New York Post

FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 1948

Great Britain
Bets on the Wrong Horse

We Should Beware of Copying Policies
Which Lost Her Ground in Middle East


Great Britain’s position in the Middle East goes from bad to worse. In the 1930s her rivals in the Middle East were Italy and France. Italy kept an army in Libya, west of Egypt, and in Eritrea, south of Sudan. France held a mandate over Syria, a wedge between Palestine and Iraq. But the good old days are gone.

Today, the two great forces that stand on the threshold of the Middle East are the United States and Russia. From under the nose of Great Britain the United States took possession of the oil of the entire Arab peninsula, an area that for decades lay in the British sphere.

Russia, taught by the experience of the war how important it is for her to have access to a warm sea, put pressure on Turkey, which controls the Dardanelles, and on Persia, through which passed the war supply route from the Persian Gulf to the Caucasus. Russia did not make any real move to compete with Great Britain on the Arab peninsula; it was America who took over the oil concessions in Arabia, leaving Britain with her old concession in southern Persia and a half share of Iraqi oil.

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GREAT BRITAIN Was very much put out by the fact that she had been so slow and that the United States had snatched up the Arabian concession. She decided to prove to the Arab world that the British are greater friends of theirs than the Americans, and to do this, she started systematically to suffocate the Jewish National Home, a trust from the League of Nations.

Even when Jewish Palestine played a decisive role in the fight for the Middle East against the Axis army approaching Egypt, the British did not abandon the White Paper policy of 1939, and kept the doors to the Jewish Home closed, thus actively contributing to the massacre of the Jewish people in Europe.

In trying to play the Protector of Islam, a role in which fascist Italy was her rival, Britain made a series of dangerous mistakes. She organized the Arab League. Together they dislodged France from Syria and Lebanon. The British tried to impress the Arabs that they, and not the French are their friends. They also perpetrated all kinds of chicanery on the Jewish population of Palestine, and hunted down immigrants with the Royal Navy.

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THEN Great Britain came to ask for her reward. She expected that because of her policy against the French and the Jews, she would be recognized as the friend of the Arab world. But what actually came out of this policy?

Bevin entered into an accord with Egypt concerning Sudan, and returned from Egypt to England to find that he had gone too far. The accord was not signed. Egypt now demands the annexation of Sudan and the withdrawal of the British from that country. Egypt is also dislodging the British from the Suez Canal zone in order to draw the attention of the Arabs away from Sudan, Great Britain stirs up civil war in Palestine and takes the side of the Arabs.

Bevin sought an agreement with Iraq. With much pomp on January 15 this year he signed a treaty with that country, which owes its very existence as a state to Great Britain. This country of beggars and loan sharks is, thanks to the British, a member of the United Nations and this despite the fact that it was a member of the Axis, proclaiming war against the Allies on May 2, 1941. Oil, as you know, cleanses.

Dukes, marquises, and members of the Cabinet and of Parliament went to Portsmouth to witness the great success of Bevin’s policy in the Middle East. But a few days later the nationalists of Iraq chased their premier, who had returned from Portsmouth, out of the country and rejected the treaty, which bound Britain to defend Iraq in case of war, and gave her an equal share with Iraq in two airports in time of peace.

The misfortune Bevin had with this much-heralded treaty, which was to have become a pattern for other countries of the Middle East to follow, is unique in the history of modern politics.

THE FUNDAMENTAL mistake of the British policy in the Middle East lies in the fact that it is based on the assumption that by dislodging others from this area—the French, Italians, the Jews, and some day the Americans—they can prove to the Arabs that they are their best friends. But actually what they have succeeded in doing is to nurture Arab nationalism until it has become very chauvinistic, and now demands that the British leave, too.

The fact is that the Jewish homeland in the Middle East is an outpost of western civilization in that region of the world.

If it is destroyed, the British will not be able to maintain a foothold there, either in Sudan, or in Suez, or on the Persian Gulf, or in the Iraqi oil fields. After the British it will be the turn of the Americans, for the Arabs, taught to hate foreigners, will apply the lesson to all foreigners indiscriminately.