Allenby recalls UK role in Palestine
Thursday 10 December 1992
Seventy-five years after the entry into the city by General Sir Edmund Allenby, marking the end of Turkish occupation, his great- nephew, Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe, re-enacted the scene, invited by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek.
But the props just weren't there. Viscount Allenby, 61, was shown old film of the tumultuous crowds who had greeted the general's arrival as he accepted the surrender of the city, and of the smart cavalry regiments standing to attention. There was even a fleeting glimpse of T E Lawrence in the background.
Yesterday, however, there were no crowds. Three Palestinians shuffled their cards in front of boarded-up shops: 'Allenby. Who is Allenby?' A taxi-driver shrugged, and tourists took photographs of the ceremony. Even the border police, helping themselves to doughnuts prepared for the guests, looked unimpressed by the motley group of Britons and religious and municipal dignitaries, accompanied by a bagpiper, who passed by. Gen Allenby's proclamation, which spoke of freeing the people from great oppression, was re-read but there was no wild applause.
Mr Kolleck had forgotten to tell Viscount Allenby that another anniversary was also being marked yesterday by people who would, in retrospect, be singularly unimpressed by Gen Allenby's proclamation and the fruits of other British interventions in the region. Yesterday was also the fifth anniversary of the Palestinian intifada protest against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
In 1917, Gen Allenby accepted the surrender of Jerusalem from a proxy Arab Mayor, Hassain al- Husseini. His descendant, Faisal Husseini, today a leading representative of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, was not on yesterday's guest-list to re-enact the role. 'Nobody's talked to us about it,' said a spokesman.
The occasion was a chance for nostalgic reminiscences in some quarters. 'I watched Allenby from a balcony near Jaffa Gate,' said Annagrace Lind, 87, whose American grandmother founded The American Colony hotel, then a religious community's building in Jerusalem. 'It was a tremendous occasion. We were all so excited to see the British coming in.
'The Mandate days were the best times we've had here. There were tons of parties at the King David Hotel and elsewhere. And Scottish dancing. The place was full of young British officers.'
Viscount Allenby's visit was also a chance to remember soldiers who died in the Palestine campaign: he laid a wreath in the war-graves cemetery in east Jerusalem, which contains 2,180 British graves.
The British Mandate has left many legacies. The layout of the city, the infrastructure and the system of government are all ascribed to British planning. Gen Allenby first brought fresh water to Jerusalem and cured disease which was ravaging the city. 'I remember the cholera and the typhoid, but a year after the British came it was gone,' said Hagop Terbashian, 82, an Armenian who lost his home when Jews seized west Jerusalem in 1948.
There are also other less welcome legacies. The Israelis use old British emergency regulations to lock up Palestinians without trial in the West Bank and Gaza. And they use old British laws to demolish houses and censor the press. Then there is the greatest legacy of all, the Balfour Declaration, issued weeks before Gen Allenby entered Jerusalem. In it, Arthur Balfour declared Britain's support for a national home for the Jewish people, seen by Palestinians as Britain's great betrayal.
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