The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Palestine Partition Proposition

From the beginning of the British mandate in Palestine following WWI, tensions between the growing Jewish population in Palestine and the indigenous Palestinian Arabs in the region had continued to grow.  The Arabs of Palestine distrusted the British mandate officials, in large part due to their perceived favoritism towards the Zionist claims for a Jewish national home which was sparked by the Balfour Declaration of 1922.[1]  In the aftermath of the Arab revolt of 1936, the Peel Commission was formed to understand and investigate the underlying motives behind Arab resistance to both the Jews and the British Mandate.[2]  The conclusions of the Peel Commission Report and the idea of a partition of two independent states was a last-ditch effort by mandate Britain to attempt a lasting peace between the Jewish and Arab communities, although it was doomed to fail even before its findings were published.

The Peel Commission of 1937 was tasked with two important objectives – to get to the bottom of the causes of tension between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine and to make recommendations of how that tension could be equitably resolved.[3]  At the outset of the published report, the commission acknowledged the seriousness of their charge, indicating that “no other problem of our time is rooted so deeply in the past,” referencing the historical claim to Palestine shared by Jews and Arabs alike.[4]  The commission also admitted that promises made to both sides in the duration of WWI which led to the mandate of Palestine had given both Arabs and Jews of Palestine expectations that had not been fulfilled satisfactorily.[5]  Neither community had any interest in working together to create or maintain a single state in the region, nor were both willing to reconcile and work together for the formation of a national identity.[6]  Given that, the ultimate recommendation of the Peel report was a revolutionary one that would pave the way for all future reconciliation attempts in Palestine going forward.[7]

In the interest of peace, the commission recommended a partition plan for Palestine, which created two separate and independent states: one for the Arabs and one for the Jews.  Although seemingly equitable from a current viewpoint, the partition becomes less-so when viewed through the lens of Arab sentiments contemporary with the report, the division of land given the demographics or the time and the way that the land was to be divided.[8]  In addition, the Peel Commission recommendation did not allow for the creation of a third separate state for Palestinian Arabs – rather the division would make the Arab section of the partition a part of Jordan, since historically the region had been encompassed by the Southern Syrian Empire.[9]  This would mean that the Arabs living in Palestine would forgo their growing national identity and become absorbed by the Jordan Emirate.[10]  For the Arab community in Palestine, this compromise was untenable.  While other Arab populations in the Middle East were gaining autonomy and independence from colonial interference, those in Palestine viewed the potential of Jewish State as a takeover of their homeland by a foreign (and often hostile) people.[11]

While ultimately rejected as impractical, the Peel Commission Report viewed their recommendations as the only available method to creating lasting peace in a region torn apart by dueling national identities by two distinctly different cultures that could not – or would not – see eye to eye.  There would be no compromise possible amidst the growing tensions of a region where both communities had a valid and historical claim to the same homeland, especially in light of perceived Western interference in Middle Eastern affairs.  Where Palestinian Arabs rightly viewed themselves as capable of independence and self-governance based on a long-standing presence in the region dating back to the 7th century.  On the other hand, Jews had a historical claim to the land that they believed was given to them by God himself, a claim that even many Muslims acknowledged openly.[12]  The unfortunate truth was that both communities shared claim to the same territory, and neither were willing to accept a lesser portion of that claim than they believed they deserved – namely all of Palestine.  Anything short of the entire land of Palestine would be unacceptable to Arabs and Jews alike, making the Peel Commission recommendations doomed to fail almost before they could be published.    Although the commission report ended on a hopeful note, stating that “if it offers neither party all it wants, it offers each what it wants most, namely freedom and security,” and it was most likely the only possible solution for peace, it fell short of the goal and was rejected by both sides.[13]  Instead of easing inherent tensions between the two opposing sides, the idea of partition sparked new ones, which put Jews, Arabs and British mandate powers simultaneously at risk for growing violence in the region going forward.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bartal, Shaul.  “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept.”  Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 51-70.

 

Gill, Natasha.  “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters.”  Middle East Policy Council. Accessed March 10, 2018http://www.mepc.org/commentary/original-no-why-arabs-rejected-zionism-and-why-it-matters.

 

Jewish Virtual Library.  “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”  July 1937.  Accessed March 18, 2018.  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/text-of-the-peel-commission-report.

 

Smith, Charles D.  Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 129.

[2] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 134.

[3] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept,” Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 52.

[4] “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report,” July 1937, Jewish Virtual Library, accessed March 18, 2018, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/text-of-the-peel-commission-report

[5] “British Palestinian Mandate Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[6] “Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[7] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[8] Natasha Gill, “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters,” Middle East Policy Council, accessed March 10, 2018, http://www.mepc.org/commentary/original-no-why-arabs-rejected-zionism-and-why-it-matters.

[9] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[10] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[11] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 58.

[12] Charles D. Smith, “Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict,” 134.

[13] “Palestinian Mandate: The Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

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Modern Zionism

The textbook defines Zionism as “a nationalist ideology that advocates the creation of a secure Jewish homeland in Palestine for the worldwide community of Jews in fulfillment of their historical and religious associations with the region.”[1]  While this definition is definitive and highlights the ideals that encompass modern Zionism, the definition that resonated more completely with me was the one found in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel from May 14, 1948.  This direct quote states that “(Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people.  Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped…After being forcibly exiled from their land, (the people) never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.  By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”[2]  Nationalist Zionism was born in a turbulent period of Persecution and was viewed in light of the historic persecution of Jews throughout Europe, and was a secular more than a religious ideology related to nationalism and the right to an independent Jewish state.  Although Zionism was not solely linked to Palestine, as WWI came to a close, more and more prominent European Zionists pushed for an Independent Jewish state within the borders of their religious and historic homeland.

It’s simple to see why this posed a problem that related to Arabs which were comprised of both Muslims and Jews, not only in Palestine but in the surrounding countries as well.    Although the Jews ruled and controlled Palestine from 850-725 BCE (and then again from 140-63 BCE), they lost control of Palestine through captivity to the Babylonians and then were subjugated to Roman and Byzantine rule until 638.[3]  From 638 onward to the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of WWI, Arabs (primarily Muslims) had controlled Palestine, with brief periods of Crusader rule over parts of it.  Establishing an independent nation state in Palestine for the Jews would mean the displacement or necessary inequality of the Arabs who had called Palestine home for thousands of years.  Although Zionism took many different forms, the Labor Party’s idea of Zionism meant the labor to be completed in Palestine in Jewish communities should be completed solely by Jewish workers, which would result in the construction “of a Jewish state where Arabs had no political rights and were excluded from Jewish economy.”[4]  Since the aim for Jewish immigration were wealthy or, at the very least, middle class European Jewry, the influx of cash into Jewish settlements was pronounced at a time when the Arab economy was struggling.  To be excluded from the benefits of Jewish immigration economically and to be excluded from governmental decision making policies that would affect the entire pre-existing Arab population clearly caused tension with Palestinians both Muslim and Christian alike.

 

 

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 563.

[2] “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,” May 14, 1948, quoted in Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 9th edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 215-216.

[3] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 598.

[4] Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 115.

The Importance of Context in History

It’s easy to view current events in a vacuum – relating them to history and placing them in context is difficult work that takes more than just watching the news, and for people who are not historians-in-training, or interested in the subject, doing so requires a certain amount of effort and curiosity that is often (in my experience) lacking.  Examining things in context, however, is essential to obtaining a deeper and more meaningful understanding of them, especially in the area of history and politics that the Arab-Israeli conflict is framed within.  Looking solely at current events is incredibly myopic and cannot possibly allow anyone to see the numerous levels of such a complicated and comprehensive subject adequately.

This area of the world is rife with conflict, and it’s been happening for thousands of years.  It is the epicenter of three of the world’s major religions, and Christianity, Judaism and Islam all collide over shared interest in the region – especially in the ‘Holy Land’.  With so much at stake, it is no surprise that tensions in the area are high, but understanding why is the key to framing the discussion of those conflicts properly.  In order to do that, it becomes mandatory to study history and to frame the region I its proper, historical context.

Regardless of whether the biblical/religious-historical context of the Land of Israel has a basis in truth or historical certainty, it is clear that the region was once inhabited by those who called themselves Jews.  They suffered under various conquests by Babylon, by the Romans and were finally scattered throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, known as the diaspora.  Between those conquests and dispersions, Christianity was founded in Jerusalem, adding a second layer.  While Christians and Jews were both persecuted under Roman rule, Christianity ultimately became the state religion of the Roman Empire, and Jews and Pagans became out of favor.  Roughly five hundred years later, Islam originated in Saudi Arabia, and quickly spread throughout the Middle East.    Tensions flared between the 9th and 13th centuries under the Crusades – the European Christians’ attempt to reclaim the Holy Land.[1]Under the Ottoman Empire, Christians and Jews were protected, although taxed as dhimmis – those who paid the jizya tax and submitted to Muslim rule in exchange for protection and a sense of autonomy for following their own religious beliefs and ideologies.[2]  In the 19th century, however, tensions between Christians and Muslims began to deteriorate again as primarily Christian Europeans began influencing through trade affairs in Ottoman controlled territory.[3]

All of these nuances would be missed if the region was only examined from a current, contemporary viewpoint, and placing the struggles currently in effect would be impossible without proper historical context and interpretation.  Although examining the history is more difficult and requires more work, the benefits are astronomical, and provide layers of depth that can’t even be seen from the surface.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Ninth Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017): 8.

[2] Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 12.

[3] Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 13.

Objectivity and Its Role in Historical Study

Before delving into the reading material for this module, I need to say one thing.  In reading Haskell’s assessment of Novick’s work, it immediately brought to mind a common problem I see when telling my friends/acquaintances that I’m a history major with an interest in pursuing a Master’s degree.  I am often told that they couldn’t study history “because it’s so boring”.  I cannot help but equate Novak’s perspective on history as dispassionate and detached as part of the reason many of our friends, coworkers and family members found the study of history so distasteful and uninteresting during their own time at school.  For me, and likely for many of my classmates, history is alive and full of excitement – and it’s because of the passion many of us have encountered in our readings, our interactions with other historians and our own personal path towards a history degree.

I cannot accept the view Haskell explains from Novick’s book of detachment as dispassionate evaluation.[1]  Rather, I find myself siding firmly on Haskell’s side when he explains that rather than removing passion from our pursuit and study of history, we must simply make sure that our passion and zeal puts us on a collision course with ideals and concepts that conflict with our own.[2]  While Haskell explains that Novick most likely agrees with a definition that equates objectivity with neutrality and/or indifference, Haskell advocates for historical study that is not without passion and can be seen through the lens of personal perspectives while still retaining the ideal of objectivity and intellectual honesty.[3]  While bias is present in each individual regardless of their field of study or attempts at objectivity, Haskell rightly points out that honesty, integrity and fairness can still be required without limiting or silencing individual voices or perspectives.[4]  From a historiographical perspective, it is by viewing history through the lens of individual perspectives, thoughts and bias that allows history to evolve its previous conceptions and give light to new ideas and interpretations of past events.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through my time studying history at SNHU, it’s that history is not static – it is fluid.  Two people can examine identical sources and come to radically different conclusions based on how they interpret those sources.  While historical facts and events can, in some instances, remain fixed, the way we view and interpret those events does not have to be fixed with no hope for differences of opinion and interpretation of them.

Within this module’s reading, I find myself firmly on the side of Haskell’s interpretation, recognizing the need for increased passion in the field of history, but maintaining the standards of objectivity within that passion, and demanding the values of integrity, honesty and fairness that many fields other than history similarly dictate.

[1] Thomas L. Haskell, “Objectivity is not Neutrality: Rhetoric vs. Practice in Peter Novik’s That Noble Dream,” History and Theory 29, No. 2 (May, 1990): 134, accessed October 1, 2017, JSTOR.

[2] Haskell, “Objectivity Is Not Neutrality,” 134.

[3] Haskell, “Objectivity Is Not Neutrality,” 131.

[4] Haskell, “Objectivity Is Not Neutrality,” 133.

Historiography: Methods and Approaches

This week, we looked at various types of historiographical essays, recognizing that while there may be wrong ways to treat a historiographical approach to history, there is no set “right” way of crafting an essay on the subject.  In fact, the approach and ultimate goal of writing historiographical essays seems to vary by the author, their interpretations of various historiographical trends in their chosen subject and how they choose to address often overwhelming amounts of research on the topics they’ve selected.  What is important for any historiographical project is to identify sources, identify the historiographical approaches that have been utilized over time and to write a clear interpretation of those approaches in whatever manner best suites the author.  In addition to understanding the basis of historiographical research, we were given three examples of historiographical writing that varied widely in organization and approach to the subject of Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition.

In the example laid out in chapter 6 of our textbook, Brundage gives an example of a historiographical essay arranged chronologically by order of the historiographical writings on the topic of the expedition.  While it is clear and concise, the topics are spread out throughout the essay, making it difficult to focus on one specific area of study within the field of the Lewis and Clark expedition.[1]  Ms. Autran’s essay which is quoted in the book is a great example of historiographic writing, but jumping back and forth between subjects based on the chronological time of writing was difficult for me to follow.

Our second example was the one that suited me best.  I’m not sure if it’s how I learn, how I process what I read, or how I like to organize things myself as a personal preference, but Moulton’s example of a historiographical essay on Lewis and Clark was much better organized in my option by subject matter instead of chronologically.[2]  He covered topics such as the source documents, the participants, the tools and many more aspects of the journey and how they’ve all been addressed by previously historical writing.[3]  It was a very easy-to-read narrative which summarized previously historiographical approaches to the expedition and it was easy to go back and re-read a particular section about an aspect of the journey that interested me personally after my first read-through.

The last example presented in this module by Cayton was an excellent example of a critical essay on an often studied subject.[4]  In the form of a book review, Cayton takes issue with some of the licenses that Slaughter took in his recent book about the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Cayton agrees that taking licenses with historiography is not a bad thing, but inferring those interpretations as fact without being supported by the evidence OR the previous centuries of historiography on the topic is.[5]  While I may not personally like some of his rhetoric in his narrative, it is a good example for me personally of when historiography goes too far into claiming speculation and interpretation as absolute fact when in reality, a lot of historical topics cannot be known with absolute certainty when assessed through the lens of bias and interpretation.

[1] Patricia J Autran, The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Changing Interpretations, quoted in Anthony Brundage, Going to the Sources, (West Sussex UK, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 96-108.

[2]Gary E. Mouton “On Reading Lewis and Clark: The Last Twenty Years,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 38, no. 3 (1988): 28-39.

[3] Ibid, 30.

[4] Andrew R L Cayton, “Telling Stories about Lewis and Clark: Does History Still Matter?” Great Plains Quarterly 24, no. 4 (2004): 283-287.

[5] Ibid, 284.

Women, Sexuality and Islam – Final Thoughts

This class has been one of the most challenging, yet most enjoyable classes that I’ve experienced during my time at SNHU.  It has certainly raised far more questions about the topic of Women, Sexuality and Islam than I had prior to starting, but I think in many ways it’s designed to.  This topic is full of biases that come from simply being a part of a different culture than that which is being studied, and while the readings, discussions and papers have certainly served to allow me to see beyond those biases, the questions raised as those biases are stripped off seem far more pressing.  The reading for this final module is perfect, and I’m incredibly grateful that it did not come at any other time through this course.  Is Islam truly to blame for its treatment of women?  Is it a cultural problem?  Is it a reactionary move against Western post-colonialism, or is it in reality a combination of all 3?  Can the veil be empowering to the women who choose to wear it, or can anything that is down because of coercion truly empowering?  None of these questions has easy answers, and it seems that in its desire to demonize and distance itself from Western cultural values and practices, Islam has regressed even further and embraced the often-heavy yoke of fundamentalism.  But Islam is not alone in this regard.  We see a resurgence of fundamentalism in certain aspects of Western cultural traditions as well.  It would seem that in many ways these two clashing and competing cultural norms feed off of each other, and the result is a reactionary culture battle between East and West that serves to further entrench both sides with little progress being made towards equality, egalitarianism and cross-cultural respect.

I mentioned in my initial journal entry that Islam would be deadly to me.  In some regards, that sentiment is still true.  In others, my mind is slowly starting to shift and see Islam as an institution differently.  That’s the point, however – it’s not an institution, not any more than the multitude of Christian sects can be labeled an institution just because they share similar beliefs.  Islam is a belief system comprised of many interpretations, practices and cultural values, much like Christianity in the West is.  To try to characterize it, simplify it or categorize it would be a significant error in judgement that would forbid truly understanding it in any real meaningful way.  While apologists and legal specialists like El Fadel would argue, Islam is meant to be constantly changing and evolving.  The reality on the ground, however, is somewhat different from his idealized perspective.  The truth is that women are treated worse in Islamic cultures and states than they are elsewhere in the world in many meaningful and measurable ways.  That is not to say, though, that Western treatment of women is superior – it certainly has its own faults and a long way to go before it can be recognized as truly equal.  Ultimately the lessons that I’ve learned throughout this course will inform future dialogues I have with people about Islam as a cultural, political and legal system in the efforts to further the cause of fruitful and meaningful discussion rather than arguments and lingering xenophobic ideals.

Fundamentalism, Islam and Agency

This entire term it seems as though we’ve wrestled and understood writers who view Islam through the lens of colonialism, custom, culture and outside influence when attempting to explain woman’s role within it.  This module, however, we get a different perspective from Haideh Moghissi.  While other writers are content to insist in various ways that Islam’s view on women is inconsistent with the Quran and Muhammed’s original vision for his new religion, Moghissi places the blame for Islam’s greater treatment of women on Islam itself.  I’m incredibly glad that we got to read this perspective for our last term of the course, as I believe it balances all of the other resources we’ve explored and poses the problem from an internal-looking view, rather than the external view we’ve been seeing with few exceptions for the past several weeks.

There is little doubt that the views of women through the lenses of various religions have been less than ideal for centuries.  Women have been the scapegoats for societal ills, anti-female polemics, weaker, less intelligent and sexually dangerous.[1]  It would seem apparent from a comparative study of three of the world’s main religions that women are a powerful and intimidating force to be reckoned with, able to completely control and manipulate the men of society in deity-defying ways, and each religion has adopted different doctrines and practices within society to attempt to control and mitigate those dangers in order to safeguard society at large.  Moghissi demolishes (rather successfully, in my opinion) arguments for the empowering nature of the veil that we studied in our first week of the term, and shows the misogynistic nature of fundamentalist Islam for what it truly is with abrupt, honest and opinionated language that flies in the face of many arguments we’ve encountered throughout our work in this course.   She argues that colonialism cannot accurately take the whole measure of blame for women’s treatment in Islamic cultures, and that deeper, inherent problems must be addressed before true egalitarian change can be recognized and implemented.[2]

The discussion prompt this week asks if there is any point to reading and understanding the work of Mernissi, Abu-Lughod and Ahmed that we’ve been picking apart for the past several weeks.  Ultimately, the answer has to be yes.  The beauty of Moghissi’s work in our last week of the term is to recognize the flip side to the other arguments that we’ve been encountering, and to recognize both the positives and negatives of Islam’s view on and treatment of women in Islam.  To echo El Fadl from the last module, change in Islam – even minor change – must be implemented from within an Islamic framework.  This is a point that Moghissi seems to indirectly echo in her chapters.  Any influence from the Western “other” is simply going to be looked at in much the same way that colonial values were viewed.  It is going to cause fundamentalism to double-down on its positions, leading to even stricter adherence to an ancient and misogynistic interpretation of the Shari’ah which could, in fact, make the plight of women in Muslim societies even worse.  To argue for the base egalitarianism of Islam towards gender, one would need to frame an argument in Islamic context with Islamic language in an Islamic culture to have any hope of success.

Do Muslim women need saving?  Moghissi seems to think that the answer is a tentative yes – but what they need saving from in many ways is themselves and the repressive way in which they’ve been instructed in “correct” Islam which prompts them to behave in a manner consistent of and in deference to Islamic fundamentalism.  They cannot, by contrast, be dragged kicking and screaming into the western values and culture, nor is western culture necessarily superior or goal-worthy.  Instead, encouraging women to study the Quran, the Hadith and the Shari’ah for themselves and to practice it in a manner that they are comfortable with seems to be the best practice in improving their treatment both by outside sources such as the legal system and their families but also by themselves for themselves.

[1] Haideh Moghissi, Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism, (London:  Zed Books, 1999): 25.

[2] Ibid, 19.