Much has been written upon the historic claims of the Jews to this territory, which they held for less than five hundred years, prior to two thousand five hundred years ago. But how about the claims of the Palestinian, who possessed the land before the Jew and who is still in possession, having lived there for over five thousand years? The Aramaeans, who came from Aram, whom we call Hebrews, under Joshua conquered, and even ruthlessly exterminated, the people of a portion of Palestine; and later on, under David and Solomon, extended their rule over the whole country. But, if we are to decide the question of actual ownership of the territory, the Palestinian who has continuously lived there surely has a clearer title than the Jew. Moreover, this decision is based upon the records handed down by the Jew himself. Even the Hebrew language, which the Jews are attempting to revive as their spoken tongue, originally belonged to the people they are trying to oust. The language in Aram—Abraham's ancestral home—was Aramaean; when the Aramaeans came to Palestine, they adopted the Canaanite language, now called Hebrew.
The Palestine News, the official journal of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under Allenby, published, on November 14, 1918, a declaration, which had been agreed to by the British and French Governments, and communicated to the President of the United States, informing the people that their aim in waging the war in the East was 'to ensure the complete and final emancipation of all those people so long oppressed by the Turks, to establish national governments and administrations which shall derive their authority from the initiative and free will of the peoples themselves,’ and 'to assure, by their support and practical aid, the normal workings of such governments and administrations as the people themselves have adopted.’
In the twelfth of the fourteen points enumerated by President Wilson to Congress, January 8,1918, he demanded that the nationalities then under Turkish rule should be assured of 'an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.’ His second principle, stated in his address at Mount Vernon, July 4,1918, reads: 'The settlement of every question, whether of territory, of sovereignty, of economic arrangement, or of political relationship shall be upon the basis of the free acceptance of that settlement by the people immediately concerned, and not upon the basis of the material interest or advantage of any other nation or people which may desire a different settlement for the sake of its exterior influence or mastery.’
The edict of England and France, which was published in every town and village in the land about the time the Armistice was signed, has been violated in every essential particular; nor have the principles and demands of Mr. Wilson been observed. 'An unmolested opportunity of autonomous development has been denied the inhabitants. ‘The questions 'of territory, of economic arrangement, or political relationship have been settled contrary to the will of' the people immediately concerned’; and it has been done ‘upon the basis of the material interest or advantage’ of another people 'for the sake of its exterior interest or mastery.'
Not only have these principles and demands been ignored, but the twenty-second article of the League of Nations Covenant, in which they were incorporated, has been grossly violated. The middle section of this article reads: 'Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory Power until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory Power.’ It is needless to point out that their existence as independent nations has not been provisionally recognized, nor have the wishes of the people been a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory Power.
The circulation of the self-determination edict by England and France in November, 1918, which the people accepted placidly, calmed the popular feeling for a time; but after a few months the people saw clearly that the Political Zionists were favored by the British authorities, to their disadvantage; and they began to appreciate that they were being dealt with falsely. National anti-foreign sentiment grew apace, and in the spring of 1919 conditions had reached such a point that General Money had difficulty in quieting the people. He continually represented the necessity for his government to make a clear declaration of its policy— either one of repression of the people in favor of the Jews, or one of equality of treatment, which would have been acceptable to all, including the Palestinian Jews, but not, of course, to the Political Zionists. The Peace Conference, as a result of the dissatisfaction, appointed an inter-Allied commission to ascertain the wishes of the people. France, who claimed the whole of Syria, which included Palestine, declined to send out her representatives; and her example was followed by England. The work of the Commission, therefore, devolved upon the two American representatives, Ambassador Crane and President King. This Commission held a most impartial and exhaustive inquiry, hearing delegates from almost every town and village. In order to be ready to give useful information before the Commission, branches of the Moslem and Christian League were formed at Jaffa, Gaza, Hebron, Djenin, Nablus, Acre, Haifa, Safed, and other places. All branches worked under a constitution approved by the Military Governor of Jerusalem. It was decided to draw up three resolutions to be presented to the Commission:
1. The independence of Syria, from the Taurus Mountains to Rafeh, the frontier of Egypt.
2. Palestine not to be separated from Syria, but to form one whole country.
3. Jewish immigration to be restricted.
The entire Christian and Moslem population agreed to these resolutions.
It should be said here that there is no justification, from an ethnological or geographical point of view, for dividing Syria into the northern part under the French and a southern part, namely Palestine, under the British. This has already been pointed out by the greatest authority on the history and geography of Palestine, Sir George Adam Smith. One race, the Syrian, or Palestinian, is dominant throughout the territory, from Aleppo to Beersheba; and there is no natural frontier that can divide the two halves of this land. France for decades had regarded herself as the protector of the country. Although, being occupied with the enemy, she had done practically nothing toward driving out the Turks, the situation was such that, when the British army entered Jerusalem, in deference to the French a company of French soldiers was invited to be present. The question arises then, why should the land and people be separated, and two separate administrations be established, with all the expense that this implies? For the entire territory, from Aleppo to Beersheba, is only about 400 miles long and 100 miles wide — about the length of Pennsylvania, and one third its width? Why divide this small land and its people? Let us ask another question at the same time: why was the Balfour pronouncement made in 1917?
The Turkish government, when approached during the war on the problem of a Jewish state, said that it would continue to maintain, as it always had done, a favorable attitude toward the Jews in their effort to promote flourishing settlements, within the limits of the capacity of the country, and toward the free development of their civilization and their economic enterprises; but it looked with disfavor upon Zionists who have political ambitions for Palestine, and it regards them as enemies to the government. But what the Turks refused to grant the Jews, Britain promised them, even before she had captured the country. The Political Zionists inform us that the text of the Balfour declaration was revised in the Zionist offices in America as well as in England, and that it was put into the form in which they desired it. Moreover, they intimate that this stroke of British policy had the desired effect upon the Zionists in Germany during the war. The financial assistance rendered by the Jewish plutocrats during the war, it is said, was a matter of no small consideration. But besides this, and the bid for Jewish favor everywhere, there can be little doubt that uppermost in the minds of the Cabinet, because of France's interest in the land, was the idea of creating a buffer state between the portion they would let the French retain and the Suez Canal. The Canal, according to English opinion, is the chief asset of the Empire. The strategic value of this territory to England has been referred to recently by Lord Curzon in the House of Lords. Hence, the reason that the Balfour declaration was made, and that Syria has been divided. It might be added, that this division is yet to be ratified by the League of Nations.
When the first body of representatives appeared before the Commission sent out by the Peace Conference, Aref Pasha el Dajani, the President of the Moslem and Christian League, was asked what mandatory government the League preferred. He replied that at one time they would unanimously have asked for Great Britain, but the Balfour declaration had so shocked them that they now requested that America should have the mandate for Palestine and Syria. The Commission interviewed all the communities separately, getting in each instance the reply that their requests had been made through the Moslem and Christian League, except in the case of the Zionists, who asked for a British mandate and a separate rule for Palestine. The Commission then traveled throughout the country, making an impartial and exhaustive inquiry, hearing deputations from almost every town. Everywhere they found the same unanimity for the three resolutions.