Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Chatham House Version and other Middle Eastern studies by Elie Kedourie

Professor Elie Kedourie takes on the official British narrative of the making of the Modern Middle East and makes some razor sharp analysis showing that the British experts like Arnold Toynbee and H. A. R. Gibb and others of Chatham House err egregiously in their understanding of Arabic culture and civilization.  Professor Kedourie shows that the British narrative and understanding is more a matter of romanticising and expressing guilt of being a colonial powerhouse then actually effecting a natural Arabic nationalism.  He also shows that Zionist pressure helped push an unwilling Iraqi Jewish community out of Iraq.

The politics of WWI creates a dilemma for Britannia: to destroy or not to destroy the Ottoman empire.  What once was recognized as the long standing stable policing of the Middle East becomes an object of conquest and aggression in the war against Germany.  According to Kedourie, the notion that the Arabs would just rise up and destroy the Ottomans is fantasy and that it is the British that really conquer and prop up various ambitious individuals as an official ruling class and sell the idea that they represent the majority of the people.  Mr. Kedourie is convinced  that all the representative governments set up in the various modern countries of the Middle East are a sham.

In his analysis of Toynbee, Mr. Kedourie shows that the famed historian is really a radical who doesn't stomach politics but rather appreciates culture and art, theorizing that the rise and fall of civilizations are based on violence and aggression.  Any civilization that rises violently and aggressively is bound to fail.  Toynbee manifests guilt in his writings about the West's imperialism. That the West is guilty of violence and aggression, Toynbee agonizes but never seems to be able to see the wanton violence and aggression in the Arab world.  Toynbee's guilt is so deep seated that he blames Judaism for creating an aggressive world through the "chosen people" concept.  The West's arrogance is rooted in a concept of being 'chosen'.  Judaism is a fossil because its 'maccabean' aggression made Jewish civilization doomed to death.  Toynbee is never willing to acknowledge the living traditions of Judaism of which he was truly ignorant even when he discovered legitimate scholars of Rabbinic Judaism like G. F. Moore or R. T. Herferd.  His guilt blinds him of the aggressive nature of those in the Arab world who become the ruling class.

Mr. Kedourie shows that those at Chatham House believed Zionism was a terrible mistake, hoisted and forced upon England due to Zionist propaganda and American Jewry. Mr. Kedourie shows clearly the falsehood in such an opinion since before WWI the Zionists and American Jewry lacked all such encompassing influence.  He shows that the British Government selfishly pursued a Zionist program. Underestimating the aggressive nature and superiority complex of the Arabs force swift changes in Britannia's attitude toward Zionism.  In favoring Arab nationalism, Chatham House downplays the persecution of the other minorities in the region like the Armenians, Assyrians and Maronites.

Interesting analysis is uncovered by Mr. Kedourie when he points his sights at the Iraqi Jewish community.  He claims that the community was interested in making compromises to stay since it was well ensconced culturally and professionally in the business community.  Mr. Kedourie shows that not only Iraqi intransigence contributed to the Jewish exit but Zionist pressure also help displace the Iraqi Jewish community.

This contribution is an excellent work of scholarship and insight about the Modern Middle East.

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