Chapter 1 - The Great Powers in the Middle East 1900-39


During the First World War, the British made conflicting promises to the Jews and Arabs. These consisted of the promised support to the Jews who wanted a homeland in Palestine, and the promise to give Arab independence at the end of the war. The consequences of these promises lead to tension and conflict in the Middle East.
Karima Ranieri
Flashcards by Karima Ranieri, updated more than 1 year ago
Karima Ranieri
Created by Karima Ranieri over 5 years ago

Resource summary

Question Answer
What were Britain's main interests in the Middle East during the First World War? Context: The Middle East was the route to Britain's empire in India and to British colonies in the Far East. Answer: Britain's main aim was to protect and keep control of the Suez Canal and Persian Gulf.
Why was the Suez Canal and Persian Gulf vital to British interests? - Transport of Indian troops to Europe, - Trade. - Suez Canal shortened distance between European powers and their colonies in India and the Far East. - Gulf was the source of oil (British navy were dependent on oil)
What did Britain do when oil was discovered in the south of Persia (todays Iran) in 1914? - The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was formed to exploit it. - Just two months before the start of the First World War, the British bought a controlling share in the company.
Briefly describe what happened to the Jews from 1500BC onwards, which led to their expulsion from Palestine. (Hint: mention what happened in AD70 and again in AD135 and how Romans reacted) - 1500bc: Jewish people lived in the land of Palestine. - In the time of Jesus, Palestine was ruled by the Romans. - In AD70 and again in AD135 the Jews rebelled against their Roman rulers. - Roman soldiers crushed both revolts, destroyed the Jewish temple and city of Jerusalem. - Many thousands fled.
What does it mean for the Jews to have been living in the diaspora? Diaspora means the dispersal of a people, so in this case, the Jews who ended up living in many different parts of the world.
What was anti-Semitism in Europe and why was it present? - Jews were often persecuted. - Almost all Europeans were Christians and they often forced the Jews to live in separate areas. - Jews were not allowed to vote or buy their own land.
What happened when persecution increased in the Middle Ages? In the 19th century, which country had the largest Jewish population? - Jews were expelled from much of western Europe and many settled in Russia and Poland. - In the 19th century, the country with the largest Jewish population was Russia.
What happened to the Jews when the tsar (emperor) was assassinated in 1881? How did non-Jewish Russians react? - Anti-Jewish riots. - People in government blamed the Jews for the assassination. - The new tsar's government encouraged the persecution of the Jews. - Synagogues were burned down, Jewish homes were attacked and thousands of Jews were killed. - Many Russian Jews fled to western Europe and the USA. But, even there, Jews often found that they were not treated as equals.
Who was Theodor Herzl and what did he propose? - An Austrian Jew living in Paris. - Published a book in 1896 called 'The Jewish State' - He argued that, since European Jews could not expect an end to anti-Semitism, they should seek a state of their own 'large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation.'
1. What was the 'Next year in Jerusalem' concept? 2. Why did the Jews decide that their homeland would have to be in Palestine? 3. Is there a name for those who believed in a Jewish national homeland, if so, what is it? - By the beginning of the 20th century, an increasing number of Jews in Europe and America demanded a Jewish national home. - By 1914, when the First World War broke out, these people were all agreed that this homeland would have to be in Palestine. - This was the 'Promised Land' where the Jews had lived some 2000 years before and where several thousand still remained. Those who believed in a Jewish national homeland were known as Zionists.
What was the Balfour Declaration 1917? (who were British Zionists led by, what was Britain's circumstance and interests at this period of time, why did they declare support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, who was the letter written to and by?) - During the First World War, British Zionists, led by Chaim Weizmann, worked hard to win the support of the British government for Jewish homeland. - Meanwhile, the British were bogged down in fighting with Germany and were keen to bring the USA into war. - They believed that Jews in America could influence their government's actions. - This was one of the reasons why the British government declared it support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. - The declaration was made in form of a letter to Lord Rothschild, a leading British Jew, in November 1917. - It become known as the Balfour Declaration because it was written by British Foreign secretary, Lord Balfour. - Even though the letter was worded carefully, for the next 30 years Jews regarded the declaration as a promise from the British government to help setup a Jewish state.
Why and when did the Arabs seek independence? (Mention 16th century Turkish dominance in the region, what Turks forced the Arabs to do, what Arab aim was at this point, what happened in 1913 and the year) Context: Today the Arabs form the majority of the population in the Middle East and all speak Arabic. Answer: - In the 16th century, however, the Ottoman Turks conquered most of the Arab lands of the Middle East. - The Arabs were forced to pay taxes and provide soldiers for their Turkish masters. - In the late 19th century, the Arabs tried several times to remove their Turkish rulers. - Their aim was to re-establish Arab rule in the Middle East, including Palestine. - In 1913, the first Arab National Congress was held, a year later the Nationalist Manifesto was published. - This called for independence from Turkey and unity among the Arabs.
What were the British afraid of with the Turks during the First World War and what did they encourage the Arabs to do? - Turkey fought on the German side against Britain and its allies. - The British were afraid that their supplies of oil from Persia would be cut off by the Turks. - The British navy was reliant on oil for fuel. - They decided to encourage the Arabs to rebel against their Turkish rulers and seek independence.
What did the British promise the Arabs if they fought against the Turks? (mention letters being exchanged in 1915, and British promise) - The British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Herbert McMahon, exchanged several letters with Hussein, the sharif of Mecca, in 1915. - McMahon promised Hussein that if the Arabs fought against the Turks, the British would support Arab independence and advise the Arabs how to establish their government.
What happened during the Arab Revolt 1916? What did the Arabs accomplish in 1918? - An Arab army was raised and led by Emir Faisal, the son of the sharif of Mecca. - The army blew up Turkish trains and disrupted flow of military supplies to the Turkish soldiers. - In 1918, Faisal and his Arab soldiers were allowed by the British to march in and take over the city of Damascus, in Syria, from the Turks.
What was the Sykes-Picot Agreement 1916? Context: - The Arab felt that they had fought for their independence from the Turks and now deserved self-government. - Therefore, when Arab leaders heard about Britain and France's secret agreement to carve up Turkey's Arab lands and share them, they were angered. Under the agreement, some Arab land would be directly ruled by Britain or France while Palestine would be under international control.
What were the main reasons behind why Britain made this agreement? - The war in Europe was not going well and Britain needed to maintain a strong alliance with the French. - Both Britain and France had extensive trading links with the Middle East. - Britain wanted to protect the Suez Canal, which it jointly owned and operated with the French. - Britain and France wanted to maintain power and influence in the Middle East.
Which mandates did the League of Nations allocate France? Syria and Lebanon
Which mandates did the British have control over? Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq.
What did Lawrence of Arabia feel about the whole agreement? He felt that Hussein, Sharif of Mecca, had been humiliated. Lawrence advised the British government to establish Faisal as king of Syria since he liberated Damascus, the capital of Syria in October 1918. Britain was more interested in maintaining his alliance with the French and since Syria was under French control, in 1921 they invaded Syria and expelled Faisal from the throne he had held for two years. This represented betrayal of Britain's wartime promises. Instead the British made Faisal king of Iraq and his older brother Abdullah rule of Transjordan.
How was the French administration in general? In both Syria and Lebanon, the French acted as a colonial power, exercising direct control, backed up by military force. The press was controlled and nationalist demonstrations suppressed.
How was the French administration in Syria? Success or Failure? In Syria, the French did not envisage the creation of an independent state in the near future, whereas the majority of Syrians wanted immediate independence. The French allowed elections but kept control of foreign policy and security. In 1936, a treaty granting independence to Syria was signed but the French Assembly refused to agree to it.
How was the French How was the French administration in Lebanon? Success or Failure? France believed that since Lebanon had a pro-French Christian majority, it would be easier to govern. A constitution was imposed in 1926, it provided for a Christian president and a Muslim prime minister. Opposition to French control led to a movement for independence and in 1936, the French proposed a treaty but again the French Assembly refused to ratify it.
What did the French do in both Syria and Lebanon and when was independence established? The French built roads and school but they were in the French language and culture, not the native Arabic. The French finally recognised the independence of Lebanon and Syria in 1945. French troops were withdrawn in 1946.
How was British administration in Transjordan? Success or Failure? Britain recognised Transjordan as independent in 1923. But all its troops remained under a British commander and its foreign policy was to be guided by the British. Emir Abdullah receive a financial subsidy to build schools and roads. In 1931, a British military officer, Glubb Pasha, founded the Desert Patrol, a special branch of the Arab legion of which he took command. He recruited Bedouin tribesmen who formed the backbone of the army and became emir's most loyal subjects. Abdullah become king in 1946 and from 1949 his country was renamed the Hashemite King of Jordan. SUCCESS!
How was the British administration in Iraq? Success or Failure? Iraq was of vital interest to Britain because of its oil. In 1917, the British advanced to Baghdad and a year later they took Mosul. By 1918, the British controlled the three former Turkish provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. Iraqi nationalists wanted complete independence for Iraq. The British soon had a rebellion on their hands. By October 1920, they had 100,000 troops in Iraq. They crushed the uprising but aroused even more opposition. The British could not run the country on their own and planned to set up an Iraqi state which would be independent but tied to Britain, which is why Faisal was to become king of Iraq and head of a new government. The monarchy lasted 35 years and in 1932 they were granted independence. However, Britain kept control of Iraq's foreign policy and kept two airbases. Above all, they controlled the oil through British-owned Iraqi Petroleum Company which owned, drilled and sold all of Iraq's oil and in which Britain had a 47.5% share.
How was British policy in Egypt? Success or Failure? In 1914, the British deposed the pro-Turkish ruler of Egypt and during the First World War Cairo was flooded with British troops. The British seized crops in Egypt and often forced Egyptians to work for them. When the war ended in 1918, Egyptians felt that they deserved independence from Britain. In March 1919 Said Zaghlul was arrested which sparked the Revolution of 1919. Demonstrations were crushed by British troops with many killed and injured on both sides. The wafd party emerged and sought to represent Egypt at the peace conference. Even though they were granted independence in 1922, Britain kept control of areas which were of vital interest to the British Empire.
Conclusion of British ruling... Success or failure? Why/how? Britain was a dominant power in the Middle East, British troops occupied the Arab world from Egypt to Iraq and Britain's navy patrolled the Persian Gulf. Yet nationalist opposition was growing by the time of the Second World War and Britain's control in its Arab lands looked increasingly vulnerable.
What was Britain responsible for in Palestine? In 1922, the League of Nations confirmed that Britain was responsible for establishing a Jewish national homeland while protecting the rights of all of those living in Palestine.
What did Lord Balfour state at the Versailles peace conference in 1919? That establishing a Jewish homeland was far more important than considering the wishes of the Arab majority.
What happened during the Arab-Jewish riots in 1921? Violence erupted in the town of Jaffa, a busy seaport. Jaffa was the main port of arrival for Jewish immigrants. Just to the north of the town was Tel Aviv, the largest Jewish settlement in Palestine. In 1921, riots erupted in Tel Aviv between rival Jewish groups. The fighting spread into Jaffa and led to Arab attacks on Jews and their property. After two days of rioting, 200 Jews and 120 Arabs were dead of wounded.
How did the British respond to the riots? The British authorities immediately stopped all Jewish immigration and the Palestinian Arabs were told that only a part of Palestine was to be made into a Jewish national home.
What happened to immigration statistics in Palestine? The rate of immigration slowed down in the 1920s, and yet the Jewish population still doubled in the ten years after the war. By 1929, there were a million Arabs and 160,000 Jews living in Palestine whereas in 1919 there had only been 60,000 Jews.
What happened during the Arab-Jewish riots in 1929? Violence erupted again, this time in the city of Jerusalem. This is a holy city for both the Muslims and Jews. There was a lot of tension over who controlled holy places. In August 1929, riots broke out and Arab crowds attacked Jews inside and outside the city. The attacks spread throughout Palestine and 133 Jews were killed over four days. In addition, 116 Arabs were killed, mostly by the British police while trying to stop anti-Jewish violence.
When did violence between Arabs and Jews escalate, and why? When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Nazi anti-Semitism brought many Jews abroad. Thousands fled to Palestine and by 1939 there were nearly 450,000 Jews in the country. Arabs were afraid of losing their country as more and more of them became landless and discontent.
What was the British plan to help solve Arab fears? The British planned to restrict immigration and land sales, but this causes uproar among the Jews in Europe and America as well as Palestine. The British were in an impossible position, if they allowed unrestricted immigration Arab fears and violence would increase. But if they stopped, the world would accuse them of inhumanity towards the Jews for not caring as many were being persecuted by the Nazis.
What was the Arab Higher Committee and why was it formed in 1936? The Arab Higher Committee consisted of Palestinian Arab leaders who attempted to direct the Arab Rebellion of 1936-9. It was composed of different and often rival factions. The Committee called for a general strike by all Arab workers and government employees. They hoped that such resistance would force a change in the policy, They also called for attacks on Jewish settlements and British forces.
Was the strike a success or failure? The strike was largely unsuccessful because Arab workers in Jewish businesses were just replaced by Jewish workers while Arab employees of the British government simply lost their ability to influence government policies. In one of the places where the strike was successful, however, was in the port of Haifa.
What else happened during the Arab Rebellion 1936-9? Widespread fighting broke out in the country side, as Arab farmers fought to prevent being evicted from land bought by Jews. Villagers attacked Jews cultivating traditional village land. And armed Arab bands attacked Jewish settlements. Within a month, over twenty Jews had been killed.
How did the British respond to these Arab actions? They hanged several Arab leaders, exiled others and destroyed houses suspected of containing Arab terrorists or arms. They also helped to train and organise the Jewish Defence Force, the Haganah.
What did Davin Ben-Gurion believe was the only way for Jews to claim Palestine? In May 1936 the leader of the Jewish Agency recognised how both the Arabs and Jews wanted Palestine. And that only war was the solution. He recognised that force would enable the Jews to establish an independent state in Palestine, not negotiation.
What was the British partition plan 1937? In 1937, at the height of the Rebellion, the British government set up an inquiry. The Peel Commission concluded that cooperation between Arabs and Jews was impossible. The report recommended the partition of Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish and the other Arab. The Arabs rejected the plan.
What was the Zionist response to the partition plan? The Jewish agency agreed but wanted more land than what was allocated to them. Many Palestinian Jews foresaw that they would have to fight to defend a Jewish state. They knew the Arabs would never agree to it. Jewish leaders wanted all of Palestine to be made into a Jewish state. Ben-Gurion accepted the plan, simply because he knew the Jews were not yet strong enough to demand more.
What was the White Paper 1939? By 1939, the rebellion ended. The Second World War was approaching and Britain feared the growth of friendship between Arab leaders and Germany. Britain needed to keep the Arab countries on its side so that oil supplies from the Middle Eat would continue to reach Britain. The government issued a special White Paper which declared that Britain wanted an independent Palestine within ten years. This would be neither Jewish or Arab. White Paper also stated that 10,000 Jewish immigrants would be allowed for each of the following five years. And 25,000 Jewish refugees would be admitted. After a period of five years, no further Jewish immigration would be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine would agree to it.
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