The impact of the British colonial rule in the Middle East bore severe consequences particularly with respect to Palestine and can be argued as the cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Hardy 88). The British rule over Palestine lasted from 1917 to 1948 following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire that ruled the region before and during WW1. The Middle East was highly contested by Great Britain and France during the First World War. Therefore, the two Allied powers struck a deal named the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 to divide the region in the event that the Ottoman Empire was defeated during WW1 (Hardy 51). The British partition included Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan while the French took control of modern-day Syria and Lebanon. The British required the support of the Arabs to defeat the Ottoman rule. As such the McMahon Letters of 1915 that were exchanged between Henry McMahon and Hussein bin Ali, the British High Commissioner in Egypt and Sharif of Mecca respectively were of vital significance (Maxim 74). The McMahon letters promised Palestine that the British would return the land held by the Turks to the Arabs. Therefore, the Allies motivated the Arab people to revolt against the Ottoman rule during WW1.
However, there was a clash in policy between the McMahon letters and the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The declaration acknowledged the nationalist movement of Zionism in Palestine that aimed at establishing a Jewish homeland in the region. Britain was committed to the realization of the Zionist claim for a Jewish state. Zionism led to massive immigration of Jews back into Palestine buying land, property, and institutions. Zionism led to conflict between Palestinian-Arabs and the Jewish. The Arabs were focused on the political future of Palestine while resisting the Jewish immigration and land settlement. In 1920, the Ottoman Empire relinquished all rights to the Middle East in the Treaty of Serves strengthened the British Mandate in Palestine following the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 (Hardy 83). However, the British faced the challenge of dealing with two nationalist movements. The Palestinian-Arab movement rejected the aspects of Zionism by fighting against Jewish immigration and land transfer to Jewish institutions. Therefore, the Palestinian delegation requested Britain to terminate both practices. As a result, the 1920s and 1930s saw a wave of violent clashes between the Jews and Arabs. However, the 1936 Arab revolt led to increased Jews immigration and land purchases that were further promoted by Hitler's rise to power and the events leading to World War Two (Maxim 93).
In the post WW2 period, the United Nations adopted the resolution for the partition of Palestine in 1947 and Britain announced its termination of the Palestine Mandate that came into effect in 1948. Specifically, 14th May 1948 was the date in which an independent state of Israel was declared and Palestine became a bi-national state (Hardy). The Arab-Israeli conflict continued and by 1967, a six-day war was fought by Israel against its Arab neighbors Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. The Arabs wanted to destroy the new state of Israel and restore Palestinian authority over Palestine. Israel emerged victoriously and acquired new territories; the Golan Heights from Syria, West Bank from Jordanian control and Sinai from Egypt (Marxim).
The British colonial rule in India started in 1858 when the British Crown ended the control of East India Company (Panikkar). However, during the nineteenth century, following the periods between WW1 and WW2, Indian nationalism was on the rise. Nevertheless, Indian Nationalism started in 1885 when the Indian National Congress (INC) was founded by 72 political workers (Panikkar 45). Indian nationalism was motivated by the growing influence of the British Raj. One of the most renowned pioneers of India's nationalism was Mohandas Gandhi. In particular, Gandhi is remembered for the start of civil disobedience in India. Gandhi argued that British control of India was because of Indian cooperation. As such, without cooperation, British rule in India would fall. In 1930, Gandhi held the Salt March to protest the British rule in India (Panikkar). The Salt Act of 1882 prohibited Indians from collecting and selling salt (Panikkar 66). As a result, Indians were forced to buy the vital mineral commodity from the British who exercised a complete monopoly in terms of manufacturing and selling salt leading to mass suffrage of the Indian poor population. Therefore, the Salt March was a simple way of defying the British endorsed Salt Act. According to Gandhi, "Satyagraha" meaning mass civil disobedience would catch the attention of the colonial master. Gandhi and his followers marched for 240 miles from Ahmadabad to Dandi, a coastal town on the Arabian Sea (Panikkar 71). Gandhi was arrested but the spirit of "satyagraha" continued across India regardless of his absence.
Gandhi was released in 1941 and was the sole representative of the INC in a conference with the British. Brits foresaw Gandhi as a force that could not be ignored or suppressed. The struggle for India's independence continued and in 1947, the country achieved independence. However, prior to independence, religious conflicts affected India due to differences in politics and ideologies. Muslim separatists advocated for an independent state separate from India leading to the creation of Pakistan (Panikkar).
In conclusion, there is a strong relationship between British colonial rule and nationalism in the Middle East and India. The First World War led to the British Mandate for Palestine due to the collapse of pre-war empires and the emergence of states in pursuit of self-determination. Likewise, colonial oppression led to the rise of nationalism in India and the fight for independence. However, the British rule in Palestine and India can be attributed to the ongoing Israel-Palestine and the India-Pakistan conflicts respectively.
Hardy. The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East. Oxford University
Press, 2018.Maxim, B. The Colonial and Postcolonial Middle East. Britannica Educational
Publishers, 2016.Panikkar, K. M. Indian Nationalism - Its Origin, History, And Ideals. Read Books, 2013.
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