How Chaim Weizmann Crafted the First Arab-Zionist Alliance

“No true Arab can be suspicious or afraid of Jewish nationalism. . . . We are demanding Arab freedom and we would show ourselves unworthy of it if we did not now, as I do, say to the Jews—welcome back home.” These words were spoken by Faisal al-Hashemi—the future king of Iraq—at a banquet in honor of Chaim Weizmann on December 29, 1918. T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a “Lawrence of Arabia”) served as the translator. While many today see the Israeli-Arab conflict as both eternal and inevitable, the idea of an alliance between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East seemed perfectly natural to Weizmann and to Faisal, who were seen by the British empire as the representatives of their respective peoples. Rick Richman tells the story of this alliance:

On January 3, 1919, a few weeks after World War I ended, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann met with Emir Faisal, the commander-in-chief of the Arab uprising against the Ottoman empire, at a London hotel. . . . At the meeting, Weizmann and Faisal signed an agreement, brokered over the preceding month by Lawrence, exchanging Arab acceptance of the Balfour Declaration for Zionist support of an Arab state in the rest of the Ottoman lands. In February, they traveled to the Paris Peace Conference, where the victorious Allies would remap Europe and the Middle East, and made complementary presentations about the future of the region. . . .

Faisal and his father, [King Hussein of the Hejaz], believed Zionism would bring financial resources and technical expertise to Palestine, transforming the economic circumstances of the Arabs in both Palestine and beyond. In January 1918, D.G. Hogarth, director of Britain’s Arab Bureau in Cairo, had traveled to Jedda to deliver to King Hussein a formal message regarding British policy: the Arabs would be given “full opportunity of once again forming a nation,” and “no obstacle should be put in the way” of the return of the Jews to Palestine. All holy sites would be protected, and the religious and political rights of all residents preserved. The message emphasized the importance of “the friendship of world Jewry” to the Arab cause.

In an article published in March 1918 in al-Qibla, the daily newspaper in Mecca, the king wrote that Palestine was “a sacred and beloved homeland” for “its original sons” [abna’ihi-l-asliyin], and the “return of these exiles [jaliya] to their homeland” would be beneficial to the region.

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More about: Balfour Declaration, Chaim Weizmann, History & Ideas, Israel-Arab relations, T. E. Lawrence, Zionism

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat