Imperial Mindsets: The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate and the Denial of Arab History

By Charles D. Smith
Submitted to Session P4498 (Reception, Interpretation, and Implementation of the Balfour Declaration: Imperial Mindsets and Communal Perspectives, 2016 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
Based on British Foreign Office files, and records of Palestinian representations to the British authorities, this paper argues that the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the Palestine Mandate knowingly violated Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. This is further proved by a comparison of the League of Nations' Mandates for Syria and Lebanon, with that of the Mandate for Palestine.
Yet there exists a tradition within Middle East scholarship of defending the Declaration's inclusion in the Mandate by ignoring the League's Covenant and insisting, falsely, that Arab notables, e.g., Sharif Husayn of Mecca, had accepted the Declaration. In fact, British records show that David Hogarth, Britain's emissary, deceived Sharif Husayn with respect to the terms of the Declaration. The historian Elie Kedourie dismissed George Antonius' comments on Hogarth's message to Sharif Husayn as 'worthless,' but Antonius was correct in noting that Hogarth withheld the full terms of the Declaration.
This paper traces this scholarly tradition, beginning with Elie Kedourie, in Anglo-Arab Labyrinth.It also considers Isaiah Friedman, in Question of Palestine; and David Fromkin, in Peace to End All Peace. The last work is frequently cited in American historiography on World War I, yet Fromkin is part of this apologetic tradition and pays tribute to Kedourie in his introduction.
Moreover, this argument is overlooked in more recent broader studies of the Middle East in the war, including Eugene Rogan's Fall of the Ottomans, and Leila Fawaz's Land of Aching Hearts, works which do not deal with the Mandates or the League of Nations. Sharif Husayn appears solely in his role as one party in the Husayn-McMahon Correspondence; this is also true of Scott Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia.
Natasha Wheatley's important 2015 article presents Palestinians as calling attention to Article 22 in petitions to British officials, who denied the validity of their claims, but does not herself question the legality of the mandate ("Mandate Systems As a Style of Reasoning,” The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates).
In sum, the 'denial of Arab history' as an imperial mindset refers to: British misrepresentations of terms to Arab leaders during the war; the rejection of valid Palestinian arguments expressed in petitions and protests during the mandate; and continuing misrepresentations in histories of the topic.