T.E. Lawrence: The World War One Defeats That Made an Imperialist Swindler

“By our swindle they were glorified…The more we condemned and despised ourselves, the more we could cynically take pride in them, our creatures…They were our dupes, wholeheartedly fighting the enemy.” T.E. Lawrence, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”[1]

The enemy Thomas Edward Lawrence (a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia”) is referring to in the above quote is none other than Turkish Ottoman Empire. The people who were ‘swindled’ and ‘duped’ are the Arabs who were convinced and manipulated to take up arms and rise up in an ‘Arab Revolt’ a hundred years ago, against their Turkish overlords in support of the British Empire’s war effort during World War One.

The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany in November 1914. In the United Kingdom, many thought the war would end quickly and everyone would be home for Christmas because the British populace were weaned on stories of imperialist heroics administering the natives of Asia and Africa a military beating in a surprising short amount of time. Unsurprisingly, millions immediately enrolled to fight Germany to only find that they too were shockingly fighting with the latest military technology.  To overcome the stalemate that quickly transpired on the western front i.e. the war in Europe, the British came up with a supremely cunning idea of prioritising the defeat of Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Empire in the hope of hastening a quick and decisive victory.[2] On this basis, the primary and most important military strategy was an attack through the Strait of Dardanelles to capture Istanbul, the seat and capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, put the idea forward of a naval expedition to sail through the Strait of Dardanelles and capture Istanbul Continue reading

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Ken Livingstone and Zionism’s only Truth.

The recent remarks of the first ever and former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone supposedly in support of another British Labour politician, Naz Shah, who had shared a social media post depicting a map of Israel transferred to the United States has ignited a debate on the extent of anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.

In defence of Shah, Livingstone felt compelled to remind people that certain Zionists in 1930’s Nazi Germany came into an agreement with elements in the Nazi regime to transfer German Jews to Palestine. And indeed there is nothing remotely mutually exclusive about being both anti-Semitic and pro-Zionist. But, why he needed to drag this minor episode of European Zionist history, the Haavara agreement, into the mix in a supposed defence of Shah is bewildering.

More bewildering when one considers the fact that British imperialism was the most consequential partner to the Zionist colonial settler project in Palestine in the inter-war period. In 1917 when the British government issued the Balfour Declaration there were between probably 70,000 Jews in Palestine as opposed to at least 700,000 Palestinians. The British Empire’s policy was to establish a “national home for the Jewish people” and use its “best endeavours to facilitate” this achievement. Continue reading

The Consequential Tony Benn

Tony Benn is a legend in his own time to many a politicos, especially those of us who are interested in anti-imperialist politics. He is admired by friend and foe alike as the fearless embodiment of the principled and quintessential British parliamentarian.

Over the last ten years his reputation as a peacenik and a radical left-winger was further consolidated by being the head of the UK’s main anti-war organisation, Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and with his continued patronage of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Britain’s main pro-Palestinian organisation. Yet according to a recent article published on the Open Democracy website it seems that Benn has a particular past which brings his current status into question. According to the writer, Professor Colin Scindler, Benn used to write “uber-Zionist” articles for a pro-Israeli journal called, the ‘Jewish Vanguard’. This surely beggars the question who is the real Tony Benn in accordance with a ‘Chomskyite’ criteria. Continue reading

An Introduction to the case for reparations for Palestine.

The land of Lord Balfour hosted a rare but much needed conference on his infamous 1917 declaration. The event was convened by the appropriately named organisation, the Palestine Return Centre (PRC) on the 19th January 2013 in London. The aim of the meeting was to inaugurate a campaign for British “mistakes” and to “make reparations to Palestinians who endured human rights abuses at British hands.” 

It is rare because not only is the ‘Balfour Declaration’ and its brutal ramifications greatly understudied but the entire period of British total military and political dominance of the Middle East between 1917 and 1948 is more or less whitewashed from contemporary discussion. Yet, if we are to fully understand today’s Middle East there is probably no more an important period than this.

The declaration let it be known Britain’s “view with favour” the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine Continue reading

The Empire’s Balfour Declaration and the Suez Canal

For the average British pro-Palestinian human rights activist, the Balfour Declaration, published ninety- five years ago on the 2nd November 1917, is only mentioned in passing in their publications or agitations. For them, the declaration seems to have drafted in, one autumn day most likely alongside the brown and crimson leaves for then to triumphantly and jubilantly land on Lord Balfour’s, the British foreign secretary, desk. For them, it is more convenient to strongly imply that the Palestinian predicament began when the young United Nations partitioned Palestine on the 29th November 1947 or when the British Empire’s Palestine mandate officially ended on 15th May 1948. For them, the fact that up to 400,000 Palestinians under the Empire’s watch were ethnically cleansed between these latter two dates literally doesn’t warrant a footnote.[1]

This is certainly the impression given by reading the literature of “revolutionary socialists” as well as other supposedly pro-Palestinians. In his book “Imperialism and Resistance”, “revolutionary socialist” John Rees argues Continue reading