A controversial new biopic about T.E. Lawrence suggests British secret service may have murdered the famous desert warrior.
The British army officer and archeologist, the desert warrior of Lawrence of Arabia fame who played a key role in the defeat of the Ottoman Empire a century ago, died in a motorcycle accident in England in May 1935, at the age of 46.
In an email to FoxNews.com, Mark Griffin, who has written "Lawrence: After Arabia", explained that the biopic "covers the accident as both an accident or [a] possible assassination − about 10% of the film − so the viewer can make up their own mind."
“In my opinion – and I know this is a polarizing question – it could have been a conspiracy but I also believe it could have been an accident, hence covering why we show both aspects within the movie," he said.
Griffin told British newspaper the Daily Mirror last month that a “credible” explanation for the 1935 death is that the British intelligence apparatus assassinated Lawrence. British spies opposed Sir Winston Churchill’s plan to appoint Lawrence as the director of the espionage organization, Griffin claims.
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Lawrence of Arabia, early 20th century. Artist: Unknown. Lawrence of Arabia, early 20th century. Thomas Edward Lawrence, (1888-1935), most famously known as Lawrence of Arabia, gained international renown for his role as a British liaison officer during the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918. (Colorized black and white print. Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)
“There were many credible reasons someone might have wanted him dead. Zionists, the Secret Service and the establishment were all against him," he said.
“First, he continued to be involved in the Arab cause, and was in regular contact with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who was angry that the Allies hadn’t kept their promises on the Balfour Declaration about Jewish settlements in Palestine, and was talking of an Arab revolt.”
Lawrence obtained valuable experience in gathering intelligence during the British campaign against the Turks during the First World War.
The filmmaker went as far to claim that Lawrence was also linked to Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts, an infamous fascist party in the U.K., and there is also speculation about the possibility of Lawrence meeting Hitler.
“He might have been infiltrating the [fascist] group so he could find out more about the Nazis and the threat of a Second World War, or he might have gone native," Griffin said.
British soldier, adventurer and author Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 – 1935) known as Lawrence Of Arabia. He joined the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I and was instrumental in the conquest of Palestine (1918). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The problem with Griffin’s claims are the lack of any solid evidence. Leading Lawrence scholars such as Jeremy Wilson, the author of "Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T. E. Lawrence (1989)", said: “Countless fictions have built up around Lawrence’s life.”
Wilson, who died in April 2017, wrote that people who leveled false claims about Lawrence “wanted to make money by publishing a new and preferably sensational ‘revelation.’ That process is still going on.”
In his 2010 biography "Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia", the prominent writer Michael Korda debunked the conspiracy theories about Lawrence’s death.
Griffin, whose film is expected to be released in 2020, told Fox News: “We view the film as the third in the trilogy following Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dangerous Man (1996) and the focus by the media on the ‘conspiracy’ aspect within the film has been over-egged − due I think to the local interest in the story.”
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David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, winning seven Oscars in 1963.
Griffin told FoxNews.com his film “is a biopic which focuses on the last year of TEL’s life including his PTSD, his treatment as a teenager, his friendships with [Thomas] Hardy, [Winston] Churchill, Lady Astor etc.”
Jacob Rosen, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and a top Lawrence expert, told FoxNews.com that Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, met with him [Lawrence] several times.
"He was very instrumental and I don’t think Zionists would have anything against him.”
Winston Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert has documented what he termed Lawrence’s “little known romance with Zionism,” including Lawrence’s comment prior to WWI on Jews in then-Palestine: “The sooner the Jews farm it the better: their colonies are bright spots in a desert.”
Rosen, who has the world’s largest collection of different foreign language versions of T.E. Lawrence’s biography Seven Pillars of Wisdom and has written and lectured on Lawrence, said Lawrence was “mentally exhausted” after he was released from his military service and he does not think he would have accepted an appointment to oversee the United Kingdom’s intelligence community.
“I am a diplomat and want to see the full picture,” Rosen said about the movie’s claims. “Let him present the evidence.”
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.