J.M.N. Jeffries` Palestine Deception: Modern Resonances

In a recent review article (New Middle Eastern Studies 5 [2015]) on , The Palestine Deception, 1915-1923: The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, the Balfour Declaration, and the Jewish National Home. ed William Mathew

Dr. Nadia Naser-Najjab of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, finds in Jeffries` documentations of 1923 a significant mix of parallels and contrasts with current British attitudes and policies towards Palestine.

“The past and present of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have become so intractably intertwined that one could be forgiven for assuming that the only solution is to somehow escape history, to overcome the divisions imposed by two separate historical narratives and to seek refuge within a common future….Upon reading The Palestine Deception I was repeatedly struck by the insufficiency of this proposition. History cannot be blithely disposed of in this way; it impacts upon, and is consequently implicated within, the contemporary in a variety of ways ….

“Aside from highlighting clear parallels and continuities, the The Palestine Deception also brings clear differences and discontinuities to our attention….Clear reservations were voiced, in a variety of forums, about the political implications of government policy. This is shown by the fact that … the Zionist project was effectively, to an extent which seems implausible now, subject to the turbulences and vicissitudes of the domestic British political process. In his introduction to The Palestine Deception Mathew accordingly observes that: `It seemed, therefore, that the whole issue of British Zionist commitments was still up for serious debate, with some prospect that the undertakings could be significantly modified. Strengthening such expectations was the replacement of the Lloyd George coalition in October 1922 by a Conservative government staffed by individuals who had a much weaker attachment than did most of their predecessors to the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine`. The contrast with the situation today, when the British political establishment essentially offers uncritical support to Israel, is stark. The opportunistic conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism by Israel`s apologists has consolidated positions which might otherwise have been open to challenge and contestation….

“As the original book title and introduction affirms, the editor`s recurrent concern is the question of how British foreign policy actors hid their true interests, motives and strategies and occluded their true intentions with regard to the establishment of a Jewish state….Aside from bringing out instances in which internal and external programs and interests overlapped and intertwined, Mathew also highlights how these same contingent alliances were prone to tensions and divergences….Both the Palin Commission Report (1920) and the Haycraft Commission of Inquiry (1921) were to subsequently acknowledge the close relationship between Zionist activities and ongoing political disturbances in Palestine. British Chief Administrators of Palestine (including both Sir Arthur Money and Sir Louis Bols) expressed particular concern about the activities of the Zionist Commission, whose imperious high-handedness imperilled the pretence of mutual regard for the well-being of Arabs and Jews. Bols observed that the Commission `acted, in fact, as if it was the lord of Palestine`.

“While key Zionist advocates and activists were able to, at the time when Jeffries was writing, conceal their ethnic exclusivism and colonial designs, both features have, in subsequent years, become increasingly harder to occlude or deny. Recent exclusionary and discriminatory legislation, such as the Nakba Law (2011), Prawer Plan (2013) and Jewish State Law Bill (2014) is, to this extent, within the lineage of a political project that begins from an assumption of Jewish supremacy….The story – which is one of deceit, mendacity and imperial arrogance – is by no means only of interest to historians; it is, in all too many respects, a story that has a contemporary resonance and significance”.

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