Dr. Janice Terry's recently published book, William Yale: Witness to Partition in the Middle East, World War I-World War II sheds a bright light on the machinations of American foreign policy and intelligence after World War I into the late 1940s. Its main value lies in Terry's close inspection of the shifts and tensions between the British, French and American diplomats with Arab leaders and early Zionists. Using Yale's memoirs, reports and correspondence, Terry offers readers commentary and eyewitness accounts of the political maneuvering surrounding the Sherif Husayn-McMahon agreement, Sykes-Picot Agreement, the King-Crane Commission and Paris Peace conference, among other developments in the Middle East.
Although a timeline of the historical events would have been helpful, the book's personal angle provides historians-armchair and professional alike-with insights into the roots and causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Terry offers comparisons to the present-day status quo and many details that diverge from common perceptions of the region's history. For example, Emir Feisal signed an addendum to his 1919 agreement with Chaim Weizmann, head of the World Zionist Organization, that voided his assent to the national home for Jews in Palestine as laid out in the Balfour Declaration. The chapter on the King-Crane Commission is particularly informative in understanding why and how its conclusions were blithely ignored, to the detriment of all.
The book centers on the figure of William Yale, who first went to the Middle East in 1913, as an employee of the Standard Oil Company (SOCONY). As an oil scout, he was tasked with writing long and detailed reports on conditions in the Ottoman Empire....
Reviewed by Randa A. Kayyali
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs