T. E. Lawrence, The novel Exodus, and the history of Israel & the Middle East.


This is an update to a blog I  wrote on T.E. Lawrence last year.  I have since read another biography  of  him that  was  better footnoted  regarding the actual dynamics of what occured  during his service (during World War 1), and, at the same time, I was reading Leon Uris’ book , Exodus, which is a historical novel.

Have you ever taken a survey and been asked, “If you could meet any person  from history, who would it be?”  I never had a good answer for that until I read a biography (and since have read several) of T.E. Lawrence—-Lawrence of Arabia.

What an interesting man!  He was always haunted that his parents never married (his mother was the nanny his father ran off with—& had 4 more children with), and pursued a liberal arts education, dabbled in publishing, was an accomplished artist/illustrator, and  due to luck, fell into an early archeology gig in the Middle East.  He learned Arabic, because he wanted to know the people he was living among.

To know his story, is to know why things are such a disaster in the Middle East (for those of us in America, anyways).  He joined the British military  at the start of World War I  to serve his country.  He had extensive experience by then in the Middle East—what was then the Ottoman Empire, and he aimed to bring  the people of the region to cooperate with the British. Why?  He was convinced (misled?) that after the was over, & the region won from the Turks, that the Arabs would be allowed to govern themselves.  From reading several sources, it is somewhat unclear whether it was  the military, or the foreign office who misled Lawrence into believing that Feisal Hussein would be ruling what would become Syria.  For some reason,  2 well placed elitists, Sykes in Britain, & Picot in France, put together an agreement that after the war was over, France would have a stake in the middle east. There is no indication that the French shed any blood…it was an agreement between colonialists who felt that the Arabs were too immature as a race to govern themselves.

Due to the Sykes-Pickot agreement with France, the British handed over what was Syria & Lebanon to the French…for no good reason.  Then they proceeded to divide up the rest of the region artificially  partly to placate Lawrence and hand out spoils to his Arab friends.  Persia was divided into Iraq & Iran, India was carved up.  Afghanistan, which had never been a real place except to say it was the land surrounded by so many other lands, was  instituted as a ‘country’ as we know it.  It was never governable as a region.

Israel was developed. and there is a lot of evidence that the people Lawrence worked with had no problem with this part of Palestine being handed over to the Jews.  After all, there was TransJordan, and they thought there would be access to the Mediterranean Sea via Syria & Lebanon.  &—had that happened, that would have been the end of it. Peace in the Middle East. But the British handed over the area to France, and they were not going to let the  people their govern themselves.  What is also interesting to me is that while Uris’ book is a historicalnovel, and generally accurate, he really misinterprets the agreement that the Zionists came to with Feisal Hussain.  The Arabs sold the Jews  most of the land they bought—& willingly.  Of course, they did so thinking they would have Lebanon & Syria immediately.

You would think that the British would be embarrassed by this history, but  they’ve decided to forget their role in the  horror.

For some reason, the American government does not hold the British or French responsible any longer.  For all the money we’ve poured into the region, not only in terms of energy development, but  to keep them from killing each other (don’t get me started on lives —but people join the military on their own), we could be energy independent by now, and  we could also have universal health care like the British, French, & so many other countries.  Nobody knows why there’s a deficit. Hello!

You  would think someone in the State Department would have the integrity to say to the Israelis, “Look, what you have here is not a democracy, and you keep encroaching on the land of others. Why should we keep paying for this?  No more money!.  & you—the Egyptians—start collecting your property taxes. All along the Nile are little cities and towns with unfinished buildings.  Luxor  is shocking.  You allow this. You don’t tell the building owners to pay their taxes, that they’ve left the buildings unfinished long enough.  You send your physicians to the rest of Africa and import them from Malaysia.  No more money”.

Oh, what happened to Lawrence?  He was so embarrassed and demoralized by what his government had done to his friends, the Arabs, that he declined to work for the government.  He rejoined the  military  a couple of times as an enlisted man.  He actually did some inventing while serving.  He translated the Odyssey (and his translation is still widely read).  He wrote “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and became a legend due to promoter Lowell Thomas.  He was ultimately killed in a motorcycle  accident in his early 40’s.

&—I think we all know how the Middle East turned out.

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