February 25: Lawrence and Zion

With all due respect to Gilbert, Lawrence wrote in 1909 that "the sooner the Jews farm it all the better: their colonies are bright spots in a desert."

letters to the editor 88 (photo credit: )
letters to the editor 88
(photo credit: )
Lawrence and Zion Sir, - With all due respect to Sir Martin Gilbert, T.E. Lawrence has been a known Zionist sympathizer for nearly a century. Shortly after Lawrence died in 1935, Chaim Weizmann wrote that "his relationship to the Zionist movement was a very positive one, in spite of the fact that he was strongly pro-Arab, and he has mistakenly been represented as anti-Zionist." Lawrence's attitude was not confined to a particularly propitious moment, after the Balfour Declaration and before the first riots, when Weizmann was holding friendly talks with Emir Faisal in 1919 and everything seemed possible. In 1909, Lawrence, then an archeologist, wrote to his mother while pottering around in Turkish-ruled Galilee, that in Roman times "the country was well peopled and well watered artificially... Palestine was a decent country then, and could so easily be made so again. The sooner the Jews farm it all the better: their colonies are bright spots in a desert." And this is just part of the long-published evidence of Lawrence's sympathies. Nor is it so surprising that an archeologist associated with the Palestine Exploration Fund, whose founders were Zionist before the word was invented, should be supportive of Jews' as well as Arabs' self-determination in their ancestral homelands. The creed of the British government of the day in 1919 was, after all, "Armenia for the Armenians, Arabia for the Arabs and Judea for the Jews." Lawrence subscribed to all three propositions ("Lawrence of Arabia was a Zionist, who backed a state 'from the River to the Sea,'" February 22). JON IMMANUEL Jerusalem The writer, a former West Bank and Gaza affairs reporter for the 'Post,' is currently writing a book on Britain and Zion. Sir, - Lawrence was not alone in thinking this way. Many prominent Arabs saw Zionism as a sister movement to their own nationalist aspirations. One such Arab leader was Faisal Ibn al-Hussein al-Hashemi, emir of the Arabian kingdom of Hedjaz, now part of Saudi Arabia. A descendant of Muhammad, his was the most prominent voice of Arab nationalism in his generation. On March 5, 1919, he wrote to American Zionist leader (and future US Supreme Court Justice) Felix Frankfurter, inviting Jews to return to the land of Israel and reestablish their state: "We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement... we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home... Indeed I think that neither can be a real success without the other... I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of civilized peoples of the world." The Middle East might well have become a region of peace and prosperity had not the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, turned the Arab masses against Faisal's view of Semitic brotherhood. AHARON S.R. SILVER San Francisco Sir, - There is some suggestion that Lawrence was related to Orde Wingate, who was indeed a champion of the Jews and gave so much assistance in establishing our defense forces. WENDY BLUMFIELD Haifa Yes or no? Sir, - I found myself in a dilemma last week. My daughter, still in high school, will be going to visit the family from Gush Katif that she was "big sister" to all last year, who are still living in temporary housing. Her school called, asking me to allow her to be taken there on a non-bulletproof bus. What kind of mother was I if I said yes, and what kind of mother was I if I said no? At that moment I envied my family still in America, who never have to answer such a question. I did say yes, as I still feel we should be able to go anywhere in Israel, and trust my child will return home safely ("Dispatcher of suicide bomber killed," February 22). REBECCA RAAB Ma'aleh Adumim On the mark Sir, - Tali Cohen was on the mark when she analyzed Israel's solid waste problems in "Recycling generation" and advocated clean WTE - waste to energy solutions (Business Post, February 18). As an environmental engineering adviser to Israel, I encourage others to Google "WTERT" and read the latest information and opinion, and watch videos on this subject on the Columbia University WTERT Web site. We'll also be debating WTE in New York City on March 22, at the NYC Bar Association, 42 W44 St. JACK D. LAUBER PEDEE Research Associate Columbia University Earth Engineering Center New York Haredi women don't want mixed seating Sir, - Re "Stand up for sanity" (Letters, February 18), in reply to my letter of February 11: I mentioned Saudi Arabia only to show how moderate the haredi influence on life in Israel is. I understand that separate seating sections are not general on your buses, only in areas where there is a demand for it. Has it occurred to those against segregated seating that religious women are not forced to sit apart but may not wish to sit with the men - just as men and women sit separately in Orthodox synagogues? I wonder whether at Reform temples in the US, with mixed seating, they have separate restrooms for men and women, or whether there is a single, unisex one. HENRY SCHRAGENHEIM London