Feisal I, ibn-Hussein

(1885–1933)
   Leader of the Arab revolt; king of Iraq 1921–33. In the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I, the Bedouin forces were led by Emir Feisal, third son of the Emir Hussein of Mecca. With him was T.E.Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). In 1918, a meeting took place between Dr WEIZMANN and Feisal in the latter’s desert encampment near Amman in Transjordan, with Lawrence acting as interpreter. The two leaders reached an understanding to work together at the forthcoming Peace Conference in Paris, with Feisal expressing sympathy for Zionist aspirations, and Weizmann promising assistance for the development of an Arab state. They met again in Paris at the beginning of 1919. Tall and dignified, with a small pointed beard, Feisal was an arresting figure at the conference in his flowing Arab robes. An agreement of friendship and co-operation was signed between him and Weizmann. Feisal added a note in his own handwriting that the agreement was conditional on the Arab state having been established. When some confusion arose about Feisal’s views, and he claimed to have been misunderstood, the American Zionist leader Felix FRANKFURTER sought clarification from him. In May 1919, Frankfurter received a letter from Feisal reaffirming that he welcomed the Jews home and looked forward to working with them. He saw no conflict between the Jewish and Arab national movements. The letter was in Lawrence’s handwriting and signed by Feisal. In the last phase of the war against the Turks, Feisal’s Bedouin had entered Damascus a few hours before ALLENBY’S forces reached it. The British made him king of Syria, but in 1920 he fled when the French shelled Damascus. The following year Winston CHURCHILL, then colonial secretary, arrived in Cairo and worked out a post-war settlement in the Middle East. Feisal was installed as king of Iraq, which came under British Mandate, whereas Syria came under French mandate. The Emir ABDULLAH IBN HUSSEIN, moving up through the desert to support his younger brother, was persuaded to remain in Transjordan as its ruler, under the Palestine Mandatory government.
   Feisal retreated from his agreement with Weizmann, that was repudiated by more extreme Arab nationalists. He claimed that his condition about an Arab state had not been fully met. However, in Iraq his regime exercised religious tolerance, and the large and ancient Jewish community in that country enjoyed relative freedom. In 1932, Iraq became independent and was admitted to the League of Nations. It was the crowning achievement of Feisal’s career, that had started in the desert raids nearly twenty years earlier.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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