Chaim of Arabia: The First Arab-Zionist Alliance

Chaim of Arabia: The First Arab-Zionist Alliance
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

On January 3, 1919, a few weeks after World War I ended, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann met with Emir Faisal, the commander-in-chief of the Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire, at a London hotel. Faisal's father, King Hussein of Hedjaz, ruled the two holiest sites of Islam—Mecca and Medina—and the family traced its lineage to the prophet Muhammad. Faisal was accompanied to the meeting by his adviser, friend, and translator, T. E. Lawrence, who had helped him lead the Arab Revolt.

At the meeting, Weizmann and Faisal signed an agreement, brokered over the preceding month by Lawrence, exchanging Arab acceptance of the Balfour Declaration for Zionist support of an Arab state in the rest of the Ottoman lands. In February, they traveled to the Paris Peace Conference, where the victorious Allies would remap Europe and the Middle East, and made complementary presentations about the future of the region.

In the famous 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence would be played by Peter O'Toole, and Faisal by Alec Guinness. Weizmann was not portrayed at all, but perhaps he should have been. His arduous wartime trip, in June 1918, from Palestine to Faisal's remote desert military camp—a five-day journey by train, boat, car, camel, and foot—led to their January agreement.

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