Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Susan Pedersen's "The Guardians"

Susan Pedersen is Professor and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. She specializes in British history, the British Empire, comparative European history, and international history. She is the author of several books, including Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience.

Pedersen applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls at the end of chapter 3, titled “A Whole World Talking.” That chapter shows how different nationalist and humanitarian movements sought to use a new petition process established by the League of Nations to challenge the imperial powers governing the territories under League oversight. The chapter discusses a number of such mobilizations. Page 99 is about how a “Syro-Palestinian Congress” set up by prominent Arab nationalists petitioned to challenge British support for the Zionist project. The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League found those criticisms persuasive enough to express some doubts about the wisdom of Jewish immigration to Palestine – a development that shocked Chaim Weizmann and that spurred a counter-mobilization by the Zionist Organization.

The second paragraph on page 99 concludes:
This incident reveals much about how the mandates system ‘internationalized’ both imperial and national projects. Years of protests and work by Arab organizations had finally borne fruit, with the Mandates Commission submitting the only report they ever wrote skeptical of the Palestine mandate. The Zionist Organization, secure in British support, had (as Weizmann acknowledged) paid Geneva less mind. Yet, once alerted to the existence of pro-Arab sympathies on the PMC, the Zionists countered quickly and effectively, taking advantage of their contacts within the Colonial Office, the network of representatives across Europe, and confidants within the Secretariat itself to have the Commission’s judgments overturned. They then moved swiftly to establish a Permanent Office in Geneva, appointing Victor Jacobson and then Nahum Goldmann to handle relations with the League. [The paragraph goes on to detail that office’s work.]
This is only one instance of nationalist movements turning to Geneva to promote their political aims. This book isn’t about the conflict over Palestine in particular; Palestine was only one of 14 territories under League mandate. But it does try to show what difference international oversight and the establishment of an arena for debate and contestation made. It made the most difference in Palestine.
Learn more about The Guardians at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Susan Pedersen.

--Marshal Zeringue