The Middle East is the most strategic and shattered place in the world. Examining the significance of the region, the natural endowment of the region has over several decades summoned the attention of regional and extra-regional powers of the world to interfere in the crisis in the Middle East, thereby intensifying all facets of differences and complexities in the region.
In a bid to examine the historical, socio-political and economic and religious dispositions of the region, political scientists and analysts have used the shatterbelt theory to describe the affairs of the region.
The theory states the differences in history, socio-political, cultural, economic and religious dispositions of the region which is aggravated by extra-power involvements, making the place shattered and a region of eternal disputes.
Tribes in the Middle East
Among the tribes in the Middle East are the Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, and other Sub-groups. The Israelis are predominant Jews and the Palestinian Arabs are predominantly Muslims and few Christian populations in the region.
Both the Jews and the Muslims claim to have a historic right over the region, especially Jerusalem. Although the Jews started to be occupying the region from as far back as 1915, they claim to have history as providence.
The last time there was peace in this region was in the nineteenth century. Starting from the early 20th century, Jews from Europe started to be occupying this region. Arab Palestine sees Israel as a western extension, and they reject the occupation of their lands.
A big thread, the Arab-Israeli war lies in history and it is not a new war, but the intensification of the wars started in 1948, immediately after the State of Israel was proclaimed by the Israelis and they secured the support of big powers in the world like the United States, Britain, Russia and even China. Palestine felt cheated and started to revolt against the occupation.
Palestine in the Middle East
Palestine used to be under the Ottoman Empire before the fall of this Turkish Empire in World War I. It became one of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire in 1517. Starting from 1882, there began a surge in the number of Jews in this region. From Russia, the Lovers of Zion settled in Palestine in the 1880s.
They were able to sustain their existence because of several financial assistance they got from the lovers of Jewish Zionism. They built settlements and encouraged the brotherhood’s occupation into Palestine. A lot of Jews started to be settling into Palestine. As of 1914, “there were 85, 000 Jews and 575, 000 Arabs in Palestine”
The Middle East: British Policy
Britain played a significant role in Palestine with its policies. Those policies did not truly attempt to remedy the crisis in the Middle East; rather they intensified the sectarian differences between the Arab and Israeli populations in the region. Notably, during this period, the British also secured attacks from Israeli terrorist organisations, especially the Stern Gang and others.
Sometimes Britain pledged to give independence to the Arabs under the Ottoman Empire, sometimes, it pledged to support the creation of the official home of the Jews in Palestine. Both the Israeli and the Arabs in Palestine were sceptical of the British policies at one time or the other.
Among the approaches used by Britain include the 1915 MacMahon Correspondence, the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, the 1917 Balfour Declaration and other unpopular resolutions until the end of the freaky mandate in 1948 when the state of Israel was declared in Palestine.
The MacMahon Correspondence of 1915
Unfortunately for the Ottoman Empire, it entered WWI by joining Germany. Britain used the office of his high commissioner in Egypt, Henry MacMahon to negotiate with the Arab states under the Ottoman Empire.
Britain promised independence to these Arab states after the war if they revolted against the Turkish Empire. This led to the Arabs revolts against the Ottoman Empire in 1916 and that led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Now the Arabs waited for the British government to fulfil the promise of independence.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916
However, nothing happened except that Britain signed another agreement which was secret with France to share the Ottoman territories after the war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 was not really opposed by the Tsarist government as it renounced claim to any Arab territory.
According to the agreement, Palestine was to be under international control, Iraq was to Britain and Syria to France. When this agreement became known in 1917, the Arabs were disappointed because it was against MacMahon’s promise of self-rule. To balance the line, there was a joint Anglo-French declaration which again supported the predominance of Arabs in Palestine.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917
To complicate the issue, the British government via its Foreign Secretary, supported the Zionist movement for the establishment of a national home of the Jews in Palestine. This declaration conflicted with the MacMahon declaration and other Anglo-French declarations for Arab support.
The Balfour declaration was vague; it never stated clearly if a national home in this sense means a state, and it never clearly established how to deal with the differences in the region if a national home should mean a state.
The British Mandate (1920-1947)
Amidst the confusion, the League of Nations entrusted Palestine to Britain under the mandate system. According to the term of the mandate, the British government was to make the Balfour declaration into effect, and the Zionist movement was to be recognised as the official body of the Jews in Palestine. Above all, the establishment of a home of the Jews was a prime of the mandate.
The Arabs argued that if a national home of the Jews would be established, a state of Palestine was a prerequisite.
Throughout the period of the mandate, Britain was unable to effect a specific goal; whenever it tried to establish the Balfour declaration, the Arabs in Palestine revolted and whenever it tried to establish the MacMahon promise of self-determination for the Arabs, the Israeli terrorist organisations stroke attacks with “bombings, murders and general sabotage.”
Therefore, policies during the period of the mandate were not static; sometimes favouring the Jews, sometimes favouring the Arabs. But the Jewish immigration never stopped. Jews from Germany and Russia and all over the world are encouraged to settle in Palestine. That became one of the major problems for the British government.
From Poland and Russia and several other places in Europe, thousands of Jews arrived in Palestine, leaping to 30, 000 in 1933, following Hitler’s pogroms and to 62, 000 in 1925.
To the Arabs, these invaders were an extension of Western powers. They bought lands, build houses, industries and schools and gradually laid historic claims to all things they met in Palestine. Angry Arabs rejected the occupation and fought against them several times.
The number of wars fought between the Arabs and Israelis cannot be effectively fathomed. The British government attempted several resolutions, especially in 1930 and 1939, including the report of the Anglo-American Committee of 1946.
All resolutions attempted to stop the Jews’ immigration to Palestine partially, but the ever-determined Israelis rather kept fighting against the resolutions and they encouraged Jewish immigration without any restriction into Palestine.
There was no significant achievement that was established during the mandate by the British government. In 1947, Britain transferred the issue to the United Nations.
The United Nations Special Committee though suggested partitioning and the neutrality of Jerusalem, but none of them worked out. The commission was impotent or deceitful; it never came to execution till the expiration of the British mandate.