If a person is indecisive about which of two courses of action to take, the question to ask is: "Which choice will bring more honor to the Almighty?" The reply to this question is the path to choose.
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Uncovered: U.K. Intel Encouraged Arab Armies to Invade Israel in 1948
Intelligence obtained by the French secret services in the Middle East sheds new light on Britain's role in the Arab-Israeli War of Independence.
September 11, 1947. On the eve of the Arab League's political committee meeting to decide on the Arab response to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) report [supporting the end of the British mandate and partitioning the land between Jews and Arabs], the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient published an article. "Bloc Oriental et extension de la Ligue" argued that, like the Greater Syria plan [that aimed to unite Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine], the Oriental Bloc – a French term for Britain's planned regional defense pact – hung over the independence of Arab countries and the Arab League like the Sword of Damocles, and that its authors were one and the same: [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nuri al-Sa'id and [Jordanian] King Abdullah.
On September 20, the Lebanese newspaper Le Jour reported that after the Arab League meeting in Saoufar, Lebanon, Brig. Iltyd Clayton – whom it defined as "head of the British intelligence in the Middle East" – had left for Damascus. It quoted a Syrian newspaper speculating on whether his visit was connected to the Greater Syria scheme and the tense relations between the Syrian and Lebanese presidents (Shukri al-Quwatli and Bishara al-Khuri) and Jordan's King Abdullah, or to events in Palestine.
On February 19, 1948, the Lebanese newspaper Le Soir published an article titled "Claytonmade." Based on "Zionist sources," it reported that Brig. Clayton – "architect" of the Greater Syria plan, the Oriental Bloc and the bilateral defense treaties with the Arab states – was now advocating a new scheme for the partition of Palestine. The plan proposed that : "Imperialist Lebanon will annex the Western Galilee up to Shavei Zion; Syria the northeastern part of the Galilee and part of its southern region; Egypt will have part of the cake; and Transjordan will swallow up the rest."
In fact, these and other reports in the Lebanese press on the activities of British secret agents were part of a secret war being waged by French intelligence against the British.
Information conveyed by the French intelligence services to the Haganah [the prestate underground Jewish army] in the fall of 1947 indicated that Brig. Clayton and his assistants were involved in a new initiative to secure Britain's strategic position in the Middle East, and linked Clayton to the escalating Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine. The sources also referred to a new partition plan proposed by Clayton, which, contradicting that of the United Nations, aimed to split Palestine between the neighboring Arab states and limit the designated territory of the Jewish state to the coastal area between Atlit [just south of Haifa] and Tel Aviv.
The French tied this initiative to renewed British efforts to implement the 1946 Morrison-Grady Plan [aka the Cantonization Plan] and warned of the danger of an attack on the Yishuv [Jewish community in Palestine] by irregular forces organized by the Arab League. They also warned that an invasion by the regular Arab armies to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state could not be ruled out.
Information passed on by the French, after the UN partition vote on November 29, 1947, was even more alarming. On January 13, 1948, Maurice Fischer – the SHAI [Haganah intelligence service] liaison officer to French intelligence – reported from Paris that, based on totally reliable information from French sources, Brig. Clayton had, on December 17, 1947, reached an understanding with Lebanese Prime Minister Riyad al-Sulh, according to which the British forces would evacuate northern Palestine and give free rein to the irregular forces of the Arab Liberation Army, headed by Fawzi al-Qawuqji, to attack Jewish settlements.
The next day, January 14, two French intelligence officers from Beirut arrived in Haifa and informed the French military attaché that the Syrian prime minister, Jamil Mardam Bey, was mobilizing an irregular force of 20,000 volunteers to invade Palestine, with tacit British agreement.
Previously, at the end of August 1947, Eliyahu Sasson – David Ben-Gurion's chief Arabist adviser – had been called urgently to Paris. He remained until mid-September, sending information and instructions to warn Jordan's King Abdullah and the Egyptian government that British agents were planning to provoke their countries into a war against the Jews in Palestine.
Reports in the Haganah archives from those months – where Clayton's name figures frequently – tie the escalation in the Arab-Jewish conflict to Britain's efforts to secure its strategic position in the Middle East. They, too, alluded to a new scheme, promoted by the British secret services in Cairo, to divide Palestine between the neighboring Arab states.
In the early months of 1948, information continued to reach SHAI on secret British attempts, orchestrated by Brig. Clayton's "clique" in Cairo, to reconcile the Arab leaders and convince them to join forces to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state.
Ben-Gurion's concern regarding the undercover activities of Brig. Clayton and Arabist "experts" in the Foreign Office and the Middle East intensified after August 1947. On November 11, 1947, he sent a British-Jewish former officer to interview Clayton, who was unaware that Ben-Gurion had drafted the questions. The urgency to uncover the British secret services' intentions prompted Ben-Gurion to approve the "Acre operation," in which the Haganah seized the files of the British Legation in Beirut, on December 25, 1947, as they were being transferred from Beirut to Haifa, en route to Britain. read more:
On January 11, 1948, Sasson sent King Abdullah a letter warning him of a plot being hatched in London and Cairo – promoted by Clayton, Nuri al-Sa'id and officials in the Foreign Office and Colonial Office against the UN Partition Plan – that aimed to provoke Transjordan into a war against the Yishuv, contrary to Abdullah's understanding with the Jewish Agency.
In February, Ben-Gurion's chief intelligence officer, Reuven Zaslani (Shiloah), arrived in London to establish whether Britain's failure to ratify its defense treaty with Iraq in January 1948 (the Portsmouth Treaty) had influenced its stand on Palestine, and if there was indeed a British plot to thwart the establishment of a Jewish state. He reported back that although the British cabinet did not intend to oppose partition, the "experts" – who argued that it could not be implemented – were working against it.
Zaslani counted the following against them: Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin's adviser, Harold Bailey; Brig. Clayton; and Gerald de Gaury, a Foreign Office Arabist and liaison officer. Zaslani noted that these "experts," who advocated a collective military agreement with the Arab countries, believed that a future Jewish state could not be relied upon. He added that they were reinforcing the Arab side without the cabinet's agreement.Syrian President Shukri Al-Kouatly with Saudi King Ibn Saud and Iraqi PM Al Said, at the pan-Arab meeting in 1946. (AFP)
Nevertheless, he assessed that they would not be able to influence the cabinet's decision to end the mandate and withdraw British forces from Palestine, as it was supported by the two highest-ranking British officials – High Commissioner of Palestine Alan Cunningham and the commander of the British forces in Palestine, Gen. Gordon MacMillan.
A similar assessment was made by Ben-Gurion in a conversation with a French diplomat in early March. In a March 7 entry in his diary, Ben-Gurion notes, "Clayton went to Syria; the British want to make Syria their base after failing in Iraq and Egypt. The situation in the Arab world is difficult – riots in Iraq – and Britain is trying to concentrate Arab thought on Palestine."
The above examples from the Arab press and French and Zionist sources raise intriguing questions. Was there indeed a connection between Britain's efforts to conclude bilateral military treaties with Iraq, Egypt and other Arab states or form a collective regional defense organization, and the alleged attempts by its secret services in Cairo to provoke a Jewish-Arab war in Palestine? Why was Brig. Clayton associated with a secret scheme to split Palestine between its neighboring Arab states? Why was he implicated in provoking Arab attacks, initially on the Yishuv by irregular forces and, later, on the newly established Jewish state by the regular Arab armies?
Like Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who blamed Britain for conspiring to evict France from the Levant, Ben-Gurion accused it of trying to sabotage the establishment of a Jewish state and secretly provoking an armed invasion by Arab states. Syrian and British documents uncovered in French archives confirm de Gaulle's accusations and reinforce Ben-Gurion's charges. These documents and French intelligence reports reveal that the British-Arabist secret agents, who engineered France's eviction from the Levant in 1945, took similar steps to prevent the formation of a Jewish state in 1947-48.
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---I am finally doing what I should have done long ago l am learning Arabic. I have been studying in a course for about half a year now and let me tell you - it is empowering. Firstly, if you know Hebrew it is certainly a step up in learning its sister Semitic tongue. Arabic , like other Semitic languages were influenced by the earlier Hebrew. When an Arab realizes that I can address them in their own language, it really makes them pause and wonder who is that person before them? You get "some respect" Looks like an Ashkanazi Jew, even a tourist but... how, where, why...who is he?. You can imagine the possibilities,,, I took my Arabic outside the class room for the first time some weeks ago to the "Machane Yehuda" out door market in down town Jerusalem. The colorful stalls are often manned by young boisterous Arab employees, yelling for the attention of the shopping crowd. Most of these hawkers live in East Jerusalem or beyond and have little opportunity to really talk to Jew for more than a quick fruit or vegetable sale. Well, I stopped at my favorite bread and pita stall as I normally do and I asked for bread, in his language, Needless to say he was surprised. I actually was able to get out a couple of short sentences and he was convinced. He glanced at his fellow employee with a look that said, "who is he"? So he asked me, "where are you from"? I answered "from the US". They were really puzzled now. I added, "but now I live here in Israel". I asked him, and where are you from'?. He answered very matter of factly, from here, Palestine". I gave him an incredulous look and asked, where? He repeated, "Palestine" I corrected him. We are in Israel. not Palestine.". He then corrected me. There is no Israel , just Palestine". I had to explain to him that there is in fact no such place as Palestine. It is not mentioned in the Koran even once nor for that matter is Jerusalem mention in the Koran. I think that they were not aware of this fact and my mention of their Koran made them rather upset. One of them had to be calmed down by a fellow worker. I pointed out that "Palestine exists only in your head, no where else." Boy was I pleased with myself. I spread the truth in the language of denial. The pita was extra tasty. Then there was a short conversation I had the other day with a Muslim woman, scarf and all, which began with simple pleasantries on the train. When was the last time a Jewish man or any man spoke to her on the train? Who was this stranger speaking her language? She was happy to inform me that she lives in a village outside Jerusalem, Nakuba and went on to add that her family originally comes from a different village, Tzuba. I said, "yes I know that place. It is a kibbutz today since from that village on the hill,the Arabs shot down on Jewish transportation coming and going to Jerusalem, strangling the city." Therefor I reminded her, the Arab militia and the residents had to be expelled. Well, she didn't expect a tough love history lesson and the niceties were gone. So was my Arabic. But we were talking(in Hebrew) which was interesting. She said how would you feel if some one took YOUR house?" I had to explain to her the very basics of how this "conflict' arose. She had no patience for facts. She said ,"you shot on us, not WE on you'! Now, this is not an illiterate worker in the market. She is an educated student in our best Israeli schools. Yet, her "narrative" is stronger than facts and are more resilient than higher education, logic or any benefits the Jewish state can bestow upon her. A great man once said that, a "dumb, illiterate Arab is far less dangerous to Israel than a smart educated one - especially the ones that WE educate." That man was pretty smart. I can say that in Arabic. www.shalompollacktours.co.il