Woodrow Wilson and the Middle East

jimmoyer

jimmoyer
Apr 3, 2005
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Ninety years ago, the Arabs gave their opinion – and were ignored

James Zogby
  • Last Updated: July 13. 2008 8:43PM UAE / GMT
It was 90 years ago this month that the then US President Woodrow Wilson delivered a speech elaborating his commitment to the principles of self-determination.

He was speaking on the Fourth of July, 1918, when the First World War was still in the balance. Wilson, in his speech, addressed what he called the four great “ends for which the people of the world are fighting”. One of these, he said, required that “the settlement of every question, whether of territory or sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship, [should be determined] upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery”.

Though, Wilson, himself, was not always consistent in the pursuit of this goal, his anti-colonial instinct put him at odds with America’s European allies, particularly the British and the French.

In the aftermath of the war, with the liberated lands of the defeated Ottoman Empire potentially available to be divided between the victors, those two nations declared their ambitions of carving out “spheres of influence” in the Arab East. Having already concluded a pact among themselves to divide up the vast regions of East, Britain and France sought international support for their goals.

Wilson challenged the allies with a proposal to ascertain the desires of the Arab peoples. He commissioned two prominent Americans, Henry Churchill King and Charles R Crane, to go to the region and survey Arab attitudes.

King and Crane set out to determine: what Arabs wanted as their political future, whether to be independent or subordinated to a foreign power; how Arabs viewed both British and French plans to divide their region; and the intention of Britain to support the Zionist movement’s goal of establishing a “Jewish Homeland” in Palestine.

Since my brother John and I have long been involved in polling in the Arab world, the work of the King-Crane Commission is of special interest to us, as it was the first survey of Arab public opinion.

King and Crane recognised that opinions mattered. In accordance with Wilson’s principle set out in his July 4 speech, they recognised that imposing policy without the agreement of the affected people would not work, since it would only generate resistance.

Travelling throughout the Arab East for six weeks, the King-Crane Commission interviewed more than 1,800 Arabs in the region that was to become Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan.

What they found was that, among the residents of what was to be Palestine, “if… the wishes of Palestine’s population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine – nearly nine-tenths of the whole – are emphatically against the entire Zionist programme… there is no one thing upon which the population of Palestine were more agreed upon than this”.

That same feeling was shared by the broader population of the entire Arab East covered by their survey. The King-Crane report continued: “Only two requests – that for a united Syria and independence – had larger support.”

The British and French were unimpressed. Countered Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary: “In Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the permanent inhabitants of the country, though the American commission has been going through the form of asking… Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the decisions and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Facing strong dissent from isolationists in the Republican-led Senate, pressure from his European allies and, plagued by his own inconsistency, Wilson waffled. The British and French had their way.

In the end, the Arab East was, in fact, carved into “spheres of influence” for Britain (Jordan and Palestine) and France (Lebanon and Syria). And many of the problems that plague the Middle East, until today, had their origins in that act.

This could have turned out differently.

If the King-Crane findings had been heeded, the Zionist programme could have been modified (not disbanded), and ways would have been found to seek early reconciliation between those who sought a Jewish refuge and the aspirations of the indigenous peoples of the Arab East. This was not done and, instead, force was used to dismember the East and impose policies on an unwilling population.

Wilson’s initial instinct was right. Opinions do matter. They did then, and still do today. Ignoring them, and implementing policies that do not have broad public support, only invites disastrous consequences. That was true then, and it is still true now.

Dr James J Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute

http://www.thenational.ae/article/20080713/OPINION/636226933/0/BUSINESS
 

Zzarchov

House Member
Aug 28, 2006
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To be fair, the region of Palestine included Jordan, so really they did end up with about 9/10ths of the land with 9/10ths of the population.

Its good to remember the difference from Palestine the ottoman province :Israel, the west bank (of Jordan, thats why the west bank is east of Israel), Jordan and a large part of Saudi Arabia (which Jordan traded to Saudi Arabia in exchange for some waterfront..so much for historical homeland you care so much about) were all part of Palestine the ottoman province.

90% of palestine (in accordance with 90% of the population) was east of the Jordan River. This was to be the arab part of Palestine.

the other 10% (for 10% of the jewish population) was West of the Jordan river, this was to be the Jewish Part of Palestine (Israel and the West Bank)

Jordan wanted 100% of Palestine (despite only being 90% of the populace) so it fought for it, and took another half of Israel (Taking the West Bank).


So if you get down to it, The world did listen to Woodrow Wilson.


90% of Palestine rejected the Zionist dream, so they got 90% of the land, 10% supported the Zionist dream so they got 10%.

This is what happened with India and Pakistan as well.
 

jimmoyer

jimmoyer
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I tend to side with you Zzarchov, but I'm pondering over the slickness of your statement:

"the other 10% (for 10% of the jewish population) was West of the Jordan river, this was to be the Jewish Part of Palestine (Israel and the West Bank)"

My question: Was that 10 percent of the land dominated by 90 percent Arab ?