French and British Met hods in the Near East
[M. William Martin is the Editor of the Journal de Genive; he has recently visited the territories administered under "A" Man- dates.—En. Spectator.] rir HE countries composing the old Turkish Empire, -I- which at the end of the World War were placed under the aegis of the League by "A" Mandates, have special and intimate bonds of union. They all speak the same language; their climate and geographical conditions are identical. From the economic point of view, the seaboard is closely dependent upon the prosperity of the interior, and undoubtedly the decadence of Meso- potamia, in the course of the last few centuries, has contributed more than anything else to the slow ruin of Syria and Palestine. The degree of development of these countries from the standpoint of civilization is practically the same, and they have experienced the same historical vicissitudes. For very many centuries they have had to submit to the same dominations, and their recent history is a common one. During the War they all benefited by the same promises of the Allies and, when peace was declared, they found them- selves in the same juridical position with regard to the international community.
All this explains the profound unity of Arab national sentiment, which has the effect of making the people of Iraq react strongly to events in Syria or in Palestine, and vice versa.
How is it, then, under such circumstances, that the practical application of an identical juridical regime in Arab countries can be se variable, and so subject to storms, very different from one another. ? In 1925, when Syria was in a state of revolt, the countries under the British Mandate did not stir. In 1929 there was fighting in Palestine while Iraq and Syria remained peaceful.
The principal reason for these differences must be found in the fact that certain of these countries are under British control, and others under French control; in short the different methods employed by the British and the French administrators have affected the juridical and the moral atmosphere of the respective populations.
But here, a preliminary remark should be made. There is no more unity in British methods than in French methods. Great Britain administers Iraq in one way, Palestine in another way, and Transjordania, small as she is, in yet another way. On the French side, you have pure
dictatorship in the Government of the Alaouites and the Druses, a regime of quasi-dictatorship decked out in constitutional forms in Syria, and a Parliamentary Republic of the Western type in the Liban country. Consequently, it is with some caution and with a good deal of qualification that the collective expressions, French methods and English methods, should be em- ployed. However, they do permit some interesting speculations, which are applicable in most cases.
The first difference which becomes apparent to the traveller is that concerning the recruitment of the admin- istrative staff. Here the British Administration has an incontestable advantage. Great Britain has at her disposal in Egypt, in the Sudan, and in a certain measure in India, a nursery or training-ground of Govern- ment servants, admirably suited to the tasks with which they have to deal in the Near East. Most of these agents know intimately the population, its point of view, its manners, its customs and its language. Many British officials whom I have met in Iraq and in Trans- jordania fought during the war in the Arab army, and this has given them valuable experience, both of Arab leaders and of the people.
The importance of this is seen in the influence which they are able to exercise, notably on King Feisal. The whole political system of Iraq is conditioned by the community of views that exists between the King and the High Commissioner. The difficulties which appear at all stages in the hierarchy come to the top and are regulated in a friendly way between the chiefs of the two administrations, Arab and British. A knowledge of the Arab language is also of considerable importance, especially in the administration of justice. France has committed the imprudence of imposing French as the sole language of administration in her possessions in Northern Africa. She has, therefore, not been able to form a body of administrators and of judges who have an adequate knowledge of Arabic. The result of this is the extremely complicated procedure of the courts in Syria.
But the human element is, perhaps, less important than the way in which the administrators conceive the Mandate. One may say, in a general way, that in the eyes of the French administrators the ideal of a Mandate is as near as possible that which France has achieved in Morocco. Not having been received with enthusiasm at the beginning by the Syrian population, they strove to make themselves useful and so, in time, acceptable. The profound desire of these men, dispersed in the villages or small towns, is to render service to an attractive people. Their ambition is that things should go well, according to their Western conception, which means in most cases that they should go on very differently from the way in which they have gone up to now. This is the cause of difficulties with the inhabitants for, of course, there is some difficulty in making them under- stand these good intentions. At bottom, every French official desires to promote the happiness of the inhabitants; indeed, in spite of themselves, that was the cause of the revolt of the Druses in 1925.
The British conception, as expressed in Iraq, where Great Britain has been able to translate it into reality, is quite different. It consists in educating the nation under Mandate in order to prepare it for self-Government and so bring the Mandate to an end as soon as possible. All that Great Britain demands is that her own economic and strategic interest be guaranteed. For the rest, her agents work actively to form and to prepare an independent Iraq people. To this end, they leave the Arabs as much freedom of action as possible, and appear as little as possible themselves in the administration.
One may say that in Iraq this method succeeds. There is, of course, some discontent. Between the British and the Arabs a trace of misunderstanding may be seen. The transformation of the protectorate into a Mandate, then from a Mandate into an Alliance, must in the opinion of the British, leave their predominant position intact. For the people of Iraq, on the other hand, this evolution signifies a liberty more and more complete vis-a-vis England or any other country. The future is, therefore, uncertain. If, in 1932, Iraq is accepted as a Member of the League of Nations she may demand to be free of her British counsellors. If, on the other hand, admission were refused, Great Britain
would be accounted- responsible. In both eases a conflict is possible, but in the meanwhile, the personal relations of the political leaders in Iraq and their British advisers are good.
In Palestine the results are less happy because the conditions are different. The problems arc at the same time more difficult and easier. They are more difficult because of the existence of Zionism and because of the promises which were made both to the Jews and to the Arabs. But they are more easy because the British Administration concentrates in its hands all powers, both legislative and executive. Great Britain, therefore, is in the position of a dictator in the most absolute sense; a position undoubtedly to be envied by heads of governments throughout the world.
But in order that this position should be advantageous, it is necessary to have the will to make use of it. Liberalism is not an article of export. Freedom of thought, of speech and of association, which is excellent in London, is not necessarily so in Jerusalem.
If there is one lesson which emerges strongly from a visit to the Eastern countries under Mandate, it is the necessity for European solidarity. The great mistake of British policy as well as that of French policy has been that it was based rather on a sentiment of rivalry than on a sentiment of solidarity. So long as the policy followed in Iraq had no repercussion anywhere else but in Syria, as was the case in the course of the last few years, all was well for Great Britain. But the repercussion to-day is seen in the minds of the Arabi of Palestine, and the drawback of these differences in method begins to appear.
The only way for Europe to govern the East is to do so in a systematic and reasoned manner. So long as the Governments of Paris and of London are not able to speak and act as one, conjuguer ]cur action, as we say, so long will they risk unceasing and renewed diffi- culties in this connexion. The unity of the Arab peoples is a reality which needs to be matched by a united