Title: The Road to Jerusalem, Glubb Pasha, Palestine and The Jews
Author: Benny Morris
Publisher: I.B. Tauris Co., New York, N.Y.
Prof. Benny Morris, who currently instructs at Ben-Gurian University in Israel, has written an interesting history of General Sir John Glubb, the last British pro-Consul in the Mid-East, who served as commander of Trans Jordan’s ‘Arab Legion’ before, during and immediately following the 1948 Israel War of Independence through the 1956 Suez crisis.
Glubb, a British satrap, whose command of the Arabic language as well as his understanding of the intricacies of the Arab mindset, made him invaluable to both his Jordanian Arab hosts as well as to his English pay-masters, and brought a European mentality to the Palestinian theater. This resulted in making the motives and actions of Israel’s only true adversary, Jordan’s Arab
Legion, more transparent and understandable to the Israelis
Certainly no friend of the Jews, Glubb (‘Pasha’ is an Arabic honorific title) was not your ‘dime-store’ Anti-Semite. Quite the contrary – as revealed in his many writings during retirement in England – Glubb had a quite high degree of admiration and respect for his Israeli former adversaries. Even while serving his Arab hosts, he did his utmost, both in his service to ‘HMG’ (‘His Majesty’s Government’) and in reigning in the wilder impulsiveness of the forces under his command.
The careful drilling that military recruits must pursue on the parade field, in fact, serve to assist in the enforcement of military discipline on the actual battlefield. John Glubb carefully selected his seconds-in-command and dutifully exercised his Trans-Jordan’s Arab Legion to become a controlled force capable of being reigned in and only attacking – or defending – upon strict regimental orders. This was the English system that had been so effective against Napoleon. Most of the other Arab forces utilized desert and guerilla tactics, but Glubb helped put together a European-style fighting force that fought in a predictable and calculated manner.
That this was ultimately to the advantage of the Israelis, was not necessarily Glubb’s intention, but it did result in higher esprit de corps and lower loss of manpower of his elite fighting force. It also won him respect for his accomplishments from both his host Hashemite kingdom and the British Foreign Office.
John Glubb has frequently been demonized for his contribution to the fighting capability of the highly regarded Arab Legion, but were it not for his ‘Europeanization’ of their fighting methods and organization, the Hashemites may have continued their Arab-style warfare upon the nascent Israeli state. That unpredictability could have altered history.
Following Glubb’s ‘retirement’ from actively serving the Hashemite kingdom, Arab warfare strategy against Israel changed to fighting by ‘Fedayeen’ and other small, armed bands utilizing archaic desert-style guerilla tactics. After reading Morris’ book, this reviewer has the impression that modern middle-east history may have been quite different had John Glubb not become an English ‘Arabist’ and that, rather than demonizing him he should possibly be honored in Israel.
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