- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Dec 1917, p. 60-69
- Gould, Rev. Canon, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's knowledge of the land of Palestine and the city of Jerusalem. Three out of five of the most prominent places in the country captured by the British forces. This area considered from a military operations standpoint, in some detail. The factor of weather conditions in Palestine. The Imperial significance of the capture of Jerusalem resting largely upon the fact that it is one of the three pedestals of the religious world, with detailed discussion. The return of Jewish people to Palestine, their agricultural success, and what that means. The factor of the religious population of the nearer East. The capture of Jerusalem by the British forces representing the abolition of those terms and conditions that were the basis and the justification for all the Turkish atrocities in relation to Armenians or any other of the depressed Christian peoples. The entry of the British into the city of Jerusalem to be considered in the future as revealing the weakness of British statesmanship, the lack of definite far-thinking, before a policy is announced. A consideration of the third great religious community of the nearer East and of a large part of the world: the Mohammedan world, in alliance with and in allegiance to the British Empire. The two great movements surging through the Mohammedan world prior to the War. The chief political importance of the city of Jerusalem. Reasons for the current state of affairs. Inherent defects in the British policy as shown in the nearer East. The magnitude of British accomplishments everywhere the British flag has flown.
- Date of Original
- 20 Dec 1917
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE IMPERIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF
THE CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM
AN ADDRESS BY REV. CANON GOULD
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
December 20, 1917
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I have the pleasure of knowing both the land of Palestine and the city of Jerusalem extremely well. I could find my way about Jerusalem in the dark better than I could about some parts of Toronto. I have ridden on horseback at least forty times between the city of Jerusalem in Judea and Nazareth in Galilee. I have crossed the river Jordan certainly every month in the year and every hour of the twenty-four.
The British forces have already captured three out of five of the most prominent places in the country-Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, while Niblos, the ancient Shechem, is within reach, and Nazareth of Galilee not far beyond their reach at the present time. We must remember that though Jerusalem is the centre of our hearts' affections from many directions, yet, speaking as a layman, it is not a strategical centre of the country of Syria, including Palestine, because you will find on your map that a line that runs southward parallel to the coast but behind the range of the Libyan mountains in the northern part, connects at Libeau with the Constantinople-Bagdad railway. There it links up with the primary scheme of the Teutonic powers which we speak
Reverend Canon Gould, D.D., is a well-known authority on all matters relative to Eastern countries where he has travelled extensively, and particularly on Palestine and Jerusalem, where he resided for thirteen years.
of in the term, "from Berlin to Bagdad." Then it switches over to the city of Damascus, and from Damascus the other railway, which is practically a continuation, known as the Hashaz railway, runs directly southward to the cities of the Hashaz province in Arabia with the holy cities Mecca and Medina. It goes eastward of the city of Galilee, eastward of the Jordan, parallel with it, and eastward of the Dead Sea. This branch line, which was the line of communication for the Turkish forces in Palestine proper westward of the Jordan river, leaves that railway and crosses over the Jordan valley at the south end of the sea of Galilee. Let us remember that Palestine runs in parallels. Up the coast you have the plain country about 25 miles down at Gaza, up in Mount Carmel not more than 5 miles. Then you have the great rockv limestone backbone of the country, Jerusalem being 2,600 feet in altitude above the Mediterranean Sea. Then you have the great depression of the Jordan valley, the Dead Sea, the surface of which is 1,294 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, not of the city of Jerusalem; the whole Jordan valley seriously depressed below the sea level, the surface of it actually 626 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean. From the standpoint of military operations it is a most difficult country, because an army such as the British forces, passing up the coast regions, have on their right flank this great depression of the Jordan valley. On the other side of it there is a plateau, eastward of Jordan, in the Moab country, and right down that plateau runs the main line from the city of Damascus to the Hashaz railway. So that as Gen. Allenby advances up Palestine and into Assyria, he is in danger all the time and must guard against an out-flanking by a force based upon the city of Damascus and supplied by the Hashaz railway which runs eastward of the Jordan valley and parallel with it. You remember that the Welsh troops which made a sudden advance and got astride the Jericho road themselves, cutting that line of retreat for the Turks in Jerusalem, and contributing so largely to the capture of the city, made this advance from Bethlehem. The short cut from Bethlehem down to the Jericho road passes below and behind the hill upon which stands the Turkish force whose destruction was reported yesterday morning, and which was cut off and surrounded and captured as described yesterday in the despatches.
Then we have to remember the weather conditions of Palestine. In the end of October the fierce Sirocco winds ceased to blow, the first rain falls and lays the dust, but does not soften the baked soil sufficiently to impede the progress of an army. November is one of the best months for travel or for military operations in the land of Palestine. Now we are entering the period of the great winter storm, when tempests of enormous fury and strength sweep up from the south-west; ninety-nine rain storms out of a hundred come from that direction, and continue sometimes for a week on end. The wadys become furious torrents, and every dry water bed on a sudden becomes filled up to its level. Then comes an interval, and in the interval between the rain storms you have some of the most delightful weather you could possibly, imagine finding on any part of the world's surface. From now until the middle of March we must expect the British forces will be held up by those periodical outbursts of wind and downpours of rain. There is another reason for that. Those forces in the East must be dependent for transport largely upon the service of the camel, the incomparable ship of the desert. Ile is a splendid mountaineer, strange to say: he will climb the rocky pathways with fearless intrepidity; but put a camel on mud and he can skid worse than a "Tin Lizzie" on ice, or Laurier in an election. If we follow the forces of the British Empire, whether in Palestine or on any other front, we shall do well to remember that the general situation, like the city of Jerusalem, lies over the ridge; we are facing the sunrise.
The Imperial significance of the capture of Jerusalem rests largely upon the fact that it is one of the three pedestals of the religious world, as far as that world includes Western Asia, the whole of Europe and America. Sinai, the scene of the law, the Jewish faith; Jerusalem, of the Christian faith; Mecca, of the Mohammedan faith; just a little triangle at that strategical centre of the continents. This is not a religious address, but any man who fails to grasp the religious significance of the power of the religions in the near East leaves out of his computation one of the factors of first-rate importance which will enable him to understand the situation. We must not transfer into the East our ideas of the place and the function of religion. We think of it as something internal, which dominates the heart and controls the practice; but that is not its main function in the East under present conditions. There, religion is external; it represents the relationships of the man, political, social, as well as religious, and the man's position and status in the nation or state is determined almost altogether by his religious affiliations. We remember when, a few weeks ago, the Premier of England, Mr. Lloyd George, created a very great deal of temporary unrest and criticism of the want of unity and forethought in the plans of the Allies. It is well for us to remember his remarks in connection with my subject. For example, let us take each of the great religions I have mentioned in their historic order. First, the Jewish people, scattered across every sea, and though without a country having their standards planted in every land; and we remember that those three religions meet in the city of Jerusalem, for in addition to Jews and Christians it is the second holy city, after Mecca, for the 225 millions of Mohammedans in the world. Mr. Balfour, the British foreign minister, recently announced that the British government would welcome the restoration of the Jewish people to Palestine as their national home. That seemed to be excellent as far as it went, but it was followed by Gen. Allenby's proclamation to the people of Jerusalem which distinctly reserves to the present occupants all the religious and sacred places of the city. That includes the temple area, the centre of Jerusalem and Palestine, where stood the temple of David, where the glories of David's son, Solomon, shine forth. Do you not see the want of concord, of unity, in restoring the Jewish people of Palestine, but reserving the temple area to the Mohammedans? That is not to solve the problem, but to increase the problem, and I cannot but think that in that respect the proclamation indicates military necessity for the moment. We must hope that it does not translate into words at this early and unnecessary stage a permanent policy for the nearer East; otherwise, Jerusalem will be the centre of further problems in the days to come. The last mention of Jewish people having entered the temple area is as long ago as the year 717. Already the Jewish people have returned in very large numbers to Palestine, and during the past fifteen years they have held within their grasp the commercial activities of the country. They have proven that the Jew can be a successful agriculturist. They have established colonies all up and down the country, and as I travelled four years ago I found they had made a combination that was acting as a go-between for certain financiers abroad who were purchasing large areas of land not only westward of the Jordan, but eastward as well.
Then we pass to the second constituent element, from a religious standpoint, the religious population of the nearer East,-the depressed Christian peoples of the Turkish Empire in particular,-and here the capture of Jerusalem reveals one of the chief points of its significance. It was captured in the year 66 by the Caliph Omar Beddolel Haddan, the second in succession to the prophet Mohammed, and the terms of capitulations of the city of Jerusalem at that date have been the oppressive terms which have determined the depressed condition of the Christian people throughout the Ottoman Empire from that day to this. The Christians were guaranteed the security of their persons and churches, but the churches were to be opened day and night for the inspection of Mohammed. That explains the presence of the Mohammedan Guard, so to speak, or custodians in the vestibule of the Holy Sepulchre. The Mohammedans were to be treated with the greatest respect. The Christians were at all times to accord to the Mohammedans the rightful hospitality. That meant that any Mohammedan, particularly an official, could come at any time to the door of any Christian and demand hospitality as a right; they were to rise to receive him, and give him the highest place of honor in all their assemblies. The Christians were to build no new churches or other religious edifices either within or without the city or in any other part of Mohammedan territory. This is not ancient history, gentlemen; those were enforced, most of them rigidly, up to the hour that British forces entered Jerusalem and the flag of the Triple Cross floated proudly from the staff of the Towers of David at the Jaffa gates. We built a hospital at Niblos, the ancient Shechem, backed by all the prestige of every British embassy in Constantinople. It required seven years, and more money as backsheesh than I care to remember, to secure that protection from the city of Constantinople. If a tornado swept over the country and a church was injured, it could not be restored without official permission from the Mohammedan government; that is the present situation, and this continued as follows:-There must be no public exhibition of Christianity; they must not imitate the Mohammedans either in dress or behaviour-and you know in the Turkish Empire of the nearer East the higher your station the longer your dress, so that if you attain to the dignity of a cadi or a judge your skirts just swept the dung and the refuse as you passed by. Neither in dress nor in language, to this very hour, can a Christian imitate, and if a Christian saluted a Mohammedan in the Mohammedan phrase of salutation-"May your morning be with God"-he would probably not deign a reply. I have given you only the chief conditions of capitulation, but it was provided that if Christians failed to comply with a single one of the provisions, they should confess that their lives were religiously forfeited and that they were deserving the punishment inflicted upon rebellious subjects, which is death. Those conditions were the basis and the justification for all the Turkish atrocities in relation to Armenians or any other of those depressed Christian peoples.
Now, the capture of Jerusalem by the British forces represented the abolition of those terms by the same process which had imposed them--conquest, the power of the army-and it should have represented the unconditional emancipation of those oppressed Christian peoples throughout the nearer East. But Gen. Allenby's proclamation says that the hereditary custodians of the Holy Sepulchre have been requested to continue their function. I say, with all due submission and profound respect, that Allied aims must ring true farther than the Western front, and that they are concerned today with the situation in the nearer Fast. The entry of the British into the city of Jerusalem, great and magnificent and historic as it is, and as it will be considered in all the days of the future, revealed that incredible weakness of British statesmanship-the lack of definite far-thinking, before a policy is announced. British statesmanship has suffered from the fact that the British people have been bound up in a little island; they are men of one tongue, and one language only. When Turkey was trembling on the brink as to whether she should cast her lot in with the Teutonic powers or refrain, there was only one man in authority, and he in subordinate authority, in the British Empire, in Constantinople, that could speak English; I knew him; while the others had men through whose lips the Turkish language could proceed with equal facility. Nevertheless, let us not allow the shadows to have undue importance. The British flag floats in yonder city on the hills of Judea, and from David's Tower itself,--the only bit of the ancient fortifications left standing by Titus as an example of the strength of the defences which his forces had overthrown, as a protection to the Tenth Legion of Roman soldiers left in garrison. On that tower today, with the same sub-structures, floats the glorious flag of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races through the whole world.
We come to the consideration of the third great religious community of the nearer Fast and of a large part of the world. One of the things which will profoundly influence the verdict of the future historian will be the marvellous action of the majority of the Mohammedan world in alliance with and allegiance to the British Empire. The British King is King of 80 millions of the 225 millions of Mohammedans; and a speaker recently from India declared the other day that there was not one known case of disaffection and disloyalty among the 60 millions of Mohammedans in India. Before the War, there were two great movements surging through the Mohammedan world, one known as the pan-Turanian or pan-Turkish movement, which really started with momentum during the visit of the Kaiser to Palestine--a pro-German movement with the city of Constantinople as its centre, with the dreams of the German Emperor as its goal, viz., that the German Emperor was to stand in the Mohammedan world where the King of Britain stands, and occupy his seat of authority and influence. This pan-Turkish movement has been responsible for the abominations suffered by the Armenians in particular and the inhabitants of the ranges of the Libyan mountains during the progress of the struggle. A noted student of nationalism from his standpoint, a member of the Reichstag in Berlin, pointed out that in the interest of the pan-Turkish movement, it was necessary that this people of Highland stock, the Armenians in their uplands in eastern Asia Minor, were right across the avenue of progress of the pan-Turkish movement, and that if that movement was to reach its success, it was necessary that they should be wiped out of the way, and we know the result. But over against that pan-Turkish movement is the pan-Arab or Young Arab movement, whose ideals run counter to the pan-Turkish, which is pro-Teutonic, while the pan-Arab has been for half a century pronouncedly pro-British; it seeks to restore to the seat of authority the people of the same blood and tongue as the prophet Mohammed, that is, the Arab people. We have seen progressive steps made in the realization of the programme of the pan-Arabs; that is the explanation of why, when that heroic little force under Gen. Townsend was encompassed by flood and fire and enemies at Kut-el-Amara, and forced by starvation to surrender, that the whole Arab world of Arabia, the fiery tribes, the leaders, the free Bedouins of the desert, did not rise in their hundreds of thousands, as the Germans thought they would, and sweep the remaining British forces into the waters of the Persian Gulf. It was the pan-Arab movement which was the ancient alliance between the Briton and the Arab. We saw another step when the sacred province of Hashaz threw off Turkish allegiance, expelled Turkish troops, and established an independent nation. That is another great landmark in the history of the British Empire in the days to come. In the capture of Jerusalem we have the next step, in some respects far outranking in significance and potential importance all that has preceded it, so that the three holy places-Sinai in the desert, in the peninsula of Sinai, Mecca in the province of Hashaz, and Jerusalem on the hills of Judea-are ever under the protection of the British flag or definitely controlled through subject forces to the same end. That, I repeat, is the chief political importance of the city of Jerusalem. The fact that Jerusalem, the second holy city in the Mohammedan world, has been captured by the might of British arms, goes to substantiate and to prove that the Arab mind through the world has not made a mistake in trusting to British authority and in depending in the end upon British rescue and support.
I might give you many reasons for that state of affairs. There is a magnificent reason to be found in the British transformation of Egypt. Another goes back to the year 1852, to the League known as the Crucial League with the Arabs of Arabia and surrounding countries. While I was living eastward of the river Jordan for some years, I came in contact as a medical man, with the untutored Arab of the interior of Arabia, a man who knew nothing of European influence, uncontaminated if you will, a man of some capacities and feelings. Among his capacities he has this one to a superlative degree, that he is the most inveterate, the most persistent, the most consistent, the most contumacious, the most persuasive, the most impregnable, the most incurable liar on the face of the whole earth. But here comes a statement I have frequently heard. When an Arab, after hours of wrangling with another, threatening murder and all the rest of it, determines at last to get his feet planted on the rock of truth in the ocean of lies-or, to change the figure, to get his piercing but diseased vision fixed on a star of the thousandth magnitude of veracity in the firmanent of falsehood-who does he say? "By the word of the British, what I say is true." That, I think, is the most splendid tribute to British faithfulness and British integrity to be found, possibly, in the whole world. How did he get it? His fathers and grandfathers of the Crucial League had told their children of their dealings with the Viceroys of India, of their dealings with the two uncrowned kings of Arabia, as they have been called-the general commanding at Aden, and the British consul general at Pushwar in the Persian Gulf. They had learned by experience to know that when a Britisher spoke (in the name of the government) whatever his personal feelings might be--and they have their own share of them-though the earth rocked and the heavens cracked, the word of the British would stand. It became a proverb in the Arab troops, and then it passed into common speech-"By the British word, what I say is true." The British record is established today in the Arab mind as he has heard the story by his camp fires of British arms, British faith-keeping, British treaty-keeping; and when the critical hour struck there was no question, much less turning back, but all the power of Britain's manhood, all the devotion of her womanhood, all the priceless treasures of her mercantile marine, all the unsurpassed power of her navy, all the magnitude of devotion and bravery of the "contemptible little army" was thrown into the crisis and turned the scale.
If I have given you shadows as well as sunlight, put the shadows in their proper places. I have said that the British policy as shown in the nearer East has already certain inherent defects. Over against that, put the magnitude of British accomplishments everywhere the British flag has flown, and then in spite of those things the depression has been lifted up; the manacled have been emancipated, the darkened have been brought into light; the ignorant have been taught; and everywhere freedom and progress, equity and honor, have been the key-notes and the glory of British policy around the world.