QUOTE: “This history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.”
-Willa Cather, ‘Oh Pioneers!”
HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.
BULLETIN. Russia has shown interest in the struggle of the Palestinians, speaking first to Hamas and now to Fatah, recalling Russian concern in the 18th and 19th centuries for another beleaguered group in the Levant- the Orthodox Christian minority.
IN THE NEWS TODAY: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on a visit to Moscow, gets backing from President Putin. Abbas nevertheless tells Putin that he is free to talk to Hamas as well.
LOOKING BACK: Western powers originally became involved in the Middle East, in the 19th century, through their concern to protect the Christian holy places and Christian minorities among the Muslim majority. Indeed, in the 18th century the Ottoman Sultan agreed that Russia should play the role. Though western powers are a long way from 'protecting' Palestinians, their interest in a political, two-state solution that protects the rights of Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel, does recall western concerns for Christians in the last century.
FROM PAST INTO PRESENT:
-1854- under threat of war, Napoleon III forces the Ottoman Sultan to recognize France as protector of the Christians in the Levant. In this he had British support against the ambitions of Russia in the Middle East.
-The Sultan begins, however, to give in to Russian pressure to restore Russia as the guarantor of Christianity and the Holy Places of the Middle East. In the end, the Sultan sides with Engand and France. In response, Russia occupies neightbouring Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldovia under the prestext of protecting Russian Orthodoxy. The Russian action sparks the Crimean war.
1946- Syria attains independence from France. Communist Syria becomes the site of cold-war rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.