11th Dec 1917: British Army Captures Jerusalem: Then and Now

owedtojoy

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On 11th December 1917, General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot. He dismounted from his horse and humbly walked from the Jaffa Gate. His troops had captured the city in the preceding weeks. His mode of entry had been ordered by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and was recorded by newsreels.



Allenby was the first Christian conqueror of Jerusalem since the First Crusade captured it in 1099, slaughtering Muslims and Jews indiscriminately as it did so. Jerusalem as a Christian city lasted only last 87 years until Saladin recaptured it in 1187 .

But Muslim rule was never re-established after 1917. In the preceding centuries, Jerusalem had been a provincial city of religious importance, but the British made it a capital again – capital of the British Palestine Mandate which lasted until 1947.

As the Ottoman Empire contracted, the vacuum was filled by the two imperial powers, Britain and France. France took Syria and Lebanon, while Britain kept the rest under an indirect rule system. Some self-government was granted, but the two powers kept most of the military muscle to themselves, and the exploitation of the natural resources.

Is coincidental that Jerusalem and its status is again in the news. It is a fact that the shape of the modern Middle East had been set up to now by the First World War. The Second World War made little or no change. Here are the forces that shaped the Middle East:

  • Imperial & Economic Power, first by the successor powers to the Ottomans (Britain and France), then by the USA. The massive changes under way at the moment are due mainly to the decline of the US in the region.
  • Arab Nationalism, represented in 1917 by the Arab Revolt with the legendary T.E.Lawrence “Lawrence of Arabia” as one of its advisers. But the Arabs were misled, and instead of independence they were fobbed off with client kingdoms, of which only Jordan survives today. But the borders of Lebanon, Syria, Arabia, the Gulf states, Yemen and Iran were all settled, not by the Arabs, but by the British and French under the guise of the League of Nations. Today, the only Arab people without their own nation are the Palestinians.
  • Zionist, taking advantage of the Balfour Declaration, represented today by the State of Israel.
  • Jidahism. It is little known, but at the behest of the Kaiser, the Turkish Caliphate in Istanbul proclaimed a Jihad against the British Empire. However, it had little effect, except to inspire some desertions among Britain’s partly Muslim Indian Army, then in action in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). But who knew this medieval rite would still be influential a century later?

Today as American power ebbs, a power vacuum is already visible. Two local powers are trying to fill it – Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia has a stake as an ally of Iran and with troops in Syria. But Russia not a superpower. While it possesses influence rivalling that of the US, longer term its lack of status hobbles it. Nor would Russia allow a Middle East power influence its internal politics the way the US allows Israel.

As oil becomes a declining asset with the onset of climate change and a revolution in alternative energy, the strategic value of the region to the Americans will also shrink. The first President who determined to dominate the Middle East was Eisenhower, but the last one to really follow his lead was George W. Bush.

For better or worse, one hundred years after the Westerners established themselves as the arbiters of the Middle East, it is mostly the nations and peoples of the region that will determine its future. Outsiders like the USA & Russia will have to align with the internal fractures of the region, not determine them. That in itself is a major shift for the USA.

Edit: The Kurds were not mentioned above, not being Arabs. In the period in question, the Kurds were clients of the Turks. Sad to relate, they often led the mass murders of Armenians, who are peripheral to the narrative as well.
 
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Telstar 62

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The snivelling, murderous, anti Semite who was to become the Mufti,
together with his uncle or father, tried on seven occasions to surrender to
the British...:p
 

Telstar 62

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Neither the Germans nor Ottomans were going to sacrifice their men
over Jerusalem....:rolleyes:
 

Catalpast

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It would have been a better idea if the United Nations had been given the Mandate of Palestine in 1948 with Jerusalem as its Capital

The British managed to pizz off both Arab and Jew over they way they ran the place

Think of all the wars there that could have been awarded if they had

An historic day nevertheless

IIRC troops of the 10th Irish Division formed part of Allenby's Army as it advanced on the Holy City.....
 

parentheses

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Arguably the British took a considerable risk by sending troops to conquer Palestine.
 

L'Chaim

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It would have been a better idea if the United Nations had been given the Mandate of Palestine in 1948 with Jerusalem as its Capital

The British managed to pizz off both Arab and Jew over they way they ran the place

Think of all the wars there that could have been awarded if they had

An historic day nevertheless

IIRC troops of the 10th Irish Division formed part of Allenby's Army as it advanced on the Holy City.....
The mandate was turned over to the UN and it voted to establish a Jewish state there (well two states but the Arab side rejected that). The modern Jewish state was declared and was admitted into the UN
 

Catalpast

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The mandate was turned over to the UN and it voted to establish a Jewish state there (well two states but the Arab side rejected that). The modern Jewish state was declared and was admitted into the UN
Yes thanks for the clarification

But the boundaries of the Jewish area were much slimmer than what Israel eventually was founded on

A United Nations Force in situ would have prevented a full scale war and invasions at that time
 

former wesleyan

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Yes thanks for the clarification

But the boundaries of the Jewish area were much slimmer than what Israel eventually was founded on

A United Nations Force in situ would have prevented a full scale war and invasions at that time
A UN force even today couldn't beat snow off a rope.
 

L'Chaim

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Yes thanks for the clarification

But the boundaries of the Jewish area were much slimmer than what Israel eventually was founded on

A United Nations Force in situ would have prevented a full scale war and invasions at that time
But violence should never influence policy. If UN policymakers, at that time, allowed this tactic to deter them from doing the right thing, it would only have incentivised the opponents of a peaceful resolution......which is what the UN proposed in its partition plan. The palestinian and Arab sides decided to go to war. If giving them what they wanted, at that time (No Jewish state) then they would threaten and employ violence every time they do not get what they want. I think policy makers should do the right thing every time, and then let the security services deal with any violence that results from the decision.
 

owedtojoy

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Arguably the British took a considerable risk by sending troops to conquer Palestine.
Yes, in 1917 the British were seriously overextended - they took a big risk sending troops to Palestine.

IN late 1917, the Austrians and Germans smashed the Italians at Caporetto and troops had to be sent there too. As the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was being negotiated between the Germans and Soviets, even some troops were sent to occupy Archangel.

No wonder the British seriously began to contemplate conscription in Ireland - with the effects we know.

1917 - 1919 was Peak Imperialism for the British.
 

owedtojoy

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But violence should never influence policy. If UN policymakers, at that time, allowed this tactic to deter them from doing the right thing, it would only have incentivised the opponents of a peaceful resolution......which is what the UN proposed in its partition plan. The palestinian and Arab sides decided to go to war. If giving them what they wanted, at that time (No Jewish state) then they would threaten and employ violence every time they do not get what they want. I think policy makers should do the right thing every time, and then let the security services deal with any violence that results from the decision.
Since the Palestinians had no national structure, it is hard to see what they went to war with. Arab states like Egypt, Syria and Jordan did attack Israel in a uncoordinated and haphazard fashion with inexperienced forces. With interior lines of communication and experienced British Army veterans, the Israelis won.

This was also the moment when there was maximum ethnic cleansing, by both sides, but with more success by the Israelis.

It would be entirely inaccurate to present one side as 100% right and the other 100% wrong.
 

parentheses

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Yes, in 1917 the British were seriously overextended - they took a big risk sending troops to Palestine.

IN late 1917, the Austrians and Germans smashed the Italians at Caporetto and troops had to be sent there too. As the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was being negotiated between the Germans and Soviets, even some troops were sent to occupy Archangel.

No wonder the British seriously began to contemplate conscription in Ireland - with the effects we know.

1917 - 1919 was Peak Imperialism for the British.
In late 1917 they sent troops to Palestine, despite the likelihood of a big German offensive in France the following spring. The British army was badly damaged in that offensive and only held on with greatest difficulty. Troops in Palestine had to be rushed back to France to reinforce the front.

The diversion of troops to Palestine led to a furious debate in the house of Commons, with the result that a split opened in the Liberal party.

As you say, the British manpower crisis also led to the consideration of conscription for Ireland.

So even a hundred years ago, events in Palestine were having big effects in the wider world.
 

L'Chaim

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Since the Palestinians had no national structure, it is hard to see what they went to war with. Arab states like Egypt, Syria and Jordan did attack Israel in a uncoordinated and haphazard fashion with inexperienced forces. With interior lines of communication and experienced British Army veterans, the Israelis won.

This was also the moment when there was maximum ethnic cleansing, by both sides, but with more success by the Israelis.

It would be entirely inaccurate to present one side as 100% right and the other 100% wrong.
The Arab armies were not inexperienced armies. Many of them had a lot of experience fighting in WWII. In fact there were over 9000 palestinians who fought in the British army and many more who fought opposing the Allied forces. Jordanian forces also fought with Britain in WWII. They were not inexperienced armies at all.
 

Leandrai

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Today as American power ebbs, a power vacuum is already visible. Two local powers are trying to fill it – Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia has a stake as an ally of Iran and with troops in Syria. But Russia not a superpower. While it possesses influence rivalling that of the US, longer term its lack of status hobbles it. Nor would Russia allow a Middle East power influence its internal politics the way the US allows Israel.

As oil becomes a declining asset with the onset of climate change and a revolution in alternative energy, the strategic value of the region to the Americans will also shrink. The first President who determined to dominate the Middle East was Eisenhower, but the last one to really follow his lead was George W. Bush.

For better or worse, one hundred years after the Westerners established themselves as the arbiters of the Middle East, it is mostly the nations and peoples of the region that will determine its future. Outsiders like the USA & Russia will have to align with the internal fractures of the region, not determine them. That in itself is a major shift for the USA.

Edit: The Kurds were not mentioned above, not being Arabs. In the period in question, the Kurds were clients of the Turks. Sad to relate, they often led the mass murders of Armenians, who are peripheral to the narrative as well.
Absolutely brilliant post that was a joy to read, as the sands in the Levant are suddenly shifting.

Assad was bound to become an embarassing albatross around the neck of Putin...and today he announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria (there are only 136 air miles between Damascus and Jerusalem, it's actually further from Damascus to Latakia where Putin made his whistle stop to meet with Assad today). Meanwhile Turkey has been steadily moving troops into Northern Syria and reinforcing the Free Syrian Army who have suddenly re-awakened all over social media.

I suspect the position they are heading towards is one where Turkey and Russian form a solid alliance that excludes Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the USA...it will also exclude Al Qaeda who, despite not having a homeland or an airforce have managed to con their way into boxing the weight of a nation on the International stage. Bear in mind that the alliance between Russia and Turkey will be upholding Palestine, so it won't be long before MBS in Saudi realises that unless he brings his toys and plays along BAD THINGS will happen, and, as incredible as it seems, Iran may also have to play along.

The chances are that the EU will deploy (grudgingly) alongside Erdogan (if not exactly cuddled up to him), thereby effectively isolating USA and Israel (and Al Qaeda, who already get preferential treatment from Israel over Iran and Turkey). Assad is history, Syria will settle down under the newly formed Russia/Turkey friendly coalition that may be several kinds of the darkest betrayal but will, eventually, be no worse a government than here or the UK and many times better than Assad.

NOBODY will ever really try to evict Israel...but with US power diminished they will have to figure out how to become more reasonable with their neighbours in general and the Palestinian people in specific.

The downside being that this will have been orchestrated by the biggest monster on the international stage today for his best interests, not those of the planet, and every civilian life taken by the RUAF in Syria in the past 2 years was just window dressing, but it seems to me there is a real chance of water finding it's own level and the world settling down - until the next time...

Which is good, because I suspect the alternative would be Armageddon.

Of course, I could be completely wrong...
 


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