- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Sep 1929, p. 215-219
- Amery, The Right Honourable L.C.M.S., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The origin of Great Britain's interests in the Middle East and the history of her work there for he benefit of the peoples of the near Orient. The commercial interest in Egypt since the building of the Suez Canal. The work of restoring to the people of the area something of their lost grandeur, their irrigation canals, their engineering works, and efficient self-government. A review of events with regard to Irak and Palestine. A brief history of the area, and its importance of modern civilizations. Tribute paid to the many Englishmen who went to the area during the Great War, and stayed behind to help rebuild a new and progressive modern and civilized middle east.
- Date of Original
- 20 Sep 1929
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- BRITAIN'S INTERESTS IN THE EAST
AN ADDRESS BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE L.C.M.S. AMERY, EX-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE BRITISH OVERSEAS DOMINIONS.
20th September, _1929
MR. EAYRS, the President of the Club introduced Mr. Amery who said: The origin of Great Britain's interests in the Middle East and the history of her work for the benefit of the peoples of the near Orient was traced in a very lucid and informative manner by the distinguished speaker. He showed how the peoples of Asia Minor, once the founders of civilization, and the leaders of civil and industrial activity, had retrogressed after the Mongolian invasion which had killed and destroyed in a whole sale manner wherever it prevailed. Since the building of the Suez Canal forced Britain to take a commercial interest in Egypt, Britain had been gradually drawn into the work of restoring to these peoples something of their lost grandeur, their irrigation canals, their engineering works, and efficient self-government, so that, today, they were being brought slowly to a state where they would be able to look after themselves without tutelage.
The Iraks were likely to enter the League of Nations in two or three years, and in Palestine there was being built up a Palestinian patriotism in which Jew and Arab would live and work together for their common country,
as English and French do in the province of Quebec and in other parts of Canada. These developments showed that the Old Country was not played out by the great war, but had been laying the foundations of a greater British Empire-than ever existed before. The middle east might appear of less interest to Canadians than to other parts of the Empire. Neither from the point of view of trade nor security was Canada affected by it to the same extent as were the Dominions on the other side of the Suez Canal. But whatever affected the safety of the Empire as a whole interested all parts of it.
We are dealing there, he said, with peoples of an ancient civilization. From these peoples, the world received all its modern science and knowledge. All modern religions practically had their origin there, and the early foundations of modern art were also to be found there. He had seen artistic work, which in its simplicity and pure beauty are equal to anything Greece and Rome had produced, and yet these works of art had been produced by peoples living 1,800 years before Abraham walked the plains. The popular idea of Bible history has been unfortunately distorted by the pictures in children's books, drawn by people who had only casually visited the land of Palestine, and had never realized that Abraham came from a great city and traveled among the great cities, and might have been much more of a financier than a simple shepherd. Similarly the ideas of the Palestine in which Christianity was born, were distorted in the same manner. The rural, farming and shepherd country that is Palestine today is nothing like the busy commercial and industrial network of cities which constituted Judea and Samaria and Galilee in those days, before invading Mongols scattered and destroyed everything. When Baghdad was captured by the Mongols there were 2,000,000 skulls piled up, and the great irrigation works there were destroyed. From then on, the middle east went back, and the rounding of the route round Cape Horn by Vasco di Gama removed interest in the middle east as the route to the Orient, and barbarism soon reigned supreme in Arabia.
The first man to revive ideas of the utilization of the middle east as part of the world's civilization again, was Napoleon, but not until the Suez Canal was built did the middle east become so important that Britain found it dangerous to risk a condition where it might fall into the hands of powers hostile to Britain. It was such a probability that made it necessary for Britain to straighten out Egypt's crumbling, bankrupt finances, and establish order and justice. Lord Cromer did wonderful work along these lines, while great engineers created and re-established irrigation works. Lord Kitchener re-organized the Egyptian army. Lord Milner re-established Egyptian finances. Up to the Great War, no country in the world was making such progress as Egypt. But with prosperity came forgetfulness. There arose a generation that knew not Joseph. And a vigorous nationalism arose. In the meantime, the British Government felt that they had built up works which they could not abandon. They could not abandon the Suez Canal. They could not drop the work of regeneration they had started in the Sudan. Apart from such points as these, however, the British Government was anxious to give the greatest possible measure of self-government to the people of Egypt, an evidence of which was that a new treaty was awaiting ratification by the parliament of Egypt. Mr. Amery himself had doubts, he said, as to the wisdom of some of the provisions of that treaty. But he wished to stress the point that Britain's efforts were steadily working toward the greatest freedom and autonomy.
In the northeast section, near the Persian border, Britain had been carrying on a great work of civilization. Near the oilfields, the British troops, welcomed by the Arabs, pushed forward through the Irak and delivered the people from Turkish government. But Britain promised that they would see to it that a free Irak government was built up. That brought new and greater difficulties and responsibilities. They had to oppose the demands of Turkey, to prevent them taking away the Mosul, the richest part of Irak territory. We succeeded, and we pledged to help and guide the Iraks until they were fit to go into the League of Nations. That will soon be consummated for Britain had promised to support Irak's entry into the League in 1932. This work has meant enormous military commitments, but thanks to Mr. Winston Churchill's brilliant idea, the Irak is now being effectively policed by squadrons of airplanes, instead of several battalions of land troops.
In the effort to create an Arab nation, the British authorities have found it difficult to find a ground of unity or co-operation among the scattered, disgruntled Arab tribes. They found a man around whom the Arabs would rally, in the person of King Feisal of Mecca and with the help of British advisers the work of binding the Arabs together has gone on very successfully and has at the same time bound the Arabs closer to Great Britain.
Referring to Palestine Mr. Amery paid tribute to the fine mobile strategy of General Allenby, who fought his way to Jerusalem and reconquered the Holy Land. The British Government was then faced with the problem of regenerating that wasted country, and also to create a home for the Jews. It had never been intended to build up an exclusively Jewish state there, to the elimination of all other races and languages. That could not be done with justice to the Arab races. But it was the intention to make Palestine a place where Jews might be as free, as much at home as French-Canadians are in Canada. It is true, not one-tenth of the Jews in the world can ever get into Palestine to live, but Palestine may be to the Jews, what Scotland is to the millions of Scots scattered all over the world.
Through the Zionist movement Britain has enlisted half of the Jews all over the world in the work of regenerating Palestine, and this is helping much in bringing east and west together. There are difficulties of impatience on the part of Jews, and fear on the part of Arabs. But this work nevertheless, has been effective in bringing these two people together. That country once derelict, abandoned, wasted, is now progressive, equipped with good roads, with hygienic services, with engineers working to establish big industrial development, fever stricken swamps are being drained, irrigated and put to raise grain in big quantities, with malaria and other diseases stamped out, and Jew and Arab are cultivating the land, side by side. True, the recent explosion of religious passion has given a set back to the growth of a common Palestinian patriotism between Jew and Arab, but this is, I am sure, only a temporary outbreak. In past centuries every trifle, such as the position of a candle on an altar would give rise to religious riots between Arab fanatics, but I am certain Britain will go on with her good work until sectarianism and fanaticism will give way to common patriotism between Arabs and Jews, as citizens of Palestine. I must pay tribute to the many Englishmen who have gone there in the Great War, and stayed behind after it, to help in rebuilding a new and progressive, modern and civilized middle east. Britain has done this work while facing enormous problems at home. And the success of this work shows that the Old Country is not at all played out by the War, but is steadily working toward the consummation of the great ideal of gathering together all corners of the empire with the united object of making the most of her as yet unfathomed resources.
The warm appreciation of the Club was conveyed to Mr. Amery by the President.