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  1. 1. How did Britain, who initially supported the Arabdesire for national state in the Middle East, become the only public proponent of the Zionist cause? Rebecca Kaplan February 21, 2006 Thomas
  2. 2. How did Britain, who initially supported the Arab desire for national state in the Middle East, become the only public proponent of the Zionist cause?Section A: Plan of the Investigation When the Ottoman Empire began its final stages of collapse during WWI, Franceand Britain took swift action to gain power in the Middle East by signing the Sykes-PicotAgreement to carve up territory and spheres of influence in the region. Britain’s newsphere of influence in the region turned their attention to the question of a Jewishhomeland in Palestine as the Zionist movement was concurrently gaining strength. Theirsupport for such a homeland would ultimately be manifested in the Balfour Declaration.The British, however, seeking to gain Arab neutrality, or even favor during WWI, firstgot involved in the Middle East through discussions with Emir Hussein of Mecca aboutthe creation of an independent Arab Asia.1 How, then, did the Britain become the onlypublic proponent of the Zionist cause? This investigation will show how Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann’s influence inthe British government2 and the sympathies of many top bureaucrats such as ForeignSecretary Lord Balfour pushed the British government to assert suzerainty in Palestine.The works A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin and Jehuda Reinharzs’ ChaimWeizmann: The Making of a Statesman, will be analyzed, in addition to other modernscholarship on British policy in the middle east. Other more primary sources will be used1 Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace. (New York: Henry Holt, 1989). 173-4.2 Segev, Tom. One Palestine, Complete. (New York: Henry Holt, 1999). 44. Weizmann developed a method to get acetone from maize, which was needed for artillery shells. This discovery brought him recognition within the government and made leaders such as Lloyd George and Balfour aware of his name. 2
  3. 3. such as Weizmann’s autobiography and the original texts of the Sykes-Picot Agreementand the Balfour Declaration.Section B: Summary of EvidenceThe Sykes-Picot Agreement The question of an independent Arab state in the Middle East arose in the Britishgovernment before that of a Jewish homeland. In fact, Sir Mark Sykes, assistant secretaryfor the war cabinet who handled Middle East Policy, was very pro-Arab.3 Having beentold that an Arab revolt hinged upon a British invasion of Syria and Palestine, Sykesbegan talks with French representative Francois Georges Picot about a possible invasionor an agreement dividing up the Middle East.4 In February of 1916, the British and French governments concluded a secretagreement known as the Sykes Picot Agreement5 to dismantle the Ottoman Empire andcreate British and French protectorates and/or spheres of influence in the Middle East.Various parts of the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine were carved up into3 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 181. In the Autumn of 1915 an Ottoman deserter by the name of Sharif al Faruqi turned himself over to the British with the claim that he was a representative of secret Arab society al-‘Ahd seeking British support for an independent Arab state in return for the promise that he could bring about an Arab rebellion on behalf of the British. 3 He manipulated the British government into drawing up a map with proposed borders for an independent Arab state. British Agent Sir Gilbert Clayton was able to convince Sir Mark Sykes that the creation of an independent Arab state was worth pursuing. Thus, upon returning to Britain, Sykes proposed and led the creation of an Arab Bureau in December of 1915.4 Ibid., 187-189.5 The agreement is often called the Sykes-Picot-Sazanov agreement as it was signed with the consent ofRussia. 3
  4. 4. Russian, French and British spheres of influence.6 Vague promises of a British andFrench controlled Arab state were made, and the area of Palestine would be ruled by avaguely defined international organization.7The Question of a Jewish Homeland While Sykes was in Russia presenting the proposal to Sazanov, his hostspersuaded him that the Russian Zionist Jews were quite powerful, and he decided to wintheir favor. In April 1916 he met Dr. Moses Gaster8 to learn about Zionism to ultimatelyform some sort of British-French cooperation as patrons of Arabs and Jews.9 Sykeswould also become acquainted with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann. Weizmann’spermanent goal was to put Palestine under a British protectorate, which would allow theJews to establish a homeland.106 The Avalon Project: The Sykes-Picot Agreement. Comp. William C. Fray. 1996. The Yale Law School.10 Dec. 20, Per the agreement, Russia would receive the Armenian provinces of Erzurum, Trebizond, Van and Bitlis, in addition to some southeast Kurdish territory. France would gain control of Lebanon and exert authority over Aintab, Urfa, Mardin, Diyarbakır, and Mosul, parts of Syria that bordered on the new Russian territory. Britian would receive Baghdad and the Mediterranean ports of Haifa and Acre, in modern-day Israel. The British and French would allow for a confederation of Arab states or a single independent Arab state over which they would have spheres of influence. The port of Alexandretta (Iskenderun) would be made free.7 The Avalon Project: The Sykes-Picot Agreement. Comp. William C. Fray. 1996. The Yale Law School. 2Dec 2006.<>.8 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 197. Dr. Gaster was the Chief Rabbi of the Sephardic Jewish Community and Influential Zionist.9 Ibid.10 Sanders, Ronald. The High Walls of Jerusalem: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of theBritish Mandate for Palestine. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983). 439 & 512. Weizmann’s goal never changed during the entire process. In a meeting with Lloyd George, he defended his rejection of the possibility of an international control over Palestine as it would cause 4
  5. 5. Sykes wanted a Jewish-Arab-Armenian alliance with the Anglo-French Entente11,but when Weizmann was elected President of the British Zionist Federation (BZF) inFebruary 1917, he was able to formally request that the British government show itssupport for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.12 In the February 7, 1917 meeting betweenZionist leaders13 and Sykes, the Zionists opposed a condominium arrangement or anyinternational control over Palestine, but rather proposed British suzerainty over the area.14Knowing this would require French cooperation, Weizmann arranged for Rothschild tosuggest that Sokolow speak with Picot, effectively ending Gaster’s career as a Zionistdiplomat.15 On June 4, 1917 he secured a letter from Jules Cambon, Director-General ofthe French Foreign Ministry, demonstrating a friendly attitude of the French towards thecreation of a Jewish homeland.16 On April 24th, prior to the Cambon Letter, Weizmann met with Lord Robert Cecil,acting Foreign Secretary while Lord Balfour was away. He admitted that if Weizmannwere able to provide more evidence of worldwide Jewish support for Zionism, the confusion. At first he seemed to accept the possibility of joint Anglo-American control, but ultimately rejected that idea. He truly wanted a British protectorate.11 Rehovot, Israel. Weizman Archives (Sledmere Papers. August 14, 1917)12 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 291.13 Reinharz, Jehuda, Chaim Weizmann: The Making of a Statesman (New York: Oxford University Press,Inc, 1993). 116. Attending the conference at Rabbi Moses Gaster’s house were Moses Gaster, Lord Walter Rothschild and his kinsman James de Rothschild, Nahum Sokolow, Herbert Samuel, Joseph Cowen, Herbert Bentwich, Harry Sacher and Chaim Weizmann. Sykes was also present, but in a private capacity.14 Ibid. At this point the Sykes-Picot Agreement was still a secret, and Sykes did not divulge any information about it in the meeting.15 Ibid., 11716 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 292-3. Sokolow was able to convince the French to lend their support by not directly addressing who would be the protectorate of Zion. 5
  6. 6. Foreign Office would be much more likely to promise suzerainty.17 Weizmann was ableto raise American support with the help of US Justice Louis Brandeis.18 A possibility ofGerman support for Zionism19 helped to change the attitude in Weizmann’s June 11thmeeting with Sir Ronald Graham in the Foreign Office. In light of Weizmann’s promiseof growing support as well as the Cambon Letter, Balfour was then advised to issue apublic statement demonstrating a British commitment to the creation of a JewishHomeland. Balfour invited Weizmann and Rothschild to be a part of the negotiations20which resulted in the November 2nd Balfour Declaration of British support for a Jewishhomeland.21Section C: Evaluation of Sources:Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace (New York: Henry Holt, 1989)17 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 137.18 Weizmann, Chaim. Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann. (New York:HarperBrothers, 1949). 193-4. Brandeis’ influence in the US was very strong, which helped to speed up the American reaction of support in favor of a British-administered Palestine.19 Sanders, The High Walls of Jerusalem, 539-541. On May 2, 1917, a Berlin newspaper Der Reichsbote, printed an article by Gustav von Dobeler, right-wing publicit, entitled “A Jewish Republic in Palestine.” He contended that a German- controlled Jewish Palestine would be helpful to the Central Powers.20 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 150.21 The Avalon Project: The Balfour Declaration. Comp. William C. Fray. 1996. The Yale Law School. 2Dec 2006.<>. The actual declaration, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, stated: "His Majestys Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." 6
  7. 7. David Fromkin is a professor of International Relations at Boston University andhas written seven books, including A Peace to End All Peace, which was shortlisted forthe Pulitzer Prize. His other works have been published in scholarly publications such asForeign Affairs.22 The book aims to demonstrate collaborative efforts of all of the great powers inthe collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The work of Chaim Weizmann is not a major focusof his section on British policy, but seems to attribute much of Britain’s focus onPalestine to Sykes and Sokolow. The book is useful for a broad overview of European involvement in the collapseof the Ottoman Empire and some detail in matters of negotiations, such as the ones thatoccurred in 1916 and 1917 in Britain, but much of Weizmann’s more nuancedstatesmanship and influence in the British government that is vital to understanding hisrole in British policy is lost.23 Many details that are key to an in depth understanding ofan event are sacrificed for broad content. Fromkin utilizes extensive primary sources andbooks published in the last 40 years for a blend of original fact and historical hindsight.The endnotes are used entirely for citations, but there are occasional footnotes throughoutthe book with explanatory notes.22 “Fromkin, David.” Boston University Faculty. <>23 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 288. Fromkin gives credit to Sokolow for his skill in negotiations with the French about British interest in Palestine and to Sykes for having the necessary contacts to allow Sokolow an audience, but does not recognize that it was Weizmann’s influence with Rothschild that earned Sokolow his position as a negotiator in the first place. Many of Weizmann’s friendships and influences cannot be explored in such a broad work. 7
  8. 8. Reinharz, Jehuda, Chaim Weizmann: The Making of a Statesman (New York:Oxford University Press, Inc, 1993) Jehuda Reinharz is the current president of Brandeis University. He establishedthe program in Judaic studies at the University of Michigan, and has served numerousimportant positions in Judaic Studies at Brandeis as well as other positions worldwide.He has published over 90 articles and 20 books. The biography aims to show Weizmann’s climb to the top of Zionist leadershipand his transition from a leader to a statesman among his peers. Reinharz also attempts toshow that, “…if the British did not yet have a clear policy for the dismemberment of theOttoman Empire, Weizmann had one from the very start of the war,”24 and hiscommitment to that goal pushed the British government to assert support for a Jewishstate. The value in a biography is the depth with which it can explore one man’s life andinfluence on the people around him. The book benefits from extensive use of primarysources such as letters and government memorandums25. The bibliography reveals vastamounts of recent scholarship as well as an impressive list of primary sources.Additionally, Reinharz critiques other historians’ analyses about Weizmann, presentingseveral viewpoints. As a biography, however, there is a one-sided focus on Weizmannand his role in the British government can become exaggerated because he is the focus of24 Ibid., 209.25 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 123 Even personal sources are included in the work. An entry from the diary of Weizmann’s wife, Vera, reflects the skepticism she and her husband felt towards Sokolow as a negotiator, and helps the reader to understand Weizmann’s attitude towards him. 8
  9. 9. the work. Additionally, there are so many smaller and often personal details that it can bedifficult to filter the relevant and factual information.26Section D: Analysis Almost immediately after the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Britishgovernment opinion shifted from being predominantly pro-Arab to considerably Zionist.Fromkin’s assessment of the path from the Sykes-Picot Agreement to the BalfourDeclaration portrays Weizmann in a much less influential manner than he is seen inReinharz’s work. In A Peace to End All Peace, Weizmann seems to only get involvedMiddle East policy when called upon by the government, such as in the writing of theBalfour Declaration27, rather than being a main force behind Middle East policy.Fromkin’s assessment of Weizmann’s minimal role in Britain’s decision to assertsuzerainty of Palestine can stand logically on its own. Fromkin does accurately givecredit to the number of Zionist supporters within the government for shaping a pro-Zionist policy. Indeed, the Zionists gained much strength from the new government withForeign Secretary Balfour and Prime Minister David Lloyd George,28 who was for a timethe only supporter of a British-administered Jewish homeland.29 Fromkin seeminglyattributes much of the Zionists success to Sykes and Sokolow; he points to Sokolow’sskill and diplomacy as a negotiator and Sykes’ ability to put Sokolow in touch with thenecessary leaders as the factor that shifted French opinion in favor of British26 Details such as the aforementioned diary entry, which only show opinions, can distract form and evendistort the truth with mere bias.27 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 293.28 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 108.29 Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, 267. 9
  10. 10. administration.30 While Sokolow’s negotiations with the French were critical to Britain’sability to commit to Zionist statehood, the importance of Weizmann’s leadership amongthe Zionists is overlooked. It was Weizmann who suggested that Rothschild – a verypowerful and influential man – recommend that Sokolow be sent as the negotiator.31Without that recommendation, it is likely that Dr. Gaster, who preferred an internationaladministration of Palestine,32 would have been sent. It is imperative to remember thatWeizmann desired a British-administered Palestine from the start, and Sokolow’s was awilling proponent of Weizmann’s ideas. That February 1917 meeting is just one of manymeetings that demonstrated Weizmann’s influence with not only the Zionists, but also theBritish government, and Fromkin’s work is simply too broad of a work to go into thedetails of those meetings. When compared to Reinharz’s biography of Weizmann, Fromkin’s argumentloses strength because of new facts that come to light in a more in-depth analysis ofWeizmann’s role in shaping Palestinian policy. Weizmann is credited with creatingamong British leaders, “…an identity between the Zionist movement and “worldJewry.”33 The sheer number of meetings that Weizmann attended, particularly with topBritish officials such as Lloyd George and Balfour, show his influence in the governmentand dedication to a Jewish state administered by Britain. He not only had to gain favorwith the Zionists, who had no united opinion, but also had to gain the trust of Mark Sykesand others in the Foreign Office. Weizmann’s name carried weight abroad, as it did in his30 Ibid., 292.31 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 117.32 Ibid., 111.33 Segev, One Palestine, Complete, 42. 10
  11. 11. letter to Louis Brandies concerning American Jewish support for a British-administeredPalestine.34 It was only after that time that Lord Balfour was comfortable with a publicdeclaration.35 These facts, which required more depth to find but are very significant,only came to light in Reinharz’s biography. He discredits the conclusions of scholarssuch as Mayir Vereté, who, like Fromkin, give credit to Sokolow’s diplomatic skillsrather than Weizmann’s36 because, “...the factors leading to the Balfour Declaration areso complex and intertwined that a decisive, one-sided evaluation at either end of thespectrum is clearly inaccurate.”37 Yet he states that Weizmann was the one person tohave a definite plan for Palestine, and his leadership within the Zionists and influencewith British officials allowed him to turn that goal into British policy.Section E: Conclusion Ultimately, it was a combination of two elements that shifted British policy frompro-Arab to singularly pro-Zionist: Weizmann’s dedication to achieving a British-administered Palestine and his influence with both Zionists and the British governmentthat enabled him to carry out that goal, and the change in the British government toinclude more pro-Zionist leaders such as Lloyd George and Balfour. While Fromkin’swork provides an accurate broad overview of the situation, it is Reinharz’s biography thathas the necessary depth to show how Weizmann’s goals steered both Zionist and Britishgovernment opinion. Thus, Fromkin’s work would be more valuable in a fairly detailed34 Weizmann, Trial and Error, 193-194.35 Reinharz, Chaim Weizmann, 150.36 Ibid., 207.37 Ibid., 208. 11
  12. 12. study of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, while the value of Reinharz’s biographyis more useful for an in-depth study of the effects of one man on British Middle Eastpolicy. Ultimately, Reinharz’s work is more valuable in understanding the British’stransition to a pro-Zionist commitment in Palestine. 12
  13. 13. Works CitedPrimary Sources 1. The Avalon Project: The Balfour Declaration. Comp. William C. Fray. 1996. The Yale Law School. 2 Dec 2006. <> 2. The Avalon Project: The Sykes-Picot Agreement. Comp. William C. Fray. 1996. The Yale Law School. 2 Dec 2006. <> 3. Weizmann, Chaim. Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann. (New York:Harper Brothers, 1949) 4. Rehovot, Israel. Weizman Archives (Sledmere Papers. August 14, 1917)Secondary Sources 1. Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace. (New York: Henry Holt, 1989) 2. Reinharz, Jehuda, Chaim Weizmann: The Making of a Statesman (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 1993) 3. Sanders, Ronald. The High Walls of Jerusalem: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of the British Mandate for Palestine. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983) 4. Segev, Tom. One Palestine, Complete. (New York: Henry Holt, 1999)Word Count: 1,960 13