Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Pre-Israel Intrigue a British Historian Tells the Compelling Story of the Mideast Mash-Up

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Pre-Israel Intrigue a British Historian Tells the Compelling Story of the Mideast Mash-Up

Article excerpt

"A LINE IN THE SAND: THE ANGLO-FRENCH STRUGGLE FOR THE MIDDLE EAST, 1914-1948"

By James Barr.

W.W. Norton & Co. ($27.95).

At the end of World War I, the victorious powers carved up the territories formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. With President Woodrow Wilson committed to self-determination as the guiding principle of their deliberations, while European leaders insisted on establishing colonies in the Middle East (and elsewhere), they recognized, with French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, that "the art of arranging how men are to live is even more complex than that of massacring them."

Eventually, the conferees struck a compromise. They set up a "mandate" system, supervised by the League of Nations, and transferred control of Mesopotamia (later Iraq), Palestine and Transjordan to Great Britain, and Lebanon and Syria to France until these lands were able to stand alone as independent nations.

In "A Line in the Sand," James Barr, a visiting fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford, draws on extensive research, including recently declassified documents in the archives of the English and French governments, to describe the rivalry that ensued. Mr. Barr is a gifted storyteller, who takes full advantage of a colorful cast of characters and intrigue among diplomats, soldiers, Arab nationalists and Zionists to help us understand the formation of the modern Middle East.

Reluctant to leave the oil-rich region, Mr. Barr points out, England and France convinced themselves that the Arabs were neither interested in nor capable of self-government -- and were slow to institute representative political institutions in their mandates. Their ad hoc alliances with local leaders served only to exacerbate tensions between Arabs and Jews.

Following the fall of France in 1940, England attacked Syria and Lebanon to prevent a German offensive against the Suez Canal. When World War II ended, the English government supported independence for these two nations, in part to divert attention from its decision to curry favor with the Arabs by backing away from their endorsement of a Jewish state. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.