General Edmund Allenby however, broke with more than military custom when he walked into Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate in order to identify with Jesus Christ, two days later on December 11th 1917. In a speech given later that day Allenby indicated something of his own respect, and his administration's intentions regarding the toleration and protection of the religious rights of the indigenous population.
Since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore do I make known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, traditional shrine, endowment, pious request, or customary place of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they are sacred.171
It was clearly Allenby's desire to maintain good relations with both Arabs and Jews. Ironically it was actually the Mandate officials who encouraged the early development of indigenous Arab churches, especially among the Anglicans, and fixed the rights and responsibilities of the various denominations with regard to the sacred shrines.172 However, Anglo-French diplomacy and strategic self interest concerning the possession of territory gained from the Turks led to duplicity over the Balfour Declaration, and partisan support for the Jews.
The League of Nations mandate was a double blow to the Arabs because it not only denied them their promised independence, despite their having assisted in the overthrow of Ottoman rule, but endorsed a Jewish national homeland on what had once been Arab soil. In 1917 when Allied forces overran Damascus, helped by Lawrence's Arab guerrillas, the British and French divided their spoils of what had formerly been the Ottoman territory of Syria into six different zones.
A sliver of northern Syria was amalgamated into a new Turkish state that Mustafa Lemal Ataturk was beginning to carve out of the rump of the old Ottoman Sultanate. Southern Syria was split into two new British territories, a mandate in Palestine (which the British promised twice over, to the Jews and to the Arabs) and a kingdom in Transjordan ruled by one of Lawrence's World War I allies, Abdullah, the brother of Feisal and the son of the Sherif of Mecca. Eastern Syria became part of British Iraq. The French got the hole in the map that was left, which they in turn subdivided by proclaiming an enlarged Lebanese state, known as Grand Liban, in order to strengthen their friends, the Maronite Christians, who would now have a large Sunni Moslem population under their thumb. Meanwhile, Lawrence's World War I comrade-in-arms Feisal the son of the Sherif of Mecca, required a reward for his services; so the British set him up as the king of Syria in 1920. His kingdom lasted a hundred days until the French forced him out. Lawrence and company then proceeded to dump Feisal on Iraq, where his Hashemites from western Arabia enjoyed no local support.173
Thus, Lord Balfour and David Lloyd-George, probably two of the most influential British political leaders of the First World War years, were basically committed to Christian Zionism. Their support for the World Zionist Movement was a direct result of their evangelical upbringing. These views,
...facilitated the British colonial predisposition toward Zionist interests and the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people following World War I.174
It was inevitable that there would be an Arab backlash and consequently Britain placed severe restrictions on Jewish emigration right up to the declaration of independence in 1948 thereby inciting antipathy and terrorist attacks from both sides.175 The 1936 Peel Commission which had recommended the partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs stated,
The partition of Palestine is subject to the overriding necessity of keeping the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem inviolate and of ensuring free and safe access to them for all the world. That is 'a sacred trust of civilisation', a trust on behalf not merely of the peoples of Palestine but of multitudes in other lands to whom these places, one or both, are Holy Places...176
The professed reason given then for the partition of Palestine was the maintenance of free access for Western pilgrims rather than with settling any territorial rights or providing safeguards for the indigenous communities. Sir Walter Shaw of the British Colonial Office made a more realistic and perceptive appraisal of the situation,
To the Arabs it must appear improbable that such competitors (Jews) will in years to come be content to share the country with them. These fears have been intensified by the more extreme statements of Zionist policy and the Arabs have come to see in the Jewish immigrant not only a menace to their livelihood but a possible overlord of the future.177
The indigenous Christians are now living with the consequences.
Was this article helpful?