Published by The Freeman Center

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Political Analysis and Commentary
on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

"For Zion's sake I shall not hold my peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I shall not rest."


Road Map to the Arab Federation: the Aaronsohn Saga in Context

Prof. Eugene Narrett

The diplomatic initiative, the Road Map which is the ostensible contribution of the Bush Administration to settling the problem the nations have with a Jewish state is simply bad old wine in new bottles, cutting shards covered in “smooth words.” The entire Jewish land for Arab promises of peace processes are an extension of British policy for “Palestine” dating at least to 1915. These policies have been methodically, often brutally pursued even when the results include genocide and ceaseless attrition.

The modern aspects of this war on Judaism (a war on the Jewish people sovereign in their land) are readily accessed; I will not repeat them here beyond noting that from the Rogers Plan to Camp David, Madrid, Oslo, Oslo II, Wye River and the Road Map that they have been relentless. The following remarks focus on how the intertwined NATO-Quartet-EU-UN axis of our day is an extension of British policy nine decades old, one replete with exploitation and betrayal of Jews who labored, counseled, dared, fought and died to help England win World Wars I and II.

In the summer of 1915, Aaron Aaronsohn, a botanist of international standing and driving force in the founding of the American Agricultural Experimental Station at Athlit, a dozen miles south of Haifa, sailed with his sister Rivka from the Land of Israel, then still part of the Ottoman Empire, to Egypt, a British protectorate. Aaronsohn brought with him maps and his vast and unique knowledge of the terrain, geology and demography of what the British then (and increasingly now) call “Palestine.” First hand evidence of Turkish slaughter of Armenians and the beginnings of decrees against the Jews in Eretz Israel convinced him that Jews there must assist the British in order to liberate themselves and restore their ancient nation.

Aaronsohn discovered at Cairo an astonishing degree of arrogant ignorance by British officers and diplomats about Turkish capabilities. He demonstrated the weakness of the Turkish-German coastal defenses and urged a sea borne flanking attack to dislodge the main axis forces from Gaza. After months of explaining and insults, during which the British nevertheless used his invaluable information and that of his group, NILI, and after the British were defeated twice in frontal assaults on the Gaza line, Aaronsohn persuaded them to pursue the flanking attack around Beersheba which made General Allenby famous and enabled the British to lay claim to creating the modern Middle East, its artificial borders and wars of attrition meant to produce the scripted outcome of an Arab Federation [1].

When Aaronsohn first presented his information, Katz writes, “he was treated with open distrust” as well as abundant anti-Jewish contempt and stereotypes. He met, for example, with Colonel S. F. Newcombe, “one of a group of British Intelligence officers who were busy setting up what would be named the Arab Bureau. Its master plan was to promote a comprehensive Arab federation under British tutelage throughout the whole area” of the Ottoman Empire. “The idea of a Jewish Palestine could be given no part in this grandiose scheme” [2].

With his eloquence, dignity, strength of character, unique knowledge and maps, Aaronsohn eventually won the respect of the major British officers on site, including the initially anti-Semitic Col. Mark Sykes (of the Sykes-Picot agreement). Those won over included even Col. Reginald Wingate who, though a strong supporter of Aaronsohn and eventually of NILI shared the vision of Newcombe, “to build a confederation of Arab States under the tutelage of Great Britain.” So Wingate supported Aaronsohn for imperial as well as personal reasons for without defeating the Turks Britain would have no Arab Federation for a protectorate and without Aaronsohn’s and NILI’s data, daring and skills, it would not defeat the Turks [3].

The early British preference for an Arab Federation also was urged vigorously by John Dove, editor (1921-34) of the Round Table, the publication of the Rhodes-Milner policy group and initial source of the Royal Institute for International Affairs and its American cousin, the CFR. “Dove declared that the whole Arab world should be one state and it should have Syria and Palestine for its front door.” In 1919 he wrote, citing the authority of T. E. Lawrence (see below) for what should have been his embarrassing a-historicism, “the Arab belongs to the Mediterranean…I suggest that partition [of the Ottoman Empire] not be permanent, but this should not mean that a stage of friendly tutelage is necessarily a bad things for the Arabs” he added with the manipulative and patronizing ‘respect’ that characterizes Western use of Arab volatility to this day. Dove wrote with more menacing condescension that he “didn’t see the slightest bit of harm in Jews coming to Palestine, under reasonable conditions [as he would define them] so long as they bring capital and labor that will bring industries to start.” In this comment Dove also shows ignorance, like that of the Cairo Office about Turkish defenses during the war of the Jewish settlement and development of the Promised Land that already had initiated its astonishing rebirth and renewed flourishing. The Jews, Dove concluded with equal parts malice and insincerity, “need have no fear of this unit or absorption, for they have everything to gain from an Arab Federation” [4]. This is the geopolitical version of the assimilation pressed by New Age Aquarian theosophist as “a solution to the Jewish problem…by racial absorption” [5].

While Lords Milner, Balfour and Amery, among others dissented, sometimes vigorously from this view, it was the proponents of an Arab Federation into which the Jews would have to absorb and whose prosperity they would have to generate that prevailed as policy. While Milner planned an Jewish majority entity west of the Jordan, so long as “it never become a Jewish state, and Balfour as late as 1929 publicly insisted that the entire area of the original Mandate was intended for a Jewish state, by 1937 the Peel Commission urged the “partition of the area west of the Jordan into a Jewish State, an Arab State and a neutral enclave containing the holy places” [Jerusalem west to the sea]. By 1939 and the White Paper severely restricting Jewish immigration, the main basis of the League of Nations granting Britain the mandate in the first place, the dominant policy clearly emerged as “a partitioned Palestine within a federation of Arab states. The round Table offered this as its program [officially] in its issues of March and June 1939” [6]. This, as Amery noted, was “the final step in the scaling down of Jewish hopes that began in 1922 [with the separation of the lands east of the Jordan river from the Jewish National Home] and a yielding of principle to Arab terrorism,” that the British themselves provoked and armed. The policy continued through and after WW II, and was picked up by America in the aftermath of Israel’s victory on the battlefields of 1967.

Actually, American diplomats at the highest levels joined this effort half a century earlier when Secretary of State Robert Lansing refused to endorse the pending release of the Balfour Declaration. “Many Christians,” Lansing told President Wilson “would resent their holy places being handed over to the race responsible for the death of our lord” [sic]. Among the general public, anti-Zionist sentiment was promoted by the Red Cross in the guise of critiquing “British imperialism” which was briefly prepared to end 18 centuries of imperial occupation of Judea and Israel [7]. The Evian Conference over which President Roosevelt presided in 1938 made clear that the upper echelons of American policy-making had no room for Jews in America and little interest in their survival in the post-War world. The State Department’s response to President Truman’s brief support for even a truncated Jewish National Home showed that this sentiment was dominant in the shadows of the holocaust.

Even in the immediate aftermath of the Declaration, and with Britain completing the conquest of the Turks assisted by invaluable Jewish military and intelligence assistance (H. W. Gribbon stated Allenby’s opinion that this saved at least 40,000 British casualties) the British military administration in Palestine ignored the Declaration completely and continued a high-level of incitement of Arabs against Jews. They appointed an Arab mayor of Jerusalem, that long had had a Jewish majority, and seven Arabs dominated two Jews on the Jaffo (“Tel Aviv”) city council even as many thousands of Jewish residents expelled by the Turks wandered the Land. “Jews who had experience of the pogroms and anti-Semitism of Tsarist Russia claimed that British anti-Semitism in Palestine was very similar.” Weizmann, Jabotinsky (many times) and Richard Meinertzhagen detailed these ugly realities [8]. Perhaps most bitterly, even as the supporters of the Jewish National Home presented the case for its viable, historical boundaries to “the Council of Ten” in Versailles, the occasionally pro-Jewish David Lloyd George had secretly traded away the headwaters of the Jordan and its eastern watershed to Clemenceau and the French in exchange for British dominance throughout Mesopotamia which remains the keystone of Anglo-American dominance in the region to this day [9]. Already the Jewish State had been truncated by the ‘ally’ for which it had given so much.

As for “the Arab Revolt” against the Turks, of which the British, led by Lawrence puffed up to justify granting the Arabs a congeries of states (to be subsumed into a Federation-Protectorate), “they found they could achieve the same result from the pretense of a revolt[10, emphasis added]. And thus it continues in the form of the ceaseless war of attrition, a war process (“the peace process”) that Western powers enable and encourage Arabs to maintain against Israel; indeed Esau (the West) inflames and exploits the hate of Jews sprinkled through Islam to use the Arabs to whittle down ISrael. There is no greater continuity of policy in the world during the past ninety years, -- or century if one includes Russia’s dissemination of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and the enthusiastic regurgitation of this genocidal slander by Henry Ford in a myriad of widely distributed magazines and books.

Since slander, hatred, despoliation, expulsion and murder of Jews remains the default option of the West, its metaphysical and ontological center of gravity it is fitting that this essay conclude with a few notes Aaronsohn made on his occasional meetings with T. E. Lawrence. A busy and serious man, after the first meeting in 1916, Aaronsohn described the actor “in one word: ‘arrogant.’” After a subsequent experience he left a slightly fuller view: “Lawrence has a high opinion of himself. He gives me a lesson on our settlements and the spirit of our people and says we shall be doing the right thing if we assimilate among the Arabs, etc. Listening to his words, I felt that I was at a lecture by a Prussian ‘scientific’ anti-Semite who expresses himself in the English language…He hates us openly. Fundamentally, he is of the missionary breed” [11].

This most recent study of Shmuel Katz completes his in depth and indispensable research on the struggle to renew Israel which also provides in depth glimpses of British imperial policy from 1914 onward, the personalities and factions within Zionism and now this engrossing view of Aaron Aaronsohn, Nili, and the British ability to defeat the Turks and then shape the nightmare of the 20th century middle east. We learn about the international fascination with and support for Aaronsohn’s botanical and geological studies beginning in the 1890s and see, though Katz does not stress it, the real extent of the Promised Land in its physical features and great pioneering spirits that did so much to bring the vision of the prophets and Promise of the Creator into view. As HaRav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal demonstrates, the merit of the patriarchs is rooted in the Land and its covenant [12]. And we see a type of the suspicion and undermining that afflicted daring and brilliant efforts at national restoration as diverse as those of David Reubeni and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Readers also learn that the maneuvers, confidence-building measures, compromises, and other charades of the “peace process” are as much a sham as the adventures of T.E. Lawrence and have from the first been directed toward the same purpose. So the book is not only a fascinating historical study and biography, it illuminates geopolitics and a keystone of the world state projected by people like Julian Huxley and H.G. Wells [13]. A great and good man like Aaronsohn could not be permitted a place in their world [14]. And so they made their deals with the Ben Gurions and others that repeatedly ‘sank the Altalena.’

An ironic undertone of tragic dimensions surrounds these matters. Brilliant, courageous and active men of accomplishment like Aaronsohn, Jabotinsky and Weizmann decided that Britain was the great power whose tradition of civil liberties would support Jewish restoration (a movement popular in 19th -20th century America and England, viz. the Blackstone Memorial). Judge Louis Brandeis remained a staunch believer in “British Justice” even when Weizmann and Aaronsohn pressed upon him evidence to the contrary [15]. Certainly the various brutalities of Russia and the Turks argued looking to Britain, -- though some held out hopes for Germany. Yet, time proved the attitudes that Aaronsohn encountered in Cairo were deeply entrenched in Britain at all levels from the military and diplomatic corps, to the Universities, to New Age theosophists and internationalists (see note six). So relentless has British betrayal and vilification of the Jews been that one today can hardly imagine groups of English university students fighting with Jews in the streets of Jerusalem to fend off Arab attacks, as happened in August 1929 [16]. So sustained, fierce and lethal was the British betrayal, even before the holocaust geared up that Colonel John Henry Patterson, who had been involved in the events in the Mandate for years wrote bitingly about “the isolationists and fifth column men” in the British cabinet that would not permit formation of an American Jewish army to fight with England when it was alone. “Lord Lloyd and his pro-Nazi minions in the Colonial Office have had their way,” Patterson wrote, but they have also brought England another step nearer her doom. You may rest assured that if England continues her anti-Jewish policy it will be destroyed…I loved England and have hated to see her betrayed by a gang of pro-Nazi, neo-pagan permanent officials…one Jewish mechanized division would be worth more than all the Arabs in the Near East” [17].

Patterson was right in every particular though he couldn’t know that the desire of England’s ruling class for a “new world order” and a “solution of the Jewish problem” through “wider fusions and synthesis” would continue to this day, or that England indeed would be destroyed by its encouragement of “pan-Islamic nationalism” and later by a revanchist Germany dominating a European Union, a mirror of the policy pursued by that same British ruling clique that had betrayed its promise to the Jews. These tragic ironies were not within the power of Aaronsohn or other great men to control though they did heroic work in shifting them. Only “the Highest Wisdom” knows how their sacrifice and the loss of so many has been part of a providence leading to the best possible outcome [18]. As a European-initiated “Mediterranean Peace & Prosperity Zone” plans to swallow Israel (2010 is the target date), Israel still has nominal sovereignty in Jerusalem, Hebron and more, a strong economy and armed forces. Aaronsohn, Nili and the other greats of Israel’s restoration could provide only in part the spirit and inspiration to redeem, settle and be sovereign over the Land. Their remarkable story remains entwined with the global drama of Britain’s and the West’s suicidal brutality and treachery in regard to its “Jewish problem.”

1. Shmuel Katz, The Aaronsohn Saga (Gefen, Jerusalem 2000 [Hebrew], English edition 2007); NILI was an acronym for Netzach Yisrael lo Yishakeir, “the eternity of Israel does not lie,” the name of the group of Jewish farmers and professionals who risked their lives to gather and transmit information to the British. Many of them were caught, tortured and hanged a few weeks before the British long delayed assault at the end of October 1917, followed, a few days later by the Balfour Declaration.

2. Ibid. 79-80; in all his great works, Katz tends to use the Roman and British term “Palestine” as used by them, unfortunate given the fictions that have been created under this imperial nomenclature, the creation of a non-nation and fictional people to serve the purpose of the pan-Arab federation: negating a Jewish state and the providence of the Hebrew Scriptures. See for example, Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine (1975; 1983 third edition, expanded). The geology, ecology and expeditions of Aaronsohn, and of Oliphant and others before him made clear, as was indicated in the original borders of the “Jewish National Home” included all of what became “Transjordan” as well as much of the Lebanon, a state created in 1945 out of a mountain range as a residue of British and French jousting for imperial sway.

3. ibid. 210-13; Col. Reginald Wingate should not be confused with Captain Orde Wingate the committed Zionist and friend of the Jewish people who assisted their pre-state military training in the 1930s. See Katz, Lone Wolf, a Biography of Ze’ev Jabotinsky (NY 1996), volume II; an example of the pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry was Sykes’ initial tendency to believe that a conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons dominated the world, etc. a position initially held as well by William G. A. [Lord Harlech] Ormsby-Gore.

4. Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment (NY 1981), 171

5. Alice A. Bailey, “The Hidden Source of the Outer Turmoil,” January 1939 in the volume, “the General World Picture: the Cause of the World Difficulty” collected in The Externalization of the Hierarchy (Lucis 1957: 2001) 75-77. Bailey associated the Jews with “the Forces of Darkness… separateness, criticism and cruelty.” She added “their influence is potent and widespread,” the remnants of “a previous solar system [who] failed to make the grade” and evolve as had the Aryans. Castigating Jewish desire to return to and settle Zion as “Zionist lies” and insisted that Jerusalem was an international city (May 1947, “the Return of the Christ”). Her ideas track closely with the shifting policies of Britain’s diplomatic elite. In “the Coming World Order” (April 1940) she argued for “a new world order” and “new economic order that will end the age of separateness” (typified by Jews and Judaism) whose “governmental methods” will bring “wider fusions and synthesis” first to “a Federated States of Europe along the lines of the British Commonwealth of Nations…or the Soviet Socialist Republics.” Still, “the major racial problem for many centuries,” she stressed, “has been the Jewish problem which is capable of solution if coupled with an effort by the Jews themselves to solve and be cooperative in the world efforts to adjust their problem… the Jew is separative.” The solution to this problem is his “fusion with other peoples” (ibid. 174-200). “The Wandering Jew must learn the lesson of absorption,” she wrote. “When humanity has solved the Jewish problem…racial fusion will then be possible” (“Source of the Outer Turmoil,” op cit). This is the Aquarian version of the Shaw White Paper of 1935 (restricting Jewish immigration and purchase of land) and the better known one of 1939.severely limiting immigration on the eve of WW II, and enforcing the ban.

6. Quigley 172-5

7. Katz, Aaronsohn Saga, 308-09, cf. Frank Manuel, The Realities of American Palestine Relations (1949) and Katz, 317

8. Aaronsohn Saga, 318-19, 328; shortly before his death, Mark Sykes, who had become an enthusiast for Jewish restoration, returned from Israel to confirm the reports of Jabotinsky that “the British officers in the administration are opposed to the Jews.” See also Katz, Lone Wolf, 510-51; 688-95 passim

9. Aaronsohn Saga, 326-7

10. ibid. 130

11. ibid. 210; Katz refers readers to Richard Aldington’s study, Lawrence of Arabia: a Biographical Inquiry (London 1955) which demonstrates that Lawrence and his Arab exploits both were faked and that the British diplomatic establishment and an American publicity man created his legend to enhance their plans for an Arab Federation.

12. Rav Teichtal, Em HaBanim Smeichah (Budapest 1943; “A Glad Mother of Children,” English translation by Rabbi Moshe Lichtman, Moznaim 2000); it is a further irony that Rav Teichtal stressed love among Jews, citing innumerable sources in oral and written Torah, as essential for activating and bonding with “the merit of the land.” Shocked by the holocaust into recognizing and explaining the bond between “Zionism” and Judaism, who would have been pained and sought to redress the hostility, ostracism and at length, the betrayal that socialist and other members of the Jewish community directed at Aaronsohn, his family and Nili. Katz details how it was through these doubts, resentments and fears that Nili was exposed to the Turks, broken up and many of its members tortured and hanged. Sarah Aaronsohn spoke of this in her last letter, when she called for “revenge, both upon our Jews [who betrayed us] and especially against the rulers under whom we are living.” Katz, Aaronsohn, 334; under whom do Jews in Israel live today?

13. See Wells, the Shape of Things to Come (1933) and Julian Huxley, the Purpose of UNESCO (1947)

14. Katz offers only an understated, just-the-facts, two-page appendix (Saga 340-1) on the curious plane crash that killed Aaronsohn as he shuttled between the Versailles Conference and London. The plane landed in the channel only fifty yards from a fishing boat but he was already dead. British records are skimpy. But when one owes someone very much and one already has decided that this person is not to receive what he earned, and this person has enormous strength of character and international support it is inconvenient for him to be around to critique your perfidy.

15. the Aaronsohn Saga 327-8 and Lone Wolf, 510-14

16. Katz, Lone Wolf, volume II, 1126

17. ibid. 1762-3

18. Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Ramchal), Derekh Hashem (“the Way of the Eternal One”), 2.3.7 (Feldheim 1977; 1998 revised, p. 111-19): “when an individual is judged, Providence takes account of what precedes and follows him…in relation to his forebears, his descendants and the people of his generation, city and community who are associated with him. After all this is taken into account, he is given his particular service assignment and challenge as well as his specific responsibility in serving God…the manner in which this is accomplished [for the good] is beyond our intellect’s ability to grasp,” at least until after the fact (see Exodus 33:20-23).