Tuesday, June 16, 2015

British Administration: Palestinian Mandate (1922-48)

British Administration: Palestinian Mandate (1922-48)

After World War I, Feisal who would become King of first Syria and then Iraq, proposed to the Zionist leader Chaim Weitzman, a mutual partnership in developing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Arabs leaders subsequently rejected this understanding, claiming that the Allies had not met their commitment to the Feisal's father Sherif Hussein. Arabs mobs conducted the first major anti-Jewish riots in Palestine (1920). The British introduced Western legal concepts to Palestine. One of the actions taken was abolishing “dehimmitude” .Under this system, non-Muslim dhimmis lived in a system of institutionalized subjugation. Political rights were denied to all but Muslims. Changing this system was a major concern of Palestinians and other Arabs. As the number of Zionist immigrants increased and the area of land expanded, conflicts began to develop with the Arabs. Here Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, played a central role. Both sides blamed the other as scattered acts of violence occurred. There were more Arabs attacks on Jewish settlements than Jewish attacks, but there were violence perpetrated by both sides. The worst attack occurred at Hebron where Arabs massacred 69 Jews (1929). With Jews being murdered by Arabs, David Ben-Gurion organized the Haganah--the Jewish Defense Force. The Haganah began military training in secret. The British tried to defuse the situation, arresting both Arabs and Jews and confiscating weapons. Jews claimed that because of the importance of the Arabs in British colonial policy, that the British generally favored the Arabs. Here we are not sure, but it is a topic we need to pursue. Even a neutral police, however, favored the Arabs. Palestine was surrounded by Arab states or colonies to become Arab states. Thus if the Jews in Palestine had no weapons they would be defenseless if the neighboring Arab states invaded. The "Arab Revolt" led by the Grand Mufti targeted both the British and the Jews (1936-39). 

World War I (1914-18)

World War I broke out in Europe (August 1914). Palestine at the beginning of the War was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The population was largely Arab with some Jewish settlements as a result of the European Zionist movement. The Germans sought to bring the declining Ottoman Empire into the War to draw Russian and British resources from the two main fronts of the War. The Ottomans joined the Central Powers (October 1914). They had suffered significant territorial losses in the Balkans and the Caucuses at the hands of the Russians and saw allying themselves with the Germans was one way of regaining lost territory from the be leagued Russians. The War quickly turned into a disaster when the Ottoman army invading the Russian Caucuses was decisively defeated. The Ottomans launched an offensive from Palestine soon after entering the War (November 1914). They crossed the Sinai and at some locations reached the Suez Canal, but were beaten back by the British. The British encouraged an Arab Revolt in Arabia which developed into a major threat to the Ottomans. The Arab Revolt assisted by T.E. Lawrence helped weakened the Ottoman position in Arabia and Palestine. Palestine turned from an Ottoman backwater into the frontline of World war I. The British made commitments to the Arabs about an independent Arab state after the War. They made conflicting commitments to their French ally. Zionists were initially split by the War. There were Zionists in all the major belligerent powers. The Balfour Declaration would largely change this. The British mounted a major offensive Against the Ottomans in Palestine. The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force commanded by Field Marshall Edmund Allenby at first made little progress against the Ottomans. The British finally took Jerusalem (December 1917). Australian Light Cavalry played an important role. The Ottoman Army in the Levant was finally broken at the Battle of Megiddo (September 1918). The British with the Arab Army on its right then moved to seize Damascus. The British during the War made conflicting commitments to the Arabs, Zionists, and even the French. The result was that after the War they found maintaining order in the Palestine Mandate a very difficult undertaking. The Palestinian Arabs were unwilling to participate in Mandate institutions. 

Sykes-Picot Agreement (February 1916)

Sir Mark Sykes and Charles Picot during World War I negotiated the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This set out the British-French colonial spheres in the Middle East. The Agreement signed in 1916 essentially divided the Middle East which had been dominated by the Ottoman Empire into areas of influence for France, Britain and others. The French would seize control over much of the Levant, Syria and Lebanon. Most of Palestine was to have been under international control. Though the wording of the agreement mentions the possibility of cessions by either side to an Arab state. The Agreement stirred up a controversy for a variety of reasons. It meant that Britain was not honoring the promises Sir Henry McMahon made to Sheriff Hussayn (1915). The Sykes-Picot agreement specifically excluded the districts 'west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo' as listed in the Hussayn-McMahon agreement, extending the line south so that Palestine was excluded from Arab control. The Sykes Picot Agreement also excluded two substantial areas that would be under direct British and French control. 

Balfour Declaration (1917)

British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour committed Britain to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine (November 2, 1917). This is known as the Balfour Declaration. At the time the British offensive in Palestine was moving toward Jerusalem. Balfour's statement was included in a letter to Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron of Rothschild, of the Jewish banking family. Rothschild was an important British Jewish leader and played a role in financing the British war effort. Two important Zionist leaders (Chaim Weitzman and Nahum Sokolov) were seeking British support for a Jewish homeland, particularly important as it became increasingly clear that the British were going to end Ottoman rule of Palestine. The British were hedging their bets as they also wanted Arab support. The Balfour declaration was carefully worded. It was a commitment for a Jewish state. It was, however, a substantial commitment from the country that was about to seize Palestine.

Syrian and Iraqi Independence (1919-20)

The Allies after World War occupied the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Part of the Allied force was the irregular Army which the British had helped form and arm. British military authorities took control. The Arabs convened the General Syrian Congress in Damascus (July 1919). The Congress demanded that the Allies recognize Syria as an independent Arab state. The Arabs at the time were thinking not only of modern Syria, but also of Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The Congress recognized Emir Faisal as king. When the Allied governments did not act on the Congress' demand, the Congress unilaterally proclaimed Syrian independence and confirmed Faisal as King (March 1920). Arab authorities in Mesopotamia (Iraq) took similar actions and declared independence as a monarchy under Abdullah. The League of Nations Council rejected both declarations. 

San Remo Conference (April 1920)

The Allied powers held a conference in San Remo, Italy to decide on the future of the largely conquered territories seized from the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. Representatives of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, and Belgium attended the conference. The Arabs and other groups in the territories like the Kurds and Jews were not invited to participate. Members of the supreme council of the Allies took the leading parts in the Conference. The representatives discussed how to execute provisions of the 1919 Versailles Treaty. The elements of a peace treaty with Turkey were approved. And mandates for the Middle East territories were allotted. The representatives divided the concerned territories according to their stage of economic and political development and their location. They were then assigned to individual powers. Iraq and Palestine were assigned to Britain. Syria along with Lebanon was assigned to France

Palestine after the War

The Arabs in Palestine were suspicious about British intentions. They were aware of the Balfour Declaration and commitment to a Jewish Homeland. We are not sure about attitudes among Christian Arabs. Rumors circulated within the Arab community. Some saw the British as modern-day Crusaders. There were no important Muslim voices endorsing the delineation of Palestine (1920). Important Muslim leasers protested. Muslims west of the Jordan generally desired to be part of the kingdom proclaimed by the Syrian National Congress to be ruled by Emir Feisal. There was no real sense of Palestinian nationality at the time. Many saw themselves as southern Syrians. A young anti-Semitic Amin al-Husayni strongly advocated becoming part of the new Arab Syrian kingdom. With the French occupation and ouster of Emir Feisal (July 1920), this option was no longer available. Then the idea of a Palestinian entity began to take hold. Amin al-Husayni began to emerge as a Palestinian leader, in part by assassinating rivals with more moderate outlooks. 

Arab/Jewish Attitudes Toward Each Other

The Koran is the fundamental foundation of Muslim society. Thus we need to look at what the Koran says about Jews to fully understand modern attitudes. It is useful to look at Arab attitudes toward the Jews both in historical times and in the modern era (19th and early 20th century) before the conflict in Palestine became pronounced. One important aspect to bear in mind is that the Jews since the Islamic era (7th century) have been a small minority in Arab countries without political power. The Arabs thus for centuries were the dominant power and even after conquest by the Ottomans, the Islamic religion was dominant. Thus while there was a varying spirit of toleration, there was no tradition in the Arab world of accepting Jews on a basis of equality, either morally or before the law. Until World War I, most of the Arab world was a colonial dependency or protectorate of either the Ottoman or different European powers. It is useful to look at what Arab political or religious leaders had to say about the Jews as well as what Jews had to say about the Arabs. 

French Mandate over Syria (July 1920)

French troops occupied Damascus (July 1920) implementing the terms of the mandate. The French ordered Emir Faisal to leave Syria. He was thus forced into exile. The British proceeded to install him as King of Iraq. French rule in Syria was authoritative. There was not attempt to include the local population in the administration or to promote the growth of local government as pursued by the British. Local leaders encouraged resistance to the French. After a serious revolt (1925), French military government began to move toward a degree of self-government. This had been an element of the League Mandated, but largely ignored by French authorities. The French joined the Aleppo and Damascus provinces of Syria !935). The French then made Lebanon an independent republic under French control (1936). 

British Administration

Britain thus began replacing the military administration with a civil administration. Sir Herbert Samuel was appointed High Commissioner. Samuel had been an advocate for a Jewish homeland during the War. 

Treaty of Serves (August 1920)

The Treaty of Serves was the Peace treaty ending World War I between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. It was signed at Sevres, France (August 19, 1920). The signatories included the Ottoman Empire (transitioning into Turkey) on the one hand and the Allies (excluding Russia and the United States) on the other. The treaty essentially liquidated the Ottoman Empire and virtually indeed Turkish sovereignty. The Treaty implemented the decisions taken at the San Remo Conference. There were several provisions related to the Middle Eastern territories of the former Ottoman Empire. Turkey renounced sovereignty over Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, Palestine, and the Hejaz (Arabian Peninsula). Palestine (at the time including Jordan) became a British mandate. Syria (including Lebanon) became a French mandate. The future of the Kingdom of Hejaz would be decided in a dynastic struggle between the Hashemites and Saudis. Turkey retained Anatolia but committed to granting autonomy to Kurdistan. Armenia became a separate republic under international guarantees, but of course the Armenian population in Anatolia had been decimated in the Turkish engineered genocide. Smyrna (modern Izmir) and adjacent areas was placed under Greek administration. A plebiscite was to determine its future. Turkey also ceded parts of Eastern Thrace and certain Aegean islands to Greece and the Dodecanese and Rhodes to Italy. In Europe Turkey only retained Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and surrounding area. This included the Zone of the Straits (Dardanelles and Bosphorus) which was neutralized and internationalized. The Allies also obtained control over the Turkish economy with the capitulation rights. While signed, many aspects of the Treaty were never implemented. The treaty was accepted by the Ottoman government of Sultan Mehmed Vahdettin VI at Istanbul. The rising nationalist government of Kemal Atatürk at Ankara rejected it. Atatürk's military forces proved decisive. He negotiated a separate treaty with the Soviet Union. And he scored victories in the Turkish-Greek War 1920-22), driving the Greeks from western Anatolia. Britain and France would have had to have renewed the War to force acceptance of the Treaty. Instead they negotiate a new treaty in 1923--the Treaty of Lausanne. The provisions affecting the former Ottoman territories held (Articles 94 and 95). Here there was a clear differentiation concerning Palestine. Article 94 specified that the Mandates being created for Iraq and Syria specified that the existence of the communities living there would be provisionally recognized as independent nations Article 95 included no such commitment for Palestine

Arab Resort to Violence: Anti-Jewish Riots (1920-21)

After World War I, Feisal who would become King of first Syria and then Iraq, proposed to the Zionist leader Chaim Weitzman, a mutual partnership in developing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Arabs leaders subsequently rejected this understanding, claiming that the Allies had not met their commitment to the Feisal's father Sherif Hussein. Arabs mobs conducted the first major anti-Jewish riots in Palestine (1920-21). The first Arab riots occurred in Jerusalem around Passover--"Bloody Passover (March 1920). Attacks on Jews had occurred in Muslim and Christian countries for centuries. Unfounded rumors of Jewish attacks on Arabs caused the riots. British military authorities did not at first intervene to protect Jews after the Arab attacks begun. The British did arrest Vladimir Jabotinsky and other Jews for organizing a self-defense league. Arab violence spread to other areas. Arabs killed Joseph Trumpeldor and others defending Tel Hai, a settlement in the Upper Galilee (April 1920). Jews seeing that the British authorities were not defending them, founded the Haganah (June 15, 1920). While there is no conclusive evidence that Haj Amin al-Husseini was responsible for initiating the riots, there is ample evidence that he became one of the leaders urging Palestinians to kill Jews and loot their homes. Further violence occurred in Jaffa. Arabs brutally murdered Jewish author Y. Brenner in Jaffa. This was followed by attacks on Rehovot, Petach Tikva, and other Jewish areas (May 1921). When the violence subsided, the Jewish death toll was 47 with 140 wounded. Among those killed was Yosef Hayyim Brenner, the respected socialist pioneer and author. Arab casualties totaled 48 killed and 73 wounded. Almost all the Arab casualties were at the hands of the British military trying to restore order. The Jews learned an important lesson. They were vulnerable to Arab violence and had virtually no self defense capability. main lesson was the power of the Arab masses and the relative ineffectiveness of the Jewish defense. Sir Herbert Samuel, British High Commissioner, in an effort to restore order, attempted to appease the Arab rioters. He ordered a temporary halt to Jewish immigration. He also began negotiations with the Arab Executive Committee. One outcome of the effort to restore order was the White Paper issued by Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill (June 1922). The Haycraft Commission investigated the violence and found, "The racial strife was begun by the Arabs, and rapidly developed into a conflict of great violence between Arabs and Jews, in which the Arab majority, who were generally the aggressors, inflicted most of the casualties." 

Cairo Conference (1921)

The British at the end of World War I seized Arab-populated countries from the Ottoman Empire. The British seized Palestine and advanced to Damascus. A second offensive in Mesopotamia seized what was to become Iraq. Britain and France after World War I divided up the Arab lands seized from the Ottoman Empire at the Cairo Conference. The division followed the lines of the Sykes-Picot Treaty. The British created Trans Jordan under Emir Abdullah and installed King Faisal in Iraq. Syria was placed under French control. The British and French also endorsed the Balfour Declaration. The League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine (July 7, 1922), 

The League of Nations

President Wilson saw at the center of a new international order, a League of Nations. As soon as he returned home from the Versailles Peace Conference, he launched upon a cross-country tour to promote the Treaty and U.S. membership in the League. He told Americans, "At the front of this great treaty is put the Covenant of the League of Nations. It will also be at the front of the Austrian, treaty and the Hungarian treaty and the Bulgarian treaty and the treaty with Turkey. Every one of them will contain the Covenant of the League of Nations, because you cannot work any of them without the Covenant of the League of Nations. Unless you get the united, concerted purpose and power of the great Governments of the world behind this settlement, it will fall down like a house of cards. There is only one power to put behind the liberation of mankind, and that is the power of mankind. It is the power of the united moral forces of the world, and in the Covenant of the League of Nations the moral forces of the world are mobilized." [Wilson

Winston Churchill: Colonial Secretary (1921)

Winston Churchill had played a major role in Parliament during World War I. A few years after the War, Prime-Minister Lloyd George appointed Churchill to be Secretary of State for the Colonies and was given special instructions to deal with the new Middle eastern mandates--Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq). Lloyd George was especially untested in reducing the administrative cost. Here Arab resort to violence was having the affect of keeping administrative costs high. Another goal was to carry out the pledge made in the Balfour Doctrine. A middle East Department was established in the Colonial Office under John Shuckburgh, an experienced India hand, to assist Churchill. Churchill also sought ought T.E. Lawrence to advise him about the Arabs. Churchill was a strong proponent of the Balfour Doctrine. He spoke with French President Alexandre Millerand who was critical of British support for a Jewish national homeland, fearing it would 'disturb' the Arab world. Churchill continued to support the commitment and was impressed with Samuel's even-handed approach. Churchill's vision for the World War I mandates was that Emir Feisal would be the king of Iraq and Abdullah the king of Trans Jordan. The remaining area of western Palestine between the Jordan River and Mediterranean would be the Jewish national homeland as promised by the World War I Balfour Declaration. [Gilbert, pp. 46-47.] 

T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence is better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Because of his academic background and linguistic abilities, he was posted to Cairo during the War. There he was chosen to work with the Arabs and played a major role in the Arab Revolt (1917-18). He helped the Arab Revolt launched by Sherif Hussein and his sons. Lawrence helped the Arabs take the Turkish fortress at Aqaba and perfect the guerrilla tactics that largely forced the Turks out of the Arabian Peninsula. Lawrence managed to arrange a commitment from Emir Feisal (Sherif Hussein's eldest son), Emir Feisal agreed that in exchange for Arab sovereignty over Mesopotamia (Iraq), Jordan, and Syria that his father would not pursue claims to Palestine. [Lawrence

The League Mandate (1922)

The League of Nations in the World War I peace settlements was given responsibility for the former German and Ottoman colonies. Mandates to administer these colonies were awarded to Britain and France. Britain was awarded responsibility among other areas Iraq and Palestine. France received Syria and Lebanon. British colonies which were moving toward independence received some of these awards. Australia received New Guinea. South Africa received South West Africa (Namibia). Japan received the Caroline Islands. Several of these areas were matters of significant international dispute in later years. The most important, of course was Palestine. The terms of the British Mandate in Palestine was were approved by the League of Nations Council (July 24, 1922). Formal authorization became effective (September 29, 1923). English, Arabic, and Hebrew were all to be official languages in the Palestine Mandate. The Mandate covered the territory of what is now Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, and Gaza. The terms of the League Mandate for Palestine were established by the League of Nations. Article 6 clearly permitted Jewish immigration and settlement. The text read, "The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish Agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes." The United States Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty, primarily because of the League of Nations provisions. Thus the League approval of the mandate did not include any American commitment. The U.s. Congress by a joint resolution endorsed the concept of the Jewish national home (June 30, 1922). 

Arab Reaction

Arab spokesmen led by Sharif Husayn and his sons in contrast opposed the terms of the League Mandate in Palestine. The Covenant of the League of Nations explicitly endorsed popular determination. And the Arabs were a clear majority in Palestine. They also pointed out that the League Covenant specifically declared that all obligations and understandings inconsistent with it were abrogated. The Arabs argued with some validity that this meant that both the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement were null and void. 

British Administration

The British sought to bring about a peaceful accommodation between the Arabs, Jews, and others in Palestine. The first British high commissioner in Palestine was Sir Herbert Samuel's. He had the unenviable job of establishing order between the antagonistic communities. From the beginning, Samuels found that the Palestinian Arab leaders were opposed to any peaceful accommodation with the Zionist community. Samuels who was Jewish had two often conflicting principles: liberalism and Zionism. He attempted to introduced Western legal concepts to Palestine. One of the actions taken was abolishing “dhimmitude”. Under this system, non-Muslim dhimmis lived in a system of institutionalized subjugation. Political rights were denied to all but Muslims. Changing this system was a major concern of Palestinians and other Arabs. Samuel's permitted open Jewish immigration and land purchases. The result was the Third Aliyah (1919-23). During this relatively brief window, thousands of highly committed Zionists entered Palestine. Most had a secular Socialist orientation. They made a major contribution to the kibbutz system--a form of communal farming. Not only did the kibutzes make an important contribution to Jewish farming, but the communities formed allowed for a degree of collective defense that individual family farms would not have. Samuels in accordance with League standards proposed a move toward representative institutions. He called for a legislative council, an advisory council, and an Arab agency comparable to the Jewish Agency. Had the Palestinian Arabs accepted this proposal, they would have dominated the legislative council and other Mandate institutions. They could have then moved to curtail Jewish immigration and land purchases. The Jews were in no position to oppose Samuel's proposal. They were clearly based on the League Covenant of the League of Nations and the mandatory system. Ironically it was the Palestinian Arabs who rejected Samuels' proposals. They apparently concluded that participation in Mandate institutions would represent acceptance of the Balfour Declaration and a Jewish Homeland. The Arabs rejected all of Samuel's proposals, including a legislative council, an advisory council, and an Arab agency. This also essentially meant that there would be no institutional base in which the Arab and Jewish communities could consult. 

Creation of Jordan

The British changed their minds about the future of the Palestine Mandate soon after World war I. The British were concerned about maintaining order and appeasing the Arabs became an important part of this. Winston Churchill opted for what he described a "Hashemite solution." The Hashemite family were connected to the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia) and had no connection with Palestine. Churchill decided to appease Prince Abdullah by offering him a position of authority in Transjordan. Churchill submitted a memorandum to the Cairo Conference (March 1921). It read in part, " ... establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine west of the Jordan and a separate Arab entity in Palestine east of the Jordan. Abdullah, if installed in authority in Transjordan, could preside over the creation of such an Arab entity." The British decided to install Abdullah who they had worked with during the war as Emir of Transjordan. The British submitted a memorandum to the League of Nations in which they concluded that the provisions of the Mandate document calling for the establishment of a Jewish national home were not applicable to the area east of the Jordan--Transjordan. This essentially reduced by about 80 percent the Mandate land open to Jewish settlement and a future Jewish Homeland (September 16, 1922). The British decision was an attempt to satisfy Arab complaints about Jewish immigration and any future Jewish homeland. Churchill and the British carried off some legal slight of hand. Transjordan was part of the League of Nations Mandate. It was not within the authority of the British as the Mandate power to unilaterally partition Palestine. The British did just this, although not formally. The British accepted the Arab character and administration of Trans-Jordan, essentially an Arab province of Palestine. The British intended this as a temporary measure, but over time it became a permanent part of League Mandated Palestine and eventually an independent country. Once Trans-Jordan was created, all Jewish migration and settlement was stopped. This was a measure without basis in the Balfour Declaration (1917) or the League Mandate (1922). The British decided on a de facto arrangement to limit Jewish immigration to the 23 percent of Palestine west of the Jordan River. The British action had two primary impacts. First as noted above, it closed off Jewish immigration west of the Jordan River. Second by separating the large area east of the Jordan it meant that the Jews constituted a larger part of the population east of the Jordon than they had in the overall Mandate area. The British added an additional 60,000 square km. of desert to Transjordan (1925). This formed a territorial "arm" of land to connect Transjordan with Iraq, separating Syria from the Arabian Peninsula. Palestine continued to be formerly administered by Britain under the Mandate until Transjordan was granted independence (1946). 

Jewish Immigration

Arab-Palestinian Economy

One poorly pursued topic is the Palestinian economy and the impact of the influx of Jewish settlers to Palestine. Anti-Jewish sentiment among the Arabs existed before the Zionist settlement. There is not doubt that the influx gave rise to increased anti-Jewish sentiment. This is a normal reaction in any country, just as the Irish immigration in America gave rise to anti-Irish sentiment. Into this volatile mix the Grand-Mufti of Palestine promoted violence against the Jews. This dynamic has been fairly well documented. Less well addressed in the economic condition of the Palestinians and the impact of the Jewish Zionist immigration. Palestinians commonly complain that the Jews purchased land from poor Palestinians. The objection here is that the resulting land was lost to the Palestinian community. Palestinian poverty was of course something the Jews did not create or the West. It was a fact when the British took Palestine (1918). It was the result of Ottoman and Arab backwardness and the failure to enter the modern world. We have seen reports that the economic impact of the Jewish immigration was to stimulate the Palestinian economy and the Palestinians thus benefited economically from the growth in the economy. One author maintains that not only did the Palestinian economy grow more rapidly than was the case during the Ottoman Era, but it grew more rapidly than was the case for neighboring Arab-populated areas like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and Egypt. Our information on this is still limited. We do know that the Arab population increased, one indicator of a thriving economy. We are not sure, however, of this was the result of a rising birth-rate or immigration from neighboring Arab states. This is another topic we hope to pursue. 

Jewish Agency (1929)

The League Mandate given to the British recognized the "historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and called upon the mandatory power to "secure establishment of the Jewish National Home." The League recognized "an appropriate Jewish agency" for advice and cooperation to that end. The League specifically recognized the WZO as the appropriate vehicle. The League formally established the Jewish Agency to facilitate immigration (1929). The League when establishing the Jewish Agency added a proviso that the "rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced." The WZO saw the League approval of the Mandate system as an important step toward the achievement of a Homeland. There was no unanimity within the Zionist community at the time as to just what form a Jewish Homeland would take. A Jewish nation state was not seen as achieve-able by many Zionists. Only gradually did this become the movement's goal. It was the experience with the Arabs and British in Palestine and the NAZI Holocaust that led to the proclamation of the State of Israel (1948). 

Disturbances (1929)

As the number of Zionist immigrants increased and the area of land expanded, conflicts began to develop with the Arabs. Here Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, played a central role. Both sides blamed the other as scattered acts of violence occurred. There were more Arabs attacks on Jewish settlements than Jewish attacks, but there were violent actions perpetrated by both sides. The Jews had learned the lesson of the 1920-21 no self-defense preparations. The worst Arab attack occurred at Hebron where Arabs massacred 69 Jews (1929). 

The Haganah

With Jews being murdered by Arabs, David Ben-Gurion gave increasing attention to the Haganah--the Jewish Defense Force. The Haganah increased efforts to obtain arms. They also began military training in secret. 

British Actions

The British tried to defuse the situation, arresting both Arabs and Jews and confiscating weapons. Jews claimed that because of the importance of the Arabs in British colonial policy, that the British generally favored the Arabs. Here we are not sure, but it is a topic we need to pursue. Even a neutral policy, however, favored the Arabs. Palestine was surrounded by Arab states or colonies to become Arab states. Thus if the Jews in Palestine had no weapons they would be defenseless if the neighboring Arab states invaded. 

Arab Revolt (1936-39)

The Jerusalem Grand Mufti Hajj Amen el-Husseinei helped inspire riots and disorders throughout Palestine (April 1936). Six prominent Arab leaders formed the Arab High Command to protest Zionist activities, especially land purchases and immigration. The Arab High Command organized a general strike of Arab workers and a boycott of Jewish products (April 1936). Soon the initial peaceful actions escalated into attacks on Jews as well as the British authorities. Riots occurred in Jerusalem and other cities . These disorders, seen as the first stage of the "Arab Revolt" continued until November, 1936. Another stage of disorders began in September, 1937. The cause was the Peel Commission which suggested the partition of Palestine. The second stage was much more violent. There were more intense fighting with British forces as well as attacks on more Jewish settlements. The British were hard pressed at the time and actually authorized the arming of the Haganah. The British and the Haganah worked together. Effective operations were organized by Charles Orde Wingate who later became famous in Burma. Wingate established Special Night Squads of Jewish volunteers. The British successfully defeated the Arab Revolt. Husseini was able to find refuge in Iraq. The British government concerned about the British position in the Arab world sought to appease Arab opinion with the 1939 White Paper. 

Peel Commission (1937)

The British Peel Commission following on the Arab riots suggested splitting Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state (1937). The Jewish area would have about 25 percent of the land. At the time there were about 450,000 Jews in Palestine. The British believed that the much larger and more populous Arab state would not be economically self-sufficient. Thus the British saw a need for the Jewish state to support the Arab state. The Commission was important because it was the first official recognition of partition as a solution. Most peace outlines since have adopted partition as the solution. There have been no other possible solution offered. Obtaining agreement from the parties involved, however, has proven elusive. 

British White Paper (1939)

NAZI diplomacy with its anti-British and anti-Semitic approached appealed to the Arabs. Here they met considerable sympathy both because of rising anti-Semitism and opposition to British colonialism. The British attempted to counter this by issuing a White Paper before the War began withdrawing their support for a Jewish homeland. Palestine's location closed to the Suez Canal made it a possession of some strategic importance. As Europe moved toward war, the British Government organized a conference of Arabs and Jews to discuss the future of Palestine and diffuse the disorders that broke out with the Arab revolt. The meeting became known as the St. James or Round Table Conference of 1939. The British attempted to bring together Arab and Jewish representatives. The Jews were represented by the Jewish Agency (Zionist and non-Zionist groups) led by Chaim Weitzman. The Arabs delegation was led by the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, but the delegation included the more moderate party of the well-known al-Nashashibi family. The Arab delegation included non-Palestinian Arabs (Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, and Yemen). The Conference did not go well. Al-Husseini refused to even meet with the Jewish representatives. The resulting British White Paper was crafted to help reverse increasing Arab sympathy with the NAZI's (1939). The Jewish Agency in Palestine rejected the White Paper and charged that it was a denial of the Balfour Declaration as well as Britain's responsibilities under the League of Nations Mandate. The Jews were especially concerned about the British decision to permanently restrict Jewish immigration, at a time when Jews were being brutalized by the NAZI's and Fascist forces in other European countries. 

World War II (1939-45)

Palestine was part of Ottoman Empire for several centuries. The province has a largely Arab population. Zionism was founded in Europe during the 19th century and promoted immigration to Palestine with the purpose of founding a Jewish homeland. The Ottoman's permitted small-scale Jewish immigration. The Ottomans joined the Central Powers in World War I seeking to regain lost territory in the Balkans. As part of the operations of the Arab Army and Col T.H. Lawrence and a 1917 British offensive under Allenby, Palestine fell. After the War, the British administered Palestine under a League of Nations trusteeship. The rise of Fascism in Europe encouraged many Jews to seek refugee and strengthened the Zionist movement. The British attempted to restrict Jewish immigration. The expanding Jewish population also resulted in growing anti-Semitism among the Palestinians. This had opposition to British colonial rule caused many Palestinians to sympathize and seek support from the NAZI's. 

United Nations Partition (1947)

The League of Nations was dissolved after the World War II. It was succeeded by the new United Nations (June 26, 1945). The terms of the Palestine Mandate still unfulfilled. Article 80 of the U.N. Charter covered the League Mandates including Palestine. Article 80 confirmed that that the rights created by the Mandate and the terms of the Mandate were not to be affected. Britain granted Trans-Jordon independence (1946). This resolved 77 percent of the territory of the League Mandate, turning it over to the Arabs. A United Nations Committee recommended that the rest of Palestine west of the Jordan River be partitioned between a Arab and Jewish state and that Jerusalem be made an international city. This meant essentially that the Jews were receiving a little over 11 percent of the original League Mandate. The Jews accepted the proposal. The Arabs rejected it and threatened war if the Jews declared an independent state. 


Fromkin, David. A Peace To End All Peace.
Gilbert, Martin. Churchill and the Jews: A Life Long Frienship (Henry Holt: New York, 2007), 359p.
Lawrence, T.E. Letter to Churchill's private secretary, January 17, 1921, Churchill papers, 17/14.
League of Nations. "The Palestine Mandate," July 24, 1922.
Peters, Joan. From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine.

Wilson, Woodrow. Speech at Pueblo, Colorado, September 25, 1919

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