Lawrence of Arabia: Pro-Zionist, Pro-Arab, or Both?

March 17 2015

Scott Anderson, in a recent biography, suggests that although T. E. Lawrence underwent an “apparent conversion to Zionism” after a 1918 meeting with Chaim Weizmann, “there was a marked limit to that conversion.” To Anderson, Lawrence’s support for Zionism was a tactical and perhaps cynical ploy with little staying power. Not so, writes Raymond Stock; Lawrence’s commitment to Zionism ran much deeper:

Lawrence published in the influential British periodical Round Table assessing the Zionist project in Palestine: “The success of [the Zionists’ settlement plan] . . . will involve inevitably the raising of the present Arab population to [the Zionists’] own material level, . . . and the consequences might be of the highest importance for the future of the Arab world. It might well prove a source of technical supply rendering them independent of industrial Europe, and in that case, the new confederation might become a formidable element of world power.”

One can hardly be more pro-Zionist than that—and arguably, no more pro-Arab, either. By placing Lawrence—a champion of both causes—essentially on just one side of that tragic divide, at least in his heart of hearts, Anderson has rendered . . . a less than reliable narrative. That is a pity, for the complex—and balanced—message of this enduringly enigmatic figure has great value both for his time, and our own.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Chaim Weizmann, History of Zionism, Israel & Zionism, T. E. Lawrence, Zionism


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy