The Israeli-Arab conflict is arguably the most intractable and the most explosive issue in the world today.
Though there may be no end in sight, it does have a beginning.
For nearly a century, there have been British public figures who mixed politics with Christianity, seeking to impose their own ‘messianic’ vision on the Middle East, with disastrous consequences for those who live there.
Tony Blair is only the latest in a long list of British political figures who have made the Middle East their business
Britain’s modern association with the Holy Land goes back to the First World War, and a time when it was looking for new allies against Germany.
The Arabian Sherif of Mecca was an obvious choice. He promised to unite the Arabs and rise against Germany’s allies, the Ottoman Turks.
|Britain has been heavily
involved in the Middle East
In return, Britain officially promised in 1915 to assist him realise his dream: to be the supreme Arab ruler of an independent Arab kingdom.
Britain sent troops to fight with him, and paid him the equivalent in today’s money of half a billion dollars.
But at the same time, the British, in conjunction with the French, were busy re-drawing the map of the region, dividing it into ‘spheres of influence’.
Britain would have Iraq and Jordan, France would have Syria and Lebanon.
Contrary to earlier promises, there would be no independent Arab state – though no one told this to the Arabs.
Balfour to Blair, a special 30 minute film, investigates the promises made, the motivations of British policy in the Middle East at the time and the impact of the Zionist lobby on this policy.
Al Jazeera asks whether the same underlying principles that directed the policies in the beginning of the 20th century are still at play in the beginning of the 21st.
Balfour to Blair aired from Friday, May 17, 2008
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