The Feisal-Weizmann Agreement – 1919
1Zionists propagandized public opinion into believing that the Arabs at first were not against a Jewish home in Palestine.
They repeatedly said – and still do – that an agreement had been reached between Chaim Weizmann, then head of the newly formed Zionist Organization and Emir Feisal, on behalf of the Arabs, to the effect that the latter had acquiesced in the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Except, as in the Balfour Declaration , nowhere in the Feisal-Weizmann Agreement of January 1919 is there any mention of a Jewish state in Palestine. The Agreement provided, among other things, for:
cordial goodwill and understanding between Arab and Jew and:
to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale and as quickly as possibly to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.
Furthermore, the Feisal-Weizmann Agreement included a protective clause providing:
In taking such measures, the Arab peasant and tenant farmers shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in forwarding their economic development.
However, the English text of the Agreement also included an all-important reservation written [in Arabic] in Emir Faisal’s own handwriting that has been either ignored or grossly misinterpreted.
2 Emir Feisal wrote:
Provided the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded in my memorandum dated the 4th of January 1919 to the Foreign Office of the Government of Britain, I shall concur in the above articles. But if the slightest modification or departure were to be made, I shall not then be bound by a single word of the present Agreement which shall be deemed void and of no account or validity and I shall not be answerable in any way whatsoever.
2[My Diary at the Conference of Paris – David Hunter Miller – Vol. III 1924.]
No doubt Chaim Weizmann was able to secure this agreement from Emir Feisal under promises that he would use his influence toward achieving the independence of all Arab territories [including Palestine] and in return Feisal agreed to immigration of Jews into Palestine.
Emir Feisal certainly did not agree to turn Palestine over to the Jews or to establish a ‘Jewish state’ in Palestine.
The Feisal-Weizmann Agreement was nullified by the very fact that Feisal did not achieve the independence he sought and the Palestine:
Arab peasants and tenant farmers were not protected in their rights.
As the Feisal-Weizmann Agreement stipulated.
1[Bitter Harvest – A modern History of Palestine – Sami Hadawi 1991.]
The King – Crane Commission – 1919
3In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson dispatched the all-American King-Crane Commission to Syria [including Lebanon and Palestine] to investigate what the wishes of the people who until then had been living under Turkish Domination.
4President Wilson chose Henry Churchill King and Charles Richard Crane to lead the Commission. The King-Crane Commission also included Albert Howe Lybyer, a professor of history at the University of Illinois and Captain William Yale, an American military observer attached to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine and an expert on Arab affairs.
Also included, were George Montgomery, an ordained minister and philosophy professor at New York University with much diplomatic experience at the American Embassy in Istanbul and Sammi Haddad, the interpreter for the group and a noted surgeon in Lebanon.
Also, Donald M. Brodie, an assistant to Charles Richard Crane who served as secretary for the Commission.
The King-Crane Commission toured the area over a period of 42 days in June and July 1919, visiting 36 cities and towns, reading hundreds of petitions and interviewing people from all sections of the population.
The Commission concluded that the people of the Middle East fervently desired independence. They did not want the British and the French to replace the hated Turks as their new masters.
Furthermore, the Arabs also bitterly opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Comments made by Zionists persuaded Henry King and Charles Crane that the language in the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting:
a national home for the Jewish people
had to be understood as a euphemism. The Zionists aimed all along at creating a Jewish state, which by its very definition, the Commissioners claimed would reduce non-Jews to second-class, or worse, status.
Henry King and Charles Crane counselled that the Zionist project be given up, as it only could be carried out by an endless force of arms against the non-Jewish residents of Palestine.
The Commission returned to Paris in August with their 40,000-word report but President Woodrow Wilson had already left for the United States. On September 15, 1919, Donald M. Brodie, who was still an assistant to Charles Crane, personally delivered a copy of the report to the White House.
Unfortunately, the president had left on a speaking tour and probably never read the King-Crane Commission report, unless he read it when he retired.
4[Washington Report Magazine – June/July 2014.]
In its analysis of the situation, the King-Crane Commission, it said, was guided by the resolution of the Council of Four of January 30, 1919, and the Anglo-French Declaration of November 9, 1918.
5The Council of Four provided that the principle:
that the well-being and the development of the peoples involved formed:
a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust shall be embodied in the constitution of the League of Nations was to be applied.
5[U.S. Dept. Of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the U.S. – The Paris Peace Conference 1919.]
6The Anglo-French Document, provided in unequivocal terms for:
the complete and definite freeing of the peoples so long oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and the free choice of the Native population.
3[Bitter Harvest – A modern History of Palestine – Sami Hadawi 1991.]
6[Palestine: The Reality – Joseph M.N. Jeffries 1939.]
7For Palestine, the King-Crane Commission recommended:
serious modification of the extreme Zionist Program for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish state.
Furthermore, the Commission explained that they:
began their study of Zionism with minds predisposed in its favour, but the actual facts in Palestine, coupled with the force of the general principles proclaimed by the Allies and accepted by the Syrians have driven them to the recommendation here made.
The King-Crane Commission pointed out that the Balfour Declaration:
favouring ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,’ was not the equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish state; nor could the creation of such a state be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the ‘civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’
Moreover, this fact, came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conferences with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase.
The King-Crane Commissioners then referred to President Woodrow Wilson’s address of July 4, 1918, which laid down the following principle as one of the four great ends for which the associated peoples of the world were fighting:
The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship on the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its own exterior influence or mastery.
The Commission went on to say:
The Tables show that there was no one thing upon which the population of Palestine were more agreed than upon this. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted, and of the peoples’ rights, though it be kept within the forms of law.
The Commissioners then remarked that:
The feeling against the Zionist program is not confined to Palestine, but shared very generally by the people throughout Syria…
Moreover, the Commissioners pointed out:
There is a further consideration that cannot justly be ignored, if the world is to look forward to Palestine becoming a definitely Jewish state, however gradually that may take place, that consideration grows out of the fact that Palestine is the Holy Land for Jews, Christians and Moslems alike.
One effect of urging the extreme Zionist program would be an intensification of anti-Jewish feeling both in Palestine and in all other portions of the world which look to Palestine as the Holy Land.
Finally, the King-Crane Commission then recommended that:
Jewish immigration should be definitely limited, that the project for making Palestine a Jewish commonwealth should be given up,
and that Palestine should be:
included in a united Syrian state, just as other portions of the country…
7[The King-Crane Commission – Harry N. Howard 1963.]
Clearly, the Commission was in favour of only limited Jewish immigration to Palestine and moreover, that the idea of a Jewish commonwealth should be given up.
So what happened to the King-Crane Commission Report?
8The report ended up, without official comment, in the U.S. Department of State archives where it sat for the next three years.
However, Ray Stannard Baker who was conducting research for a book on Woodrow Wilson’s role at the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference, discovered the State Department’s copy.
Baker wrote at length about the King-Crane Commission Report in his book, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement .
Explaining why the King-Crane Report had gone unheeded, author Ray Stannard Baker said:
It was entirely too frank: it contained too much plain speaking regarding political and other conditions in that tinderbox of the world, the Near East.
On December 3-4, The New York Times published the King-Crane Report in its entirety, with an introduction by the newspaper’s Middle East correspondent, William Ellis.
The corespondent was based in Jerusalem and Damascus when the King-Crane Commission was making its enquiries in the summer of 1919. Ellis explained:
I witnessed enough to understand the painstaking impartiality, the tireless diligence and patience, and the American shrewdness and courage of the Commission amidst pitfalls unimaginable to the Western World.
Furthermore, William Ellis also praised Ray Stannard Baker for drawing attention to:
one of the great suppressed documents of the peacemaking period.
William Ellis believed the King-Crane Report had been suppressed for political reasons.
Charles Richard Crane, writing in the 1930s, expressed himself in no uncertain terms about the political reasons alluded to by William Ellis:
The interests that were opposed to the report, especially the Jewish and the French, were able to persuade President Wilson that, as Americans were not going to take any future responsibility for Palestine, it was not fair that the report should be published and so it was pigeonholed in the archives of the State Department.
Charles Crane’s comment about the Americans and Palestine concerned a recommendation in the King-Crane Report that the United States be awarded the Mandate to oversee the development of the former Turkish Territories.
Moreover, the Report’s Commissioners concluded that only the United States had the prestige, the power and the resources to manage the number of complex challenges in the Middle East. Americans enjoyed enormous prestige among Arabs after World War I.
The Arabs assumed the British and the French would ultimately practice their egregious imperialism, but the United States appeared to be in their eyes a nation that cared about justice and fair dealing.
Of course, the Arabs would have preferred independence, but if they had to live under a Mandate in the Middle East, it was infinitely preferable that the Americans were in charge.
There is absolutely no mention in the 1919 King-Crane Report about radical Islamic groups.
Therefore, it would appear that the Commissioners never came across any such groups nor heard any reports about radical Islamic groups as they toured the Middle East. This raises the question of which forces and policies later brought radical Islam into existence and into the foreground of the worlds preoccupations.
Henry King and Charles Crane feared that Zionism and imperialist government policies of the Allies would introduce unprecedented mayhem into the Middle East and provide an excuse for a Pan-Islamist movement.
Furthermore, they counselled that it would be wiser to respect the Arabs and work for the economic and moral uplift of the entire region than to appear before the Arabs as the worst kind of conquerors: exploiters mouthing fine phrases having nothing at all to do with the fundamental realities of their colonial rule.
The final sentence of an appendix to the King-Crane Report echoed the many assertions scattered throughout the Report about the crucial need for the West to adopt an intelligent and judicious policy towards the Arabs:
Dangers may readily arise from unwise and unfaithful dealings with this people, but there is great hope of peace and progress if they be handled frankly and loyally.
The great tragedy of the King-Crane Report lies not in the failure to implement its recommendations, which doubtless contained debatable points, but in taking no notice of the Report at all.
Today, the King-Crane Report remains the best historical source available for understanding Arab concerns about the Middle East in 1919. We live today with the consequences of having ignored the Arabs at that fateful moment in history.
8[Washington Report Magazine – June/July 2014.]