Wednesday, July 2, 2014

All Sykes-Picot, No Balfour

You may have noticed references such as these to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 in the Australian media:

"The rapid advance of the hardline Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham into Iraq's Sunni heartland has sparked a cottage industry of commentary on the plan devised by British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart, Francois Georges-Picot, that laid the basis for the map of the modern Middle East and led to the formation of Syria and Iraq." (Middle East map being redrawn before our very eyes, William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 19/4/14)

" [Iraq's] borders were constructed by Britain and France in 1920 in a reworking of their so-called Picot-Sykes agreement to divvy up control of the Middle East after the defeat of the Sunni-run Ottoman Empire. Borders were drawn north to south to create Iraq, in direct contradiction to the ancestry, language and faith divisions that run largely east to west across what is now Syria and Iraq. ISIL has boasted of destroying what it calls 'the Sykes-Picot conspiracy'." (Editorial: Unity government the only hope for Iraq, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/6/14)

I was intending to highlight this ms media habit of  invoking Sykes-Picot, while (studiously?) omitting all reference whatever to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, when I found myself beaten to the post (in both senses) by Philip Weiss of the Mondoweiss site. So rather than reinvent the wheel, here's his commentary - Reporters talk about Sykes-Picot of 1916 (and ignore the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (29/6/14):

"With the blurring of the border between Syria and Iraq by the Sunni militant group ISIS, American journalists have been talking a lot about the Sykes-Picot treaty, the secret agreement during World War I between the French and the British to carve up the Middle East when the Ottoman Empire ended. These journalists all describe Sykes-Picot as an instance of imperial arrogance: European powers dabbling in Middle East geography and ignoring traditional ethnic and religious lines. Fair enough. But if they're going to bring up Sykes-Picot as a sign of how wrong the West is about religion in the Middle East, why don't they bring up that other secret agreement of World War I, just a year later: the Balfour Declaration, when the British promised Lord Rothschild... that the Jews could have a 'national home' in Palestine? The Balfour Declaration was published in November 1917, but was arrived at after months and years of Zionist lobbying. And it also carved up the Middle East in ways that haunt us to this day. Here is some of the Sykes-Picot chatter...

[He cites several examples.]

"I'm as confused by these questions as any other American: I see a drawn-out and violent process in which dictatorships give way to democracies in the Middle East; I see a broad, conservative constituency in Egypt that prefers dictatorship to extremism and fears Egypt turning into Syria. But I also see our role in fueling religious extremism. Imperial Britain came up with the Balfour Declaration in utter defiance of local political and religious sentiment in 1917, and the creation of a Jewish state in 1948 engendered religious conflict in the region. When you travel around Palestine and its neighbors there is a lot of rage toward the Jewish state/US client, and not a lot of talk of a 'caliphate.' The State Department warned back in 1948 that recognizing a Jewish state would lead to endless unrest in the region; the reporters should be addressing that factor."

You can just imagine a Phillip Adams, or a Geraldine Doogue, or a James Carleton (to cite the ABC equivalent of those cited by Weiss), asking some interlocutor or other who's just invoked Sykes-Picot:  

Isn't what you say about Sykes-Picot as a source of sectarian divisions in today's Middle East somewhat overstated? Wouldn't a better example of colonial mischief-making be the Balfour Declaration? After all, it introduced into the area the mother-of-all sectarian states, the Jewish state of Israel, which went on in 1948 to purge Palestine, by fire and sword, of as many non-Jews, Christians and Muslims, as it possibly could at the time.



Anonymous said...

ze'ev jabotinsky
bernard lewis

what they wanted, what they got.

isaac isaacs
albert einsten

significant intellects of their epoch, what they wanted, what they did not got (sic/grammar)

avuncular phillip does the fealty thing well. his daughter converted too. he always struck me as a social climber and fake socialist.

well, he did have gareth porter on latenite(sic) but, that was more, limited hangout, so he could keep giving the one sided pov.

gladdies and poddies. i prefer, w@nkers as epithet. will he get bob carr back?

bob carr, always struck me as a datsun 120b. he is flying above his station, which is something like those old yellow/gold/black petrol bousers Solo back in the 90s. yep, thats his station.

Anonymous said...

And what was it that then US President Wilson said about secret treaties and the rights of small nations to self determination?

Why was Palestine the exception at the Paris Peace conference of 1919?

The Hussein-McMahon treaty, by contrast, was not kept secret from the Arab population "yearning to be free".

It was a carrot dangled in front of them to spur them on in their fight against the Ottoman occupiers. Full of pledges for future Arab independence, free of interference from foreigners, in their own country, Greater Arabia.

Look what happened, occupied by new bullies,the Ottoman provinces divided and called countries and then pitted against each other.

Of course there was an ulterior motive for all this deceit. The establishment of the Bandit State on Arab land- Palestine.

Hussein-McMahon Treaty 1915 ---2015.

Let every Arab call for it to be fully implemented. Even fight for it to be implemented, after all as the treaty was agreed and endorsed by none other than Sir Henry McMahon, as a lawmaker of His Majesties Britannic Government and the leader of the Arab revolt, and their ALLY Sharif Hussein, how could present day advocates of the treaty be accused of "terrorism" ?

One hundred years later it is time for Britain to honour the pledge to the Arabs.