New York Post


Rift in the Arab Front

Abdullah and the British Are Isolated
in the Middle East


Behind the Arab front there is a rift. The Arab League has set up a government in Gaza comprised of the followers of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. Abdullah of Transjordan has not recognized this government. Hilmi Pasha, who commanded the Arab forces on the Jerusalem front, was elected head of the Gaza government. Abdullah then stripped Hilmi Pasha of his authority as commander on the Jerusalem front and placed the Old City of Jerusalem under a new commander. The Gaza government is on the territory occupied by the Egyptian army.

Abdullah’s legion has done more fighting than the forces of any other Arab state on Palestinian soil. Abdullah hoped to have the entire country for himself, but since Israel successfully defended its territory, he now counts on the annexation of at least the Arab part of the country to Transjordan. His rival is the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. They are carrying on an old feud.

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The British planned that Abdullah’s legion—their own creation—should conquer all of Palestine for Abdullah, which means for them. So they supplied him with officers, money, ammunition and even spies.

The ex-Mufti planned that Abdullah should conquer the country for him. His own “Army of Liberation” under Kaukaji proved to be good only on the run.

Egypt is not at all interested in increasing the British sphere on its border; for many years the entire policy of Egypt has been directed toward getting rid of the British, in Egypt proper, in the Sudan, in the Suez Canal zone. The Egyptians think that if the British should dominate Egypt from the Negev, they would never leave the Suez Canal zone or the Sudan.

Egypt would therefore like to have southern Palestine for itself. Opposition to Zionism is artificially intensified; the Egyptians make war against Israel but they regard the British as their real enemy and Abdullah as a British stooge. Said one of the Egyptian delegates at the Paris Conference, quoted by the United Press correspondent in his dispatch of October 2: “Britain is now considered the Arabs’ number one enemy.”

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Ibn Saud is a traditional enemy of the Hashemites—in 1924 he expelled el Hussein, the Hashemite, father of Abdullah, from Mecca. Would he now build up Abdullah?

Syria is very much opposed to Abdullah, too. He has long dreamed and spoken of the “Greater Syria” that should embrace Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Transjordan, all under his rule. The republics of Lebanon and Syria, however, have no desire to become part of a monarchy under the Hashemites and the British. Abdullah has so often spoken of the Greater Syria that in Amman, his capital, people say that as soon as he starts talking about it, his old pet cat yawns and leaves the throne hall.

Iraq is the only country besides Transjordan where Hashemites sit on the throne—Abdullah’s nephew as regent and Abdullah’s grandnephew as child-king. For a time it seemed that Iraq would side with Transjordan; but the hand of the ex-Mufti and of rabid nationalists generally is strong in Iraq, and the government probably fears that a revolution would break out if it sides with Abdullah who is accused of negotiating with the Israelis.

Secretary of States Marshall proposed to admit Transjordan as well as Israel into the United Nations. But the Arab states at present are as much opposed to the membership of Abdullah as they are to the membership of Israel.

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Under these circumstances Abdullah is practically isolated. He has done most of the fighting and now other Arab states gang up against him. Together with him, the British are isolated in the Middle East. All their efforts to appear as protectors of the Moslems have gone the way of similar efforts by Mussolini. The British engineered the removal of the French from Syria and Lebanon; they planned the barring of Jews from Palestine; all this to keep the Middle East for themselves. And in the end they stand before a hostile Arab world.

Who will fight for the British in the Middle East? Abdullah refuses to fight the Israelis if the fruits of his efforts are to go to the ex-Mufti or to Farouk of Egypt. If he fights any more, he will lose the rest of his legion; then he will have no trump cards against Syria and Egypt, and will be defenseless against Ibn Saud, whose kingdom borders his in the east.

The British sold the idea to Bernadotte that the possession of the Negev by Abdullah is vital to the existence of the Empire, and the Count included this in his plan, namely, that the Negev, with the Arab parts of Palestine, should go to Abdullah; and Bevin offered the U. N. this plan to be accepted.

Now that the British have nobody to fight for them in the area, they will try to rekindle hostilities between the Egyptians and the Israelis, in the hope that the Israelis will push the Egyptians out of the Negev; then, by all kinds of pressure, they would turn the Negev to Abdullah.

Actually, under the cloak of a war with Israel, there is being fought out a bitter contest among the local interests in the Arab world. Abdullah wishes a Greater Syria and after that to return to Mecca; Egypt would like to dislodge the British from Sudan and the Canal Zone and occupy the Negev. Ibn Saud wants to exact better terms for his oil from the Americans and uses the Palestinian affair to play the insulted bride.

Britain is anxious to set up a base in Arab Palestine to dominate Egypt and the oil lands that slipped through her fingers. The ex-Mufti aspires to attain the Caliphate with the blood of Abdullah’s legion. And the Americans would like to gain all Jewish votes for each of the two major parties with empty promises to Israel, and all of Arab oil without leaving anything to the British and this as cheaply as possible.