Welcome to another edition of WWG NEWS!
Took a walk out today to Lidl, where I was able to buy the bull-milk I couldn’t find in the Co-op. The enduring impression is of a feast of flowers and garden plants going to waste, amid fruit and other perishables quietly perishing. Spring has well and truly been cancelled this year. And it looks like Summer is slated to go the same way.
Been listening to the audiobook of A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East (2011). Paperback (2012), ISBN 978-1847394576 by James Barr.
As a young man, I once spent a summer picking apples on Kibbutz Shoval, a Hashomer Hatzair collective farm near Beersheba. This was a settlement founded by German Jews, and before each meal in the hader ochel I scrubbed my forearms up to the elbow alongside crusty old folk with numbers coarsely tattooed on their forearms. As you can imagine, they made sure we were thoroughly indoctrinated in the Zionist view of the Palestine Question, and I’d done my homework before I left England: Exodus; Orde Wingate; the Warsaw Ghetto, etc.
Rather one-sided homework, I fear, because I found nothing published in English which adequately presented the Palestinian viewpoint, except to portray them as an intractable folk with enormous but entirely understandable chips on their shoulders. But it gave me a lifelong interest in the history of the Promised Land (“…promised to everyone and delivered to no one”) from the time of Abraham to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Well – I have to say that James Barr’s book satisfyingly fills several gaps in my knowledge. A quote from The Times has it that “Barr has skewered the whole shabby story” – and I have to agree. Nobody comes out of this well: not the British, nor the French, nor the Americans, who have at one time or other held the future of Syria and Palestine in their cupped hands… and callously let it splatter on the ground.
Barr’s portraits of several characters in the sandy tapestry of the Middle East are deft and clear-eyed, including such luminaries as Gertrude Bell and T E Lawrence, from whom he omits the customary haloes. De Gaulle is perforce dealt with at length, being graphically portrayed as a giant of a man in both altitude and self-regard, as is his former acolyte and later sworn enemy Edward Spears, childhood pal of Winston Churchill and unswerving champion of the cause of Arab self determination in French-occupied Syria.
Plot spoiler: the upshot of the story is that the French, smarting from the role Britain played in getting them humiliatingly ejected from Syria, plotted with Zionist terrorists, notably Etzel and the Stern Gang, to have us just as humiliatingly ejected from Palestine, amid bloodshed on a biblical scale in either case. The present-day collapse of Syria into bloody chaos has tended to mask from us how bad things were in the 1940s (even) after the defeat of the Axis powers, and how much bad blood there was (and still is) between the former so-called Allies.
And that’s leaving Stalin out of the picture altogether!