RE: ply to Grant: Lawrence of Arabia

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri Feb 08 2002 - 03:51:46 GMT

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    Subject: RE: ply to Grant: Lawrence of Arabia
    Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2002 22:51:46 -0500
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    >From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: RE: ply to Grant: Lawrence of Arabia
    >Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 14:10:37 -0500
    >Hi! Back from travels...
    >I haven't seen BlackHawk Down or know much about Somalia and the US, but I
    >do know something about Lawrence of Arabia...
    > > I had recently seen the DVD movie _Lawrence of Arabia_ (no, it
    > > wasn't about
    > > deBivort ;-)). How closely did this movie follow true history? What
    > > Lawrence's _Seven Pillars of Wisdom_ book itself?
    >The movie was pretty good, factually, and given its artistic power, the
    >source of some pretty strong memes about the Arabs and their WWI history.
    >There had been more contacts between the British and the Hashimite Hijazi
    >leaders than the movie depicts (and they had visited Cairo several times
    >themselves). The movie also is a bit elliptical about the Sykes-Picot
    >treaty, which was a secret agreement between the British and the French to
    >divvy the Near East into spheres of influence. France was to get what
    >essentially is now Syria and Lebanon, and Britain Palestine, Trans-Jordan,
    >and Iraq. But Britain had earlier made a pledge (in the Hussein-McMahon
    >Agreement) to the Arabs: fight with us against the Ottoman Empire and we
    >will support your post-war independence. The Arabs, led by the Hashemites,
    >agreed and this provides the essential story of Lawrence of Arabia. In an
    >attempt to reconcile this agreement with the later Sykes-Picot treaty, the
    >British insisted on a clause that asserted that Britain and the UK would
    >support the self-determination of the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine,
    >of the Homs-Hama and Aleppo line, and implementation of the whole Treaty
    >made dependent on 'the cooperation of the Arabs.' In the movie, we see
    >allusions to this potential deception, and Lawrence's growing sense that
    >Arabs were going to be betrayed by the British.
    >As I recall, there is no mention in the movie (correct me if I'm wrong,
    >please) of the Balfour Declaration, which was issued by the British to the
    >Zionist organizations a bit more than a year after the Sykes-Picot Treaty,
    >in which the British said they 'viewed with favor the establishment in
    >Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people...' providing nothing
    >would be done that would prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants
    >of Palestine. Of course, whatever comfort this restriction might have been
    >to the Palestinians was also betrayed in subsequent events. I don't know
    >whether Lawrence knew of the Balfour Declaration at the time of the events
    >of the movie (which do cover post-Balfour Declaration events in Damascus
    >with the declaration of the creation of the independent Syrian State), but
    >if he had it would undoubtedly have increased his sense that the Arabs were
    >going to be betrayed by Britain.
    >The book is also excellent -- great writing! -- and the only real area of
    >euphemistic portrayal of actual events has to do with Lawrence's
    >reconnoitering into Damascus, and his capture by Ottoman authorities. The
    >movie is suggestive on this point, but I don't know that Lawrence ever said
    >what happened. This has been a source of much speculation by Lawrence
    >scholars and popular writers.
    >Lawrence was a serious explorer and scholar on the Arab world, and is
    >portrayed more poetically in the movie than he might have been. See his
    >known book, Oriental Travels, for example. He was fluent in several
    >of Arabic -- quite a feat.
    >Lawrence (de Bivort!)
    So...the Brits weren't playing both sides were they (courting the Arabs AND
    the Jews with empty promises)? I can't recall anything about the Balfour
    Declaration in the movie _Lawrence of Arabia_. It's hard to keep all that
    stuff straight...Balfour declaration, Resolution 242, PLO covenant, etc...

    The Brits (and French) wound up making it up to Israel in the 1956 Suez war,
    that sneaky little end-around play against Egypt without consulting with the
    Merikans. Naughty naughty.

    What's your opinion of the _Washington Report on Middle East Affairs_? It
    takes quite a pro-Palestinian view. I'm not opposed in principle to
    Palestinian statehood, if Palestinians could respect Israel's right to
    exist. Too bad things seem to have backpedalled from the Oslo talks which
    I've been reading about in Mark Perry's _A Fire in Zion_. There were IIRC
    some economists who thought that economic ties could help turn the tide
    between the enemies. I doubt the Israeli hardliners like Sharon are going to
    help the peace process much. I'm not sure what to make of Arafat. Is he
    still hemmed in under watch of Israeli tanks? How's he supposed to "crack
    down" on his more bellicose Palestinians in that situation?

    In Tom Segev's _One Palestine, Complete_ there's something about Chaim
    Weizmann meeting T.E. Lawrence (in Aquaba with Faisal?).

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