The Alexandria Protocol (October 7, 1944)
Issued by representatives of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and
Reprinted in The Arab States and the Arab League
Edited by Muhammad Khalil
Published in 1962
"A League will be formed of the independent Arab States which consent to join the League....The object of the League will be...to insure their [Arab States] cooperation, and protect their independence and sovereignty against every aggression by suitable means"
When the British took control of Palestine—first with a military government following the end of World War I (1914–18; war in which Great Britain, France, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies) in 1920, then with a civilian government authorized by the League of Nations after 1922—they did so with the intention of creating a society that would eventually be self-supporting. In their vision for the future, first proposed in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Jewish capital and ingenuity would be joined with Arab labor to create a successful multicultural, democratic society. Though both Jews and Palestinians (Arabs living in Palestine) sometimes said that they shared this vision, that was not the way they acted. Jews embraced Zionism, the belief that Palestine should be a national home for Jewish people from around the world, and they did all they could to encourage Jews to populate the region; Palestinians believed that Palestine was their land, and they did not welcome the Jews who came in growing numbers, buying land and building homes and businesses. From the 1920s onward, Jews and Arabs clashed over control of Palestine.
By the 1930s, clashes between Jews and Arabs had become frequent and increasingly violent. Both sides wanted to extend their range of control and both sides felt that the British administrators in the country were favoring their enemies. Arab revolts held between 1936 and 1939, which killed and wounded hundreds on both sides, brought open fighting between Arabs, Jews, and British forces. Years of conflict in Palestine, combined with the entry of Britain into World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan) in 1939, had overextended British forces, and in the early 1940s they prepared to leave Palestine. It was not yet clear in the mid-1940s what would happen in Palestine once the British left.
The doubtful future of Palestine in the early and mid-1940s had sharpened the organization and focus of Zionist groups in Palestine. Jews had built well-disciplined militias (amateur military forces) and had systems in place to provide water, power, education, and other services to their communities. No such organization and infrastructure existed within the Palestinian community. The Grand Mufti Al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni (1895–1974) had been the dominant political and religious leader among Palestinians in the 1930s, but his exile from the country in 1939 left a vacuum of power that no one else was prepared to fill. Political groups in Palestine were more involved in fighting each other than joining together to combat Zionism. Moreover, Arab communities were generally poor, with inadequate social systems. Palestinians were ill-prepared to govern in the absence of the British administration.
The leaders of neighboring Arab countries recognized that there was no organized Palestinian plan to take control of Palestine in the event of British withdrawal. Moreover, many Arab leaders felt that the end of World War II might provide Arab countries with an opportunity to assert greater political independence from the Western countries that had once claimed them as colonies. As the war went on, all of the Arab countries began frequent talks aimed at increasing cooperation among Arab nations and at supporting Palestine's efforts to resist Zionist domination. In the fall of 1944 representatives of five of these nations—Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan—met in Alexandria, Egypt, and took the initial steps to organize themselves into a political union and establish a clear position on the question of Palestine. The document they signed on October 7, 1944, was called the Alexandria Protocol.
Things to remember while reading the "Alexandria Protocol"
- Like the Biltmore Program (see entry), which called for Palestine to become an independent Jewish state, the Alexandria Protocol calls for Palestine to become an independent Arab state.
- The Alexandria Protocol was written with the events of World War II in mind. Look for the ways that the document reflects the uncertain shape of the postwar world.
The Alexandria Protocol (October 7, 1944)
Anxious to strengthen and consolidate the ties which bind all Arab countries and to direct them toward the welfare of the Arab world, to improve its conditions, insure its future, and realize its hopes and aspirations,
And in response to Arab public opinion in all Arab countries,
Have met at Alexandria from Shawwal 8, 1363 (September 25, 1944) to Shawwal 20, 1363 (October 7, 1944) in the form of a Preliminary Committee of the General Arab Conference, and have agreed as follows:
1. LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES
A League will be formed of the independent Arab States which consent to join the League. It will have a council which will be known as the "Council of the League of Arab States" in which all participating states will be represented on an equal footing.
The object of the League will be to control the execution of the agreements which the above states will conclude; to hold periodic meetings which will strengthen the relations between those states; to coordinate their political plans so as to insure their cooperation, and protect their independence and sovereignty against every aggression by suitable means; and to supervise in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.
The decisions of the Council will be binding on those who have accepted them except in cases where a disagreement arises between two member states of the League in which the two parties shall refer their dispute to the Council for solution. In this case the decision of the Council of the League will be binding.
In no case will resort to force to settle a dispute between any two member states of the League be allowed. But every state shall be free to conclude with any other member state of the League, or other powers, special agreements which do not contradict the text or spirit of the present dispositions.
In no case will the adoption of a foreign policy which may be prejudicial to the policy of the League or an individual member state be allowed.
The Council will intervene in every dispute which may lead to war between a member state of the League and any other member state or power, so as to reconcile them.
A subcommittee will be formed of the members of the Preliminary Committee to prepare a draft of the statutes of the Council of the League and to examine the political questions which may be the object of agreement among Arab States.
2. COOPERATION IN ECONOMIC, CULTURAL, SOCIAL, AND OTHER MATTERS
A. The Arab States represented on the Preliminary Committee shall closely cooperate in the following matters:
- Economic and financial matters, i.e., commercial exchange, customs, currency, agriculture, and industry.
- Communications, i.e., railways, roads, aviation, negation, posts and telegraphs.
- Cultural matters.
- Questions of nationality, passports, visas, execution of judgments, extradition of criminals, etc.
- Social questions.
- Questions of public health.
B. A subcommittee of experts for each of the above subjects will be formed in which the states which have participated in the Preliminary Committee will be represented. This subcommittee will prepare draft regulations for cooperation in the above matters, describing the extent and means of that collaboration.
C. A committee for coordination and editing will be formed whose object will be to control the work of the other subcommittees, to coordinate that part of the work which is accomplished, and to prepare drafts of agreement which will be submitted to the various governments.
D. When all the subcommittees have accomplished their work, the Preliminary Committee will meet to examine the work of the subcommittees as a preliminary step toward the holding of a General Arab Conference.
3. CONSOLIDATION OF THESE TIES IN THE FUTURE
While expressing its satisfaction at such a happy step, the Committee hopes that Arab States will be able in the future to consolidate that step by other steps, especially if post-war events should result in institutions which will bind various Powers more closely together.
4. SPECIAL RESOLUTION CONCERNING LEBANON
The Arab States represented on the Preliminary Committee emphasize their respect of the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon in its present frontiers, which the governments of the above States have already recognized in consequence of Lebanon's adoption of an independent policy, which the Government of that country announced in its program of October 7, 1943, unanimously approved by the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies.
5. SPECIAL RESOLUTION CONCERNING PALESTINE
A. The Committee is of the opinion that Palestine constitutes an important part of the Arab World and that the rights of the Arabs in Palestine cannot be touched without prejudice to peace and stability in the Arab World.
The Committee also is of the opinion that the pledges binding the British Government and providing for the cessation of Jewish immigration, the preservation of Arab lands, and the achievement of independence for Palestine are permanent Arab rights whose prompt implementation would constitute a step toward the desired goal and toward the stabilization of peace and security.
The Committee declares its support of the cause of the Arabs of Palestine and its willingness to work for the achievement of their legitimate aims and the safeguarding of their just rights.
The Committee also declares that it is second to none in regretting the woes which have been inflicted upon the Jews of Europe by European dictatorial states. But the question of these Jews should not be confused with Zionism, for there can be no greater injustice and aggression than solving the problem of the Jews of Europe by another injustice, i.e., by inflicting injustice on the Arabs of Palestine of various religions and denominations.
B. The special proposal concerning the participation of the Arab Governments and peoples in the "Arab National Fund" to safeguard the lands of the Arabs of Palestine shall be referred to the committee of financial and economic affairs to examine it from all its angles and to submit the result of that examination to the Preliminary Committee in its next meeting.
In faith of which this protocol has been signed at Faruq I University at Alexandria on Saturday, Shawwal 20, 1363 (October 7, 1944).
What happened next ...
The signing of the Alexandria Protocol represented the first time that Arab nations had joined together to further their political interests, and it expressed the hope that in the future those nations could work together to address the political and economic issues that faced them. Less than a year later, the League of Arab States called for by the Alexandria Protocol came into being. On March 22, 1945, Yemen and Saudi Arabia joined the five Protocol states in signing the Covenant of the League of Arab States, which mirrored the Protocol in most areas.
The League of Arab States, often called simply the Arab League, has been a durable organization, if not a terribly effective one. Though it continues to exist—in 2005 it had twenty-two members in the Middle East and Northern Africa—the Arab League has never succeeded at encouraging the kinds of economic and political cooperation achieved by such regional organizing bodies as the Organization of American States (in South and Central America and the Caribbean) or the European Union. Though the reasons behind the failure of Arab states to cooperate are a matter of substantial dispute, observers point to the fact that most Arab states are led by authoritarian figures, or people favoring absolute obedience to authority, accustomed to dictating policy, and this might be a key obstacle to effective joint action.
One thing that Arab nations agreed on, however, was their desire that Palestine achieve independence as an Arab nation. The Arab League Covenant strengthened the call for Palestinian independence, declaring that Palestine's "existence and de jure [by right] national independence is a matter on which there is no doubt as there is no doubt about the independence of the other Arab countries." Just as the Zionists had used the Biltmore Program to stake a claim for an independent Jewish Palestine, Arab countries used the Alexandria Protocol and the Covenant of the League of Arab States to stake a similar claim for an Arab Palestine. Ever since that time, Arab nations have supported the rights of Palestinians to create an independent state. Several times over the years Arab nations have gone to war with Israel—the Jewish state that was created in Palestine in 1948—to try to achieve that goal.
Did you know ...
- The British relinquished their mandate over Palestine in 1947, at which time the United Nations took control. Very quickly, the United Nations proposed a plan to partition Palestine into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish.
- Violence between Arabs and Jews in Palestine occurred continuously throughout the 1930s and 1940s, but open and organized warfare did not happen until 1948, after Jews declared the independence of the state of Israel and Arab countries joined together to battle the Jews (now called Israelis).
- The Covenant of the League of Arab States declared that its primary purpose was to provide for "the general good of the Arab States, the improvement of their circumstances, the security of their future, and the realization of their hopes and aspirations."
Consider the following ...
- Both the Biltmore Program and the Alexandria Protocol make claims about the right of Palestine to become independent. Compare and contrast these opposing claims. Are the assertions of both sides accurate? How do the documents attempt to discuss history so as to support their position?
- Are there ways that the Alexandria Protocol could have been written that would have encouraged greater Arab cooperation, or assured that Palestinian independence was achieved?
For More Information
Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East. 4 vols. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1996.
Gomaa, Ahmed M. The Foundation of the League of Arab States: Wartime Diplomacy and Inter-Arab Politics, 1941 to 1945. New York: Longman, 1977.
Khalil, Muhammad, ed. The Arab States and the Arab League: A Documentary Record, Vol. II International Affairs. Beirut, Lebanon: Khayats, 1962.
League of Arab States. http://www.arableagueonline.org/arableague/index_en.jsp (accessed on June 24, 2005).