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The Arab Scene 100 years After Campbell-Bannerman

AUTHOR:   Awni Farsakh

Translated by  Adib S. Kawar

In 1907 British P.M. Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed a committee from some famous scholars from Great Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Spain and Italy -- Specialized in history, geography, economics, oil, agriculture and colonialism – to study possible ways to assure the continuity of European colonialist interests. In his directives to the committee members, he said: Empires grow in power to a certain extent, expand then gradually disintegrate and collapse. He asked them to find a way for delaying the fate of European colonialism which had reached its peak; at that time, when the sun never set on the British Empire.

After studying the establishment and fall of old empires, and the existing conditions early in the twentieth century, they drew up their suggestions in a report, which ended with a declaration stating that the dangers facing colonialist empires lay in the Arab land if and when they are liberated, united and progress. Thus they recommended to the seven colonialist powers to maintain the prevailing status quo in the region, divided and backward, and keep its people in their current status: disunited, backward, ignorant and quarreling.

The report also recommended fighting the unity of the people of the Arab nation culturally, spiritually and historically, resorting to strong scientific means wherever possible to separate its components from each other, namely keeping apart its western wing away from its eastern wing, that is separate its African wing from the Asian wing, by establishing a foreign and powerful barrier on the land bridge that connects Arab Asia with Arab Africa, which connects them together with the Mediterranean Sea, and near to the Suez Canal, a powerful entity friendly to western colonialism and enemy to its people.


"There are people (the Arabs, Editor's Note) who control spacious territories teeming with manifest and hidden resources. They dominate the intersections of world routes. Their lands were the cradles of human civilizations and religions. These people have one faith, one language, one history and the same aspirations. No natural barriers can isolate these people from one another ... if, per chance, this nation were to be unified into one state, it would then take the fate of the world into its hands and would separate Europe from the rest of the world. Taking these considerations seriously, a foreign body should be planted in the heart of this nation to prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that it could exhaust its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a springboard for the West to gain its coveted objects."

From the Campbell-Bannerman Report, 1907



  "Imperialist Britain called for forming a higher committee of seven European countries. The report submitted in 1907 to British Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman emphasized that the Arab countries and the Muslim-Arab people living in the Ottoman Empire presented a very real threat to European countries, and it recommended the following actions:
1. To promote disintegration, division, and separation in the region.
2. To establish arti.cial political entities that would be under the authority of the imperialist countries.
3. To fight any kind of unity—whether intellectual, religious or historical —and taking practical measures to divide the region’s inhabitants.
4. To achieve this, it was proposed that a "buffer state" be established in Palestine, populated by a strong, foreign presence that would be hostile to its neighbors and friendly to European countries and their interests."

Dan Bar-On & Sami Adwan, THE PRIME SHARED HISTORY PROJECT, in Educating Toward a Culture of Peace, pages 309–323, Information Age Publishing, 2006

As the report was strategically important it was suppressed, and was never released to the public up till today's date. But lawyer Antoine Canaan referred to it in a lecture entitled "Palestine and the Law," which he delivered in 1949 in the universities of Florence and Paris, and in 1957 the Union of Arab Lawyers published it under the same title. Arab historians' and researchers' points of view differed on whether the document actually existed until the matter was confirmed by the well informed Egyptian writer Muhammad Hasanin Haikal. Haikal mentioned the final recommendation in his book "Secret Negotiations Between the Arabs and Israel" (Page 110). It seems that the report had never been officially released before now due to its importance and gravity.

At the time the Arab homeland was divided into European colonies and Ottoman territories, while the Zionist movement had already achieved considerable success in immigration to Palestine and colonizing parts of it, especially with the unlimited British support extended to the Zionist movement in this and other fields, and the collusion of the ruling Turkish group of "Unity and Advancement" in the Ottoman Empire at the time; after their deposition of the Ottoman Caliph Abdul Al-Hamid II in 1908, and appointing Muhammad Rashad to replace him as Sultan, but in name without powers. A specialist in the British Ministry of Colonialism, Side Potam, decided that there is no better choice than the Jews to perform this colonialist task, because (the British were not ready to perform the task as they did earlier in Canada and Australia.

Along with supporting Jewish emigration and colonization in Palestine, the United Kingdom and France concluded the "Sykes Picot Agreement" in 1916 dividing the Fertile Crescent into four states, Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq as England's share, and Syria and Lebanon to be France's share (The French wanted to have Palestine, but the British insisted on it, of course for establishing a Jewish homeland in it – translator's note), to be followed in 1917 by the Balfour Declaration which was approved by President Wilson along with the French and Italian governments and the Vatican, thus making it an international promise, and not simply a British promise. Palestine was later put under a British mandate and a deed in this regard was issued by the League of Nations, which was unanimously passed. The deed stated that Palestine shall be put under British political and economic administration, which shall insure the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. There was no consideration of Palestinian Arabs as a people that have political rights; they were considered merely religious sects with only civil and religious rights.

The British government, from 1917 to 1947, did not allow the establishment of a constitutional system in Palestine, while it granted Zionists autonomy and a role in the decision making along with the mandate authorities on all levels; while it was stirring controversies among Arab cities' dignitaries and rural Arab clannishness, and making use of its relations with Arab regimes to abort the Palestinian Arab patriotic movement, as was the case during the great 1936 Palestinian Arab strike. And since the establishment of the League of Arab States in 1945 it monopolized, within its territorial regimes, the upper hand in relation to whatever concerned the Arab Zionist struggle. When Great Britain referred the problem to the United Nations in 1947, both the capitalist camp under the leadership of the United States, and the communist bloc under the leadership of the Soviet Union supported the partition of Palestine and provided Zionists with fighters and arms. Then it is clearly evident, that there was a continuous international decision to put into effect Benirman's suggestions to abort any efficient Arab activism in this strategically important region of the world.

In viewing the Arab scene 100 years after Bannerman, we find that Arab intellectuals are divided into two contradicting trends: The first trend says that American administration has a strong hold on Arab history, as it has the final word in drafting Arab decision-making in all fields and on all levels, because Arabs lost their national referential authority as a result of Egypt's losing its historic role, and the inability of any other Arab power to fill the vacuum which Sadat created as a result of withdrawing from its stance in the Arab Zionist struggle. Among those who follow this trend are those who go to the extent of declaring that the Arab nation died, thus the light of Arab unity was extinguished, if not to say that Arabs had gone out of history.

The other Arab trend establishes its viewing to the Arab scene on what is static in our history, saying that people's struggle, and specifically the struggle of nations against invaders and despots, is a struggle of wills, and as long as the Arab people's will is still alive in resisting occupation and rejecting subjugation it is neither defeated nor subjugated. On the contrary the achievements of resistance in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as the political and social movement in most Arab countries, are promising symptoms. And as the Vinograd Report had uncovered the faltering Zionist alarming failures in its aggression on Lebanon, Zbigniew Brzezinski said in April 2007: If the 1956 Suez defeat ended the era of old colonialism, Iraqi resistance had laid to rest the American stage in the Middle East, and there are people who say that Arab resistance started to have a strong hold on American history, not only in its influence on the last midterm congressional elections, but it influenced American foreign policy in forming an American public opinion, which is different from the conditions prevailing after the turning of the black Vietnam page.

The United Nations Partition Plan, 1947
from the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem and An Atlas of Palestine

Source:  Al-Khaleej – UAE

Original article published on May 11, 2007

Adib S. Kawar is a member of
Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.

URL of this article on Tlaxcala:

UMMA : 16/02/2008