Philby, Harry St. John

views updated


Leading British explorer of Saudi Arabia who on occasion was involved in Palestinian affairs. He was born in 1885 in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and after distinguished studies at Cambridge in joined the Indian Foreign Office. In 1915 he left India to go to Iraq and served there in the Intelligence Service of the British army. Ten years later he left government service to become a merchant and to devote his life to the exploration of Arabia for which he is known. In 1930 he converted to Islam.

In 1929 Philby became involved, with Jewish dissenter Judah Magnes, in an ill-fated Arab-Zionist peace plan. Then in 1939 he developed a scheme under which his patron, Saudi ruler King Ibn Saʿud, might be persuaded to support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in exchange for Jewish political influence in London and in Washington, D.C. and financial compensation. This scheme would have been contingent on complete independence of the remaining Arab territory along with financial assistance to the Arabs; so although he proposed it to Zionist officials in London, nothing ever came of it.

About this article

Philby, Harry St. John

Updated About content Print Article