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Reinventing a Region (1915–22): Visions of the Middle East in Legal and Diplomatic Texts Leading to the Palestine Mandate

  • Karin Loevy (a1)


The article traces a set of regional images in international legal and diplomatic documents leading to the establishment of the Palestine Mandate (1915–22). The analysis suggests that at that important crossroad, when a new world order was imagined and negotiated, a broad, layered and diverse vision of a comprehensive ‘region’ was actively present in the minds of very different actors within the framework of empire. A vast territory was reconstructed as opening up for new ways of rule and of influence, for enhanced development and for dealing with strictly European globalised issues. That this powerful regional vision has been disregarded because of the weight of the subsequent territorial geopolitics in the Middle East is not surprising. Today, however, when classic international law responses – the state on the one hand and international cooperation on the other – prove weak and unstable, and especially vulnerable to ‘new regional threats’, it may be worthwhile to look back at a period in which the region was still imagined as a place of political possibility.

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1 Ingrams, Doreen, Palestine Papers (1917–1922): Seeds of Conflict (Eland 2009) 22, PRO Cab 27/25. The Syria Welfare Committee was set up in Cairo towards the end of 1917 by General Gilbert Clayton, Director of British Intelligence; it included Arabs, Zionists and Armenians.

2 Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (first published 1651, Cambridge University Press 1996), Ch III.

3 Kattan, Victor, From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891–1949 (Pluto Press 2009); Cohen, Michael J, The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Zionist Conflict (University of California Press 1987); Biger, Gideon, The Boundaries of Modern Palestine, 1840–1947 (Routledge 2004); Friedman, Isaiah, Palestine, A Twice-Promised Land? (Transaction 2000); Huneidi, Sahar, A Broken Trust: Herbert Samuel, Zionism and the Palestinians, 1920–1925 (St Martin's Press 2001); Reynolds, Nick, Britain's Unfulfilled Mandate for Palestine (Lexington Books 2014) 425 .

4 Owen, Roger, State Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (3rd edn, Routledge 2000) 10: ‘It was at this period [referring to the period starting from the Ottoman defeat and through the carving up of the Middle East] that the basic framework for middle eastern political life was firmly laid – together with many of its still unsolved problems involving disputed boundaries, ethnic and religious minorities which either failed to obtain a state of their own (like the Kurds) or were prevented from doing so, like the Palestinians’; and Ch 1 generally. See also Hinnebusch, Raymond, The International Politics of the Middle East (Manchester 2003) and Fawcett, Louise (ed), International Relations of the Middle East (Oxford University Press 2013).

5 Scholars of international relations generally agree that neither political nor economic regional arrangements have materialised in the Middle East. This seems to exemplify the Middle East as the eternal exceptional case, being out of step with history and immune to the trends affecting other parts of the world. ‘(T)he Middle East remains a peculiar exception to the overall trend of regionalism. Among various regions, the Middle East is not only the least integrated into the world economy but is also characterized by the lowest degree of regional economic cooperation’: Çarkoğlu, Ali, Eder, Mine and Kirişci, Kemal, The Political Economy of Regional Cooperation in the Middle East (Routledge 1998) 30; see also Tripp, Charles, ‘Regional Organization in the Arab Middle East’, in Fawcett, Louis and Hurrell, Andrew (eds), Regionalism in World Politics (Oxford University Press 1995); Lindholm-Schulz, Helena and Schulz, Michael, ‘The Middle East as an Exception or Embryonic Regionalism?’ (1998) 3 Politea 17; Laantza, Marianne, Lindholm-Schultz, Helena and Schulz, Michael, ‘Regionalization in the Middle East?’ in Schulz, Michael, Soderbaum, Fredrik and Ojendal, Joakim (eds), Regionalization in a Globalizing World (Zed Books 2001).

6 ‘Apart from the ongoing conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours, which makes any attempt to achieve an all-embracing regionalism meaningless, Arab countries have not created any long term regional unity among themselves. The Middle East has remained a region of conflict and instability. Structures for regional security and stability have not been created’: Coskun, Bezen Balamir, ‘Regionalism and Securitization: The Case of the Middle East’ in Harders, Cilja and Legrenzi, Matteo (eds), Beyond Regionalism? Regional Cooperation, Regionalism and Regionalization (Ashgate 2008) 89; for the regional implications of the Arab Spring see Bahgat Korany, ‘The Middle East after the Cold War’ in Fawcett (n 4) 77–102; Ferabolli, Silvia, Arab Regionalism: A Post-Structural Perspective (Routledge 2015).

7 Over the last few decades there has been a turn in the historiography of empire to questions of interconnectedness and of scale. Historians (under the impact of post-colonialism, culture studies and feminism) have self-consciously set out to rethink the relationship between different parts of empire, and to produce a way of thinking about empire that can account for the experiences of both colonial elites and those subjected to the colonial rule. An important facet of this type of imperial history has been the rejection of the colonial or nation state as the dominant analytical framework for considering the relations of persons and places in the empire: see Laidlaw, Zoe, ‘Breaking Britannia's Bounds? Law, Settlers, and Space in Britain's Imperial Historiography’ (2012) 55 The Historical Journal, 807–30; Dorsett, Shaunnagh and McLaren, John (eds), Legal Histories of the British Empire: Laws, Engagements and Legacies (Routledge 2014). My analysis in this article is driven by the same intuitions as it attempts to unearth alternative spatial concepts that are significant to imperial experiences of governing.

8 Realist imagery dominates the understanding of regionalism in Middle East politics as Arab politics, it is argued dominantly, ‘best fits the realist view of international politics’: Nye, Joseph, Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History (HarperCollins 1993) 147; ‘The Arab states do not coordinate; to the contrary, they compete. In the foreseeable future, the dominant strategy will be bilateralism, not regionalism or multilateralism’: Aarts, Paul, ‘The Middle East: A Region Without Regionalism or the End of Exceptionalism?’ (1999) 20 Third World Quarterly 911, 921.

9 For the idea that at that period various western and non-western boundary makers involved in the politics of creating a new world order were designing ‘mental maps’ of ‘virtual macro-spaces’, see Scheffler, Thomas, ‘“Fertile Crescent”, “Orient”, “Middle East”: The Changing Mental Maps of Southwest Asia’ (2003) 10 European Review of History 253, 255. In this period, Scheffler claims, ‘imperialist ambitions, military technology and the availability of printed modern maps had made inventing and engineering new and larger “spaces” a fashionable trade among politicians, geographers and journalists’: ibid. He relates it to ‘a trend in Western politico-geographical thought that tended to overwrite the classical geographical distinctions between continents, countries and landscapes (Großraum), which powerful actors, such as “empires”, “civilizations” or “races”, were bound to invest with meaning, histories and functions’: ibid 255. See also Polelle, Mark, Raising Cartographic Consciousness: The Social and Foreign Policy Vision of Geopolitics in the Twentieth Century (Lexington Books 1999). My analysis uncovers within legal and diplomatic documentation a set of visions that were being expressed while prescribing meaning to such ‘large spaces’.

10 The full text of the correspondence (consisting of ten letters) can be found at:

11 British Government, ‘The Sykes-Picot Agreement’, World War I Document Archive, May 1916,

12 Letter from the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, to Baron Walter Rothschild, 2 November 1917 (The Times, 17 November 1917) (Balfour Declaration).

13 Covenant of the League of Nations (entered into force 10 January 1920) (1920) 1 League of Nations Official Journal 3.

14 The British Mandate for Palestine confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations, 24 July 1922, (1922) 3 League of Nations Official Journal 1007 (Palestine Mandate).

15 This article is a partial and preliminary attempt to uncover the relevant spatial concepts in the minds of the agents involved in negotiating orders in the Middle East in the aftermath of the war. It is partial not only because there were many important concrete spatial and jurisdictional images relevant to the negotiations which had very little to do with the ‘region’ (layers of local as well as global images that are beyond the scope of this article), but also because the selection of sources in focus here is limited to the most influential and well-known documents on the historical trail to the Palestine Mandate. It is a background for a future book project, which would attempt a broader categorization of different layers of regional visions on the basis of a larger pool of documents.

16 Scholarly attention to regions is divided over different academic disciplines and sub-disciplines. First, there are the geographers who have been studying different forms of regions for many years: see, eg, James, Preston E, ‘Towards a Further Understanding of the Regional Concept’ (1952) 42 Annals of the Association of the American Geographers 195; but regions are commonly understood as more than territorial spaces; they have political, legal and institutional aspects beyond the geographical: Paasi, Anssi, ‘The Region, Identity, and Power’ (2011) 14 Procedia Social and Behaviourial Sciences 9. In international relations studies, attention goes to processes of regional integration: see, eg, Farrell, Mary, Hettne, Bjorn, and Van Langenhove, Luk, Global Politics of Regionalism: Theory and Practice (Pluto Press 2005). For a recent overview of these different perspectives, see Shaw, Timothy M, Grant, J Andrew and Cornelissen, Scarlett, The Ashgate Research Companion to Regionalisms (Ashgate 2012). Economists’ definitions also divide between (supranational) regional trade arrangements (see, eg, Mattli, Walter, The Logic of Regional Integration: Europe and Beyond (Cambridge University Press 1999)), while others focus on (subnational) regional policies (eg, Fitjar, Rune Dahl, The Rise of Regionalism: Causes of Regional Mobilisation in Western Europe (Routledge 2010)). Sociologists have also looked at regions: Bourdieu, Pierre, ‘L'identité et la representation. Eléments pour une réflexion critique sur l'idée de région’ (1980) 35 Actes de la recherche et sciences sociales 6372 . What combines these diverse literatures is the insight that ‘regions are central to our understanding of world politics’: Acharya, Amitav and Johnston, Alastair Iain (eds), Crafting Cooperation: Regional International Institutions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press 2007) 629.

17 Van Langenhove, Luk, ‘What is a Region? Towards a Statehood Theory of Regions’ (2013) 19 Contemporary Politics 474–90. In regional studies, regions are identified as geographical areas that ‘constitute a distinct entity, which can be distinguished as a territorial subsystem (in contrast with a non-territorial subsystem) from the rest of the international system’: Hettne, Bjorn and Soderbaum, Fredrik, ‘The New Regionalism Approach’ (1998) 17 Politea 6, 9. For the most part, new approaches to regionalism (NRA) argue that it is best ‘to maintain eclectic and open-minded definitions of regions, particularly in the lower stages of regionness and as far as their outer boundaries are concerned, which often tend to be the most blurred. There are thus many varieties of regions, with different degrees of regionness. This eclectic understanding of regions is made possible because the problematique of the NRA is not the delineation of regions per se, but rather to determine the role of regions in the current global transformation and analyse the origins, dynamics and consequences of regionalism in various fields of activity; that is, increasing and decreasing levels of regionness’: Hettne and Soderbaum, ibid.

18 The term was invented in 1902 by an American navy captain writing about the Persian Gulf in international relations, to describe the area north west of India and to distinguish it from the Near East and the Far East: Adelson, Roger, London, and the Invention of the Middle East: Money, Power and War (Yale University Press 1995) 622 ; Scheffler (n 9) 253–72. In an article on ‘The Persian Gulf and International Relations’, published in 1902, Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840–1914), author of a much acclaimed study The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890), argued that the Russian advances in Central Asia and the projected German Berlin–Baghdad railway might put Britain's control of the maritime communication lines between Suez and India in jeopardy. Britain, Mahan argued, would be well advised to secure its control of the Persian Gulf region, a vaguely defined area he referred to as the Middle East: ‘The Middle East, if I may adopt a term which I have not seen, will some day need its Malta, as well as its Gibraltar …. The British Navy should have the facility to concentrate in force, if occasion arises, about Aden, India, and the Gulf’: Alfred Mahan, ‘The Persian Gulf and International Relations’, National Review (London), September 1902, 27, 27–28.

19 Scheffler (n 9) 253. See also Bonine, Michael, Amanat, Abbas and Gaspe, Michael (eds), Is There a Middle East? The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept (Stanford University Press 2012) Introduction.

20 Renton, James, ‘Changing Languages of Empire and the Orient: Britain and the Invention of the Middle East, 1917–1918’ (2007) 50 The Historical Journal 645–67; Scheffler (n 9).

21 Onuf, Nicholas Greenwood, World of Our Own Making (University of South Carolina Press 1989); Wendt, Alexander, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge University Press 1999); Adler, Emanuel, ‘Seizing the Middle Ground: Constructivism in World Politics’ (1997) 3 European Journal of International Relations 319.

22 For an exception to the pessimistic realist approach to regional relations in the Middle East see Hourani, Albert, ‘How Should We Write the History of the Middle East’ (1991) 23 International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 133; and Barnett, Michael, Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order (Columbia University Press 1998), who apply a constructivist narrative approach to show that Arab politics is organised according to ongoing negotiations about the desired regional order. States and non-state agents can be understood as engaged in a never-ending process of negotiating the norms that are to govern their relations. Regional order, in his view, emerges not only because of a stable correlation of military forces but also because of stable expectations and shared norms. The article subscribes to such an approach.

23 Kedourie, Elie, In the Anglo-Arab Labyrinth: The McMahon-Husayn Correspondence and Its Interpretations, 1914–1939 (Routledge 2000) 3. The book documents the genesis and interpretations of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence.

24 Details of the correspondence were first made public less than a year after the end of the war by The Daily Telegraph (signed by the journalist Perceval Landon, but actually written by TE Lawrence). In 1923 a full account was published in a book by Loder, J de V, The Truth about Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria (Allan & Unwin 1923). In 1934, the text was published in Arabic in a work by Amin Sa'id. In 1938 most of the letters were first published in English in the appendix to Antonius, George, The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement (H Hamilton 1938). The British government refused to officially publish the letters until 1939, when they came out in a White Paper: Kedourie (n 23) 3.

25 In the words of Elie Kedourie, ‘as lawyers, say, would argue over the wording of a contract or the proper construction of a statute’: Kedourie (n 23) 4.

26 In 1914 Amir Abdullah contacted Storrs in Cairo (through Lord Kitchener, then Consul General in Egypt) to request British support for an Arab revolt against the Turks. This plea was answered cautiously by the British government, which at that time was still exercising friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire, under the pre-war conception that Ottoman rule over the Levant will prevent an escalation of European imperialism in the Near East. Six months later when war broke out and as the Sultan proclaimed a Jihad against the British government, Lord Kitchener approached Abdullah to induce him to support an Arab revolt: Kedourie (n 23) 17–19; for more on the pre-McMahon-Hussein diplomacy between Cairo, Mecca and London see ibid 3–31. In December 1914 another letter, composed by Storrs, addressed as a ‘Proclamation to the Natives of Arabia and the Arab Provinces’ read: ‘This is a message of peace and consolation from the Empire of Great Britain to the Natives of Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia – the Countries lying between the Red Sea, Bahr El Arab, Persia Gulf, frontiers of Persia and Anatoli[a] and the Mediterranean Sea’: Kedourie, ibid 22.

27 McMahon-Hussein correspondence (n 10) translation of a letter dated 14 July 1915.

28 ‘With regard to the questions of limits and boundaries, it would appear to be premature to consume our time in discussing such details in the heat of war, and while, in many portions of them, the Turk is up to now in effective occupation’: McMahon-Hussein correspondence (n 10) translation of a letter from McMahon to Hussein dated 30 August 1915.

29 ‘As the limits and boundaries demanded are not those of one person whom we should satisfy and with whom we should discuss them after the war is over, but our peoples have seen that the life of their new proposal is bound at least by these limits and their word is united on this’: McMahon-Hussein correspondence (n 10) translation of a letter from Hussein to McMahon dated 9 September 1915.

30 McMahon-Hussein correspondence (n 10) translation of a letter from Hussein to McMahon dated 24 October 1915.

31 ibid.

32 Kedourie (n 23); Renton (n 20).

33 Kedourie (n 23) 13.

34 ibid 18, FO 371/2139, 65589/44923.

35 ibid 19, FO 371/1973, 87396, probably written by Storrs.

36 ibid 19, FO 371/2139, 81133/44923.

37 ibid.

38 ibid 22, PRO FO 141/170 file 3156.

39 Another indication of British enthusiasm to attract the Emir, and also of Britain's perception that his caliphate is expected to replace the Ottoman Empire and be vast in territory, was expressed in the instructions given by Edward Grey (with Asquith's approval) to McMahon (14 April 1915) to let it be known, if he thinks it desirable, ‘that his Majesty's Government will make it an essential condition of any terms of peace that the Arabian Peninsula and its Muslim holy places should remain in the hands of an independent sovereign Moslem State’: ibid 23.

40 ibid 25, FO 141/461, file 1198.

41 ibid 31.

42 ibid 28–29, FO 371/2147, 87764.

43 Sykes-Picot Agreement (n 11).

44 ‘1. That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab state or a confederation of Arab states (a) and (b) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of Arab states. 2. That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think it to arrange with the Arab state or confederation of Arab states. 3. That in the brown area there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of the sheriff of Mecca’: ibid ss 1–3.

45 On 23 November 1917 Pravda and Izvestia began to publish the secret agreements, including the various plans to partition the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire and the proposal to hand over Constantinople and the Straits to Russia: see James Bunyan and HH Fisher, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917–1928: Documents and Materials (Stanford University Press) 24.

46 For a detailed description of the impact on Anglo-Arab relations see Kedourie (n 23) 159–84; and Nevakivi, Jukka, Britain, France and the Arab Middle East, 1914–1920 (Athlone 1969); for the impact of the Agreement on the shape of subsequent borders and regional relations see Fawcett (n 4).

47 ‘That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab state or a confederation of Arab states’: Sykes-Picot Agreement (n 11) s 1.

48 ‘That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans’: ibid.

49 ‘That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of Arab states’: ibid.

50 ‘That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab state or confederation of Arab states’: ibid s 2.

51 With Russia: ‘That in the brown area there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of the sheriff of Mecca’: ibid s 3. Also with Italy and Japan: ‘the conclusion of the present agreement raises, for practical consideration, the question of claims of Italy to a share in any partition or rearrangement of Turkey in Asia, as formulated in Article 9 of the agreement of the 26th April, 1915, between Italy and the allies. His Majesty's government further consider that the Japanese government should be informed of the arrangements now concluded’: ibid, eschatocol.

52 ‘It shall be agreed that the French government will at no time enter into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third power, except the Arab state or confederation of Arab states, without the previous agreement of His Majesty's government, who, on their part, will give a similar undertaking to the French government regarding the red area’: ibid s 9. ‘The British and French government, as the protectors of the Arab state, shall agree that they will not themselves acquire and will not consent to a third power acquiring territorial possessions in the Arabian peninsula, nor consent to a third power installing a naval base either on the east coast, or on the islands, of the Red sea. This, however, shall not prevent such adjustment of the Aden frontier as may be necessary in consequence of recent Turkish aggression’: ibid s 10 ; ‘The negotiations with the Arabs as to the boundaries of the Arab states shall be continued through the same channel as heretofore on behalf of the two powers’: ibid s 11.

53 ‘That Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards the trade of the British empire, and that there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards British shipping and British goods … That Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of France, her dominions and protectorates, and there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards French shipping and French goods … There shall be freedom of transit for French goods through Haifa and by the British railway through the brown area, whether those goods are intended for or originate in the blue area, area (a), or area (b), and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against French goods on any railway, or against French goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned’: ibid s 5.

54 ‘There shall be freedom of transit for British goods through Alexandretta and by railway through the blue area, or (b) area, or area (a); and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against British goods on any railway or against British goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned’ – and repeated for France in its areas: ibid ss 4–5.

55 ‘… guarantee of a given supply of water from the Tigres and Euphrates in area (a) for area (b)’: ibid.

56 ‘His Majesty's government, on their part, undertake that they will at no time enter into negotiations for the cession of Cyprus to any third power without the previous consent of the French government’: ibid.

57 ‘That in area (a) the Baghdad railway shall not be extended southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (b) northwards beyond Samarra, until a railway connecting Baghdad and Aleppo via the Euphrates valley has been completed, and then only with the concurrence of the two governments’: ibid s 6.

58 ‘That Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be sole owner of a railway connecting Haifa with area (b) … It is to be understood by both governments that this railway is to facilitate the connection of Baghdad with Haifa by rail, and it is further understood that, if the engineering difficulties and expense entailed by keeping this connecting line in the brown area only make the project unfeasible, that the French government shall be prepared to consider that the line in question may also traverse the polygon Banias-Keis Marib-Salkhad Tell Otsda-Mesmie before reaching area (b)’: ibid s 7.

59 ‘That Great Britain … shall have a perpetual right to transport troops along such a line at all times’: ibid.

60 ‘For a period of twenty years the existing Turkish customs tariff shall remain in force throughout the whole of the blue and red areas, as well as in areas (a) and (b), and no increase in the rates of duty or conversions from ad valorem to specific rates shall be made except by agreement between the two powers’: ibid s 8.

61 ‘There shall be no interior customs barriers between any of the above mentioned areas. The customs duties leviable on goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the port of entry and handed over to the administration of the area of destination’: ibid.

62 ‘It is agreed that measures to control the importation of arms into the Arab territories will be considered by the two governments’: ibid s 12.

63 Jukka Nevakivi sees the Sykes-Picot Agreement as a direct continuation of British attempts to manage their relations with the Arabs: Nevakivi (n 46) 22–26.

64 Balfour Declaration (n 12). The official text continues: ‘it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country’.

65 The territoriality of ‘Palestine’, however, was at the time of the Declaration highly ambiguous to the effect that the image expressed is actually devoid of any specific bounded significance. ‘Where exactly is Palestine?’ was a question to which no one could give a straightforward answer, not even the Zionists. Under Turkish rule Palestine was neither a geopolitical nor an administrative unit. Moreover, both Zionists and Arabs had quite divergent and vague notions of the territorial extent of ‘Palestine’. For example, the King Crane Commission, which conducted interviews in former Ottoman territories in 1919 in order to inform American policy about the region's people and their desired future, indicated that both Christians and Muslims do not separate Syria from Palestine and that Jews talk about Palestine together with ‘Transjordania’: ‘The King-Crane Commission Report’, 28 August 1919,

66 Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State (1876) Ch 2 ‘The Jewish Question’.

67 ibid.

68 ibid.

69 ‘Palestine is our ever-memorable historic home. The very name of Palestine would attract our people with a force of marvelous potency. If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could in return undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey. We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence. The sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial status such as is well-known to the law of nations. We should form a guard of honor about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfillment of this duty with our existence. This guard of honor would be the great symbol of the solution of the Jewish question after eighteen centuries of Jewish suffering’: ibid.

70 Ber (Dov) Borochov, The Poalei Tzion Platform (1906).

71 Weitzmann, Chaim, Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann (Jewish Publication Society of America 1949) 192. In fact Samuel wrote three. In January 1915 he submitted the first: ‘The course of events opens a prospect of change, at the end of the war, in the status of Palestine. Already there is a stirring among the twelve million Jews scattered throughout the countries of the world. A feeling is spreading with great rapidity that now, at last, some advance may be made, in some way, towards the fulfillment of the hope and desire, held with unshakable tenacity for eighteen hundred years, for a restoration of the Jews to the land to which they are attached by ties almost as ancient as history itself … It is hoped that under British rule facilities would be given to Jewish organizations to purchase land, to found colonies, to establish educational and religious institutions, and to spend usefully the funds that would be freely contributed for promoting the economic development of the country. It is hoped also that Jewish immigration, carefully regulated, would be given a preference so that in course of time the Jewish people, grown into a majority and settled on the land, may be conceded such degree of self-government as the conditions of that day may justify’: PRO Cab 37/123/43, cited in Ingrams (n 1) 5.

72 Renton, James, ‘Flawed Foundations: The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate’ in Miller, Rory (ed), Britain, Palestine and Empire, The Mandate Years (Ashgate 2010).

73 PRO FO 371/3058, cited in Ingrams (n 1) 8–9.

74 ibid.

75 Renton (n 72) 16, 18–19. See also McTague, John J, British Policy in Palestine, 1917–1922 (University Press of America 1961) 240; Stein, Leonard, The Balfour Declaration (Simon and Schuster 1961); Yapp, Malcolm, ‘The Making of the Palestine Mandate’ (1995) 1 Middle Eastern Lectures 9.

76 Levene, Mark, ‘The Balfour Declaration: A Case of Mistaken Identity’ (1992) 107(422) English Historical Review 5477 .

77 For more on the assumptions behind the British Zionist wartime policy, see Renton, James, The Zionist Masquerade: The Birth of the Anglo-Zionist Alliance, 1914–1918 (Palgrave Macmillan 2007) 122 .

78 ibid 23–42; see also Norris, Jacob, Land of Progress: Palestine in the Age of Colonial Development, 1905–1948 (Oxford University Press 2013) 6391 .

79 ibid ch 5.

80 Renton (n 72) 18.

81 ibid 19; see also Fisher, John, Curzon and British Imperialism in the Middle East 1916–1919 (Frank Cass 1999).

82 Ingram (n 1) 11.

83 ibid 11–12. Lord Curzon objected, stating that Palestine was not well conditioned as a seat for the Jewish race because of the country's barren desolation and the Muslim population: ibid 11.

84 ibid 13 (emphasis added).

85 CG Montifiore, President of the Anglo-Jewish Association: ibid 15.

86 LL Cohen, Chairman Jewish Board of Guardians: ibid 16.

87 Lord Balfour's statement, minuted from 31 October meeting: ibid 16.

88 ibid 17.

89 ibid.

90 In December 1917, Middle East experts in the Foreign Office Political Intelligence Department, AJ Toynbee and Lewis Namier, wrote a note responding to a concerned Report on Zionism by the US Consulate in Geneva. The worry expressed in the Report was that the Zionist leadership sought to establish ‘special rights’ for the Jewish minority and a Jewish state. The response from Toynbee and Namier was that undemocratic restrictions on the rights of non-Jews while under British or US rule need only last ‘until there was a sufficient population in the country fit to govern it on European lines’: Renton (n 72) 29. At that moment, when the question of the forms of rule for this region was very much open, a Jewish form of rule following ‘European lines’ would have looked like one particularly tempting vision. In that way Europe would resolve its Jewish problem, in a civilised European way, outside the impossibilities of European limited borders.

91 PRO Cab 23/4, the letter embodying this Declaration was sent to Lord Rothschild on 2 November 1917: Ingram (n 1) 18.

92 Maybe this is also why there is no real sense of contradiction to be found in the government debates leading to the Balfour Declaration. The two commitments were intended to be heard in completely different places – and they could, in the mind of the British propaganda architects, easily be aligned.

93 Trotsky said that the secret treaties revealed the Entente's ‘dark plans of conquest’: Degras, J (ed), Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, Vol 1 (Oxford University Press 1951) 89 . Cocks, F Seymour, The Secret Treaties and Understandings: Text of the Available Documents (Union of Democratic Control 1918) 11.

94 Cocks, ibid 47.

95 Anglo French Declaration, 7 November 1918: ‘The goal envisaged by France and Great Britain in prosecuting in the East the War let loose by German ambition is the complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations. In pursuit of those intentions, France and Great Britain agree to further and assist in the establishment of indigenous Governments and administrations in Syria and Mesopotamia which have already been liberated by the Allies, as well as in those territories which they are engaged in securing and recognizing these as soon as they are actually established. Far from wishing to impose on the populations of those regions any particular institutions they are only concerned to ensure by their support and by adequate assistance the regular working of Governments and administrations freely chosen by the populations themselves; to secure impartial and equal justice for all; to facilitate the economic development of the country by promoting and encouraging local initiative; to foster the spread of education; and to put an end to the dissensions which Turkish policy has for so long exploited. Such is the task which the two Allied Powers wish to undertake in the liberated territories’.

96 Anghie, Antony, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge University Press 2004) 139; Lauterpacht, Hersch, ‘The Mandate under International Law in the Covenant of the League of Nations’ in Lauterpacht, Elihu (ed), International Law: Being the Collected Papers of Hersch Lauterpacht, Vol 3 (Cambridge University Press 1977) 29, 32.

97 ‘The Fourteen Points’, address by President Woodrow Wilson to the US Congress, 8 January 1918.

98 ibid.

99 ibid.

100 ibid.

101 It is interesting that when (in point V) the proclamation addresses imperial right, there are no more references to ‘nations’, only to ‘populations’. In the context of colonial claims, nationalities are irrelevant as the interests of ‘populations’ replace them.

102 Smuts, Jan C, ‘The Smuts Plan: The League of Nations, A Practical Suggestion’ (reprinted in David Hunter Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant, vol 2 (GP Putnam's sons 1928) 23) has been termed ‘the most effective contribution made by individual enterprise’: Pollock, Frederick, The League of Nations (Stevens and Sons 1920) 7778 .

103 Smuts, ibid 23, 24.

104 ibid 26.

105 ibid.

106 ibid 27.

107 ibid 29.

108 ibid.

109 ibid. It is interesting that Smuts often uses ‘people’ and ‘territory’ interchangeably – eg, when he claims that the people or the territory will determine the form of its internal self-government: ibid 31.

110 ibid 28.

111 Individual states will be nominated to administer each territory, preferably on historic grounds: ‘In the case of most peoples not yet risen to complete statehood there is some power which in the past has taken an active interest in their affairs and development’: ibid 31.

112 The British Empire is the example for the proper operation of such task: ‘In the British Empire the common policy is laid down at conferences of the imperial Cabinet, representing the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India, while executive action is taken by the individual government of the Empire. In the second place, the minor constituents of the Empire, consisting of Crown Colonies, protectorates and territories, are not represented directly at the Imperial Cabinet, but are administered or looked after by the individual principal constituent states referred to, just as it is here proposed that the Powers should under the league look after the autonomous undeveloped territories. In the third place, the economic policy of the open door and the non-military police policy here advocated for these autonomous or undeveloped territories are in vogue in the analogous British crown colonies, protectorates and territories’: ibid 36.

113 Miller (n 102) contains documentation produced in the drafting of the future art 22; Miller reproduces the drafts of the Covenant and its development, echoing Smuts’ plan, is observable: see 654–56 for the draft of 26 March 1919 (art 18), 679–81 for the draft of 5 April 1919 (art 21), and 691–92 for the 21 April 1919 version (art 22).

114 ‘To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation’: art 22(1).

115 art 22(2).

116 ‘Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone’: art 22(4).

117 ‘Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic’: art 22(5).

118 ‘There are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilisation, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population’: art 22(6).

119 Smuts (n 102) 36.

120 The preamble to the establishing document ‘Mandate for Palestine’ states that the boundaries of the Palestine Mandate may be fixed by the League of Nations (The League of Nations, ‘Mandate for Palestine’, together with a Note by the Secretary-General relating to its application to the Territory known as Trans-Jordan, 1923, under the provisions of Article 25, Cmd 1785). In fact, the Paris Peace Conference came to an end without a treaty being signed with Turkey and without a decision being made as to the future of the former Turkish territories. In April 1920, the Allied Supreme Council met in the Italian town of San Remo and agreed on a formula to be presented at the conference at Sèvres, and to be confirmed in the final peace treaty. The Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August 1920 tracked art 22 of the Covenant and the San Remo decisions on the future status of these territories. France was to be a Mandatory power in Syria, Britain in Palestine and Mesopotamia. The treaty included a section headed ‘Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine’, which read, in part: ‘Article 94. The High Contracting Parties agree that Syria and Mesopotamia shall, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Article 22, Part I (Covenant of the League of Nations), be provisionally recognized as independent States subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone … The determination of the other frontiers of the said States, and the selection of the Mandatories, will be made by the Principal Allied Powers’. The provision on Palestine, however, did not use the term ‘state’ (art 95): see Quigley, John, Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict (Cambridge University Press 2010) 3233 .

121 ‘The Mandatory shall have full powers of legislation and of administration, save as they may be limited by the terms of this mandate’: ibid art 1.

122 ibid art 2.

123 For the Mandates of Mesopotamia, Iraq and Syria see Friedman, Isaiah, British Pan-Arab Policy 1915–1922 (Transaction 2010); Quigley (n 120) 28–33.

124 Peel Commission, ‘The Force of Circumstances’, Palestine Royal Commission Report, July 1937, Cmd 5479, 370–96.

The author is grateful to Lauren Benton, Daniel Hulsebosch, David Golove, Benedict Kingsbury, William Nelson, Yoram Shachar, Ron Harris, Michael Dowdle and Rotem Giladi for fruitful conversations on previous drafts. Special thanks to the conveners and participants of the conference ‘Legalities and Legacies: The Past, Present, and Future of the Palestine Mandate in International Law’ (Hebrew University, June 2015) and particularly to Rotem Giladi and Yaël Ronen. The author is indebted to the editorial board of Israel Law Review for instructive commentary.



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