In Defense of Sykes-Picot

On May 16, 1916, the diplomats Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot—representing Great Britain and France, respectively—made an agreement to divide up the Middle East in the event that their countries defeated the Ottoman empire in World War I. The treaty, which created the modern borders of the Middle East, has often been blamed for the region’s problems. Michael Rubin begs to differ:

To look at the map of the Middle East might be to conclude that Sykes-Picot, the agreement which led to the drawing of so many contemporary borders, also created artificial countries. But just because a border is artificial does not mean that the resulting country is.

Iraq, for example, became independent in 1932, twelve years after the League of Nations demarcated its borders, but Arabic literature has spoken of “Iraq” for a millennium. Likewise, Syria—under its current artificial borders—became a League of Nations Mandate in 1920, but a notion of Syria as a region existed at the time of Muhammad. . . . Mount Lebanon has always had a unique identity, not least because of the Maronite Christian presence. Syria itself . . . never recognized the Lebanese identity; but the divisions of Sykes-Picot enabled the Lebanese among others to win freedom. . . .

Is it possible to rectify past mistakes? Certainly. . . . But is discussion about reversing the legacy of Sykes-Picot counterproductive? Absolutely. . . .

There is no way to divide borders and create homogeneous states. Even to try to is to conduct ethnic and sectarian cleansing. To create new borders and new states with minority populations, meanwhile, is simply to reshuffle the deck, not to change the game.

Read more at AEI

More about: History & Ideas, Middle East, Ottoman Empire, Sykes-Picot Agreement, World War I

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion