For those refugees, still in their hovels and shacks as a result of the Balfour Declaration, the First World War never ended
Robert Fisk, The Independent
There was something gruesomely familiar about the way we commemorated the supposed end of the First World War a hundred years ago. Not just the waterfalls of poppies and the familiar names – Mons, the Somme, Ypres, Verdun – but the almost total silence about all those who died in the First World War, whose eyes were not as blue as ours might be or whose skin was not as pink as ours might be or whose suffering continues from the Great War to this very day.
For the first time ever this year, I won’t be wearing a poppy
Even those Sunday supplements that dared stray from the western front only briefly touched on the after-effects of the war in the new Poland, the new Czechoslovakia, the new Yugoslavia and Bolshevik Russia, with a mention of Turkey. The mass famine – perhaps 1.6 million dead – of the Arabs of the Levant under Turkish looting and Allied blockade in the First World War received not a word. Even more astoundingly, I could find not a single reference to the greatest crime against humanity of the First World War – not the murder of Belgian hostages by German troops in 1914, but the Armenian genocide of a million and a half Christian civilians in 1915 by Germany’s Ottoman Turkish ally.
What happened to that key document of the First World War in the Middle East, the 1917 Balfour Declaration which promised a homeland for Jews in Palestine and doomed the Palestinian Arabs (a majority in Palestine at the time) to what I call refugeedom? Or the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement which chopped up the Middle East and betrayed the promise of Arab independence? Or General Allenby’s advance on Jerusalem during which – forgotten now by our beloved commentators – he initiated the first use of gas in the Middle East. So smitten are we by the savagery of modern Syrian and Iraqi history, that we forget – or do not know – that Allenby’s men fired gas shells at the Turkish army in Gaza. Of all places. But gas in the collective memory last weekend was confined, yet again, to the Western Front.