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Perspective: David Andelman on Feisal

Excerpt from David Andelman’s A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today, 2008.


“Feisal chose to look every inch a Middle East warrior-potentate -- dressing carefully in a flowing white robe with gold embroidery, a jewel-encrusted revolver added to his nasty-looking gold-handled scimitar, both barely concealed as he swept into the hall, with Lawrence at his side. The young officer had bowed to his government’s pressure and exchanged his preferred robes of an Arabian sheikh for the uniform of a British lieutenant-colonel with Sam Browne belt. Feisal, flanked by his principal military aid, General Nouri Pasha, and with Lawrence translating, began:

‘The aim of the Arab nationalist movement is to unite the Arabs eventually into one nation.  We believe that our ideal of Arab unity in Asia is justified beyond the need of argument.... I came to Europe on behalf of my father and the Arabs of Asia to say that they are expecting the powers at the Conference not to attach undue importance to superficial differences of condition among us and not to consider them only from the low ground of existing European material interests and supposed spheres of influence. They expect the Powers to think of them as one potential people, jealous of their language and liberty, and they ask that no step be taken inconsistent with the prospect of an eventual union of these areas under one sovereign government.’

It may have been among the most important statements of fundamental Arab belief ever formulated before an international gathering of statesmen—presaging a century of turmoil and factionalism, violence and ultimately terrorism.  Feisal’s pronouncement was equally a warning. It would be ignored by his listeners at their own peril and to the detriment of generations of their successors, who would appear to have no knowledge that the words had ever been spoken.”

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