Early Arab-Israeli Relations

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



The Weizmann - Faisal Agreement


 The following is an excerpt from The Restoration of Israel: Christian Zionism in Religion, Literature, and Politics (2006)


In view of the unrelenting hostility shown Jews by the Muslim clergy, politicians and journalists, it would seem astonishing that are indeed other voices in the Muslim community. These are very few and have been given very little attention by all those engaged in the conflict surrounding the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.

Therefore the Weizmann-Faisal Agreement of January 3, 1919 was most significant. That agreement was signed by Emir Faisal, son of Sherif Hussein, who had been the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks during the First World War and by Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), who later became the first president of Israel. He was a chemist by profession, having studied in German and Swiss universities. On earning a doctorate he was appointed lecturer of biological chemistry at Manchester University in England. In 1916 he became director of the British Admiralty chemical laboratories. Weizmann joined the Zionist movement founded by Herzl in its early years. Because Weizmann had made major contributions to the British war effort, he met Arthur Balfour and other leaders of the British government. Therefore he was instrumental in obtaining the so-called Balfour Declaration, which became the basis for the agreement that he obtained when he met Faisal at the 1919 Versailles peace conference where both were observers. In later years Weizmann laid the foundations of the Hebrew University and served as president of the world Zionist Organization.

Faisal ben Hussein (1883-1933) was for a short while king of greater Syria. A member of the Hashemite dynasty, he became king of Iraq in 1921. An ally of the British, he participated in the conquest of Transjordan, so that he was invited as a representative of the Arab people to the peace conference concluding World War I. While there, he and Weizmann made the following declaration which served as an introduction to the aforementioned agreement.

“Mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab states and Palestine," the agreement looked to the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration and sought "to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil."

The agreement contained nine articles. The first of these promises that good relations and cordial good will and understanding shall govern the relations between the Arab states and the Jewish community. The second article seeks to define the boundaries between the Arab states and Palestine and the third article seeks the establishment of a Constitution and administration to “carry into effect the British government's declaration of the second of November, 1917.”

Article 4 begins with the words: "All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large-scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil." It further mentions the Arab peasants and tenant farmers who shall be protected in their rights and shall be assisted in the economic development. Article 5 of this agreement guarantees freedom of religion for all living in Palestine and article 6 guarantees that the Muslim holy places shall be under Muslim control. Article 7 obliges The Zionist Organization to promote economic development among the Arabs and give the Arab states a report on the best means of developing economic possibilities for the Arabs. Article 8 then promises that the parties are in complete accord and harmony concerning these agreements and article 9 determines that all disputes between the parties shall be referred to the British government for arbitration.

At the time of this agreement Faisal was almost the only recognized Arab leader in the world. Therefore, his subsequent speeches and writings supporting the integration of Jews into Palestine were most significant. This agreement was repudiated by the Arab leadership coming after him, although the Zionists both before and after the establishment of Israel and even now (2006) are fully prepared to carry out all nine articles.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) &  Youth Culture and the Generation Gap (2005) with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

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