A new series where I bring to you news from the newspaper archives to debunk common misconceptions about the Middle East conflict.
Back in March 1920, Prince Emir Faisal was proclaimed King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria (Greater Syria) by the Syrian National Congress government. However, it was short-lived, with the San Remo conference in April giving France the mandate for Syria, leading to the Franco-Syrian War and Faisal’s expulsion from Syria to the UK, before being made King of Iraq soon after.
You might recognize Faisal from this iconic photograph with Chaim Weizmann.
After signing the Faisal–Weizmann Agreement for Arab-Jewish Cooperation in 1919, Faisal said:
“We Arabs… look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organisation to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, insofar as we are concerned, to help them through; we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home… I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of the civilised peoples of the world.”
Faisal wanted Arab self-rule and believed the Arabs in Palestine at the time should be part of an undivided Arab empire including Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia. He conditionally accepted the Balfour Declaration. In other words, he was someone who espoused pan-Arab nationalism yet acknowledged a Jewish homeland in “Palestine.”
This New York Times profile from March 28th, 1920 gives some fascinating insight into his views – and suggests he had much support within Palestine.
Note: I cannot provide a link to the full article since it is only available to those who have purchased a NY Times subscription. But I have provided screenshots below. As usual, click on the screenshots to enlarge.