that has become the outstanding Arab image to the other peoples of the world. The miracle of the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. was undoubtedly the birth of the Islamic religion or faith. Its initiation was solely due to the indomitable will and strong personality of one man—Mohammed. Here is the only one of the great religions that was born in the open view of modern history, where the patriarch was a person of national record with less legend and mystery than that of most of the great religious founders. However, it must be said that Mohammed leaned heavily upon the two other monotheistic religions by interweaving a remarkable system of faith and law, with some cognizance of the mysteries of these two prior religions. What was the urge, the inspiration, that produced this almost miraculous achievement in its time and place?

The story of Mohammed’s childhood and development to manhood and leadership is well told by Sir John Bagot Glubb (Glubb Pasha) in his most excellent book, The Great Arab Conquests (Prentice-Hall, U.S.A.). This book contains many descriptive maps that make General Glubb’s story of the Arabs easy to follow and understand. At the end of each chapter, he provides a chronology of “Notable Dates”—a most helpful publishing variation, especially where history is involved.

Mohammed—the Man
A short sketch of Mohammed should begin with his birth—570 A.D. His father, who was of an important Meccan tribe (the Quraish), died before the boy’s birth. His mother died when the lad was about age six. Young Mohammed was cared for by two or three different people, but was raised mainly by an aged grandfather. It may be mentioned that Mohammed is the most common male name in the Arabic category. Little detail is known of Mohammed’s child life. Sometime before the age of twenty-five, however, he was employed in a business conducted by a well-to-do widow (Khadijah) of a Meccan merchant whom Mohammed, at the age of twenty-five, married. She was fifteen years his senior, and as long as she lived, Mohammed was devoted to her. He had several daughters, most of whom died before adulthood.

All known facts, as well as tradition, would indicate that young Mohammed was disposed toward a studious and meditative proneness that placed him in the category of a spiritual intellectual of his time and place, although it is not known whether or not he could write. When he became well married, he had more time for the indulgence of his bent for speculating on the fate of mankind. From the Koran we learn that from his cave retreat near Mecca, where he spent considerable time in reflective solitude, he heard a voice saying, “Recite thou in the name of the Lord who created.” Later he received more messages, among which was a command to “Arise and warn.” His call to preach was not too dissimilar from that of other prophets and evangelists.

He knew considerable about the Jewish and Christian monotheistic religions and was depressed by his polytheistic environment where the people worshiped a pantheon of divergent idols. He had become convinced that God is One and all-powerful, having created the earth and all living things. He believed that for the righteous there would be a rewarding paradise and dreadful punishment for the wicked. He had become convinced that his mission was to persuade others to believe. He began to preach about salvation and reform. In the main, he was scorned by the people. Besides the loyalty of his wife and a small group of relatives, the few who were at first converted were mostly slaves and very poor people.

The greater number of Meccans liked their ways and pleasures and regarded Mohammed as a nuisance and menace. Opposition to his activities grew to such threatening proportions that finally, as a measure of safety, he had to restrict his public work in Mecca to a point of essential discontinuance. It was at some time during his evangelistic travail that, according to legend, Mohammed was miraculously transported on a nocturnal journey to the Holy City of Jerusalem, extending into a celestial visit to the seventh heaven from the Dome of the Rock, astride a winged white horse. The “seventh heaven” concept of the legend doubtless arose from the quite common belief among the ancients in a plurality of heavens.

NOTE: That this legend of Mohammed is still revered was reflected in the serious arguments that arose between Zionist Jews and Moslem Arabs in the 1929 “Wailing Wall dispute” in the old walled city of Jerusalem. This was a harbinger of the growing conflict between these two groups that culminated in the 1948 war in Palestine. Inside the walled city is a segment of an old wall of huge stones which is supposed to be the only remnant of the last Temple—not Solomon’s Temple, but the one built after the return of the Exiles, known as Herod’s Temple. It was destroyed in the Jerusalem siege by the Roman general Titus, in 70 A.D. Over the years, since the Jewish dispersion, it had been the habit of the few remaining orthodox Jews to visit and pray at the Wall, especially on the 9th of Av (the Jewish 11th month). This Wall has a certain sanctity also for the Moslems, because: (1) the Mosque of Omar is there; and (2) because of the tradition that it was from the Temple area that Mohammed “took off” on his flight to heaven. The 1929, bitter conflict arose when the Arab Mufti started some construction there that interfered with the Jewish performance at the Wall.

One writer describes Mohammed in adulthood as, “Brooding in the gaunt foothills of Mount Hira in the region of his native Mecca, Mohammed came to the strong conviction that idolatry was criminal folly and that God the One commanded utterance against it.” Dr. Kenneth Craig, Professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary Foundation (working and traveling out of Jerusalem), gives that opinion in his book, The Call of the Minaret (Oxford University Press), and goes on to explain in considerable detail that Mohammed’s continued discouragement at the moral wickedness and idol-worshipping of his fellow Meccans drove him on towards the mission to preach and transform the people and conditions of his time.

The Thorny Road
Mohammed did not rise suddenly as a preacher or a religious leader, but in the beginning more as a social reformer. Instead of urging violence and revolution as a cure for the economic and social ills of his time, he took the position that he was called by God to help his fellow men and his country by bringing about moral change. Having some familiarity with Christianity and the prophets of the Old Testament, he took the road of action and persuasion to convince the people that there must be a change in the hearts of men for the judgment of God was at hand. This led him steadily into the role of a proselyting religious leader, which brought increasing hostility from a large proportion of the people of Mecca who were not anxious to change their way of life. It was this opposition that undoubtedly pushed Mohammed on to crystallizing his ideas of moral reform and Godliness in formalizing the religion that became Islam. The road for Mohammed in Mecca was rough, as it was for Jesus in Jerusalem. After ten years of effort, he had attracted only a small following, but had incurred tremendous opposition. The Meccans were strongly against him.

Mohammed, of Necessity, Moves to Medina
As he was considering a different location where there would be less opposition, a provident situation developed in Medina, a city two hundred miles to the north of Mecca, that offered a solution to the Meccan opposition which had almost destroyed his work and his dream. A long internecine or fratricidal war between two Arab tribes had brought a crisis to Medina. Sir Hamilton A. R. Gibbs, professor of Arabic, University of Oxford (at time of writing), in his book Mohammedanism (New American Library, Mentor), explains that the Arab tribes of Medina, exhausted from warring strife “and fearing lest their weakness should be exploited by the Jewish tribes under their control, besought Mohammed to come to Medina as arbitrator and peacemaker.” After long negotiations for guarantees of personal safety and other conditions, Mohammed in 622 A.D. moved his headquarters to Medina and successfully began the building of a strong Islamic movement which stimulated and inspired not only an Arabic order of religious reformation, but extended its strength into an expansion that finally reached out to build one of the great empires of history.

From the new headquarters in Medina, the power and prestige of Mohammed and his movement spread so rapidly that by 628 A.D. the Prophet was able to lead a march of some 1,500 believers triumphantly into Mecca, the city that had rejected him six years before. By 630 A.D., all essential resistance in Mecca had abated and Mohammed returned with power to destroy more than three hundred idols in the established sanctuary.

Immediately following the smashing of the idols there began an influx of tribal delegations into Mecca and Medina to pay homage to the Prophet and offer allegiance to his leadership. This was known as “the Year of Delegations,” and while those who came from near and far may not have represented more than half the population of Arabia (due to the difficulties of communication and transportation as well as inadequate missionary facilities), this did, however, represent the great turning point. His jurisdiction flowed steadily on to encompass most of Arabia, which then, from the standpoint of population, consisted mainly of Hejaz (the coastal strip of Arabia along the Red Sea), Nejd (a central eastern sector sloping off to the Persian Gulf), and the Yemen.

In the tenth year after Mohammed had moved from Mecca to Medina, he made what was to be his final pilgrimage to Mecca. Within three weeks after his return from the pilgrimage to his home in Medina he became ill with severe headache and fever, and within a few days, on June 8, 632 A.D., succumbed to his ailment.

As the force and influence of Christianity had risen from the catacombs to conquer Rome (through expedient acceptance by the Emperor Constantine), so did the growing power of Islam (a word meaning submission or obedience to the Will of Allah—God), inspired and inflamed by the teachings of Mohammed, go forth to conquer.

Of this the distinguished scholar, Dr. Philip K. Hitti, Professor of Semitic Literature, Princeton University, in his book The Arabs (Henry Regnery Company), says: “One hundred years after the death of Mohammed his followers were the masters of an empire greater than that of Rome at its zenith, an empire extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the confines of China, and from the Aral Sea to the lower cataracts of the Nile.”

Arab 1965 Population
Although the political Empire finally disintegrated into sectional controls, ultimately succumbing to subjugation by the rising Turkish (Ottoman) Empire, the religious solidarity of Arabic Islam has steadfastly remained as the major unifying force largely throughout what is known as the Arab world, which embraces some seventeen or more countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Listed below are the approximate population figures for those countries today as given by the Britannica Book of the Year 1965:

Algeria 12,000,000
Iraq 7,039,000
Jordan 1,860,000
Kuwait 333,000
Lebanon 2,150,000
Libya 1,559,000
Morocco 12,700,000
Saudi Arabia 8,000,000
Syria 4,980,000
Sudan 13,011,000
Tunisia 4,546,000
United Arab Republic (Egypt) 28,500,000
Yemen 5,000,000
Aden and South Arabia 1,000,000
Qatar 60,000
Muscat and Oman 750,000
Bahrein 168,493
TOTAL 103,656,493

The Nature of Islamic Worship
The Islamic faith is a monotheistic-type religion. It is dedicated to the universal God, called “Allah” in Arabic. The Jews also use other names for God. The primal tenet of the Islamic faith is to recognize Allah as the One God—and Mohammed as “The Prophet” and “The Messenger of God.”

NOTE: The God of the Old Testament was variously referred to as “El,” “Elohim,” “Adonai,” and most used (nearly 7,000 times in the Hebrew Bible) was the tetragrammaton “YHVH.” This was at first too sacred to be spoken, but later the vowel sounds of Adonai and Elohim were used to represent “the Lord” as YeHoVaM, which the Jewish Encyclopedia says was erroneously misconstrued by non-Jewish users as “Jehovah.” The tetragram of four letters has been variously written as YMVA, JHVH, JHWH, and YHWH. Such words as Yahveh, Jahveh, Jahaveh, Yahweh and others have been used in Jewish literature to represent the supposed original intention.

The “Bible” of Islam is the Koran (which is sometimes spelled “Qur’an,” also Qoran). Professor Hitti tells us in his book, already mentioned, that the first, final and only canonized version of this sacred book “was collated nineteen years after the death of Mohammed, when it was seen that the memorizers of the Koran were becoming extinct…” That would put the date at 651 A.D. The Koran draws, to some extent, on the Old Testament for names and epochs. It recognizes both Moses and Jesus as leaders of their respective faiths and as prophets. As the Christian and Hebrew bibles are accepted by their followers as the Word of God, so is the Koran accepted by Moslems as the Word of Allah, dictated to Mohammed through the archangel Gabriel.

Foundations of Islamic Faith
There are five principal pillars of Islamic devotion: Confession, Prayer, Alms-giving, Fasting, and Pilgrimage. These are described in splendid detail by Dr. Kenneth Craig in The Call of the Minaret (Oxford University Press). In the matter of confession, Dr. Craig brings forward a close comparison with Christianity, and Dr. Erich W. Bethmann (in Steps Toward Understanding Islam) says: “It becomes apparent that man’s relationship to God in Islam is basically the same as in Christianity.”




In the matter of prayer, the demand upon faithful Moslems is to pray five times a day as they kneel and face toward Mecca. Prayer time is at dawn, at midday, in mid-afternoon, at sunset and at nightfall. We once witnessed an example of Islamic devotion en route up the Nile by rail from Cairo to Aswan. In a small area near the rest room in the rear of our car we came upon an Arab kneeling and facing east on his small prayer rug, performing his prayer devotion. One sees this often in many open places in Moslem countries. The deep-seated religious persuasion of the Arab is a main reason why Communism has made no headway among the common people in the Moslem world.

Important among the five pillars of Islamic religion is a pilgrimage as often as possible (at least once in a lifetime if it does not cause family hardship) to the Holy City of Mecca. The Arabic name for the pilgrimage is “hadj,” and when it occurs (in the spring of the year), vast multitudes of pilgrims from all over the Moslem world congregate in Mecca, where tents and other accommodations are prepared for them. Driving in the desert country between Damascus and Saudi Arabia in March of 1966, we met countless trucks and buses filled to capacity with devout Moslems returning from their Mecca pilgrimage.

The prayer ritual is in a large way meticulously prescribed—in fact, the religion of Islam as a whole places real demands upon the faithful. Prayers, however, are not restricted to the set rituals, but may be extempore and at the will of the individual. The official house of Moslem worship is the mosque. In Arabic cities or centers, where there is sufficient Moslem (Muslim) population, there are mosques to which are usually attached a tower structure called the minaret. Near the top of this tower on an outside surrounding balcony, the Muezzin appears at the allotted prayer periods, and in loud rhythmic cadence, issues a call to the faithful for prayer. Often now in the larger places the Muezzin call is recorded for broadcast from the minaret.

The Islamic mosque differs from the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church in architecture, both as to exterior and interior. The fine old Mosque of Umayyads in Damascus (oldest in the world) can serve as an excellent example. The floor of its huge open interior is covered with some 2,500 oriental rugs. There are no seats as in a synagogue or church. The worshipers stand reverently in self-arranged rows while listening to the leader as he speaks or prays. A special section is assigned to women. The Friday noon prayer is the only public service. The Fridays of Islam correspond, in a worship way, to the Saturdays of Judaism and the Sundays of Christianity. The Islamic Friday, however, is not a day of rest as Sunday is generally considered by Christians. Government offices are closed, but shops and other business places continue as usual, except during the time of the Mosque services.

Basic in Islam, as in many other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, is the practice of feasting and fasting. “Another practical commandment,” writes Dr. Erich W. Bethmann, “is that of keeping the month of Ramadan (of the Moslem calendar) for a yearly period of fasting. During Ramadan, the Moslem is not supposed to eat or drink or smoke during his daylight hours, from early in the morning, when the light becomes sufficient to distinguish between a white and a black thread, to sunset. During the night he may eat and drink as much as he likes…” To this it might be added that the heavy Moslem drink is coffee, and not alcoholic mixtures. They are total abstainers. Fasting has the value not only of practicing self-control, but was, when introduced, intended to remind the more affluent of the status of the poor.

One great fast period of the Moslems occupies three days in March. Every Moslem who can afford a sheep buys one and invites his friends to his festive board. We were once in Cairo during this period, and on the day prior to the festival it was a common sight to see fatted sheep being led homeward by their proud possessors. The three days are joyful and colorful, with crowds congregated everywhere enjoying the holiday.

While the Islamic faith is the generally accepted religion of the Arab countries, there are also many Christian Arabs. A substantial percentage of the Palestinian Arabs (most of whom are now living in sordid refugee camps, excluded from their former Palestine homes by the conquering Zionists) are Christians. We have talked with many of them, and it would be difficult not to sympathize with their grievous plight resulting from a disaster, which everybody but the Arabs seems to have forgotten. These Christian Arabs are devout and sincere in their devotion to the same Jesus and Christian traditions to which American and British Christians pay spiritual homage, and yet it seems the ties of Christian brotherhood in this instance, which should produce understanding and sympathy, have eroded under the continuous propaganda blasts that emanate from powerful non-Christian sources.

Amazing Spread of the Islamic Faith
Military expansion of the Moslem (Arab) Empire continued until about 732 A.D. with an amazing record of achievement during the hundred years after Mohammed had set the movement in motion with nothing but a spiritual idealism and a handful of relatives and adherents at the beginning. This greatest of Arabs, with his preaching and dedication, mobilized a following that grew into a vast unbelievable dominion. The fragile bond, before Mohammed, that had held the various Arab tribes of the lower Arabian peninsula together (when it did) was that of tribal kinship. After Mohammed, the far stronger bondage that brought them together for an historic march into world history was the brotherhood of Islam through faith in Allah.

At the death of Mohammed the Prophet in June of 632 A.D., his closest friend and associate, Abu Bekr, was selected as his successor. Abu Bekr chose Khalif (Caliph) as his official title, which merely meant “successor.” From that time on the Arabic leaders of Islam were known to the English-speaking world as “Caliphs,” and the official office was called the “Caliphate” until this title was suppressed in 1924 by the new Turkey. This office, which was revered for its designation of civil and spiritual sovereignty through thirteen centuries, is now nonexistent.

Following Abu Bekr’s accession to the leadership left open by the death of the Prophet Mohammed, there was considerable temporary tribal and party turmoil in the adjusting process, but the new Caliph’s able commander, Khalid ibn-al-Walid, soon had his organized fighting forces ready, not only to handle local disorder, but to start carrying the banner of Islam beyond the limited Arabian borders. Abu Bekr, as a devout believer and disciple of Mohammed, was dedicated to the task of carrying out the late Prophet’s desire to spread the Will of Allah throughout the world. These intentions had been sent out of Medina by Mohammed in 628 A.D. to all known monarchs.

The records of the various rulers who followed Mohammed and his immediate successor (Abu Bekr) cannot be detailed in this short sketch. After Abu Bekr came Caliph Umar, under whom Moslem expansion moved rapidly forward. He was succeeded by Caliph Uthman, under whom the Umayyads (Moslem faction) became strongly entrenched in leadership. Uthman was succeeded as Caliph by Ali (ibn Abi Talib), who was the last of the elected Caliphs. The ruling office from then became a monarchal hereditary succession from the House of Umayya and remained so for approximately 100 years.

Armies March under Banner of Islam
The armies that marched from Arabia were not great as to size—at first only small forces of 3,000 to 4,000 men for each field action, according to H. G. Wells—but in all operations, more important than the prospects of material gain that comes from expansionist conquest, these men were fired with the vigor and passion of a new Faith. This must have been the explanation for their remarkable victories. This sort of aggression would, of course, be generally—but not entirely—condemned by the world today. But at that time, as had been true generally since the dawn of history, invasion and conquest was a matter of common practice.

The first aggressive outside move by the Moslem-Arab armies was into nearby Syria, north of the Arabian peninsula. Two separate armies moving north from Medina struck, more or less simultaneously, one at the river Yarmuk, south of Damascus, and the other at Hira on the Persian frontier, near the river Euphrates. They easily defeated the larger armies they met. The Byzantine spirit was low, and another advantage came from there being many Arabs (some of them Christianized) scattered through Syria—men who as mercenaries had helped both the Persians and the Byzantines in the wars they had been fighting. The inhabitants of the country didn’t seem to care especially whether they paid tribute (taxes) to the Byzantines, the Persians or the incoming Arabs. Wells thinks they may have preferred the Arabs as “the cleaner people, more just, and more merciful.” At any rate, it was a quick and fairly easy victory for the Arabs, when, in 636, they met and defeated a Byzantine army of 50,000 in the hot and dusty Yarmuk valley with a Moslem army of half that number. The change of rule from Byzantine Emperor to Moslem Caliph in Syria was effected readily with the non-Moslems being left freedom under their own religious leaders and with a legal system of their own.

Operating from Syria with Damascus as the Moslem military capital, the Arab armies moved on into Armenia, northern Mesopotamia, and with acquisitional raids penetrated Asia Minor. The ruling banner of Islam was planted in country after country until the Arab Empire at its peak included Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Persia, Babylonia, all North Africa, Spain and a small portion of France, where they were stopped by Charles Martel as head of Frankish armies in a murderous battle (732 A.D.) at a place near Tours in France. This broke the advance of the Arabs into Western Europe. They were pushed back into Spain, with the Pyrenees as their demarcation perimeter.

The Beginning of Empire Disintegration
The way of great empires is to enter massively and heroically upon the stage of history, parade their might and flash their glory, and then disappear as their power evaporates under the disintegrating heat of inherent pressures. The great Empire of the Arabs was no exception. The processes of decay began with the Umayyads becoming dominant under the Caliph Uthman. Opposition to the Umayyads was led by the Abbasids, who were led in turn by the descendants of Mohammed’s uncle Abbas. By 750, the Abbasids had gained dominant power, having largely exterminated the Umayyads. Following this, the regnant Abbasid dynasty transferred the Moslem capital to Baghdad in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). This was the beginning of political divisions or parties that produced disunity within the Empire—symptoms of coming disjunction.

From 750 to 1500, numerous dynasties spread their shadows of influence over the Arab Empire. Following the Umayyads and the Abbasids, there came the Fatimids, the Timurids (descendants of Tamerlane), the Mamelukes, and other groups that played their roles as Arab history unfolded.

It is not the purpose here to give extended detail concerning the internal processes that through the centuries governed and shaped the Arab Empire. All that is being attempted is to present a quick picture of the Arabs as a people, how they came into history, and their status in the present world, especially in relation to the present crisis in the Middle East.

Special mention, perhaps, should be made of the Mamelukes, since this was a “slave” dynasty that dominated Egypt and Syria as sectors of the Arab Empire until 1517. It was the last ruling bloc of the fading Empire. Egypt had come under the control of one of the petty dynasties into which the Empire had been splitting. Following the precedent of the earlier Arab rulers in Baghdad and elsewhere, the Moslem ruler in Egypt had taken in foreign slaves to augment the “national guard.” Gradually some of these slaves, through sheer force of competence and ambition, rose to commanding positions of responsibility, especially in the armed guard forces. One of them, known in history as Baybars (who had once been a Turkish slave), rose in power to become the leader of the ruling dynasty. He was an able military man who also had considerable ability as a political leader. His greatest achievement, perhaps, was in blocking the Mongol hordes as they came roaring down through Baghdad and Damascus, sweeping all resistance before them in streams of blood. Baybars, who died in 1277, made substantial contribution toward minimizing the threat of the Crusaders in Syria and Egypt. He also advanced progress in Egypt by digging useful canals and developing certain institutions of national character.

Instead of recording further details of the Arab Empire story, it is here more important to show briefly the role of the Ottoman Turks in taking control of that far-flung political structure.

Rise and Forward March of the Turks
Around the beginning of the year 1300, a man named Othman (or Osman) managed to make himself Sultan of a small Turkish principality in the area of Anatolia, where he soon began to menace the neighboring Turks as well as the nearby Byzantines. As he grew in power, his followers became known as the Ottoman Turks, the name deriving from “Othman.” He ruled from 1288 to 1326.


Sir Mark Sykes, co-author of the controversial Sykes-Picot Agreement, has described the beginning of the Ottoman Turks (in The Caliph’s Last Heritage) as “a small band of alien herdsmen wandering unchecked through Crusades and counter-Crusades, principalities, empires and states. Where they camped, how they moved and preserved their flocks and herds, where they found pasture, how they made their peace with the various chiefs through whose territories they passed, are questions which one may well ask in wonder.” The question that Sir Mark raises in connection with these particular meandering and marauding groups is one that frequently perplexes students of ancient history about most of the mass movements of the early periods. “Gradually,” wrote H. G. Wells, “the Ottoman Turks became important.”
The aggressive Ottomans (by 1400) had taken over much of Asia Minor and invaded Europe, advancing as far as the Danube. They began to purchase firearms from Europe, which gave them a great advantage over the armies they met, most of which did not, at that time, possess guns. In 1453, the Ottomans, under Sultan Muhammad II, captured Constantinople thereby decapitating the Byzantine Empire.

After the conquest of Constantinople, Muhammad looked hungrily toward Italy and would doubtless have taken it next but for his death in 1481. His successor was Bayezid, who reigned from 1481 to 1512 and pushed the Ottoman Empire on to include Poland and a large part of Greece. Selim succeeded him as Sultan in 1512 and with a stroke of strategy bought from a helpless Abbasid (Arab) Caliph, whom he deposed, not only the title of Caliph (thereby himself becoming the Caliph of all Islam which Empire the Ottoman Turks had steadily been taking over), but he obtained also the relics of the late Prophet Mohammed, including the sacred banner. During his eight-year reign, he extended the Ottoman rule over Armenia and Cairo. It was in Egypt that the last control remnant of the Arab Empire was toppled when Cairo was captured in 1517.

This “last remnant” was the so-called “slave” dynasty that had ascended to control of Egypt many years after it had become a part of the Arab Empire and after the great Moslem surge had reached its zenith. Now the Ottoman Turks had come in to take control. The new ruler was the Ottoman Sultan Selim, who was now also Caliph by reason of having purchased that title, as previously explained. He was succeeded by Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled from 1520 to 1566 and extended the Ottoman Empire by conquering Baghdad, much of Hungary, and all of North Africa except Morocco. Ottoman-Turkish control of the former Arab Empire had now been extended to include North Africa (including Egypt), a large part of Asia, and in Europe up to Poland and Hungary.

There is no purpose here to give any great detail concerning the Ottoman-Turkish Empire other than to mark its conquest over the Arab Empire and to show that the Turks were for some four or five hundred years in control of a vast land mass, including the strategic Middle East, until they were evicted from that area by the British (with help from the Arabs) in World War I. This book is concerned principally with the events that followed. To further set the stage for the present Middle East conflict between the Arabs and Jews, it is important to understand the status of the Arabs in the Middle East after the Arab Empire had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks.

Status of Arab World after Loss of Empire
After the Arabs moved out of their original home in Arabia under the Islamic banner of Mohammed (about 634 A.D.)—on through the next thirteen hundred years—the Arabic-Moslem peoples multiplied as they settled and developed in the lands of the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Trans-Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, North Africa and, of course, remaining strong in Arabia, the homeland of the two Holy Cities. Islam (which at one time was better understood in America as “Mohammedanism”) was also penetrating farther east into countries like Afghanistan and India. The people of what is now Pakistan (which became an independent political state in 1947 by seceding from India) had been Moslem for many centuries, according to Sir John Glubb. The same is true of the Sudan, which became an independent political state in 1956. These political changes in 1947 and 1956 were political reorganizations by people who were already predominantly Moslem. The Arab world as we know it today, according to figures listed in this chapter (from Britannica Book of the Year 1965), has a population in excess of 100,000,000.

Of the Moslem countries listed here, it is especially important to make further quick reference to both Egypt and Palestine as Moslem centers at the time of World War I. This period was also the real beginning of Zionism vis-a-vis Arabism—a confrontation that gradually led to the conflict that has made Palestine the powder-keg of the Middle East, opening the gate for Russia to fish in troubled waters.

British Take over in Egypt
In approaching the critical question of Zionism in Palestine, it is important to examine quickly the question of how the British happened to be playing a strategic role in the Middle East.

The answer starts with British interests in India. After Britain became dominant in India by ousting the Mongol (Mogol) Emperors in battles at Plassey (1757) and at Muxar (1764) through the instrumentality of its East India Trading Company, her interest naturally was stimulated in maintaining a Middle East passage to India, with Egypt as the vital gateway.

This interest caused Great Britain to maintain a friendly cooperative relationship with the Arab-Mameluke dynasty in Egypt and successively with the rule of Mohammed Ali, founder of the Khedivial dynasty of Egypt, as a vassal of the Ottoman-Turkish Sultan when the Turks took control of that country. This British cooperation involved keeping their soldiers (and navy) alert in that area. We should add, however, in the words of General Glubb that Britain was always friendly with the Ottoman Empire, in order to safeguard the route to India. Egypt became vitally more important—many times so—as part of this route after 1869, when the Suez Canal was opened. Before that, all shipping had to go around the Cape of Good Hope.

In those early days, England and France were quite continuously and often militantly engaged in competitive colonialism struggles. This happened in India, in America, and now Egypt became the testing ground. Toward the close of the eighteenth century, France received complaint from the French Consul in Egypt that French merchant trading was being hampered by the ruling regime. This gave the French an excuse to intervene in a major design to disrupt the British life line to India. Napoleon Bonaparte (then in his early stages of ascension to power) was authorized to sail with armed forces to “restore order.” However, the instructions to Napoleon from the French Directoire (April 19, 1798) commanded him to

“chase the British from all their possessions which he could reach, and notably to destroy all their stations on the Red Sea; to cut through the Isthmus of Suez, and take the necessary measures to assure the free and exclusive possessions of the Red Sea to the French Republic.”

Napoleon sailed from Toulon with his fleet on May 19, 1798. The British knew nothing of his action until he reached Malta and there took possession from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. When word reached Lord Nelson, who was in command of the British fleet on the high seas, he immediately divined the purpose and set chase. He missed Napoleon’s fleet while it was sheltered at Crete, but finally caught and destroyed it at Alexandria. This left Napoleon stranded in Egypt, and after several dismal and devastating experiences (one of which was a marauding adventure up the Palestine coast as far as Acre) he slipped away, leaving his remnant army in Egypt, and by a narrow margin clandestinely reached France.

NOTE: Napoleon’s adversities on this ill-fated expedition were: (1) losing his fleet to the British; (2) losing a considerable part of his army in a battle with the Turks at Acre; (3) suffering murderous harassment from the Egyptians and Mamelukes in Cairo and Alexandria.

British Forced to Action in Egypt
Egypt was, at the time of Napoleon’s abortive adventure, a Turkish possession and had been since its capture by them in 1517. Turbulent conditions continued in Egypt on through the years of Turkish control, menacing British freedom of action relative to its route to India. This finally caused the British to establish a considerable amount of security protection, which included the sending of Lord Cromer to Egypt in 1883 as British Agent and Consul-General. It is hardly necessary to add that the Suez Canal (opened in 1869) had, during its fourteen years of operation to that time, greatly increased Britain’s security interests in Egypt.

During all these troubled years, however, Britain scrupulously recognized Egypt as a Turkish possession and strictly observed all the treaties it had with Turkey. Remarkable restraint, under the circumstances, was maintained by the British. They could easily have annexed Egypt at any time and ended much of the disorder. In 1907, Lord Cromer was replaced by Sir Eldon Gorst, who was followed in that office in 1911 by the celebrated Lord Kitchener.

The relationship and the situation in Egypt changed to a critically threatening stage, however, when Turkey joined Germany as an ally in World War I. Britain was at war with Germany, and this Turkish action could mean nothing less than that Britain was now at war with Turkey also.

Arthur E. P. Brome Weigall, in his book Egypt from 1798 to 1914 (Wm. Blackwood and Sons, London), stated the case well for British action in forcibly taking control of Egypt by establishing a British Protectorate in that country in 1914. “The anomalous and utterly irregular situation in Egypt,” wrote Mr. Weigall, “was at last brought to an end on December 18, 1914, by a proclamation, which stated that ‘the suzerainty of Turkey over Egypt is terminated’ and that ‘Egypt is placed under the protection of His Majesty and will henceforth constitute a British Protectorate’…”

On the next day, the British issued another proclamation stating that His Majesty’s Government had deposed the Turkish Khedive of Egypt and replaced him with Prince Hussein Pasha, oldest living prince of the family of Mohammed Ali (who, during his lifetime, had worked diligently for Egypt’s welfare) and had bestowed upon Hussein the title of Sultan of Egypt. This seemed to meet the general approval of the Egyptian people. When the British set up an official Protectorate over Egypt in 1914, Sir Henry McMahon, late Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, was sent to Egypt to replace Lord Kitchener and the office title there was changed to High Commissioner.

Arab Importance to the British
It is clear that Britain’s situation in the war was precarious. It was tremendously important that she counter the Turkish peril by in some way securing the loyalty and military cooperation of the Arabs. It was to this end, in 1915, that the new High Commissioner of Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, entered into communications with Sherif Hussein of Mecca, whose religious and political leadership at the time made him a foremost spokesman for the Arab peoples. It was after World War I that Hejaz was made a Kingdom and Hussein became its King.

The communications concerning the Arab posture had been started in August of 1914 between the Sherif and Lord Kitchener and now, under urgent circumstances, were resumed by Sir Henry McMahon in the interests of British security. Out of these negotiations, plainly expressed in a series of letters, the British agreed to the demands by Hussein for Arab post-war independence in return for Arab participation in the war effort to drive the Turks from the Middle East. The Arabs, in good faith, fulfilled their part of the agreement by carrying out the famous “revolt in the desert” of which the immortalized Lawrence of Arabia was a leader.

A little later, and without Arab sanction or even knowledge, a different British government (that of Lloyd George and Lord Balfour), in order to appease the Zionist Jews who had maneuvered their way into the good graces of that particular (and very temporary) coalition government, issued the Balfour Declaration, which meant the virtual giving of Palestine to the Zionists.

Here we have the key to the trouble that has followed between the Arabs and the Jews.



George W. Robnett



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