Recently, while bored at work waiting for replies to emails, I surfed Infogalactic to the page on Mark Sykes, the Englishman who worked with the Frenchman Picot to draw the lines in the sand that defined the boundaries of a number of countries in the modern Middle East.
Interesting man – his biog is well worth a read. But one thing that really caught my attention was this passage:
Sykes designed the flag of the Arab Revolt, a combination of green, red, black and white. Variations on his design later served as flags of Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine, none of which existed as separate nations before the First World War.
The Arabs had their borders drawn by an Englishman working with a Frenchman, and had the basic design of their national flags – in which they take such pride – by the same Englishman.
Further east, the Persian Shah was encouraged in 1935 by a German – the dubious character of Horace Greely Hjalmar Schacht – that he should ask foreign delegates to call their country Iran, to reflect its people’s origins as Aryans. Hence we have the country called Iran.
Other excerpts from the entry:
Evidence suggests that Sykes had a hand in promoting the Balfour Declaration to the Cabinet issued on 2 November 1917. It stated that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”
How on earth anyone thought that was supposed to work is beyond me. The two are completely incompatible: establishing a homeland for the Jewish people could only ever have been at the expense of the rights of ‘existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. Interestingly, both the Palestinians and the Zionists knew this, and still know it: hence, the endless tension and frequent violence. Not very bright, Mark.
Sykes was in Paris in connection with peace negotiations in 1919. At the conference, a junior diplomat present, Harold Nicolson, described Sykes’ effect: “It was due to his endless push and perservance, to his enthusiasm and faith, that Arab nationalism and Zionism became two of the most successful of our war causes.”
Yeah. What a success. Again, well done. More evidence for my sad conclusion that World War I was the greatest man-made tragedy ever to befall human civilisation.