Lawrence of Arabiaâ€”the mysterious figure who haunts the history of the Near East of the last twenty yearsâ€”the power behind Arab thrones and the carver of Arab kingdomsâ€”was a friend of the Jews and a believer in Zionism.
The man who fought the Arab cause so bitterly during the Peace Conference and abandoned all the honors due him because he believed the Powers were betraying the Arabs, believed that a Palestine regenerated by the Jews would raise the whole status of the Middle East.
These revelations were made by L. B. Namier, former political secretary of the Jewish Agency, whose friendship with Lawrence date back to their college days, after “Aircraftsman Shaw,” as Col. T. E. Lawrence preferred to be known, died as the result of a motorcycle accident.
QUOTES HIS WORDS
“He widely differed from those who love the Arabs as a stick with which to beat the Jews.” declared Namier of Lawrence in an article in the Manchester Guardian. “In the ensuing conversation which I had with him on July 19, 1930, he saidâ€”I took down his words in shorthand and read them back to him afterwards:
“‘The problem of Zionism is the problem of the third generation. It is the grandsons of your immigrants who will make it succeed or fail, but the odds are so much in its favor that the experiment is worth backing, and I back it not because of the Jews, but because a regenerated Palestine is going to raise the whole moral and material status of its Middle East neighbors.’
“He was prepared to testify on behalf of Zionism to the Cabinet,” Namier reveals. “I repeated at the time (1930) the offer to Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, but nothing came of it.”
STORY OF CAIRO PARLEY
Lawrence’s description of the Cairo Conference in 1921 which settled the fate of Transjordan. lopping it off from Palestine as a native state, a fragment of history about which we shall learn more some day, is given by Mr. Namier, reporting the rest of his last conversation with Lawrence.
“Among other things, Lawrence told me that day the story of the Cairo Conference of 1921, and how Transjordan had come to be separated from Palestine. I put down in a minute what I heard from him and a funny story it was. Lawrence had a great sense of humor. But the time has not yet come to publish it and I give here the bare gist of it.
THE TRANSJORDAN DEAL
“The decisions of the Cairo Conference were prepared by us in London over dinner tables at the Ship Restaurant in Whitehall. It was decided to include Transjordan in Palestine, to make it indistinguishable from Palestine, and to open it to Jewish immigration. Every point was decided at Cairo, as originally settled in London, except the one about Transjordan. When the conference met, Abdullah was marching from the Hedjaz to Transjordan with a view to attacking the French in Syria. To stop him would have required troops and money. It was decided to negotiate with him.
“There were three possibilities:
“To keep a British garrison in Transjordan;
“2. To establish there a native state under British direction;
“3. To let the French have it.
“As the Cabinet were absolutely opposed to British troops being sent across the Jordan and money being spent on operations, the first possibility was ruled out. Abdullah could therefore be stopped by persuasion only. Had he gone against Syria, the French, after having dealt with them there, could not have been stopped from occupying Transjordan, which had been used as a base against them. Therefore, the best solution was to have a ‘British Abdullah’ in Transjordan. The situation which had arisen in the Spring of 1921 left no other choice.”
” ‘And we had to foot the bill,’ I said.
” ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘you had to foot the bill. But you would have been no better off if the French had taken Transjordan’.”
RIOTS WERE AVOIDABLE
The terrible riots in Palestine in 1929 need not have taken place, in Lawrence’s estimation, for he told Namier:
“If you had 400 decent British policemen in Palestine, there would be no problem.”
“I asked him,” Namier continues, “whether that did not depend very much on who commanded them. He thought not. Policemen go about the country on their own and are not commanded.”
Lawrence also described Pan-Islamism in ‘politics as a fiction and spoke at length of the future of the Jews in Palestine.