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The Ottoman Balfour Declaration

As Martin Kramer has explained in Mosaic, the Balfour Declaration was not a unilateral move by Britain but was supported by an international consensus of the Western Allies then fighting in World War I. What’s more, writes Wolfgang Schwanitz, the Jewish claim to the land of Israel also came to be supported by the Ottoman empire, which was then fighting with Germany against the Allies. The Ottoman grand vizier, Talaat Pasha, issued an official statement lifting all restrictions on Jewish immigration to Ottoman-controlled Palestine and expressing his “sympathies for the establishment of a religious and national Jewish center” there. Although the statement was a dead letter, delivered eight months after the British seizure of Palestine and less than three months before Istanbul surrendered, Schwanitz argues that it should nonetheless be taken seriously:

Talaat’s . . . statement was extraordinary in two key respects: the religious and the national. On the former level, the pledge to treat Palestine’s Jewish community on the basis of “complete equality with the other elements of the population” ran counter to the sociopolitical order of things underpinning [the Ottoman empire], whereby political power was vested with the Muslim majority while non-Muslim minorities were tolerated subjects (or dhimmis), who enjoyed protection and autonomy in the practice of their religious affairs yet were legally, institutionally, and socially inferior to their Muslim rulers.

Likewise, the sympathetic allusion to “the Jewish nation,” let alone to the creation of a “Jewish national center in Palestine,” was antithetical to the [general Muslim] perception of Jews as a religious community rather than a national group. . . .

[While] it is possible that Talaat knew full well that he would never have to implement the declaration, in view of Russia’s March 1918 departure from the war on highly favorable terms to the Triple Alliance (German-Austrian-Ottoman), and the [initial success of the] spring 1918 German offensive in Western Europe, the outcome of the war remained undecided for some time.

Scwhanitz goes on to argue that German pressure above all secured this declaration, suggesting that yet another European power joined in the international consensus on Zionism.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Balfour Declaration, Germany, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Ottoman Empire, World War I

 

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy