The Zionist connection to the Palestine Mandate
Excerpted from the report “The Origins and Evolution of the Palestine Problem: 1917-1988,” by UNISPAL - Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR), June 30, 1978
The Zionist connection to mandated Palestine
The contradictions inherent in the Mandate for Palestine arose from the incorporation in it of the Balfour Declaration. The importance of gaining international support for a Jewish State was recognized from the outset for several reasons:
(a) To consolidate divergent Jewish opinion behind Zionist policies;
(b) To draw the support of European Powers to harmonize with British policy;
(c) To obtain some form of international approval for the enterprise.
Weizmann is quoting as stating that the effort of zionism must be "... to make the Jewish question an international one. It means going to the nations and saying, 'we need your help to achieve our aim'". 41/
The Zionist Commission
The first move was the dispatch to Palestine in April 1918 of a Zionist Commission consisting of Dr. Weizmann and Zionist representatives from France and Italy, accompanied by British officials. The telegram to the British High Commission in Egypt outlined its task:
"... object of Commission is to carry out ... any steps required to give effect to government declaration in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ...
"Among the most important functions of the Commission will be the establishment of good relations with the Arabs and other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and to establish the Commission as the link between the military authorities and the Jewish population and Jewish interests in Palestine.
"It is most important that everything should be done to obtain authority from the Commission in the eyes of the Jewish world, and at the same time allay Arab suspicions regarding the true aims of zionism. ..." 42/
Although formally still part of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was under British military occupation since December 1917. Palestinian apprehension over the intents of the Balfour Declaration had been reported to London by the military authorities, and when the Zionist Commission arrived in Jerusalem, Weizmann wrote the Foreign Office:
"We were prepared to find a certain amount of hostility on the part of the Arabs and Syrians, based largely on misconception of our real aims, and we have always realized that one of our principal duties would be to dispel misconceptions and to endeavour to arrive at an amicable understanding with the non-Jewish elements of the population on the basis of the declared policy of His Majesty's Government. But we find among the Arabs and Syrians, or certain sections of them, a state of mind which seems to us to make useful negotiations impossible at the present moment, and so far as we are aware - though here our information may be incomplete - no official steps have been taken to bring home to the Arabs and Syrians the fact that His Majesty's Government has expressed a definite policy with regard to the future of the Jews in Palestine". 43/
The Military Governor, Colonel (later Sir) Ronald Storrs, commented:
"I cannot agree that, as Dr. Weizmann would seem to suggest, it is the business of the military authorities to 'bring home to the Arabs and Syrians the fact that His Majesty's Government has expressed a definite policy with regard to the future of the Jews in Palestine'. This has already been done by Mr. Balfour in London, and by the press throughout the world. What is wanted is that the Zionists themselves should bring home to the Arabs and Syrians an exposition at once as accurate and conciliatory as possible of their real aims and policy in the country;...
"Speaking myself as a convinced Zionist, I cannot help thinking that the Commission are lacking in a sense of the dramatic actuality. Palestine, up to now a Moslem country, has fallen into the hands of a Christian Power which on the eve of its conquest announced that a considerable portion of its land is to be handed over for colonization purposes to a nowhere very popular people. The dispatch of a Commission of these people is subsequently announced ... From the announcement in the British press until this moment there has been no sign of a hostile demonstration public or private against a project which if we may imagine England for Palestine can hardly open for the inhabitants the beatific vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The Commission was warned in Cairo of the numerous and grave misconceptions with which their enterprise was regarded and strongly advised to make a public pronouncement to put an end to those misconceptions. No such pronouncement has yet been made; ..." 43/
The Commission completed its stay in Palestine, and the Zionist Organization prepared itself for the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Proposals were submitted to the Foreign Office for consideration at the Conference. Lord Curzon (then Foreign Secretary and formerly Viceroy of India and Lord President of the Council) commented to Balfour on these proposals:
"... As for Weizmann and Palestine, I entertain no doubt that he is out for a Jewish Government, if not at the moment then in the near future ...
"What all this can mean except Government I do not see. Indeed a Commonwealth as defined in my dictionary is a 'body politic' a 'State' an 'independent community' a 'republic'.
"I feel tolerably sure therefor that while Weizmann may say one thing to you, or while you may mean one thing by a national home, he is out for something quite different. He contemplates a Jewish State, a Jewish nation, a subordinate population of Arabs, etc. ruled by Jews; the Jews in possession of the fat of the land, and directing the Administration.
"He is trying to effect this behind the screen and under the shelter of British trusteeship.
"I do not envy those who wield the latter, when they realize the pressure to which they are certain to be exposed. ..." 44/
The Paris Peace Conference
The delegation of the Hijaz (now Saudi Arabia), led by Sherif Husain's son, Emir Feisal, was the only Arab delegation at the Conference, and presented the Arab case for independence, although their credentials were not recognized by all Arab leaders. Feisal relied heavily for guidance on the British Government, which had sponsored his participation in the Conference. His position is described by George Antonius:
"... the pressure to which he was being subjected in London was telling on him. He felt keenly the insufficiency of his equipment, his ignorance of English, his unfamiliarity with the methods of European diplomacy ... It added to his sense of weakness and isolation that he knew the French to be hostile to his person and to his mission: apart from the scant courtesy with which he had been treated on his passage through France, he had had a multitude of signs to show him that his own distrust of the French was unfeignedly reciprocated. He allowed himself to be persuaded that his chances of neutralizing the hostility of the French would be greater if he could see his way to meeting Great Britain's wishes to the fullest possible extent." 45/
Feisal apparently did not fully appreciate the implications of Zionist aims. He could play no significant role in the Conference and, influenced by British officials, he presented a brief memorandum dated 1 January 1919 to the Paris Peace Conference, outlining the case for the independence of Arab countries. The paragraph relating to Palestine reads, in stilted and peculiar language:
"In Palestine, the enormous majority of the people are Arabs. The Jews are very close to the Arabs in blood, and there is no conflict of character between the two races. In principles we are absolutely at one. Nevertheless, the Arabs cannot risk assuming the responsibility of holding level the scales in the clash of races and religions that have, in this one province, so often involved the world in difficulties. They would wish for the effective super-position of a great trustee, so long as a representative local administration commended itself by actively promoting the material prosperity of the country." 46/
It is evident that although prompted to say that "there is no conflict of char acter between the two races ... In principles we are absolutely at one", Feisal in no manner consented to the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, but only implied acceptance of a mandate.
The ambiguity in the wording of Feisal's proposals might have stemmed not only from his unfamiliarity with international diplomacy, but also from the need to retain flexibility for the political ambitions of Sherif Husain and his sons to extend their suzerainty over as wide an area as possible. Thus Feisal's claim to being an interlocuteur valable has been questioned by Palestinian leaders. The significant point is the absence of representation of the Palestinian principals in decision on their fate, a characteristic also of subsequent rulings on Palestine.
Both Weizmann and Sokolow spoke before the Conference, where the Zionist Organization presented a detailed memorandum (drafted by a Committee including Samuel and Sykes), whose introductory portions, suggesting the alienation of Palestinian sovereignty, read:
"The Zionist Organization respectfully submits the following draft resolutions for the consideration of the Peace Conference:
1. The High Contracting Parties recognize the historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine and the right of the Jews to reconstitute in Palestine their national home ...
3. The sovereign possession of Palestine shall be vested in the League of Nations and the Government entrusted to Great Britain as Mandatory of the League ...
5. The Mandate shall be subject also to the following special conditions:
(1) Palestine shall be placed under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment there of the Jewish national home and ultimately render possible the creation of an autonomous Commonwealth ..." 47/
However, during meetings on the mandates question of the Allied Supreme Council, President Wilson declared that "one of the fundamental principles to which the United States of America adhered was the consent of the governed" and proposed the dispatch of an inter-allied commission "... to elucidate the state of opinion and the soil to be worked on by any mandatory". This proposal materialized in the "King-Crane" Commission, and it was agreed that its jurisdiction would include Palestine. 48/
The King-Crane Commission
For their own reasons both Britain and France did not nominate members to the Commission. According to Anthony Nutting, "Britain and France backed out rather than find themselves confronted by recommendations from their own appointed delegates which might conflict with their policies". 49/ President Wilson appointed two Americans, Henry King and Charles Crane.
Soon after the Commission arrived in Damascus, Arab nationalists, meeting as the "General Syrian Congress", including representatives from Lebanon and Palestine, adopted a resolution to be presented to the Commission. The resolution asked for full independence for Syria (including Lebanon and Palestine), rejecting any form of foreign influence or control. The resolution included the first formal declaration of Arab opposition to the plans being made for Palestine:
"We oppose the pretensions of the Zionists to create a Jewish Commonwealth in the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine, and oppose Zionist migration to any part of our country, for we do not acknowledge their title but consider them a grave peril to our people from the national, economical, and political points of view. Our Jewish compatriots shall enjoy our common rights and assume the common responsibilities." 50/
The Commission's report recommended that, in view of the opposition to French influence, consideration be given to an American mandate over Syria. The portions dealing with Palestine recommended:
"... serious modification of the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish State ..."
Referring to President Wilson's preparation of the principle of self-determination, the Commission stated:
"If that principle is to rule, and so the wishes of Palestine's population are to be decisive as to what is to be done with Palestine, then it is to be remembered that the non-Jewish population of Palestine - nearly nine-tenths of the whole - are emphatically against the entire Zionist programme. The tables show that there was no one thing upon which the population of Palestine were more agreed than upon this. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the principle just quoted, and of the peoples' rights though it kept within the forms of law;..."The Peace Conference should not shut its eyes to the fact that the anti-Zionist feeling in Palestine and Syria is intense and not lightly to be flouted. No British Officer consulted by the Commissioners believed that the Zionist programme could be carried out except by force of arms. The officers generally thought that a force of not less than 50,000 soldiers would be required even to initiate the programme. That of itself is evidence of a strong sense of the injustice of the Zionist programme, on the part of the non-Jewish populations of Palestine and Syria. Decisions, requiring armies to carry out, are sometimes necessary, but they are surely not gratuitously to be taken in the interests of a serious injustice. For the initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a "right" to Palestine, based on an occupation of two thousand years ago, can hardly be seriously considered." 51/
Allied policy on Palestine
The Commission's recommendations received little attention and in any case were to become moot with the United States' decision to stay out of the League. Meanwhile, the actual policy for Palestine was being given final shape. Balfour told Justice Brandeis, leader of the Zionist movement in the United States:
"The situation is further complicated by an agreement made early in November (1918) by the British and French, and brought to the President's attention, telling the people of the East that their wishes would be consulted in the disposition of their future;... Palestine should be excluded from the terms of reference because the Powers had committed themselves to the Zionist programme which inevitably excluded numerical self-determination. Palestine presented a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to reconstitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future ..." 52/
In a memorandum to Lord Curzon on 11 August 1919, Balfour candidly wrote:
"The contradiction between the letters of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the 'independent nation' of Palestine than in that of the 'independent nation' of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission has been going through the form of asking what they are.
"The four Great Powers are committed to zionism. And zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.
"In my opinion that is right. What I have never been able to understand is how it can be harmonized with the (Anglo-French) declaration of November 1918, the Covenant, or the instructions to the Commission of Enquiry.
"I do not think that zionism will hurt the Arabs, but they will never say they want it. Whatever be the future of Palestine, it is not now an 'independent nation', nor is it yet on the way to become one. Whatever deference should be paid to the view of those living there, the Powers in their selection of a mandatory do not propose, as I understand the matter, to consult them. In short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate;..." 53/
The final disposition of Palestine was decided by the Allied Supreme Council at the San Remo Conference on 25 April 1920. The process has been described as follows:
"The allocation of the Mandate was for several reasons a slow process. In the first place, it hung upon the Anglo-French agreement as to the validity of the Sykes-Picot arrangements for the whole of the ex-Turkish territories, and this was held up by discord over Syria and Mosul, involving discussions très vives de ton between Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George. As a result of the compromise, Palestine, which had under the Sykes-Picot plan been destined for international administration, in the end passed by mutual consent into British tutelage." 54/
The decision was taken without any heed to the requirement of article 22 of the Covenant that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of a Mandatory".
The decision of the Allied Powers to support Zionist aims drew protest from Palestinians. Citizens of Nazareth reminded the British Administrator in Jerusalem:
"In view of the declaration of the decision of the Peace Conference regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, we hereby beg to declare that we are the owners of this country and the land is our national home ..." 55/
The drafting of the Palestine Mandate
Undeterred, the Zionist Organization pressed to obtain international support for its aims by securing approval from the League of Nations. Weizmann writes that his advisers:
"... fought the battle of the Mandate for many months. Draft after draft was proposed, discussed and rejected, and I sometimes wondered if we should ever reach a final text. The most serious difficulty arose in connection with a paragraph in the Preamble - the phrase which now reads: 'Recognizing the historic rights of the Jews to Palestine'. But Curzon would have none of it, remarking dryly: 'If you word it like that, I can see Weizmann coming to me every other day and saying he has a right to do this, that, or the other in Palestine! I won't have it!' As a compromise, Balfour suggested 'historial connection', and 'historical connection' it was." 56/
The wording of the Mandate was the object of strong opinions within the British Government, with Curzon strongly resisting formulations that would imply recognition of any legal rights for the Zionist movement in Palestine. Excerpts from official memoranda are informative:
On a draft to the effect that the British Government would be:
"responsible for placing Palestine under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of a Jewish national home and the development of a self-governing Commonwealth ..."
"... development of a self-governing Commonwealth'. Surely most dangerous. It is an euphemism for a Jewish State, the very thing they accepted and that we disallow;...
"The Zionists are after a Jewish State with the Arabs as hewers of wood and drawers of water.
"So are many British sympathisers with the Zionists.
"Whether you use the word Commonwealth or State that is what it will be taken to mean.
"That is not my view. I want the Arabs to have a chance and I don't want a Hebrew State.
"I have no idea how far the case has been given away to the Zionists. If not I would prefer 'self-governing institutions'. I have never been consulted as to this Mandate at an earlier stage, nor do I know from what negotiations it springs or on what undertakings it is based ... I think the entire concept wrong.
"Here is a country with 580,000 Arabs and 30,000 or is it 60,000 Jews (by no means all Zionists). Acting upon the noble principles of self-determination and ending with a splendid appeal to the League of Nations, we then proceed to draw up a document which ... is an avowed constitution for a Jewish State. Even the poor Arabs are only allowed to look through the keyhole as a non-Jewish community." 57/
The Zionist Organization was being consulted in the drafting of the Mandate although Curzon disapproved:
"I told Dr. Weizmann that I could not admit the phrase (historical connection) in the preamble ... It is certain to be made the basis of all sorts of claims in the future. I do not myself recognize that the connection of the Jews with Palestine, which terminated 1,200 years ago, gives them any claim whatsoever ... I would omit the phrase. I greatly dislike giving the draft to the Zionists, but in view of the indiscretions already committed, I suppose that this is inevitable ..." 58/
Balfour, by then Lord President of the Council, continued to help Weizmann. In a memorandum on the Mandate for the British Cabinet, Curzon wrote:
"... this Mandate ... has passed through several revisions. When it was first shown to the French Government it at once excited their vehement criticism on the ground of its almost exclusively Zionist complexion and of the manner in which the interests and rights of the Arab majority ... were ignored. The Italian Government expressed similar apprehensions ... The Mandate, therefore, was largely rewritten, and finally received their assent;...
"In the course of these discussions strong objection was taken to a statement which had been inserted in the Preamble of the first draft to the following effect:
'Recognizing the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim which this gives them to reconstitute Palestine as their national home.'
"It was pointed out (1) that, while the Powers had unquestionably recognized the historical connection of the Jews with Palestine by their formal acceptance of the Balfour Declaration and their textual incorporation of it in the Turkish Peace Treaty drafted at San Remo, this was far from constituting anything in the nature of a legal claim, and that the use of such words might be, and was, indeed, certain to be used as the basis of all sorts of political claims by the Zionists for the control of Palestinian administration in the future, and (2) that, while Mr. Balfour's Declaration had provided for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, this was not the same thing as the reconstitution of Palestine as a Jewish national home - an extension of the phrase for which there was no justification, and which was certain to be employed in the future as the basis for claims of the character to which I have referred.
"On the other hand, the Zionists pleaded for the insertion of some such phrase in the preamble, on the ground that it would make all the difference to the money that they aspired to raise in foreign countries for the development of Palestine.
"Mr. Balfour, who interested himself keenly in their case, admitted, however, the force of the above contentions and, on the eve of leaving for Geneva, suggested an alternative form of words which I am prepared to recommend." 59/
When the question of the British Mandate over Palestine was discussed in Parliament, it became clear that opinion in the House of Lords was strongly opposed to the Balfour policy, as illustrated by the words of Lord Sydenham in reply to Lord Balfour:
"... the harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country - Arab all around in the hinterland - may never be remedied ... what we have done is, by concessions, not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, to start a running sore in the East, and no one can tell how far that sore will extend." 60/
The House of Lords voted to repeal the Balfour Declaration, but a similar motion was defeated in the House of Commons and the British Government formally accepted the Mandate.
The Zionist Organization however, succeeded in having its formulation concerning "historical connection" and "reconstitution" of the "national home" included in the final text of the Mandate (annex V) which was approved by the League of Nations on 24 July 1922, and came into formal effect in September 1923 when the Treaty of Lausanne with Turkey came into force. It thus gave international sanction - which then meant the sanction of the victorious Allied Powers - to the Balfour Declaration, and determined the direction of developments in Palestine. The important clauses of the Mandate read:
"Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on 2 November, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country; and
"Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;
"Article 1: The Mandatory shall have full powers of legislation and of administration, save as they may be limited by the terms of this Mandate.
"Article 2: The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.
"Article 4: An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.
"The Zionist Organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognized as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty's Government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.
"Article 6: 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 Mandate provided for no body to serve the interests of the Palestinian people, similar to the Jewish Agency given official status. Nor were the Palestinians ever consulted in the choice of the mandatory, as required by article 22 of the Covenant. The only move towards consultation had been the American King-Crane Commission, whose views were ignored. The United States, however, had become associated with the Balfour Declaration's policy through a joint Congressional resolution incorporating the Declaration's language. 61/ Three years later the Anglo-American Convention of 1925 formalized United States' consent to the implementation of a Mandate 61/ embedded with conflicting obligations, and in which the inherent political rights of the Palestinian people had been overridden.
The borders of Palestine
Zionist ambitions for the national home had sought considerably more territory, extending into Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan, and Egypt, than was actually assigned to the Mandatory Power. The Zionist Organization's initial proposal asked that the Jewish national home be established within the following borders:
"... In the north, the northern and southern banks of the Litany River, as far north as latitude 33° 45'. Thence in a south-easterly direction to a point just south of the Damascus territory and close and west of the Hedjaz Railway.
"In the east, a line close to and west of the Hedjaz Railway.
"In the south, a line from a point in the neighbourhood of Akaba to El Arish.
"In the west, the Mediterranean Sea.
"The details of the delimitation should be decided by a Boundary Commission, one of the members of which should be a representative of the Jewish Council for Palestine hereinafter mentioned.
"There should be a right of free access to and from the Red Sea, through Akaba, by arrangement with the Arab Government ..."
The map covered by these proposed frontiers is shown in the map at annex VI.
These Zionist claims were not admitted, and the borders of Palestine enclosed a far more restricted area (also shown in the map) within which Great Britain exercised its mandate.
The question of the validity of the Mandate
It is clear that by failing to consult the Palestinian people in the decision on the future of their country, the victorious Powers ignored not only the principle of self-determination that they themselves had endorsed, but also the provisions of Article 22 of the League's Covenant.
Even during the mandate, the Palestinians protested against this denial of their fundamental rights. The report of the Royal Commission (of 1937) records these protests:
"... though the Mandate was ostensibly based on Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, its positive injunctions were not directed to the 'well-being and development' of the existing Arab population but to the promotion of Jewish interests. Complete power over the legislation as well as administration was delegated to the Mandatory, who undertook to place the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as would secure the establishment of the Jewish national home ...
"... One member of the Arab Higher Committee dealt more closely with the legal argument. He remarked that the terms of the Mandate are inconsistent with the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Paragraph 4 of that Article recognizes the existence of two juristic persons - one the community which should govern independently and the other the foreigner who is to assist and advise until the former is able to stand alone. But in Palestine there is one person who governs and who assists himself. Your Majesty is the Mandatory and Your Majesty's Government and their nominees are the Government of Palestine and, while the Preamble speaks of a Mandate, article 1 denies the existence of a Mandate in the proper sense by conferring upon what is called 'the Mandatory' full powers of legislation and administration. The community which is to be provisionally recognized as independent has no existence ..." 62/
From among the several authorities of international law who have questioned the validity of the Mandate, the views of Professor Henry Cattan may be quoted:
"The Palestine Mandate was invalid on three grounds set out hereinafter.
"1. The first ground of invalidity of the Mandate is that by endorsing the Balfour Declaration and accepting the concept of the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine it violated the sovereignty of the people of Palestine and their natural rights of independence and self-determination. Palestine was the national home of the Palestinians from time immemorial. The establishment of a national home for an alien people in that country was a violation of the legitimate and fundamental rights of the inhabitants. The League of Nations did not possess the power, any more than the British Government did, to dispose of Palestine, or to grant to the Jews any political or territorial rights in that country. In so far as the Mandate purported to recognize any rights for alien Jews in Palestine, it was null and void.
"2. The second ground of invalidity of the Mandate is that it violated, in spirit and in letter, Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, under the authority of which it purported to be made. The Mandate violated Article 22 in three respects:
"(a) The Covenant had envisaged the Mandate as the best method of achieving its basic objective of ensuring the well-being and development of the peoples inhabiting the Mandated Territories.
"Was the Palestine Mandate conceived for the well-being and development of the inhabitants of Palestine? The answer is found in the provisions of the Mandate itself. The Mandate sought the establishment in Palestine of a national home for another people, contrary to the rights and wishes of the Palestinians ... It required the Mandatory to place the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as would secure the establishment of a Jewish national home. It required the Mandatory to facilitate Jewish immigration into Palestine. It provided that a foreign body known as the Zionist Organization should be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in matters affecting the establishment of the Jewish national home. It is clear that, although the Mandates System was conceived in the interest of the inhabitants of the Mandated Territory, the Palestine Mandate was conceived in the interest of an alien people originating from outside Palestine, and ran counter to the basic concept of mandates. As Lord Islington observed when he opposed the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the Palestine Mandate: "The Palestine Mandate is a real distortion of the mandatory system". The same distinguished Lord added:
"When one sees in Article 22 ... that the well-being and development of such peoples should form a sacred trust of civilization, and when one takes that as the note of the mandatory system, I think your Lordships will see that we are straying down a very far path when we are postponing self-government in Palestine until such time as the population is flooded with an alien race."
"(b) The Palestine Mandate also ran counter to the specific concept of mandates envisaged by Article 22 for countries detached from Turkey at the end of the First World War. In the case of those countries, the intention was to limit the Mandate to the rendering of temporary advice and assistance. It is doubtful whether the people of Palestine, as also other Arab peoples detached from Turkey, were in need of administrative advice and assistance from a Mandatory. Their level of culture was not inferior to that existing at the time in many of the nations that were Members of the League of Nations. Such Arab communities had actively participated with the Turks in the government of their country. Their political maturity and administrative experience were comparable to the political maturity and administrative experience of the Turks, who were left to stand alone.
"Be that as it may, the framers of the Palestine Mandate did not restrict the Mandatory's role to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance, but granted the Mandatory 'full powers of legislation and administration' (Article 1). Such 'full powers of legislation and administration' were not laid down in the interest of the inhabitants, but were intended to be used, and in fact were used, to establish by force the Jewish national home in Palestine. Clearly this was an abuse of the purpose of the Mandate under the Covenant and a perversion of its raison d'être.
"The whole concept of the Palestine Mandate stands in marked contrast to the Mandate for Syria and Lebanon which was given to France on 24 July 1922. This Mandate conformed to Article 22 of the Covenant ...
"... The third ground of invalidity of the Mandate lies in the fact that its endorsement and implementation of the Balfour Declaration conflicted with the assurances and pledges given to the Arabs during the First World War by Great Britain and the Allied Powers. The denial to the Palestine Arabs of their independence and the subjection of their country to the immigration of a foreign people were a breach of those pledges." 63/
At the time that the Mandate was established, however, the people of Palestine were unable to question or to challenge it, and the process of establishing the "Jewish national home" commenced.
V. MANDATED PALESTINE: THE "JEWISH NATIONAL HOME"
The course of the Mandate
While the Mandate in principle required the development of self-governing institutions, its preamble and operative articles left no doubt that the principal thrust would be the implementation of the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of the "Jewish national home". British policy in Palestine during the period of the Mandate was directed to this end but, on facing strengthening Palestinian resistance, from time to time was adjusted to the force of circumstance. The basic policy was elaborated in 1922 (in the "Churchill Memorandum") and a pattern developed, by which an outburst of violent Palestinian resistance would be followed by an official inquiry Commission which would recommend modifications, but pressure from the Zionist Organization would veer official policy back to its main direction. This was the prevalent pattern in the 1920s but, as the Palestinian resistance strengthened, British policy was obliged to take into consideration the fact that the Palestinian people would not acquiesce in the alienation of their rights. By the end of the 1930s, Palestine became the scene of full-scale violence as the Palestinians rebelled for independence, the Zionists retaliated to hold the ground they had gained, and the British Government strove to control a situation, created by the Mandate, which was fast sliding into war.
The start of the Mandate
The British Mandate acquired jurisdiction de jure over Palestine in September 1923 following conclusion with Turkey of the Treaty of Lausanne. Before this, the de facto administration was first in the form of a military government from December 1917 to June 1920, with a civilian High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, taking office on 1 July 1920. In March 1921, ministerial responsibility for Palestine (along with other Mandated Territories), was transferred from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office under Sir Winston Churchill.
The Balfour Declaration was first officially made public in Palestine only in 1920 after the installation of the civilian administration, having been kept officially confidential until then to minimize the chances of disorder caused by the protests that were anticipated from the Palestinians. Of course, the nature and object of the Declaration and the policy it sought to introduce had quickly become common knowledge. It had led quickly to violent conflict in Palestine. In London, a delegation from the Moslem-Christian Association of Palestine tried in 1921 and 1922 to present the Palestinian case to counter the sustained influence of the Zionist Organization on British authorities in both London and Jerusalem.
The "Churchill Memorandum"
The British Government moved to elaborate its policy in a statement (referred to as the "Churchill Memorandum") of 1 July 1922:
This statement disclaimed any intent to create "a wholly Jewish Palestine" or to effect "the subordination of the Arab population, language or culture in Palestine". But, at the same time, the statement, to assuage the Jewish community, made it clear that:
"... The Balfour Declaration, reaffirmed by the Conference of the Principal Allied Powers at San Remo and again in the Treaty of Sèvres, is not susceptible of change ... in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish national home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection ...
"For the fulfilment of this policy it is necessary that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration. This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals". 64/
The "Churchill Memorandum" thus reaffirmed the Balfour Declaration, and the "historic connection" of the Jews with Palestine, asserting their presence was "as of right and not as sufferance". Immigration was to be subject only to the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine. Despite the assurances to the Palestinians, there was no doubt left that the principal object of the Churchill policy was to establish the "Jewish national home".
That indeed this was the intention was reiterated by Churchill several years afterwards, when he said that the intention of the 1922 White Paper was "to make it clear that the establishment of self-governing institutions in Palestine was to be subordinated to the paramount pledge and obligation of establishing a Jewish national home in Palestine". 65/ Faced with this determined effort concerted between a Great Power and a Jewish organization that had demonstrated its strength and influence, the Palestinian people refused to acquiesce in the scheme. They refused to join in the Churchill plan of setting up a legislative council to further these schemes, and they protested against the policy that strengthened the drive towards a Jewish "national home" in Palestine despite the strong opposition of the Palestinians, who declared:
"... We wish to point out here that the Jewish population of Palestine who lived there before the War never had any trouble with their Arab neighbours. They enjoyed the same rights and privileges as their fellow Ottoman citizens, and never agitated for the Declaration of November 1917. It is the Zionists outside Palestine who worked for the Balfour Declaration ...
"We therefore here once again repeat that nothing will safeguard Arab interests in Palestine but the immediate creation of a national government which shall be responsible to a Parliament of all whose members are elected by the people of the country - Moslems, Christians and Jews ...
"... [Otherwise] we see division and tension between Arabs and Zionists increasing day by day and resulting in general retrogression. Because the immigrants dumped upon the country from different parts of the world are ignorant of the language, customs and character of the Arabs, and enter Palestine by the might of England against the will of the people who are convinced that these have come to strangle them. Nature does not allow the question of a spirit of co-operation between two peoples so different, and it is not to be expected that the Arabs would bow to such a great injustice, or that the Zionists would so easily succeed in realizing their dreams ..." 66/
The "Churchill policy" secured the road for the Zionist Organization towards its goal of a Jewish State in Palestine made possible by the Balfour Declaration.
Two of the principal means advocated by the Zionist Organization for achieving the national home were large-scale immigration and land purchase. A third was the denial of employment to Palestinian labour.
The King-Crane Commission had reported that Jewish colonists were planning a radical transformation of Palestine:
"The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission's conference with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase". 67/
Large scale immigration had started under the aegis of the Balfour Declaration soon after the war ended, and had already led to violent opposition by Palestinians in 1920 and 1921. With the endorsement of the Churchill policy, immigration accelerated, reaching a peak in 1924-1926, but soon sharply declined. At this point, Weizmann records:
"The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was built on air ... every day and every hour of these last 10 years, when opening the newspapers, I thought: Whence will the next blow come? I trembled lest the British Government would call me and ask: 'Tell us, what is this Zionist Organization? Where are they, your Zionists?' ... The Jews, they knew, were against us; we stood alone on a little island, a tiny group of Jews with a foreign past."
The table below shows immigration figures during the 1920s.
Immigration into Palestine, 1920-1929 68/
|1920 Sept - Oct||5,514||202|
Immigration was virtually under the control of Zionist organizations, as described in the report of an official Commission:Thus during the decade about 100,000 Jewish immigrants entered Palestine, far short of the numbers envisaged by the Zionist Organization, but substantial enough to make a marked impact in a country where the total population in 1922 was officially estimated at about 750,000. 69/ In absolute terms the Jewish population more than doubled, and in percentage terms rose from below 10 per cent to over 17 per cent during this period.
"... We were informed by the Chief Immigration Officer that in the allocation to individuals of the certificates which are supplied in blank to the General Federation of Jewish Labour, it is the practice of that body to have regard to the political creed of the several possible immigrants rather than to their particular qualifications for admission to Palestine. It is clearly the duty of the responsible Jewish authorities to select for admission to Palestine those of the prospective immigrants who are best qualified on personal grounds to assist in the establishment of a Jewish national home in that country: that political creed should be a deciding factor in the choice between applicants is open to the strongest exception". 70/
Similarly, a number of Jewish organizations such as the Colonisation Department of the Zionist Organization, financed by the Keren ha-Yesod, were actively engaged in acquisition of land both for individual immigrant families as well as for the Yishuv or Jewish settlements. Several of these organizations had been operating since the nineteenth century, notably the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA)*. With the British occupation of Palestine in 1918 all land transactions were suspended. The registers were reopened in 1920, at which time it was estimated that Jewish land acquisitions stood at about 650,000 dunums** or 2.5 per cent of the total land area of 26 million dunums). 71/ By the end of the decade this figure had nearly doubled to 1,200,000 dunums, just below 5 per cent. 72/
* PICA was the Palestinian section of ICA (Jewish Colonisation Association) led by Baron Maurice de Hirsch. The aim of ICA was to support Jewish emigration from Europe and Asia to other parts of the world; to create agricultural settlements in North and South America; and to obtain authorization and autonomy for these settlements.
** 1 dunum = approx. 1,000 sq. metres or 1/4 acre (1 sq. mile = approx. 2,560 dunums).
A strict policy of what in today's terms would be described as racial discrimination was maintained by the Zionist Organization in this rapid advance towards the "national home". Only Jewish labour could service Jewish farms and settlements. The eventual outcome of this trend was a major outbreak of violence with unprecedented loss of life in 1929, which was investigated by the Shaw Commission. Another commission headed by Sir John Hope Simpson followed to investigate questions of immigration and land transfers. Certain observations of the Hope Simpson Commission are of interest, particularly on labour and employment policies.
The Commission went into great detail in its report, dividing Palestine into areas according to cultivability, and estimating total cultivable land at about 6.5 million dunums of which about a sixth was in Jewish hands. 73/
The report described in some detail the employment policies of the Zionist agencies quoting some of their provisions:
"The effect of the Jewish colonization in Palestine on the existing population is very intimately affected by the conditions on which the various Jewish bodies hold, sell and lease their land.
"The Constitution of the Jewish Agency: Land Holding and Employment Clauses ...
"(d) Land is to be acquired as Jewish property and ... the same shall be held as the inalienable property of the Jewish people.
"(e) The Agency shall promote agricultural colonization based on Jewish labour ... it shall be deemed to be a matter of principle that Jewish labour shall be employed ..."
"Keren Kayemet draft lease: Employment of Jewish labour only
"... The lessee undertakes to execute all works connected with the cultivation of the holding only with Jewish labour. Failure to comply with this duty by the employment of non-Jewish labour shall render the lessee liable to the payment of compensation ..."
"The lease also provides that the holding shall never be held by any but a Jew ..."
"Keren ha-Yesod agreements: Employment of labour
The following provisions are included:
'Article 7 - The settler hereby undertakes that ... if and whenever he may be obliged to hire help, he will hire Jewish workmen only.'"In the similar agreement for the Emek colonies, there is a provision as follows:'Article 11 - The settler undertakes ... not to hire any outside labour except Jewish labourers.'" 74/
Commenting on the Zionist attitude towards the Palestinians, the report noted the Zionist policy of allaying Arab suspicions:
"Zionist policy in regard to Arabs in their colonies. The above-quoted provisions sufficiently illustrate the Zionist policy with regard to the Arabs in their colonies. Attempts are constantly being made to establish the advantage which Jewish settlement has brought to the Arab. The most lofty sentiments are ventilated at public meetings and in Zionist propaganda. At the time of the Zionist Congress in 1931 a resolution was passed which 'solemnly declared the desire of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people, to develop the homeland common to both into a prosperous community which would ensure the growth of the peoples'. This resolution is frequently quoted in proof of the excellent sentiments which zionism cherishes towards the people of Palestine. The provisions quoted above, which are included in legal documents binding on every settler in a Zionist colony, are not compatible with the sentiments publicly expressed." 75/
At the same time, the Commission, rejecting Zionist arguments in support of their discriminatory policies, considered that they violated the Mandate:
"Policy contrary to article 6 of Mandate ... The principle of the persistent and deliberate boycott of Arab labour in the Zionist colonies is not only contrary to the provisions of that article of the Mandate, but it is in addition a constant and increasing source of danger to the country." 76/
The report noted in the strongest terms the effect on indigenous Palestinians of Zionist policies.
"The effect of the Zionist colonization policy on the Arab. Actually the result of the purchase of land in Palestine by the Jewish National Fund has been that land has been extraterritorialized. It ceases to be land from which the Arab can gain any advantage either now or at any time in the future. Not only can he never hope to lease or to cultivate it, but, by the stringent provisions of the lease of the Jewish National Fund, he is deprived for ever from employment on that land. Nor can anyone help him by purchasing the land and restoring it to common use. The land is in mortmain and inalienable. It is for this reason that Arabs discount the professions of friendship and goodwill on the part of the Zionists in view of the policy which the Zionist Organization deliberately adopted." 75/"Land available for settlement. It has emerged quite definitely that there is at the present time and with the present methods of Arab cultivation no margin of land available for agricultural settlement by new immigrants with the exception of such undeveloped land as the various Jewish agencies hold in reserve." 77/
These developments in Palestine at the end of the 1920s - the 1929 Palestinian revolt and the reports of the Shaw and Hope Simpson Commissions - heightened awareness of the dangerous situation in Palestine as the Zionist drive towards a Jewish State met increasing Palestinian opposition. While reinforcing its military strength in Palestine, Great Britain issued a new statement of policy, called the Passfield White Paper of October 1930, in an effort to control the pressures that were building.* While criticizing both Jewish leaders for exerting pressure to obtain official compliance with Zionist wishes in matters of immigration and land transfers, and Palestinians for demanding self-determination which "... would render it impossible;... to carry out, in the fullest sense, the double undertaking", 78/ the 1930 policy, attempted to introduce an important change in emphasis from the Churchill paper which gave first priority to establishing the Jewish State. The Passfield paper commented:
* Named after the then Colonial Secretary Lord Passfield.
"... attempts have been made to argue, in support of Zionist claims, that the principal feature of the Mandate is the passages regarding the Jewish national home, and that the passages designed to safeguard the rights of the non-Jewish community are merely secondary considerations qualifying, to some extent, what is claimed to be the primary object for which the Mandate has been framed ...
"It is a difficult and delicate task of His Majesty's Government to devise means whereby, in the execution of its policy in Palestine, equal weight shall at all times be given to the obligations laid down with regard to the two sections of the population and to reconcile those two obligations where, inevitably, conflicting interests are involved". 79/
The paper announced a renewed attempt to establish a legislative council. Further it gave notice of intent to reassert authority over the vital issues of immigration and land transfers, which had been dominated by the Jewish Agency, working heavily against Palestinian interests. 80/ Reflecting awareness of the intensifying conflict the paper concludes with a suggestion of realization that Palestinian grievances had justification, but were faced with inimical circumstance:
"To the Arabs His Majesty's Government would appeal for a recognition of the facts of the situation, and for a sustained effort at co-operation in obtaining that prosperity for the country as a whole by which all will benefit. From the Jewish leaders, His Majesty's Government ask a recognition of the necessity for making some concessions on their side in regard to the independent and separatist ideals which have been developed in some quarters in connection with the Jewish national home ..." 81/
The Passfield White Paper drew strong criticism from the Zionist Organization and its supporters, and soon was virtually negated by a letter written in 1931 by the British Prime Minister to Dr. Weizmann, again giving paramountcy to the goals of Zionism rather than "equal weight" to the rights of the people of Palestine. Stating that the letter was meant "to meet certain criticisms put forward by the Jewish Agency", the letter reasserted that "the undertaking of the Mandate is an undertaking to the Jewish people and not only to the Jewish population of Palestine". 82/
The "MacDonald letter" made clear that Palestine would be governed in accordance with the Churchill policy of 1922, and that the restrictions suggested by Lord Passfield on Jewish immigration and land transfers would not be applied.
Dr. Weizmann's words on these developments are of interest:
"... The Passfield White Paper may be regarded as the most concerted effort - until the White Paper of 1939 - on the part of a British Government to retract the promise made to the Jewish people in the Balfour Declaration. That attack, too, was successfully repulsed.
"... On February 13, 1931, there was an official reversal of policy. It did not take the form of a retraction of the White Paper - that would have meant a loss of face - but of a letter addressed to me by the Prime Minister, read in the House of Commons and printed in Hansard. I considered that the letter rectified the situation - the form was unimportant - and I so indicated to the Prime Minister.
"I was to be bitterly attacked in the Zionist Congress of that year for accepting a letter in place of another White Paper. But whether I was right or not in my acceptance may be judged by a simple fact: it was under MacDonald's letter to me that the change came about in the Government's attitude, and in the attitude of the Palestine administration, which enabled us to make the magnificent gains of the ensuing years. It was under MacDonald's letter that Jewish immigration into Palestine was permitted to reach figures like 40,000 for 1934 and 62,000 for 1935, figures undreamed of in 1930". 83/
This sudden reversal of British policy, coming as it did after Palestinian hopes for fair play had been raised by the Passfield White Paper, did little to improve the deteriorating situation in Palestine.
The start of the notorious Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe brought repercussions to Palestine which were to exacerbate the mounting tensions. While the majority of European Jews fleeing the Nazi terror chose the United States and Britain, large numbers sought refuge in Palestine. Immigration thus sharply increased, as shown by the following figures:
Jewish Immigration into Palestine 1930-1939 84/
Compared to the 100,000 in the 1920s, Palestine received about 232,000 legal immigrants in the 1930s. The Jewish population in 1939 numbered over 445,000 out of a total of about 1,500,000 - nearly 30 per cent compared to the less than 10 per cent 20 years before. Similarly, by the end of 1939, Jewish holdings of land had risen to almost 1.5 million dunums compared to the 650,000, of the total area of 26 million dunums, held at the start of the Mandate.
Between 1930 and 1936, the British Administration tried to initiate measures, such as the establishment of elected municipal councils, and later, a legislative council (with a large majority of appointed members) in an attempt to reduce political friction. These measures were ineffective. The drive of political zionism to establish a settler State in Palestine was met by violent resistance from the Palestinians, and this situation simmered until it boiled over in 1936.