The New Map Of Asia - Herbert Adams Gibbons (1919) - Excerpted from Chapter XI, "Palestine and the Zionists"

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The New Map Of Asia by Herbert Adams Gibbons (1919).
Excerpted from Chapter XI, "Palestine and the Zionists", pp191-228.
Retrieved from Lawrence of Cyberia at link above.

On November 2, 1917, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, immediate publication of which was authorized, "Foreign Secretary Balfour made the following "declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" on the part of the British cabinet:
His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.

The declaration was guarded and non-committal. In fact, the reservation concerning "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" kept the declaration in line with the ideals for which the nations banded against Germany were fighting [i.e. in WWI]. If the British Government's "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" did not mean prejudice either to civil or to religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, no harm or peril could possibly come of it. As opposed to 100,000 in the Jewish communities, there are 630,000 in the non-Jewish communities, of whom 550,000 form a solid Arabic-speaking Moslem block in racial and religious sympathy with the neighboring Arabs of Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt...

But the Zionists did not interpret the declaration of the British Government according to its clear wording. From the day of its publication, they looked upon the letter of Mr. Balfour to Lord Rothschild as official British sanction to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine by means of wholesale immigration and buying up of the land.


Zionist aspirations, not only as interpreted and carried out by the present leaders of the Zionist movement but also in their very nature and essence it is best to be frank about it present other dangers to the world peace than friction between France and Great Britain. In enumerating these dangers, I trust my readers will remember that I am not recording second-hand impressions and arguments. What I write here is the result of personal contact with the problems discussed. First and foremost (for it affects the Jews themselves), the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine would give birth to an alarming anti-Semitic movement throughout the Moslem world, resulting in boycotts and pogroms…

Palestine contains two of the four holy places of orthodox Islam. Jerusalem is second only to Mecca. An attempt to turn the Mosque of Omar back into the Temple of Solomon would be more foolish and dangerous than to reconsecrate St. Sophia. Zionists answer that Zionism does not mean the restoration of Jewry in Jerusalem, and that those who point out the inevitable conflict with Islam have not grasped the significance of the Zionist movement. But if Zionism is mystical and spiritual, why Palestine at all? And If the material return to Zion is practical, no previously announced good intentions are going to prevail against human nature…

History proves the Mohammedan acceptance of the inevitable cheerful and definite acceptance. But history proves also the unwisdom no, more, the impossibility of changing the political and social nature of a Mohammedan country by forced European immigration. Colonists, products of another civilization, backed in agricultural and commercial competition with indigenous elements by large grants of money and protected by diplomacy behind which stood armies and battle-ships, have failed to take root or have been massacred. Zionists should study the failure of France in Tunis, the pitiful shipwreck of Italian ambitions in Tripoli, and the disastrous results of Greek attempts to increase colonization along the Sea of Marmora and the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The resignation of Mohammedans is an article of faith; but their inability to accept political domination in their own country of non-Moslem elements is also an article of faith. Oil does not mix with water. It is a sad mistake to attribute the comparative failure of earlier Zionist attempts at colonization in Palestine to the corruption of the Turkish rule. Arabs are far more Mohammedan than are Turks. Their fanaticism is more to be feared.

If the Peace Conference finally decides to restore the Jews to Palestine, immigration into and development of the country can be assured only by the presence of a considerable army for an indefinite period. Not only the half million Moslems living in Palestine but the millions in surrounding countries will have to be cowed into submission by the constant show and the occasional use of force.

But how can we reconcile such a policy in Palestine with the principles for the world-wide maintenance of which we have announced that we are fighting? Is the [Versailles] Peace Conference to give with one hand and take away with the other? We have made the issues of this conflict the triumph of right over force and the liberation of small nations from the yoke of the foreigner. Each race is to be consulted in regard to its own destinies. If we consult the Palestinian Arabs, Christian as well as Moslem, we shall find them unanimous in their desire, their determination, not to have Zionism foisted upon them. They comprise over eighty per cent, of the population of Palestine. Even in the Jewish minority there is a strong anti-Zionist element, for Jewry is no more united than are Christendom and Islam. The Sephardim, who understand the spirit of the Orient better than Occidental and Northern Jews and who are in large majority among the indigenous Palestine Jews, do not sympathize with the Zionist program.

We are fighting to break down racial and national barriers throughout the world. Americans hope that this war is going to bring together every element of the American nation in a common brotherhood. Native-born and immigrant, white and black, Protestant and Catholic and Jew, Aryan and Semite and Indian, have one allegiance to the Government of the United States, for which all alike shed their blood on the battle-fields of France. This sacrifice was demanded by a government which does not make citizenship depend upon race or religion or color. The same responsibilities are exacted of all, the same privileges are extended to all.

Through the courtesy of the British Foreign Office, I have received a collection of books, pamphlets, and periodicals on the Zionist question which contain the case for Zionism in Palestine in the most complete and strongest form. Since the Balfour declaration, when Zionism entered practical international politics, I have met Zionists as much as possible. Newspaper accounts of Zionist conventions and meetings and discussions of the Zionist movement have been coming to my desk for the last year. Neither in the spoken nor in the written word, I am sorry to say, is there an inclination to take into consideration what President Wilson pleaded for in his speech at the opening of the Fourth Liberty Loan :
The impartial justice meted out must be a justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned. No special or separate interest of any single nation or any group of nations can be made the basis or any part of the settlement which is not consistent with the common interest of all. ...Shall there be a common standard of right and privilege for all peoples and nations or shall the strong do as they will and the weak suffer without redress?

The Jewish advocates of introducing hundreds of thousands of Jews into Palestine, immigrants backed by outside diplomatic and financial support and going for the purpose of setting up a theocratic government for the Jewish nation, forget or ignore the fact that Palestine is already inhabited by a nation which has possessed the land for over a thousand years a nation homogeneous in race as well as in religion, a nation with traditions more firmly centered, because of contact and ownership, with the harams of Jerusalem and Hebron than their own, a nation whose highly perfected language was preferred to Hebrew as a medium by the great Jewish writers, Saadia, Maimonides, and (for his prose) Jehuda ben Halevy. The Gentile advocates of restoring Palestine to the Jews either have never investigated the proposition from the point of view of the inhabitants of the country, or are actuated by the principle of political expediency denounced by President Wilson.

At the time of the Dardanelles Expedition, Syrian physicians educated in the American and French colleges of Beirut, when they learned the terrible need of medical care for British soldiers, volunteered their services. They received no answer. An Entente diplomat took up the case with the British authorities and urged that Syrians be used. "We do not want niggers looking after our men” was the answer. I should not tell this story, for the truth of which I can vouch, were it not that here may lie the reef which will wreck the ship of a durable peace. Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Arabs, Syrians, and Egyptians are not "niggers," and the sooner we wake up to this truth the better for the whole Anglo-Saxon race. They are getting our education and our ideas. Given equal chance, their instincts are as gentlemanly as ours, their code of honor as high, and their intelligence as great. We can no longer get away with the "my man" and "here there" and "boy" fashion of addressing them. In the Near East, as in the Far East, arrogance, insolence, indifference to the political and social rights of "natives" in their own countries will have to go the way of ante-bellum diplomacy. If we do not change radically our attitude toward all Asiatic races, the recent war is nothing to what is coming, and in the twentieth century, too. Assuming that Syrians and Arabs are "niggers," according to our principles in this war their rights are as sacred as ours. Dr. Weizmann assures them that their rights will be safeguarded. But they do not want this assurance from Dr. Weizmann, from the British Government, from the Entente nations, from the Peace Conference. They want to safeguard their own rights, freely and unhampered, like every other nation. They challenge the authority of the British cabinet to dispose of Palestine. Palestine is theirs. They live in the country. They own the country. They have been indispensable in the military operation of freeing it from the Turks. They have been recognized as belligerents. No reasonable man can deny the justice of the unanimous demand of Moslem and Christian Palestinians of Arab race and language, who are over eighty per cent, of the present population, that the Zionist scheme be envisaged in regard to Palestine as we should look at it if our own countries were concerned. Can the Peace Conference say ex cathedra: "We have decided to sanction Zionist aspirations. You Palestinian Arabs must allow an indefinite number of Jews to come into your country, settle there and participate in the government. If you do not do so willingly, we shall occupy Palestine with a military force and treat you as rebels, as disturbers of the world's peace" ?

We have an illustration as to what Mr. Balfour thinks about Zionist immigration when it is a question of Britishers who would be affected. Mr. Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary in the Balfour cabinet, conceived the idea of opening eastern Africa to the Zionists. A commission was sent out from London in 1904 to study the question. The protest against the immigration of "Galician and other undesirable eastern and southeastern European Jews" on the part of a few hundred British colonists in an enormous country they had not yet themselves been able to cultivate, or even explore, prevented the commission from offering to the Zionists the only lands in the colony practicable for white settlement. Premier Balfour admitted the justice of their opposition when he saw that force would have to be used to make them yield ; and the Zionist congress at Basel was offered inland, equatorial, undeveloped Uganda instead! Now that a similar protest against Zionist immigration comes from six hundred and thirty thousand Moslem and Christian inhabitants of a very small country, is the case different?

The argument of the Zionists that there is room for them, too, in Palestine is absurd. The world has never admitted such an argument to justify forcible immigration. It smacks of Prussianism pure and simple. The indigenous population of Palestine is not stationary and will increase without immigration under better political, hygienic, and economic conditions. Who can deny the right a right everywhere jealously guarded of a race to wish to keep intact the soil and potential wealth of its own country for its own future generations ? On the ground that there is room for others, the Peace Conference could with equal reason and justice insist upon the opening up of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and our own Pacific States to Asiatic immigration. But we Anglo-Saxons will have none of it. Are we going to force an Asiatic race to admit European immigrants against its will? Is this the meting out of "impartial justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but equal rights"?


Zionists fall back upon their acceptance of the clause in the Balfour declaration to the effect that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Zionism, say the Zionists, does not mean oppression of or conflict with the other communities. If conflict does arise, it will be the fault of others, and help will be asked from Dr. Weizmann's "one just and fairly responsible guardian" to defend the immigrants. But how can the setting up of a Jewish "national home" in Palestine fail to affect the civil and religious rights of the present inhabitants of the land? What other result can Zionism possibly have than to rob the Palestinian Arabs of their hope to evolve into a modern, self-governing state? The spirit of the twentieth century Is unalterably opposed to government by communities constituted on theocratic principles. The evolution of self-governing democracies has been possible only through unification and secularization…

Our goal is the liberation of all races and the doing away with foreign control and exploitation of weaker peoples. To attain that goal, we must endeavor to show Mohammedan nations the path of political evolution we ourselves have followed, and to help them along the path. We must uphold in the Near East the antithesis of Zionist conceptions and ideals. Religion does not decide one's nationality. The state is a secular institution, created and supported by the people, serving and served by the people. "The people" comprise all who live within the limits of the state; they enjoy equal political rights; and these rights are not dependent upon and have no connection whatever with religious belief. A religious community, governed by rules and traditions of its own and not subject to the common laws made by all the people and applying to all alike, is inimical to the development of democracy. Occidental Europe and the United States have found out this truth. We cannot establish Zionism in Palestine after a war that has been fought "to make the world safe for democracy." "
-- The New Map Of Asia by Herbert Adams Gibbons (1919). Excerpted from Chapter XI, "Palestine and the Zionists", pp191-228.

Excellent, with one minus

This part is disturbing:
Who can deny the right a right everywhere jealously guarded of a race to wish to keep intact the soil and potential wealth of its own country for its own future generations ?
Apart from that, the other points are extremely useful.

McJ's picture

the right to exist

I agree it is disturbing and this idea hasn't seemed to change since the time this was written. Israel's 'right to exist' is trotted out every time the subject of this conflict comes up. Hamas' position, as I understand it, is they will recognize Israel's right to exist when Israel recognizes the Palestinian's right to exist. And they rightly point out (IMO), they do not know which Israel they are supposed to recognize, the one of the 1967 borders or the one of the ever expanding territory.

The whole idea of a country for one religious group is dangerously bizarre (as we can see!). What would happen if the Muslims or the Christians decided they needed their own country and everyone had to recognize their right to exist?

"I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain..." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, v