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Emet m'Tsiyon

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A British General in the Service of Arab Nationalism

One of the big disputes nowadays concerning the history of Israel's War of Independence is whether Israel fought alone without "imperialist" aid, whether the "imperialists" sided with the Arabs or with Israel, and whether the British fought for the Arab side.
The very question shows a desire to rewrite history, since in the 1947-49 period, when the War of Independence was going on, it was obvious that the British sided with the Arabs and in a very direct way. British troops, tanks, and aircraft took direct part in fighting against Jewish forces in Jaffa, in Jerusalem, and in the air over the Sinai desert. So much for British forces.
Then there were the British weapons supplied to the Egyptian army.
Then, last but not least, was the Arab Legion of Transjordan, an Arab army which was under the command of a British officer, General John Bagot Glubb, known as Glubb Pasha. Further, many British officers served in the Arab Legion, although there were Arab officers as well.

Here is how Glubb Pasha was described in the British Who's Who (1963 edition):
Glubb, Lieut.-General Sir John Bagot, K.C.B., C.R. 1956; C.M.G. 1946; D.S.O. 1941; O.B.E. 1925; M.C.; Chief of General Staff, the Arab Legion, Amman, Jordan, 1939-56; b. 16 April 1897; s. of late Major-General Sir F.M. Glubb, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O.; m. 1938 . . . To Iraq as lieut. RE, 1920; resigned commision, 1926, and became adminstrative inspector, Iraq govt.; transferred Transjordan, 1930; Officer Commanding Desert Area (Colonial Service), 1932; Officer Commanding Arab Legion, Transjordan, 1939. Publications: Story of the Arab Legion, 1948, A Soldier With the Arabs, 1957; Britain and the Arabs, 1959; War in the Desert, 1960. Club: East India and Sports.
Now, if somebody can read this description and then say that Glubb was not a British imperialist, then he may as well say that Arafat was an astronaut.
By the way, some of the acronyms could confirm our conclusion if spelled out:
KCB - Knight Commander of the Bath
CMG - Companion of St. Michael and St. George
OBE - Officer, Order of the British Empire
Note that Glubb was honored with the CMG in 1946, while he was commander of the Arab Legion, reputed to have been the most effective Arab fighting force in Israel's War of Independence.

The so-called "new historians" who deny that the British Empire took part in Israel's War of Independence on the Arab side should do some research into what British officials were saying in the period 1945-1958. Maybe they should read Glubb's own books and see what he says.

post script - Peter Mansfield is not a "new historian." He is probably rather old in age and has been scribbling for many years. His so-called history of the Middle East came out years ago. But he explicitly claimed even then that "Western powers" were helping Israel take Arab land, or something like that. This is one of those lies that began long ago and now has been taken up by certain Israeli "new historians." Maybe it's no accident that Mansfield is British or that Israeli "new historian" Avi Shlaim works at a British varsity. Maybe the "new historians" are working according to a repertoire of themes drawn up by Brit public opinion shapers. In any case, how do they explain Glubb Pasha as the most successful Arab forces commander in Israel's War of Independence?
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Coming soon: John Lloyd Stephens on oppression of Jews in Hebron in the 1830s.

The book Israel: Land, People, State, edited by Avigdor Shinan, is available until the end of July at Book Week prices at the Yad Ben Zvi -- I believe the special Book Week price is 83 sheqels. This is a large format beautifully illustrated "coffee table" book in appearance. Yet it contains the best available exposition of the history of the Land of Israel from Joshua's time until today. It features chapters by major scholars such as Avraham Grossman, Oded Irshai, Avraham David, Yaron ben Naeh, Kaniel, etc., writing on historical periods of which is the public is usually poorly informed: particularly the Byzantine, Early Muslim, Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods. It covers the situation of the Jewish population in each period, as well as the general history of the time.


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