Why did Britain found Saudi Arabia

Israel

20th century

The Holy Land lies between London and New Delhi. It was therefore of strategic importance to the British Empire.

The British General Allenby entered Jerusalem with his troops in 1917. (& copy National Photo Collection Israel)

The British world power had approached the Holy Land step by step: Gibraltar was conquered in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704. Great Britain ruled India from 1757. A permanent and reliable connection between the mother country and India now had to be established. At least that's what the political decision-makers in London wanted it to be. And so it did for the next two centuries. In the middle between London and New Delhi was the Holy Land. That was its strategic importance to the British. The British lion stalked the Holy Land from different directions in order to close the circle ever closer: Malta was conquered in 1800, Aden was occupied in 1839, and in 1875 the shares in the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, were acquired. The British ruled Egypt since their occupation of the country in 1882. By the end of the 19th century, "defense agreements" had been concluded with almost all small principalities in the Persian Gulf (for example with Kuwait in 1899). In 1907 the British and the Russians shared power and influence in Iran. England tried to prevent other states, for example Germany, from entering and penetrating the region. The construction of the railway line from Berlin to Baghdad met with fierce British resistance.

At last, the British hoped, the hour of the Ottoman Empire seemed to have struck in the Holy Land and in Arabia as well. The First World War broke out. Great Britain wanted to achieve even more "security" for the way to India in the Middle East. But the advance into the Holy Land was by no means quick. But on the contrary. The allegedly weak Ottoman Empire initially presented itself militarily very successful thanks to German help. London hadn't expected that. Now it was looking for allies in the Middle Eastern world - and found them: the Arabs.

Military ceremony of British soldiers for the conquest of the Ottoman Empire. (& copy National Photo Collection Israel)
The Arabs were, like the Turks, Muslims, but they rightly perceived Ottoman rule as foreign rule. They also demanded self-determination. The beginnings of Arab nationalism go back to the 19th century. Their cause seemed to find support as Britain sought their favor.

Above all, they promised the guardian of the holy Islamic sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina, the Sherif Hussein of the Hashemite family, an independent Arab kingdom. "A firm and lasting alliance" wanted to establish London with the Arabs in the face of the world war. The British High Commissioner in Egypt formulated her intended result. Sir Henry McMahon (October 24, 1915), on behalf of his government: "The expulsion of the Turks from Arab countries and the liberation of the Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke that has weighed on them for so long." The promised area was also set out in this infamous McMahon letter. To this day, Arabs, British and Jews as well as historians and politicians argue about whether Palestine should also be offered to the Arabs. This argument is idle in two respects. First, for whoever reads the letter and looks at a map, the boundaries are clear. He realizes that the Holy Land was also part of the promised Arab territory. The dispute is idle for an even more important reason: the British government never dreamed of keeping the promise made.

The military contribution of the "Arab Uprising" against the Turks, which began on June 5, 1916 on the Arabian Peninsula (not in the Holy Land), was actually meaningless for the British. However, that does not justify their misleading. How fraudulent and shameless the British government's promise to the Arabs was, we can easily prove. Almost simultaneously (1915/16) the British, together with Russia, France, Italy and Greece, planned a completely different distribution of the hoped-for Ottoman booty. But why share with so many rivals? English politicians wondered. They also had an answer ready. The British-French Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916. In it, the Holy Land and Mesopotamia were largely assigned to Great Britain as an area of ​​influence, France was to receive Lebanon and Syria. At that time, of course, everything still belonged to the Ottoman Empire. On top of that. Multiple holds better, that was probably the motto of the British government. Because on November 2, 1917, she also promised the Zionists the Holy Land, which had already been offered to the Arabs and which was actually always intended for themselves. This promise went down in world history as the Balfour Declaration. The British Foreign Secretary at the time, Balfour, wrote in a letter to Lord Rothschild: "Dear Lord Rothschild, I am pleased to be able to inform you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, of the following declaration of sympathy for the Jewish Zionist endeavors presented to and by the Cabinet The establishment of a national homestead in Palestine for the Jewish people is viewed with benevolence by His Majesty's government. It will do its best to facilitate the achievement of this goal, making it clear that nothing should be done which affects the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population living in Palestine or the rights and political status of the Jews in any other country disadvantageously concerns (...) I ask you to bring this declaration to the attention of the Zionist Federation. "

The Middle East after the conference in San Remo (1920) (& copy Beck Verlag)
Before London even took possession of the Ottoman Empire or parts of it, it acted like the owner. It boldly promised everything to everyone and finally kept it itself. Illegally appropriated was arbitrarily, that is, distributed through power politics. But what was done was as if one had their property at their disposal. The allied France was fobbed off with a small part, which from 1920 onwards it had to fight militarily against the Arabs and with tough political-diplomatic bandages against the British. After the political villain of his government and after the victorious battle for Jerusalem, the British conqueror put on theater: On December 9, 1917, the English general Allenby entered Jerusalem with his troops. When he reached the Jaffa Gate, he dismounted his horse because he wanted to enter the Holy City as a pilgrim, not a conqueror. Of all things! In front of him lay the Holy City, behind him his armed forces. The general Jews and Palestinians hardly contested the claim to have been a pilgrim. The Jewish residents greeted General Allenby enthusiastically, the Palestinians friendly. But it was not until the autumn of 1918 that the new owner had the entire Holy Land as well as Syria and Lebanon under military control. The agony of the "sick man from the Bosporus" was tough and long. There was an expectant tension among Zionists and Palestinian nationalists. Everyone hoped that Britain would "liberate" them, grant them independence, give them the land, their land, the Holy Land, their supposed property.

Once again, ownership in the Holy Land had changed. Britain now actually had the land as its owner it presented itself. The British had their coup with regard to Mesopotamian Mesopotamia and the Holy Land (called "Palestine" since the Romans) and the French with regard to Syria and Lebanon legitimized at the international level by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922. This eyewash was then even considered international law. It was a scandal to both the Arabs and the Zionists. It was the right to win. It was sold as international law. The "international law" term was called "mandate". The mandate was therefore a trusteeship. Trusteeships are taken over, for example, over underage people. And it was precisely as such that the international community saw the inhabitants of the Middle East, including the inhabitants of the Holy Land. Only when these were "ripe" for independence could they be granted them. This stated that neither Great Britain nor France were willing to voluntarily give up the trusteeship one day. Rather, they wanted to convert their mandate areas into colonies with the help of international law.

Basically, neither the politically more alert Zionists nor the Palestinians had any illusions about this. They argued, even fiercely, about the methods of getting rid of mandate power. One should not make the mistake of leaning either all Zionist or all Palestinian groups and parties together and overlooking their fundamental differences of opinion. But (apart from collaborators) everyone was waiting for their chance - against the British. In principle, the Zionists wanted their state to be at the expense of the Palestinians, the Palestinians at the expense of the Zionists. Of course, the goals weren't so pronounced either, and of course there were two groups in each of the two camps: the militant "hawks" and the gentle "doves". The respective "falcons" and "pigeons" agreed on the goal. They got into heated arguments about the means.

The Zionists certainly thought and acted more politically than the Palestinians. That means they didn't lose sight of their strategic goal, but they made tactical compromises in the process. They were ready and able to take a step back and then dash forward two. The responsible Zionist politicians had recognized that nothing could (initially) be achieved against the great powers or against the respective owner of the Holy Land. The majority of Zionist politicians believed after the First World War that they could initially achieve more with England than against England. Only gradually did this policy become more and more controversial within Zionism. Many historians disagree on whether the British pursued a "Prozionist" or a "pro-Arab" policy. This "historians' dispute" (like many others) is also idle, because the answer is simple: the British pursued British politics. They played off Zionists against Palestinians and vice versa. They did not want to give Palestine to either the Palestinians or the Jews. They wanted to keep it. "Divide and rule" has been the cruel game since Roman times.

The British mandate for Palestine, adopted by the League of Nations in July 1922, consisted, roughly speaking, of the following areas: today's core Israeli state within its borders before the conquests of the Six Day War, the East Bank, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The mandate within these borders was awarded to Great Britain in July 1922. But as early as 1921 the British government had diverted four-fifths of the mandate area; not for the Zionists, not for the Palestinians, but for the Hashemite family. It was an act of reparation - at the expense of the Jews and Palestinians. The head of the Hashemites in 1915 was the Sherif Hussein. The British had promised him independence and rule over the Holy Land. As is well known, they took it for themselves in 1917/18 and kept it. They wanted to settle the Hashemite's family with Syria and Lebanon. That, in turn, did not suit France, and in July 1920 it expelled the Emir Faisal, a son of Sherif Hussein, from Damascus by military force. Now it was up to London. All too obviously it had betrayed the Hashemites. Emir Abdallahs, another son of the Sherif, stormed north with his troops to "liberate" Syria from the French for his family, which London had to prevent in order not to get into trouble with Paris or even to be drawn into a military conflict become.

What to do? Keep Mesopotamia, convert it to a kingdom and elect Faisal King of Iraq in 1921. That was the one British answer that Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill in particular pushed through in March 1921. As a second answer, Emir Abdallah received the area east of the Jordan (Transjordan) as a consolation. This could not satisfy the understandably rebellious Hashemites, but they could be pacified, especially since they stumbled into a conflict with the House of Ibn Saud in their homeland (the "Hejaz", i.e. the west of the Arabian Peninsula). They lost the dispute and with it their rule over the Hejaz in 1925. The new ruler there was now Ibn Saud, who then called his kingdom "Saudi Arabia".

Back to the Hashemites in Transjordan, which turned into an "emirate" in 1921, although it was still part of the British Mandate of Palestine. The ruling family of this emirate, which became a kingdom in 1946 (Kingdom of Jordan), was imported by the British. The Zionists described this measure as the "first partition of Palestine". And the Palestinians were rightly outraged. Winston Churchill had simply grafted a foreign ruling family on them. It was Islamic, it was also Arabic, but it still remained a stranger - to this day.

The Jordanian King Hussein (a good, personable, brave and tactically highly skilled man) is the grandson of the first emir (later king) of Transjordan. No matter how wisely he governs, the Palestinians remain negative because they no longer want foreign rule, not even Arab. The Palestinians then, and even more so are today, the overwhelming majority of the population of (trans) Jordan. Today sixty to seventy-five percent of Jordan’s citizens are Palestinians. It is therefore only a question of time when they will get rid of this foreign rule. It is denied that they plan to do so, but attempts have been made several times (for example, 1958 or 1968 to 1970). The Hashemites (and King Hussein) have only represented themselves and some of their favorites since 1921, but not "their people". They have none, apart from traditional support from the East Jordanian Bedouins and their descendants. They were and are very happy to have any partner against their urban Palestinian rival. The decision of the British was already "reactionary" in 1921, because it was supposed to turn back the wheel of history. And anyone who wants to turn something back or "back it up" (Latin: reagere) is "reactionary". Churchill wanted to continue the old cabinet policy of earlier times at the green table in the 20th century, regardless of the will of the majority of the population. British politics were not all immoral. On closer inspection, it was also a violation of the already fragile international law, which, with regard to the Holy Land, had not always distorted the political reality, but nevertheless considerably embellished it.

The text of the mandate from 1922, which deals with the area of ​​Transjordan (Article 25), states, for example: "In the areas between the Jordan and the eastern border of Palestine, the mandate power is entitled, with the consent of the League of Nations, to use them To postpone or repeal provisions which it deems to be inapplicable in this area. " So the British could do whatever they wanted in the area. And they wanted to make amends to the Hashemites: at the expense of the Palestinians and Zionists. In the preamble to the mandate document they had committed themselves to keep the promise made to the Jews: "The mandate power is responsible for the implementation of the declaration originally given on November 2, 1917." This means the Balfour Declaration, ie the "establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine".

Should this promise now be more weighty than the rest, also more important than the British and French political self-service shop? Far from it, because Article 25 wrested four fifths of the gift from the Jews, which the giver actually only had by virtue of his power, not his right to property. Just three months after the adoption of the Palestine mandate, they proved how little serious the British were with the "establishment of the national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine". In June 1922, Winston Churchill published a white paper that reads: "Not Palestine as a whole should become a Jewish national homeland." And also: "The Jewish immigration cannot exceed the economic absorption capacity of the country." And finally: "A legislative council should be founded and determined by general elections, if possible."

This meant that instead of a Jewish homeland (not the state!), A pro forma Jewish-Arab homeland should be created, not a national one, but a binational one, i.e. a homeland for both peoples. Lord of the house naturally wanted to remain Great Britain.London decreed and determined in the name of international law, because the locals were supposedly not yet "mature" enough for independence, a cynical farce.