Glenn Beck broke down the history of the Middle East on his television program Thursday, focusing on a nearly 100-year-old agreement that he says is integral to understanding the motivations of the Islamic State: the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
If you do not understand the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Beck said, you cannot fully understand the Islamic State, or why the Israelis and the Palestinians will never reach a two-state solution.
Though many go back to 1948 and the creation of the modern state of Israel when examining the history of Middle Eastern conflicts, Beck said you actually have to go back to 1916 and World War I.
T.E. Lawrence and World War I
“This is the last time the Arab world had a united Islamic State led by a religious leader: the Ottoman Empire, the caliphate,” Beck began. “The Allies knew the Ottoman Empire could shut down key shipping routes and cripple Britain’s economy, France’s. … They had to neutralize it. So Great Britain sent over an Army officer from Britain, and his name was T.E. Lawrence. There was a movie made about him, a great movie with Peter O’Toole called ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’”
Lawrence was tasked with convincing the Arabs to fight against the Ottoman Empire. After Lawrence promised the Arabs rule over a new united Arab kingdom of greater Syria — which encompassed present day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and parts of Iraq and Jordan — he succeeded.
“To get to the root of the current Middle East conflict, that is your starting point,” Beck said. “It is at the center of everything that is happening today.”
“The problem here — Great Britain never intended to honor the promises that they made,” Beck continued. “They had used the Arabs in order to protect their own interests. Remember, they needed to get the Ottoman Empire out of the way.”
“The entire time Lawrence was negotiating with the Arabs, Great Britain, behind everybody’s back, was negotiating with France, and planning how they were going to actually divide up the Middle East after the war,” Beck said. “They needed to make sure there was no united Arab kingdom that would ever get in the way.”
Under the Sykes-Picot agreement, the British and the French drew new boundaries, fracturing the region so, Beck said, “the British and their allies in the region could control it.”
“Remember, the goal was to divide the Arabs, not to unite them, divide them, so they could protect the trade routes,” Beck said. “They didn’t care about the Arabs, they didn’t care about the Jews, they didn’t care about anything. They wanted the trade routes.”
“The Arabs were forced to accept this western European model of the nation-states because they had no choice,” Beck remarked. “Arab resentment grows in the wake of that treaty, Sykes-Picot, where they have divided everything and made new lines. They wanted — the Palestinians, the Arabs — what was promised to them — the rule of greater Syria.”
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
In the decades after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the British created the British Mandate for Palestine. The area east of the Jordan River was called Transjordan, and the area west of it was a land for the Jewish people.
“How would the Arab world be able to unite now? They needed a new rallying cry. They would use the Balfour Declaration, Britain’s promise of a Jewish homeland in Palestine,” Beck said. “[They] needed to start blaming the Jews, the pawns.”
“The motive becomes clear when you see how the Arab world reacted when the British Mandate in Palestine was set to expire,” Beck said. “The Palestinian Arabs were about to be presented with a chance to finally have what they said they’d always dreamed of. All they wanted was their own land. So now, here comes the UN, and they have this mandate.”
“Remember, the British put together this partition — Transjordan and the Israeli state. So it was a two-state solution. It was split 56 percent Jewish, 43 percent Arab. 56 looks big, but much of the land’s not sufficient for crops, so it’s pretty close. Jerusalem, an international zone. The Jewish people accepted the plan. And if a Palestinian homeland was the goal for the Arab world — not the Palestinians, the Arab world — all they had to do was agree. But remember, the scapegoat goes away.”
“The real goal … was uniting the Arab kingdom, one united Arab kingdom, a return of the Ottoman Empire, gaining control of greater Syria,” Beck said. “If you make peace with Israel, that all goes out the window. So when they were presented with what they said they always wanted, a nation of their own, they said no. And then all hell broke loose.”
The Arab world promised that they would get the Palestinians a homeland, waging all-out war on Israel.
“By all reasonable estimates, Israel should have been utterly destroyed. Five Arab armies with huge advantages in armor, artillery, and air force [were against it]. Despite suffering huge casualties early on, somehow this tiny new nation, the Jewish people, managed to stave off the assault and then go on the offensive,” Beck said.
But one aspect of the War of 1948 isn’t often taught, Beck said.
“Before the war broke out, Jordan made a secret deal with Israel. They wanted the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Jews weren’t promised this land in the UN partition, so they agreed to let Jordan take it,” Beck said. “Jordan actually attacked Palestinian Arabs to get that land. Where is that in the history books? Egypt wanted southern Palestine. Iraq wanted the entire fertile crescent under their control, and Syria and Lebanon wanted northern Palestine — where was the Palestinian state?”
“You see, it wasn’t about freedom for the Palestinian Arabs, or the Jewish occupation. This war was what wars are always about — land, power, control,” Beck said. “Israelis today remember it as the war of Independence. Palestinians call it the nakba, ‘catastrophe.’ …But when you actually know the history, the only catastrophe was when the Palestinians rejected their chance of a nation of their own, and then were sold out by their Arab neighbors.”
Sykes-Picot and the Islamic State
“I know I read about [the Sykes-Picot Agreement] years ago when we were at Fox, and I put it up on the chalkboard,” Beck remarked. “But it didn’t all fall into place until I learned about ISIS and ISIL, and the difference between ISIS and ISIL. Now it all makes sense to me, and now you’ll be able to figure out what is really going on.”
Radical Islamists in the Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — are trying to regain the territory they were promised before the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Beck said. If you understand that, the revolutions of the Arab Spring and the goals of the Islamic State become much clearer.
“How do you get there?” Beck asked, pointing to the map of the territory the Islamic State is trying to recover. “First thing you do, you have to destabilize the region. And how do you destabilize the region? What did Sykes-Picot do? Sykes-Picot made all of these new maps, and they drew new borders that had never been drawn before. And these borders put people who were never together under one rule, the British knowing that if they did that, it would take a strong man to keep them from fighting and killing each other.”
To get rid of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Beck said “you have to go after the dictators.”
“Our president, and all of us, cheered when we got rid of the dictators in Egypt … Libya … Iraq … Now we’re going after Syria,” Beck said. “Next will be Jordan and Lebanon, and then Israel.”
“Look at the map,” Beck said. “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. … They’re doing nothing but remolding the map closer to their heart’s desire, and what they were promised 100 years ago. Now is their opportunity to achieve what they’ve always wanted from the very beginning: a return to a unified Arab kingdom. What a surprise, a caliphate. Islamic rule. There’s no judgement on this one way or another — this is just the fact. They want an end to the west and what the west created with Sykes-Picot. To get there, the best way to do it is to destabilize all these dictators, get them out of the way.”
Beck said the Israelis and the Palestinians have been used as scapegoats for decades.
“You think this is a crazy theory?” Beck asked. “Here’s ISIL in their own words on what’s happening, why are they doing this.”
Beck proceeded to play an Islamic State propaganda video titled “The End of Sykes-Picot”:
“You’ll notice this is playing all over the Middle East,” Beck said. “Here they are, on the Syrian border, showing how they’ve erased it, and how Britain and France lied to the Arab world.”
Beck said radical Islamists will use anyone, including the Jews and the Palestinians, to achieve their goals, and that is why “there will never be a two-state solution.”
“That’s not the goal, never has been,” Beck concluded. “Until the region is fully under Arab control, the fighting will never, ever, ever stop. There is no easy solution. I don’t know how you turn the cycle of violence around. But the first thing you have to do is put facts in place. You have to start with the truth.”
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