Arabs in 1943 'obsessed with Zionism' said secret British report into nationalism

By Jennifer Lipman, April 26, 2013
The report into Arab nationalism was released in May 1943

The report into Arab nationalism was released in May 1943

Anti-Zionism, suspicion of US imperialism and Allied loyalties were key concerns for the Arab world five years before the state of Israel was declared, according to a report commissioned by British officials in May 1943.

The report on "Great Britain and Arab Nationalism" was completed at the height of the Second World War, but remained secret for 70 years until its release at the National Archives this week.

AH Hourani, who compiled it, found evidence of an "obsession with Zionism" among Arab nationalists, out of a misguided belief "that it aims at dominating all Arab Asia".

He wrote of the belief that the allies were "committed to support of Zionism" over Arab aims, and noted "widespread feeling in favour of Germany".

In the section on Palestine he reported that while on the surface there had been a relaxation in pre-war tensions, "beneath the surface things remain as they were: and it is clear that Palestine, like Syria, is moving towards another crisis... Certainly the temper of revolution or even civil war is coming once more into existence".

Mr Hourani wrote that the Arabs were by 1943 more disposed to accept the British White Paper that they had rejected in 1939 "by a tactical blunder".

But he said: "Another important factor is at work: the obsession with Zionism has grown even greater if that be possible in the last years.

"The Palestinian-Arabs can no longer think dispassionately about the problem or see any limits to its size and importance. I have met responsible officials of the Government who believe that if the allies win the war they will send all the Arabs out of Palestine to the desert or to Iraq.

He added: "What causes particular outrage is the influence of the Zionists in the USA and the belief that even if Great Britain wished to carry out the White Paper, America would not let her."

In the lengthy report, which also covered what was then Transjordan, Syria and Lebanon, Mr Hourani delved into the structure of Arab nationalism across the region, noting that there was an "absence of constructive thought and organisation".

Sent to British colonial officials in May 1943, as the remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto attempted to resist the Nazis, Mr Hourani's report makes clear that the Holocaust was not far from the thoughts of Jews in Palestine. He noted that while Palestinian Jewry was deeply split, "the consciousness of the tragedy of European Jewry holds all together."

"No Palestinian Jew, however much he disagrees with Zionist policy and thinks it is leading to disaster, can say the word that would shut the gates to the country against his brothers still in Europe."

Last updated: 3:00pm, April 26 2013