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April 25, 2003

Appeasement: Deja vu

So far, events associated with the RoachMap have followed the traditional trajectory: appeasement (Sharon's list of steps "to assist" Abu Mazen) followed by increased terrorism (today, April 24, 2003, the media report another homicide bombing). No surprise. How far back does this tradition of appeasement in the face of violence go? Appeasement, as a central plank of British policy for the Middle East, was already entrenched in the early 1920's. To illustrate this point I am quoting below from pp. 432-437 of Sir Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill:

Gilbert, Martin. Churchill - A Life. London: Heinemann, 1991.

In early 1921, Churchill was planning a policy conference on the Middle East, which was eventually to be known in history books as the Cairo Conference of March, 1921. Prior to the conference, Churchill met French PM Alexandre Millerand in Paris. Gilbert writes:

'I pointed out the absolute need from both British and French points of view,' Churchill reported to Lloyd George, 'of appeasing Arab sentiment and arriving at good arrangements with them. Otherwise we should certainly be forced by expense of the garrisons to evacuate the territories which each country had gained in war.'

Millerand warned Churchill that one cause of disturbance in the Arab world was Zionism, which had been much encouraged by Balfour's wartime declaration in favour of a Jewish National Home in Palestine...
...
At midnight on March 23 [1921] Churchill left Cairo by train for Jerusalem. During a brief stop at Gaza early the following morning he was greeted by a vast Arab crowd crying 'Cheers for the Minister', 'Cheers for Great Britain' and, with even greater enthusiasm, 'Down with the Jews' and 'Cut their throats'...

On the day after Churchill's arrival in Jerusalem [March 26, 1921], there were Arab riots in Haifa demanding an end to any further Jewish immigration. When the police opened fire to disperse the mob a thirteen-year-old Christian Arab boy and a Muslim Arab woman were killed...
...
Churchill's hopes of economy in Palestine were not to be fulfilled. Continuing Arab protests about Jewish immigration led at the beginning of May [1921] to riots in Jaffa, in which thirty Jews and ten Arabs were killed. Samuel's [The British High Commissioner to Palestine] response was to call a temporary bait to Jewish immigration. Churchill supported the High Commissioner's decision, instructing him to announce 'that until immigrants now in the country are absorbed, immigration will not he reopened'...

Hoping to appease Arab hostility, however, Samuel decided not to collect the fines which had been levied on the Arab rioters...


...And so it went on for almost 30 years, with the British appeasing and the Arabs becoming progressively emboldened.

Interestingly, Churchill actually uses the word “appeasement” to describe his policy; that, of course, was 17 years before the term acquired the Munich notoriety.

Another interesting point concerning this quotation is that Churchill is regarded by some to be Zionism’s loyal friend; when I read that Blair too is considered by some to be Israel’s friend, the experience of “deja vu” becomes very strong indeed. Blair’s 2003 RoachMap is Churchill’s 1922 White Paper, and both are designed to sabotage the Jewish National Home.

And don’t miss the reference to French hostility to the Zionist project: Blame the Jews is an old French tradition.

The most essential point, however, goes back to the RoachMap. On the one hand, one should not be surprised if the British government continues the 80-year old policy of appeasing Arabs. On the other hand, one should remember the consequences of this appeasement: all the British efforts notwithstanding, the British government harvested nothing but Arab hostility. With this historical hindsight, why should Israel follow the path of appeasement and accept the RoachMap?