Lines In The Sand


Guest List

Juan Cole, academic, blogger and tireless watcher of the Middle East — his new book is called The New Arabs: How The Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East.

Seyla Benhabib, the Yale political scientist and a philosopher of borders and cosmopolitanism.

Labib Nasir, a Palestinian reporter for Reuters who covered the Arab Spring from North Africa.

The borders that divide up our modern world hinge, sometimes, on decisions that have stopped making sense. The Middle East is still suffering from unhealed wounds resulting from the boundaries established a hundred years ago in secret by two men, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges Picot, that carved the former Ottoman empire into today’s Middle East. As geopolitics changes around the world, why don’t those political maps?


Read More

• Our friend Stephen Kinzer launched the conversation this week in The Boston Globe, writing on the flexibility of human borders and the news from Iraq and Syria;

• Juan Cole says the Arab Spring dream, apparently lost in fighting across borders and crackdowns within them, isn’t dead yet in The Los Angeles Times;

• John Judis and Nick Danforth have already playing out one side of the debate this week.

In The New Republic, Judis makes an argument we’ve seen many times since 2003: that the Middle East as a colonial creation, is coming undone. Danforth’s response, in the Atlantic, sees that line of thought as dangerously out-of-focus. The real disaster, he writes, was “the truly pernicious policy of divide-and-rule that the French and British used to sustain their power… The militarization of these ethnic and religious identities, rather than the failure of perfectly placed state borders to alleviate tension between them, explains much of violence in the Middle East today.


• There’s another geo-controversy brewing around our guest Juan Cole’s mapping of shrinking Palestinian territory since 1948. Cole sees the maps as proof that the hardcore Israeli leadership has no plans to stop settling the West Bank or to accept anything short of a unified Israel. The Netanyahu government confirmed some of those fears this week, with a snub to Biden and a declaration of intent, off the radar of the American media.

• Frank Jacobs, geographer of the odd, took on the borders separating Israel and Palestine and India and Pakistan in his fine Times blog, “Borderlines”.

• Finally, glimpses of hope on the horizon: the president of Iraqi Kurdistan visits Ankara this week, seeking to ease some of his nation’s tense history with the Turks. And Haaretz asks for a revolution in Israeli culture as a step toward attacking the crisis at its roots in hearts and minds.

Related Content

  • nycXpat

    Thanks you for great guests and taking the time to go through the history.

  • Caught a bit online, really appreciated the comments I heard; look forward to hearing the whole discussion/reading the transcript.

  • Rosenberg

    It is a shame that OpenSource was unable to invite a person to give an Israeli view of the Israeli/Palestinian border issues. Did you try inviting anyone from Israeli Embassy or Consulate, anybody from HonestReporting, anybody AIPAC, anybody from ADL? I hope the next time you discuss the issue, you try to provide some balance rather than an anti-Israel bias.

  • Rosenberg

    With respect to the grossly misleading maps shown with the caption “Palestinian Loss of Land 1948 – 2000”, please read how they are debunked at

    I would have hoped that OpenSource would use fact checkers to protect itself from posting deceptive maps such as the ones you posted.

    • Kunal

      Neither of those “blogs” you posted are even in the universe of reputable sources.

      • Rosenberg

        Those “maps that lie” have been around for a while and have fooled some intelligent people. Do you have better references to sites that expose their lies?

        I’m much more concerned with the accuracy of the debunking statements than with your opinion about which universe they are in. If you disagree with any of the statements, please cite the statement with which you disagree, the issue that you have with it, and references to the objective sources that disprove the statement.

        If you can’t point out any errors, then don’t waste time making allegations about the reputations of the speakers.

        • Kunal

          My sources are Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan:

          And Andrew Sullivan, PhD from Harvard University, in the Atlantic:

          “The maps show what has happened since – in sixty years in terms of growing sovereignty and accelerating Israeli control. The Muslim population is expanding as the geographic extent of their political self-government keeps diminishing. While Jerusalem was once in the center of Palestinian territory – and the Israelis agreed to this, while the Arabs refused – it is now not only in Israel but all of it will soon be under sole Israeli control, as Netanyahu continues, despite pleas from his American benefactors and allies, merely to freeze them.

          The point of the illustration was to provide some background to the now-unavoidable fact that Israel has every intention of expanding its sovereignty to the Jordan river for ever, to segregate Palestinians into walled enclaves within, and to station large numbers of Israeli troops on the Eastern border. I notice that Goldberg has time to splutter against this blog but, until yesterday, no time to refer to the Israeli government’s contemptuous treatment of the US vice-president in his visit, a subject that has dominated the Israeli press but contradicts Goldberg’s view that my notion that the new Israeli that I have worried about this past year is real and is dangerous – to itself, the region, the world and, above all, the United States.”

        • Potter

          Rosenberg- I’d like to address Edgar Davidson’s own “Expansionist Israel” map series which you link as compared to Juan Cole’s above showing Palestinian loss of land.

          The first of Davidson’s map series shows the entire British Mandate including TransJordan as well as Palestine. He labels that “Palestine 1922- Balfour Declaration- Promised Jewish Homeland”. Transjordan was NOT included in this letter of intention. Jews were going to be allowed to settle (have a homeland) only in Palestine (land west of the Jordan only). So Davidson started with this false base… a false “fact”. As well this area was not to be exclusively for Jews ( as per Balfour).

          The first Cole map above showing the series (green and white) “Palestinian Loss of Land” is also somewhat misleading. It shows the white areas as Jewish settlements in 1946, very small in number relatively. But the green area is not necessarily Palestinian land, but British Mandate. The map does not show Palestinian land or settlements (villages). But I have no problem with the other maps in the Cole series. By 1947 we have the Partition Plan division between lands designated for Arab and Jewish settlement.

          Each series purports to make a different and opposite point: Davidson tries to make a case based on false facts though. His map series continues to show how the Sinai, which he shows as part of Israel ( it was not- it was captured land, returned for peace), shrank. Davidson ends up with an Israel that looks like ( is) the borders of 1948- after the war of Independence. This is the Israel that was accepted into the UN as a full member state.

          But after that and NOT in Davidson’s series the Israel map that changes again in 1967 with the captured territories including Jerusalem, the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza. All but the West Bank were annexed by Israel. This is NOT shown by Davidson as it is actually Israeli expansion. It does not fit his narrative of shrinking Israel. It’s dishonest in total.

          So to sum up- Davidson’s is a dishonest series masquerading as “factual reality”. And Juan Cole’s I find fault with only the first map because it looks like all the green area belongs to the native Arabs.

      • I wouldn’t dismiss these blogs out-of-hand.

        There are some truths, half-truths, and misstatement of fact to be sure.

        It was said that the Palestinian Jews accepted the UN partition, which is not entirely true. They saw it as untenable and they went to war in ‘47.

        One important truth was regarding the Palestinians, who were farmers. You can draw any boundaries
        you want around them. Roman, Christian, Turkish, British, it never matter to them. Not being politicized they seem an unsophisticated lot, which is why they are looked down upon by their Arab brethren.

        Therein lays the problem. There are not only clashes of culture, but a more primitive clash between being and becoming.

        Nonetheless, reading the blogs gives one an insight into the thinking going on – the complexity and the confusion.

  • Films that will show the end-point for each:
    The Law in These Parts Hebrew: שלטון
    החוק (2011)
    directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz

    5 Broken Cameras Arabic: خمس كاميرات محطمة‎ (2011)
    directed by Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

  • Potter

    I’ve been very upset about the news coming out of “Israel-Palestine”. So this show is timely for me as it backs away from the scene a bit. I find myself very oddly arguing the Hamas viewpoint. Odd because I have family in Israel and feel deeply that Israel should be. I have loved Israel…have been there a few times. It’s an incredible country in many ways. But I have been deeply disappointed in Israel’s behavior for quite awhile, maybe even since 1967: the right wing and religious extremist prominence, the public’s apparent support and the collapse of the peace movement. It’s not getting better. This war on Gaza, it seems to me, was planned and looking for a match to ignite it- an excuse. Israel has no desire to get to the root cause of the resistance:occupation. Israel wants quiet, but no solution. The photos and videos coming out of Gaza, after the horrible incidents in the West Bank, are not flattering to Israel to say the least.This war looks obsessive, unnecessary and disproportionate. Israel is doing itself (and Jewish people worldwide many who feel they must offer support) a great disservice. And if the complaint is still anti-Semitism, this is food for that. It’s hard for me to chalk it up to the past, centuries of oppression culminating in the Holocaust (without which Israel would not be) and a resulting communal psychosis that has to be understood. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that a growing number of Jews do not know toleration and cultivate hate in fact, as a result of nurtured inordinate fears. But as your guest Seyla Benhabib (she was wonderful; I love her name!) puts it beautifully, Israel is now not only the mindset of the original Zionists, fading, but made up of many from elsewhere, especially from Russia and the Soviet era, folks who apparently do not embrace the values cultivated by Europeans and Americans– so it seems. It’s hard to blame it on a residual Soviet mindset entirely either. Might makes right though. Very last century.

    So, it’s very disappointing that international laws, lessons learned from two horrible world wars, have no teeth. And it’s very disappointing that the US supports Israel’s actions and policies so uncritically while Israel does itself such harm. I am very disappointed in Obama. He could make a difference… especially since he has nothing to lose politically– he could risk more easily.

    Regarding the Sykes-Picot borders and the carving up of the Middle East and international law, the UN, on borders and aggression, I feel more relaxed if the borders change in an orderly way with internal and mutual agreement which was not the case with the seizing of the Crimea by Russia. It makes sense that people who have tribal/cultural feelings towards/for each other should not be separated by artificial borders. But we are so far away from accomplishing these changes in a peaceful way. Perhaps the Kurds are the best example we have to look at. Palestinians of the West Bank might be as well were it not for the big foot of occupation and Israel’s aggression.

    By the way, I would have loved to hear Seyla Benhabib’s idea about federation for Israel-Palestine (I think I have heard this idea before).

    Bernard Avishai has a good article up now at the New Yorker. This is a time of despair and little hope for many who keep pushing on for the right things to happen.

    • “….as a result of nurtured inordinate fears.”

      Not only would you as an Israeli have individuals dedicated to killing you, but their officials dedicated to killing you as well. You would be surrounded by nations that in the recent past tried to exterminate the State of Israel. (In 47’ the world did nothing and the world did nothing again in ’67.)

      For an Israeli, the fear of being murdered is not an inordinate fear.

      • Potter

        Well it’s also true that Palestinians have more what to fear from actual experience for well over 60 years. And the death tolls on either side is a story in and of itself.

        Israel has a very powerful well-equipped modern organized military and an institutionalized occupation that it runs with an army, surveillance, walls and fences so that Israeli’s can live normally. By and large they do. At the same time Israelis are totally oblivious to what they are fomenting on the other side with regard to anger, despair, lack of hope amongst Palestinians. In fact israeli’s don’t even know there are people over there anymore until there is a flare-up. Or, they have, increasingly, racist attitudes about them, stereotyped. Easy when there is no contact. But the fears in Israel have been nurtured by leaders beyond reality to keep themselves in power. That’s how the Likud wins and Kadima or the peace parties fail. The Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism are not far from the surface, memories, while the occupation itself makes things worse, feeds and keeps those feelings alive, the feelings of being the perennial victim. This is so opposite of the original Zionist’s philosophy and goals.

        In recent years Iran’s nuclear threat was pushed to the top of the agenda deflecting attention from resolving the conflict which Israel feels it can manage the way it is. Of course, if I lived in Israel, I would be afraid of having rockets aimed at me or an angry off-balance Palestinian attack me. But the occupation, insisting on settling land that is Palestinian owned, and/or is to be a Palestinian state is the cause of Israel’s insecurity within and without a doubt. And so I say inordinate. I think Israel is risking more by continuing the occupation, believing it can be managed until some day or forever. .And this it does not help battling anti-Semitism in the world.

        • “In fact israeli’s don’t even know there are people over there anymore until there is a flare-up. Or, they have, increasingly, racist attitudes about them…”

          This couldn’t possibly be about race since Jews and Arabs are of the same race. If Israelis have a bias, it is to not be killed.

          “Ifind myself very oddly arguing the Hamas viewpoint.”

          The Hamas viewpoint is Islamist vs the PLO which is more secular. There are theories that
          Israel supported Hamas (by benign neglect) against the PLO – theories that occasionally
          facts support.

          The more one digs into the situation the more convoluted it becomes.

          If the Palestinians stopped fighting the Israelis, the administration of the occupied territories would be seen more clearly as not being carried out in the spirit of international law – which states that occupied territories can not be permanently

          Ultimately, Hamas gives Israel the cover of ‘a military necessity’ to occupy the lands.

          • Potter

            You are right Jews and Arabs are genetically related. Cousins killing cousins. There is no such thing as race so we are told. But that does not stop hate and what we commonly call racism- the perception of race. Black people. White people, Yellow people, Red people, Brown people, Ayran people etc. I am more aware now of the depth of hatred in Israel towards Arabs. I knew it existed, but the extent of it horrifies me.
            I don’t care at this point that Islamists hate Jews. I am concerned for personal reasons about and how low some Israeli’s, some Jews have sunk morally trying to preserve and protect what they believe is theirs alone.
            The BBC had a Hamas spokesperson on the other day and he was very rational, very articulate. The 

Hamas viewpoint has been moderating, and, particularly now, they were ready to be practical to stay in power. All analysis that I have read is saying the same thing.

            Palestinians in the West Bank did adopt a policy of non-violence Where did it get them? Hamas abided a ceasefire since 2012.

The brutal occupation continued regardless. The peace talks failed. All Israel wants is quiet. Settlements continue and a blind eye is turned. Obama is just about useless, not so sympathetic.

          • I am aware
            that Israel killed the two Hamas leaders who claimed to want peace.

            What we don’t
            know is whether that peace was permanent kind or temporary, as a way to build up armaments.

            Could Gaza effectively be de-militarized by Hamas?

            Seyla Benhabib referenced practical limitations saying Hamas can’t control its own factions. The Palestinians have no central locus of control and no history or memory of peace therein. As she said it takes very little to start a new conflict.

            It seems a very simple thing for the Palestinians to stop fighting Israel and demilitarize as away to lay bare the illegality of the land grab.

            The reason they don’t do it is that they are fighting amongst themselves. Just as Seyla Benhabib said the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin showed Israelis fighting amongst themselves.

            Hate is the result of confused and inadequate thinking. Not that a lot of thinking will resolve anything, the Enlightenment ended badly.

            Perhaps Melville’s Divine Inert need a mindless diversion – first credit and jobs, then a massive Disney Land.

            Or is thinking the mindless diversion?

            Required viewing:
            Bamako (2006) directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. Melé is a bar singer, her husband Chaka is out of work and the couple is on the verge of breaking up… In the courtyard of the house they share with
            other families, a trial court has been set up. African civil society spokesmen have taken proceedings against the World Bank and the IMF whom they blame for Africa’s woes… Amidst the pleas and the testimonies, life goes on in the courtyard. Chaka does not seem to be concerned by Africa’s desire to fight for its rights. – IMDB

            Notre Musique 2004 – directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The film reflects on violence, morality, and the representation of violence in film, and touches especially on past colonialism and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. -wiki

          • Potter

            Robert – We don’t know whether peace is permanent no matter what on either side. Israel has to talk to Hamas and stop calling them just terrorists particularly since Israel itself is terrorizing. So I figure a peace deal even for 10 years is good and Israel should go for it without putting blockages in the way, without continuing to settle Palestinian lands. But once Hamas and Fatah/the PLO are in a unity agreement, an “end of conflict “ is possible that they will, or they said they will, agree to especially if the people vote yes in a referendum. Then what kicks in is the need to protect their sovereignty, the need to build a state. In fact I am just as concerned, even more, that Israeli’s will not go for it in a referendum. In any case I don’t see how there can be any deal with continued Israeli settlement activity. Of all preconditions on either side, that is the major one, along with the violence on both sides that escalates from smaller incidents. Once all parties sign an agreement and things start happening amongst people on both sides, healing, trust, and once they have something to hang their hopes and dreams upon, the politics will change.

            My views may be radical but I don’t see how you de-militarize. Israel is not going to de-militarize for sure. So Palestinians too need their weapons along with borders. It’s part of sovereignty. Call it MAD. But I may be mad to think that Israel, so fully armed and yet so insecure will allow this. At the same time I think Palestinians need to protect themselves.

            Hamas has shown that it can control quite a lot of it’s own and other factions. With an agreement it (in unity) will have the incentive and support to gain more/complete control. Palestinians are trying to gain a central locus. But Israel is undermining those efforts dividing those ( Abbas & Co.) who feel that violence does not work against those who feel that violence is the ONLY thing that works.The fight amongst themselves as I see it has to do with gaining support of the people. So the people see now that Hamas is fighting for them. This current escalation is a perfect example of Israel undermining, or working to undermine the unity agreement by dividing the factions along their lines of difference.

            It’s not that simple to ask those who are so volatile, so worked up, about the daily occupation to give up their resistance. Your rationality is from quite a distance. But even a period of relative quiet from militants has proven to produce nothing from Israel but more in the form of irritants. Israel it seems continues to settle and take lands and continues the occupation regime thumbing it’s nose to efforts like Kerry’s. I don’t think Israel wants a peace deal, frankly. And the Obama administration, certainly the entire Congress, are afraid do bold things to move Israel.

  • Potter

    I hope this link works- good op-ed in the NYTimes today by Nathan Thrall:

    The Road to War Paved by the West

    • Rosenberg

      Among the many things that Nathan Thrall neglected to mention in his op-ed is that Hamas, one of the two partners in the Unity government has steadfastly refused to agree to “the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.” In fact Hamas said that it will never accept the existence of Israel in any borders.

      Thrall writes “… led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on terms set almost entirely by the P.L.O. chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.” The Palestinian Authority says it accepts the conditions cited above (although it does a poor job of living up to them, particularly the nonviolence). If the Palestinian Authority had gotten its partner, Hamas, to agree to those conditions, I think Israel would have been willing to accept and work with the Unity government. If Israel did not, then Thrall’s point about Israel’s having made a mistake in failing to recognize the Unity government would be valid. But the Palestinian Authority, which Thrall says was able to dictate the terms of the reconciliation, didn’t get its partner, Hamas, to accept any of the three conditions. So Israel was confronted with a Unity government, one of whose two partner organizations was committed to continue using violence to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. Obviously this is unacceptable.

      Thrall writes “The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement.” The clear fact is the the escalation (which Israel tried to avoid) is a direct result of Hamas waging war against Israel – primary by firming rockets indiscriminately at innocent Israeli civilians, since Israel cut off most of the other means by which Hamas could attack them. Tunnels under the border into Israeli territory are another weapon in Hamas’s war and Israel is now trying to close them.

      • Potter

        Rosenberg: you say “In fact Hamas said that it will never accept the existence of Israel in any borders.”

        You think Israel would have been willing to work with a Unity government if Hamas agreed to the terms? What leads you to think that? Abbas said they did agree, and you don’t ( more importantly Israel doesn’t) believe it. Wasn’t it worth a try instead of what we have now?

        My impression is that Israel did not like the unity agreement altogether, nor did Netanyahu like the US or Euro willingness to wait and see if the agreement worked. But shortly after, the kidnapping happened. And then Israel blamed it on Hamas without offering any proof. Then the cycle speeded up with re-arrests in the West Bank and deaths and home destructions of Palestinians, rockets in retaliation etc etc. It is being said by some that this was an effort to destroy the unity agreement ultimately too. The unity agreement however by the fact of it showed Hamas’ weakness and willingness to be pragmatic because of lost support. Now with the violence, they have gained some support back it appears.

        Thrall’s point is very valid. Israel worked against itself, it’s own security, lost yet another opportunity because the will to end this conflict is not sincere. Israel has the might and will use it.

    • Rosenberg
  • Rosenberg

    I’m pleased that OpenSource was smart enough (or lucky enough) to avoid having a representative from a group with “Jewish” in its name or “pro-Israel” in its tag line that purports to speak for American Jews, but takes positions not supported by the majority of American Jews, not supported by the majority of Israelis, and not supported by Israel. Unfortunately, such groups have fooled some NPR programs and their listeners into thinking that because they claim to be Jewish or pro-Israel, their positions are endorsed by most Jews or real supporters of Israel.

    • SteveZStein

      Dunno whether the sarcasm is this or your other message.
      The lack of any discernible balance in this discussion disturbed me, but it gave Dr Cole a safe space to peddle his “apartheid” rhetoric unchallenged.
      I do read and sometimes respect a lot of Dr Cole, but he can be painfully intellectually dishonest when it comes to Israel. It was almost comical to hear him describe 1948 and 1967 as “war broke out”. You could hear him walking that tightrope in his mind.

    • Potter

      If the groups that you list below -the ADL, HonestReporting,AIPAC, the (Israeli) Embassy or Consulate) are who you are really suggesting should have been on the show because they represent the majority of Jews here and “real” supporters of Israeli, I take great issue with your claim. They are all in support of israel’s right -wing policies. Often the names tell you the opposite of what they are about. The most recent Pew poll should be consulted.

      CNN (show with Wolf Blitzer) was showing the Israeli version of “shock and awe” ( to me it seemed so) and they had Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesperson, on a split screen talking very fast, unopposed, about the need for this operation. The faster he talked the less believable he was. It was pure propaganda and an indefensible position basically since the root causes were not about to be addressed. NPR Newhour at least gave equal time to both sides, a lot better.

      But I can always count on ROS to give something different. That said- I think Juan Cole obviously has little sympathy for Israel. At this point I wish I could get upset about it.

      • Rosenberg

        Since Israel is a free and open society with a free (and very outspoken) press, many views are expressed – from the far-left to the far-right. With the exception of HonestReporting, the sources I suggested are pretty centrist. There are left wing anti-Israel Israelis (or Americans) and there are right-wingers who are anti-Arab. The sources I cited are moderates who are both pro-Israel and pro-Arab. HonestReporting doesn’t take any position on the left, right, or in between – it simply tries to get out the facts, whether they are favorable or unfavorable to Israel. It is concerned with lies about Israel and it tries to correct them, independent of whether that helps or hurts Israel. (Usually, the lies are against Israel, so correcting them helps usually Israel, but not always.)

        • Potter

          Honest Reporting from my experience is hardly neutral in it’s point of view. But here from the Wikipedia entry:

          HonestReporting (also Honest Reporting or is a pro-Israel,[1][2] non-governmental organization that monitors the media for what it perceives as bias against Israel.[3] The organization has affiliates in the United States, UK, Canada, Italy, and Brazil.

  • Cambridge Forecast

    Borders, Empires, Nations, Insurgents, Aboriginal and Tribal Peoples :

    The ROS discussion “Lines in the Sand” was pointed and informative. A listener might well benefit from the following additional “perspectival flashlights.”
    The Alfred Hitchcock movie “Secret Agent”, 1936, based on Somerset Maugham’s “Ashenden” stories (Maugham was himself a British espionage agent for years, a la John Le Carre), is also informative on the whole WWI period. It starts with newsreels showing the siege and debacle of Britain’s General Charles Townsend at Kut in 1915, the British rout at the hand of the Ottomans, and the rescue by General Maude. When the British later entered Baghdad, their generals sounded exactly like Tony Blair and Bush blathering about how they were there to help the Iraqis.
    The movie also shows you obliquely the rise of modern Western “clandestinity.”(black ops).

    You’ll perhaps vaguely remember a scene in the movie “Snows of Kilimanjaro” where “Harry Street” (Gregory Peck) is about to set off for a
    reportorial assignment in Syria circa 1926 to cover an insurgency against the French. The French abolished (!) the Arab State of Syria
    in 1920. The Bogart movie “Sirocco” is set in the same period. “Outpost in Morocco” with George Raft is about battling the “demonic”
    aboriginal Riffs and Tuaregs who are engaged in similar battles in the Maghreb today.

    Empire nostalgia people like Niall Ferguson, Netanyahu, and the neocons want to refight these colonial wars and battles and overturn decolonization. Netanyahu’s slogan is “qui ose gagne” ie “who dares wins.”

    The Versaiiles Paris peace Conference which commenced in 1919 was one of the “fathers’ or ‘common ancestors”of the present turmoil.” Ponder the following comment on Prof. Margaret MacMillan’s book on the Versailles
    Conference 1919:

    “The “war to end all wars” ended with a conference that helped spawn
    conflicts that persist to this day. The 1919 Versailles peacemakers created Iraq, Palestine, and Yugoslavia. They debated Kosovo, Kurdish independence, Islamic aspirations, women’s rights, and the threat of
    Communism. Margaret MacMillan’s lively, detailed, sometimes mind-boggling
    narrative of the Paris Peace Conference follows the tangled negotiations to end World War I.”
    5. Churchill and the Cairo Conference of 1921:
    The 1921 Cairo Conference was convened in order to establish a unified British policy for the Middle East, in particular to resolve the conflicting policies defined in the McMahon letters (1915), the Sykes-Picot agreement (1916) and the Balfour Declaration (1917). Winston Churchill, the newly appointed Colonial Secretary, called all the British Military Leaders and civil administrators in the Middle East to a conference at the Semiramis hotel in Cairo to discuss these issues.
    “On 24 March Churchill began his journey back to London by way of Jerusalem. In Gaza his train was met by a large demonstration against
    the British Mandate over Palestine. In the town he met the mayor and other leaders and was presented with a list of demands which had been put forward by the Third Arab Congress in Haifa. On 28 March he held a meeting in Jerusalem with a delegation of Palestinian leaders from the Muslim-Christian Associations led by Musa al-Husayni. They called for the rescinding of the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of an elected Parliament. He refused to make any changes to British policy.”
    As informative as the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” is and was,
    a companion movie called “A Dangerous Man: Lawrence
    After Arabia” is also a very eye-opening documentary and shows how it was possible for lesser offivcals like Sykes and Picot to be so influential. When Gertrude Bell and Richard Meinertzhagen are introduced to someone in a hotel lobby, Bell is said to “do the Arabs” and Meinertzhagen “does the Jews.
    “Her work was specially mentioned in the British Parliament, and she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Some consider the present troubles in Iraq are derived from the lines Bell helped draw to create its borders. Perhaps so, but her reports indicate that problems were foreseen, and that it was clearly understood that there were just not many (if any) permanent solutions for calming the divisive forces at work in that part of the world.”
    Colonel Richard Henry Meinertzhagen,
    CBE, DSO (3 March 1878 – 17 June 1967)[2]
    was a British soldier, intelligence officer and ornithologist.
    After the armistice he attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and was Edmund Allenby’s Chief Political Officer, involved in the creation of the Palestine Mandate, which eventually led to the creation of the state of Israel. In the film A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1990), which depicted the Paris Peace Conference, Meinertzhagen was a major character and was played by Jim Carter.
    Lastly: Recall that WWI was not only about global imperial struggles for hegemony and mastery but also about innumerable border and territory claims, and old maps versus new maps:
    Italy versus Austro-Hungary over Fiume and Tyrol. (see Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms.”)
    Japan wanting German possessions in China.
    France and Germany over Alsace-Lorraine.
    Germany at Brest-Litovsk “biting off” huge pieces of Russia
    in March 1918. (see John Wheeler-Bennett classic on this)
    Claims and counterclaims over borderlands like Bessarabia, etc were endless.
    The Germans promising Mexico “revanchist rewards” in exchange for help. (Zimmermann Telegram. See Barbara Tuchman book)
    Richard Melson

  • Cambridge Forecast

    Maps, Lines, Colonies, Wars

    Some colonial “lines in the sand and on maps” have of course bedeviled the world, including the contemporary world. This includes not only the Sykes-Picot maps and lines, but also the borders and formation of Ruanda-Urundi (think Rwanda 1994 genocide) out of German East Africa, and the Curzon and Durand Lines:
    Curzon Line.
    Conventional designation of a line running through Hrodna, Yalivka, Nemyriv, Brest, Dorohusk, Ustyluh, east of Hrubeshiv,
    through Kryliv, west of Peremyshl, to the Carpathian Mountains, which was to constitute the eastern border of Poland, including Poland’s border with Ukraine. The Curzon Line was first designated as Poland’s
    eastern border by the Allied Supreme Council on 8 December 1919. In July 1920, during the Soviet advance on Warsaw, the same line was proposed by the British foreign secretary, G. Curzon (hence the name ‘Curzon Line’), as the border between Poland and Soviet Russia….
    Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan:
    The Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday has said that Afghanistan
    has never recognised the Durand Line.
    “Speaking at a press conference in Kabul after the recent border clashes between the Afghan and Pakistani forces, President Karzai said Pakistani military installations across the Durand Line in the Afghan territory was an “futile attempt” to push Kabul to discuss the border issue with Islamabad, something President Karzai said his government “will never be ready for it.”
    Saturday, 04 May 2013 17:06 Last Updated on Sunday, 05 May 2013 11:40

    “Karzai:Afghanistan Never Recognised the Durand Line”
    “Out of Africa” as Raw Material for Thinking about Libnes and Maps and colonies:
    Think of the movie “Out of Africa”. The key colonial and imperial questions displayed and discussed in the movie are:
    1. When will British East Africa go from Protectorate to Colony which
    happens in 1920. This is expected to lead to colonial settlement polices and an end to the freewheeling life of the pre-1920 expat world which people like
    “Denis Finch Hatton” (Robert Redford character). (Remember the movie opens in 1913 with Baroness Karin Blixen arriving at her African farm by train.)
    Thus WWI, the colonial and imperial struggles between British East and German East (later Tanganyika and now Tanzania) and the Sykes-Picot world are all interconnected.
    The movie “Out of Africa”, viewed in this light, gives you an extra “shoe horn” into the ROS “Lines in the Sand” discussion, one theatre over from the Middle East one.
    Richard Melson