Monday, March 9, 2009

The Mandate - LSE Events podcast review

In the current polemics about the Arab-Israeli conflict references are rarely made to the history before 1948, when the state of Israel was declared. The conflict, however, is much older than that. It goes at least as far back as the 1920's, but even by the end of the nineteenth century when the first waves of Jewish immigrants arrived, the reception by the indigenous Arab population was tense, if not hostile. At that time the Ottoman empire still had a firm grip on the region. Things didn't take a sharp turn until the era of the British Mandate in Palestine (1919-1948).

It is about the British Mandate professor Norman Rose was invited to speak at the London School of Economics. (LSE Events podcast) During the mandate, the British were less and less successful of maintaining order in Palestine and keep the warring parties apart. Until by 1948, there were too many troops there, too little interest served and opposition leader Winston Churchill scolded the English to be involved in a 'senseless, squalid war.' These words became the title Professor Rose wrote about the Mandate: A Senseless, Squalid War: Voices from Palestine 1945-1948 (Amazon)

The Mandate period is formative for the conflict as we know it today, however knowledge of it is not widespread at all. During Rose's lecture the complexity comes out and the question whether this all could have been prevented almost receives a firm negative answer. The Jews wouldn't stop coming in and the Arabs felt any kind of agreement would be a surrender. And so, the community conflict we have today, was by no means new in 1948. Rose has it start already by 1921, even if the Arab militias were mostly attacking the Brits, their aim was to remove the Jews from their land.

What amazingly few people know, I find again and again, is how the Jews got there. As one discerns from the questions the audience poses, also they do not know. The assumption is made that the Jews also before 1948 took the land by violence and Rose hardly gets the opportunity to refute the accusation. What he manages to squeeze in are the facts as I know them as well: land was purchased from Arab landowners who were all too happy to sell. It was not until after the Second World War, the first irregularities arise. It can be debated (and is hotly debated) whether the Jews systematically removed Arabs from the land and the towns as of 1948, but any such accusation before that I have never seen substantiated. I am sure this is what Rose wants to say on the podcast, but the chaos from the audience and the running out of time makes it impossible.

More LSE Events:
Iran Today,
Science and Religion,
The crisis,
Desiring walls,
The Post-American World.

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