In March 1945, the Arab League (AL) was founded in Cairo. It arrived at the tail-end of a gargantuan four-year-long endeavor to economically integrate the entire Middle East and North and northeast Africa in order to make its polities more self-sufficient during the world war, in which shipping with Allied countries was dangerous and when military trumped civilian needs. This endeavor was supported by national authorities, aided by the United States, and directed by officials of the British Empire. Britain was paramount in the region, and by 1943 its armies, with the US military, evicted all German and Italian troops from North Africa.
Towards the end of the war, the British Empire developed a greater interest in allied Arab countries cooperating more closely. Hence, it backed the establishment of the AL. The latter was not at all simply a British project, though. It also reflected a highly particular version of pan-Arab nationalism: rather than promoting territorial or political unification, it allowed key states to assert their voice in the Arab World.
The Arab League had six founding members. These were Saudi Arabia, a British ally, and Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan, which all were in various ways British-ruled; so was Yemen, which joined in May 1945. Though Palestinians worked with it, Palestine was not an official founding member. Britain was not keen. As Palestine’s Mandate power, it continued to heed Yishuvi interests. Moreover, AL member governments were not truly supportive either. They did, however, take a great interest in the Palestine conflict. In November 1945, the AL re-established the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), which first was founded at the start of the Palestine Revolt, in 1936, but outlawed by Britain in 1937. When the AHC imploded due to intra-Palestinian infighting, the AL in 1946 created the Arab Higher Executive, renamed AHC in 1947. Moreover, the AL in 1945 declared a boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses in Palestine. And in 1945, too, it executed plans going back to 1944 to open abroad public relations “Arab Offices” (AO), whose main writ was to explain why Palestine’s Arabs, not the Zionists, should become the sovereign in Palestine. One AO was in London. Another was in Washington, DC, open until 1948, and a third followed in 1946 in New York, open until 1947; they have been treated in Rory Miller’s “More Sinned against than Sinning?: The Case of the Arab Office, Washington” (2004) and Daniel Rickenbacher’s “The Arab League's Propaganda Campaign in the US Against the Establishment of a Jewish State” (2020).
Supported by some British officials, the AL opened AOs in the United States because it feared Zionist lobbying and public relations there and because it knew the US government would help shape the postwar Middle East, even if Britain was still the premier power. The man behind the idea of the AOs, Musa Alami (1897-1984), and a majority of AO officials, including Ahmed Shukairy (1908-1980), were Palestinians. There were other Arabs, too. One was the Lebanese Nejla Abu-Izzedin (1908-2008), who had received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1934; another was the Anglo-Lebanese Cecil Hourani (1917-2020), brother of the famous historian Albert Hourani (1915-1993), who discussed the AO in An Unfinished Journey: Lebanon and Beyond (1984).
The text printed here, excerpts from a report, in English, reflects the work of the Washington AO, its travails, and the AL officials’ views of the US. It is noteworthy that the original of the text forms part of a broader file created by the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, Jerusalem, the para-state government of the Yishuv in British Mandate Palestine. The file is kept at the Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem.