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From the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL)

Division for Palestinian Rights
30 June 1990
The Origins and Evolution
of the Palestine Problem:




The question of Palestine was brought before the United Nations shortly after the end of the Second World War.

The origins of the Palestine problem as an international issue, however, lie in events occurring towards the end of the First World War. These events led to a League of Nations decision to place Palestine under the administration of Great Britain as the Mandatory Power under the Mandates System adopted by the League. In principle, the Mandate was meant to be in the nature of a transitory phase until Palestine attained the status of a fully independent nation, a status provisionally recognized in the League's Covenant, but in fact the Mandate's historical evolution did not result in the emergence of Palestine as an independent nation.

The decision on the Mandate did not take into account the wishes of the people of Palestine, despite the Covenant's requirements that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory". This assumed special significance because, almost five years before receiving the mandate from the League of Nations, the British Government had given commitments to the Zionist Organization regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, for which Zionist leaders had pressed a claim of "historical connection" since their ancestors had lived in Palestine two thousand years earlier before dispersing in the "Diaspora".

During the period of the Mandate, the Zionist Organization worked to secure the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine, whose forefathers had inhabited the land for virtually the two preceding millennia felt this design to be a violation of their natural and inalienable rights. They also viewed it as an infringement of assurances of independence given by the Allied Powers to Arab leaders in return for their support during the war. The result was mounting resistance to the Mandate by Palestinian Arabs, followed by resort to violence by the Jewish community as the Second World War drew to a close.

After a quarter of a century of the Mandate, Great Britain submitted what had become "the Palestine problem" to the United Nations on the ground that the Mandatory Power was faced with conflicting obligations that had proved irreconcilable. At this point, when the United Nations itself was hardly two years old, violence ravaged Palestine. After investigating various alternatives the United Nations proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized. The partition plan did not bring peace to Palestine, and the prevailing violence spread into a Middle East war halted only by United Nations action. One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and, in a series of successive wars, its territorial control expanded to occupy all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab State envisaged in the partition plan never appeared on the world's map and, over the following 30 years, the Palestinian people have struggled for their lost rights.

The Palestine problem quickly widened into the Middle East dispute between the Arab States and Israel. From 1948 there have been wars and destruction, forcing millions of Palestinians into exile, and engaging the United Nations in a continuing search for a solution to a problem which came to possess the potential of a major source of danger for world peace.

In the course of this search, a large majority of States Members of the United Nations have recognized that the Palestine issue continues to lie at the heart of the Middle East problem, the most serious threat to peace with which the United Nations must contend. Recognition is spreading in world opinion that the Palestinian people must be assured its inherent inalienable right of national self-determination for peace to be restored.

In 1947 the United Nations accepted the responsibility of finding a just solution for the Palestine issue, and still grapples with this task today. Decades of strife and politico-legal arguments have clouded the basic issues and have obscured the origins and evolution of the Palestine problem, which this study attempts to clarify.


The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire

By the turn of the century, the "Eastern question" was a predominant concern of European diplomacy, as the Great Powers manoeuvred to establish control or spheres of influence over territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. "The dynamics of the Eastern question thus lay in Europe" 1/ and the issue finally was resolved by the defeat of Turkey in the First World War.

While the war was at its height and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire became clearly imminent, the Entente Powers already were negotiating over rival territorial ambitions. In 1916 negotiations between Britain, France and Russia, later also including Italy, led to the secret Sykes-Picot agreement on the allocation of Ottoman Arab territories to spheres of influence of the European Powers (annex I). Since places sacred to three world religions were located there, an international régime was initially envisaged for Palestine which, however, eventually was to come under British control.

Although the European Powers sought to establish spheres of influence, they recognized that sovereignty would rest with the rulers and people of the Arab territories, and the Sykes-Picot agreement specified recognition of an "independent Arab State" or "confederation of Arab States". This reflected the recognition of regional realities, since the force of emergent Arab nationalism constituted a major challenge to the supra-national Ottoman Empire. Arab nationalism sought manifestation in the form of sovereign, independent national States on the European model. Great Britain's aims in the war linked with these Arab national aspirations and led to assurances of sovereign independence for the Arab peoples after the defeat of the Axis Powers.

Anglo-Arab understandings on Arab independence

These assurances appear in correspondence 2/ during 1915-1916 between Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, and Sherif Husain, Emir of Mecca, who held the special status of the Keeper of Islam's most holy cities. He thus acted as a representative of the Arab peoples, although not exercising formal political suzerainty over them all.

In the course of the protracted correspondence, the Sherif unequivocally demanded "independence of the Arab countries", specifying in detail the boundaries of the territories in question, which clearly included Palestine. McMahon confirmed that "Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca".

To assuage Arab apprehensions aroused by the revelation of the Sykes-Picot agreement by the Soviet Government after the 1917 revolution, and by certain conflicting statements of British policy (see sect. II below), further assurances followed concerning the future of Arab territories.

A special message (of 4 January 1918) from the British Government, carried personally by Commander David George Hogarth to Sherif Husain, stated that "the Entente Powers are determined that the Arab race shall be given full opportunity of once again forming a nation in the world ... So far as Palestine is concerned, we are determined that no people shall be subject to another". 3/

Six months after General Allenby's forces had occupied Jerusalem, another declaration, referring to "areas formerly under Ottoman dominion, occupied by the Allied Forces during the present war", announced "... the wish and desire of His Majesty's Government that the future government of these regions should be based upon the principle of the consent of the governed, and this policy has and will continue to have support of His Majesty's Government". 4/

A joint Anglo-French declaration (7 November 1918) was more exhaustive and specific, affecting both British and French spheres of interest (the term "Syria" still being considered to include Lebanon and Palestine):

"The object aimed at by France and Great Britain in prosecuting in the East the War let loose by the ambition of Germany is the complete and definite emancipation of the [Arab] peoples and the establishment of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the initiative and free choice of the indigenous populations.

The Committee on the Husain-McMahon correspondence

While these British assurances of independence to the Arabs were in unequivocal terms, the British position, since the end of the war, had been that Palestine had been excluded, an assertion contested by Palestinian and Arab leaders.

During the Husain-McMahon correspondence, the British made a determined effort to exclude certain areas from the territories to achieve independence, on the grounds that "the interests of our ally, France, are involved". Sherif Husain reluctantly agreed to suspend, but not surrender, Arab claims for independence to that area, stating that "the eminent minister should be sure that, at the first opportunity after this war is finished, we shall ask you (from what we avert our eyes today) for what we now leave to France in Beirut and its coasts".

The area in question had been described by McMahon as "portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo". This would appear to correspond to the coastal areas of present-day Syria and the northern part of Lebanon (map at annex II), where French interests converge. Prima facie it does not appear to cover Palestine, a known, identifiable land with an ancient history, sacred to the three great monotheistic religions, and which, under the Ottomans, approximated to the independent sanjak of Jerusalem and the sanjaks of Acre and Balqa (map at annex III).

In 1939, shortly after the Husain-McMahon papers were made public, a committee consisting of both British and Arab representatives was set up to consider this specific issue. Both sides reiterated their respective interpretations of the Husain-McMahon letters and were unable to reach an agreed view, but the British delegation conceded that the Arab

Behind the diplomatic language there appears recognition that Palestine was not unequivocally excluded from the British pledges of independence. The report, referring to the Husain-McMahon papers as well as the British and Anglo-French declaration to the Arabs after the issue of the Balfour Declaration, concludes:

On 17 April 1974, The Times of London published excerpts from a secret memorandum prepared by the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office for the use of the British delegation to the Paris peace conference. The reference to Palestine is as follows:

An appendix to the memorandum notes:

Professor Arnold J. Toynbee, who dealt with the Palestine question as a member of the British Foreign Office at the time of the Peace Conference, wrote in 1968:

These acknowledgements that the British Government had not possessed the right "to dispose of Palestine" appeared decades after the commitments to the Arabs not only had been infringed by the Sykes-Picot agreement but, in disregard of the inherent rights and the wishes of the Palestinian people, the British Government had given Zionist leaders separate assurances regarding the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people in Palestine", an undertaking that sowed the seeds of prolonged conflict in Palestine.


These undertakings to the Zionist Organization were made known in a declaration issued by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Arthur James Balfour, (whose name it has borne since):

The pivotal role of the Balfour Declaration in virtually every phase of the Palestinian issue cannot be exaggerated. The Declaration, which determined the direction of subsequent developments in Palestine, was incorporated in the Mandate. Its implementation brought Arab opposition and revolt. It caused unending difficulties for the Mandatory in the last stages pitting British, Jews and Arabs against each other. It ultimately led to partition and to the problem as it exists today. Any understanding of the Palestine issue, therefore, requires some examination of this Declaration which can be considered the root of the problem of Palestine.

The historical background of the "Jewish national home" concept

The Balfour Declaration was the direct outcome of a sustained effort by the Zionist Organization to establish a Jewish State in Palestine.

Moved by anti-Semitism and pogroms in Eastern Europe, Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, wrote in Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) in 1896:

Herzl mentioned Palestine and Argentina but, the following year, the first Zionist Congress held in Basle declared that the goal of zionism was to "create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law". Herzl wrote:

Following rejection by the Ottoman authorities of his ideas, Herzl approached the British, German, Belgian and Italian Governments and such far-flung locations as Cyprus, East Africa and the Congo were considered, but did not materialize. The creation of a Jewish State in Palestine became the avowed aim of zionism, zealously pressed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann when he came to head the movement.

Since Palestine was an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, the Zionist Organization was cautious in declaring its aims, particularly after the young Turk revolution. The term "State" was avoided, "homeland" being used instead.

According to a Herzl associate, Max Nordau:

In Herzl's words:

Leonard Stein, authoritative historian of zionism, writes:

The words of another eminent Zionist historian, who participated in the drafting of the Declaration, conform to this tactic:

But the direction was clear - the goal of zionism from the start was the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. The rights of the people of Palestine themselves received no attention in these plans.

What the political concept of a Jewish State in Palestine needed to give it reality was to transfer people to Palestine. The religious and spiritual solidarity of the Jews in the Diaspora with the Holy Land had survived over the centuries. Despite the anti-Semitism in Europe, only small groups had emigrated to Palestine to settle in Palestine for purely religious sentiments. They numbered perhaps 50,000 at the end of the nineteenth century, and personified, or symbolized, the Jewish link to Palestine which was, in essence, spiritual.

The Zionists drew on this ancient spiritual potential to build a political movement. A stirring slogan was spread abroad:

"A land without people for a people without land"

ignoring the fact that the Palestinians themselves, well over half a million at the turn of the century, lived in Palestine, that it was their home. The great Zionist humanist, Ahad Ha'am warned against the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and his words are well known in the literature of Palestine.

But Ahad Ha'am's plea went unheeded as political zionism set about to realize its goal of a Jewish State.

Zionist efforts directed at the British Government

Dr. Weizmann's approaches to various Governments led him to conclude that zionism's strongest hopes for a Jewish State in Palestine, tentatively destined for internationalization under the Sykes-Picot agreement, lay with Great Britain. Links with British leaders were established, notably with Lloyd George, a future Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, a future Foreign Secretary, Herbert Samuel, a future High Commissioner of Palestine, and Mark Sykes. In 1915, Samuel in a memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine, proposed:

Weizmann describes the links built up with British leaders, commenting in particular that:

Zionist leaders stressed the strategic advantages to Britain of a Jewish State in Palestine. In a letter written in 1914 to a sympathizer, Weizmann said:

Another Weizmann letter of 1916 reads:

Sykes was especially valuable in helping Weizmann and his colleagues, particularly Nahum Sokolow, in trying to persuade France to renounce its residual claims in the internationalized Jerusalem agreed upon in the Sykes-Picot accord. Original French ambitions had embraced all of Syria, including Palestine, to whose internationalization it had agreed only on strong British insistence. Sykes advised that "the Zionists should approach M. Picot and convince the French" 20/ to relinquish their claims and accompanied Sokolow to Paris, reporting progress of the mission to the Foreign Office. Sokolow told Picot that "the Jews had long had in mind the sovereignty of the British Government" 21/ but Picot demurred, pointing to the interests of other Governments.

Stein recounts how the French objections were countered:

Eventually the French were persuaded to accept "the development of Jewish colonization in Palestine" 23/ and let Palestine pass into the British sphere of control.

The drafting of the Declaration

Weizmann writes:

Stein describes the initiation of the consultations between the British Government and the Zionist Organization:

Actually there were six drafts exchanged and discussed between the British Government and the Zionist movement, United States assent also being obtained before the British Foreign Secretary issued the final text of the Declaration in November 1917. The process has been described by more than one authority. 26/ There was no thought of consulting the Palestinians.

The final version of the Declaration received the most careful examination. The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, is quoted as saying that the Declaration "... was prepared after much consideration, not merely of its policy but of its actual wording". 27/ Jeffries says:

This meticulous drafting process assumes significance precisely because the result of this lengthy and careful drafting was a statement remarkable for the ambiguities it carried. To quote Stein:

Although the Declaration had fallen short of Zionist hopes, it was considered politic not to press further. Dr. Weizmann writes:

The "safeguards" in the Declaration

Yet the British Government had exercised caution where the original Zionist draft, sent to Balfour by Lord Rothschild, had proposed that "His Majesty's Government accept(s) the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people", 30/ the official statement stated that the Government view(s) with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people". There is a significant difference - it would be a home, not the home, and would be established not reconstituted, the latter term implying a legal right.

The original Zionist draft had proposed that "His Majesty's Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievements of this object, and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organization". 30/ The official version stated that the Government "will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object". The formal recognition of the Zionist Organization as an authority, implicit in the Zionist draft, had been dropped. Weizmann was sensitive to these significant changes:

One of Weizmann's concerns was over a "safeguard" clause concerning the interests of the Palestinian people. Its wording is remarkable, particularly when the careful drafting of the Declaration's language is recalled. This clause does not mention the Palestinian or Arab people, whether Christian or Muslim, who compromised over 90 per cent of the population of Palestine, and who owned about 97 per cent of its land. Instead, the Declaration refers to them as the "existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", a formulation which has been likened to calling "the multitude the non-few" or the British people "the non-Continental communities in Great Britain". 32/

Further, at a time when the principle of self-determination was being accorded recognition it was being denied to the people of Palestine. The Declaration's language seeks to prevent actions "which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", but is singularly silent on their more fundamental political rights.

This is of particular interest because the concept of political rights is present in the very next phrase, providing "... that nothing shall be done which may prejudice ... the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". This second "safeguard" had not been proposed by the Zionist Organization, and is believed to have been the outcome of Sir Edwin Montagu's apprehensions over the repercussions of the Declaration on Jews who chose to remain in their own countries.

The meaning of the Balfour Declaration

An eminent authority in international law, Professor W. T. Mallison, writes:

He then summarizes the negotiating objectives of both the British Government and the Zionist Organization.

Another authority states that the fact that the Declaration was:

The reactions to the Declaration

The Balfour Declaration became a highly controversial document. It disturbed those Jewish circles who were not in favour of the Zionist aim of the creation of a Jewish State (the "internal divisions" referred to by Weizmann). Many Jewish communities of non-Zionist convictions regarded themselves as nationals of their countries, and the concept of a "Jewish national home" created strong conflicts of loyalties, notwithstanding the clause in the Declaration assuring retention of their status in their respective countries.

Foremost among Jewish critics was Sir Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India and the only Jewish member of the British Cabinet. His dissent from the political nature of Zionist aims stemmed from conviction that Judaism was a universal faith, distinct from nationality, and that in the era of the modern nation-State the Jewish people did not constitute a nation. He questioned the credentials of the Zionist Organization to speak for all Jews. In secret memoranda (later made public) he wrote:

This was very much a minority view in the British Government whose policy was summed up by Prime Minister Lloyd George:

The implication is clear - the achievement of a Jewish majority would assure the establishment of a Jewish State. The fundamental question of the rights of the Palestinians themselves did not enter into the picture.

The implications of the Declaration

Three features of the Balfour Declaration draw attention.

One is that evidently it was not in accordance with the spirit of the pledges of independence given to the Arabs both before and after it was issued. The second is that the disposition of Palestine was determined in close consultation with a political organization whose declared aim was to settle non-Palestinians in Palestine. Not only did this ignore the interests of the native Palestinians, but it was a deliberate violation of their rights (see sect. IV below). The third is that through the Declaration the British Government made commitments to the Zionist Organization regarding the land of the Palestinians at a moment when it was still formally part of the Ottoman Empire.

One authority writes:

Other authorities in international law have also held the Declaration to be legally invalid 39/ but this was not an issue in 1917, when the Balfour Declaration became official British policy for the future of Palestine. The ambiguities and contradictions within the Declaration contributed heavily towards the conflict of goals and expectations that arose between the Palestinian Arabs and the non-Palestinian Jews. The Zionist Organization was to use the assurances for "a national home for the Jewish people" to press its plans for the colonization of Palestine on the basis of the Balfour Declaration and its implementation through the League of Nations Mandates System. The Palestinian people were to resist these efforts, since their fundamental political right to self-determination had been denied, and their land was to become the object of colonization from abroad during the period it was under a League of Nations Mandate.


Arab nationalism and Great Power plans

Nationalist aspirations in the Arab world, including Palestine, were ascendant when the war ended. One of the foremost authorities on Middle Eastern affairs, Professor J. C. Hurewitz, writes:

A major question facing the victorious European Powers was the political status of territories and peoples formerly under Ottoman rule. Of President Wilson's "Fourteen Points" outlining the framework of the peace agreements to be negotiated, the one dealing with self-determination was directly applicable to Palestine:

The Allied Powers, however, decided at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to bring these territories under the mandates system introduced by the Covenant of the League of Nations, signed on 28 June 1919, as an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles which concluded peace with Germany.

The Covenant of the League of Nations

The League of Nations was a body sui generis, established by an unprecedented agreement by the victorious States of the post-war world to establish their concept of order in international relations. The place of the colonies ruled by the victorious States and the territories detached from the defeated States was a special problem in this order.

Colonialism then was still part of the international system, although President Wilson's programme, a liberal landmark in the development of anti-colonialism, acknowledged that the concept of the right of self-determination applied equally to the non-Western part of humanity:

The League of Nations, designed to respond to the prevailing order, adopted the mandates concept, an innovation in the international system, as a way to accommodate the demands of the colonial age with the moral and political need to acknowledge the rights of the colonized.

Article 22 (full text at annex IV) of the Covenant established the Mandates System, founded on the concept of the development of such territories under the "tutelage ... of advanced nations" formed "a sacred trust of civilization". The degree of tutelage was to depend on the extent of political maturity of the territory concerned. The most developed would be classified as 'A' Mandates, the less developed as 'B', and the least developed as 'C'.

The character of the Arab peoples, themselves inheritors of an ancient and advanced civilization, could not but be recognized, and the clauses directly applied to Arab lands as class 'A' Mandates read:

Palestine was in no manner excluded from these provisions.

The allocation of Arab territories

Article 22 laid down no rules for the selection of the Mandatory Powers or for the distribution of mandates between them. Turkey and Germany were simply made to renounce their claims to sovereignty over the territories whose distribution was to be decided by the Allied Powers. Germany's divestiture of titles was codified in the Treaty of Versailles (article 119). In the case of Turkey, such renunciation was provided for in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 (article 132) but, since that treaty never came into force, the renunciation of Turkish claims over non-Turkish territories was formalized in the Treaty of Lausanne. The treaties of Versailles and of Lausanne contained explicit provisions empowering the Allied Powers to apportion the "freed" territories as their mandates.

The former German territories were allotted by a decision of the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers on 7 May 1919, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The former Turkish territories, however, were divided at the Conference of San Remo on 25 April 1920, while a legal state of war with Turkey still existed, three years before the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne. The administration of Syria and Lebanon was awarded to France, and that of Palestine and Transjordan and of Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Great Britain.

The working of the Mandates System

All the mandates over Arab countries, including Palestine, were treated as class 'A' Mandates, applicable to territories whose independence had been provisionally recognized in the Covenant of the League of Nations. The various mandate instruments were drafted by the Mandatory Powers concerned but subject to the approval of the League of Nations.

The mandate for Iraq, while in the process of being drafted, was amended to provide for the signature of a treaty between Britain and Iraq, which was concluded in 1922. This was supplemented by further agreements, all approved by the League as meeting with the requirements of article 22 of the Covenant. Iraq obtained formal independence on 3 October 1932.

The Mandate for Syria and Lebanon did not provide for any special treatment as in the case of Iraq. Both territories were governed under the full control of France until the Mandate was terminated. Lebanon achieved full independence on 22 November 1943 and Syria on 1 January 1944.

Palestine and Transjordan (as it was then called) were included in the same Mandate but treated as distinct territories. Article 25 of the Palestine Mandate empowered Great Britain to withhold, with the League's approval, the implementation of any provision of the Mandate in Transjordan. On the request of the British Government the Council of the League, on 16 September 1922, passed a resolution effectively approving a separate administration for Transjordan. This separate administration continued until the territory attained independence as the Kingdom of Jordan on 22 March 1946.

Only in the case of Palestine did the Mandate, with its inherent contradictions, lead not to the independence provisionally recognized in the Covenant, but towards conflict that was to continue six decades later.


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:

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:

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:

The Military Governor, Colonel (later Sir) Ronald Storrs, commented:

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:

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:

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:

It is evident that although prompted to say that "there is no conflict of character 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:

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:

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:

Referring to President Wilson's preparation of the principle of self-determination, the Commission stated:

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:

In a memorandum to Lord Curzon on 11 August 1919, Balfour candidly wrote:

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 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:

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:

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:

Curzon commented:

The Zionist Organization was being consulted in the drafting of the Mandate although Curzon disapproved:

Balfour, by then Lord President of the Council, continued to help Weizmann. In a memorandum on the Mandate for the British Cabinet, Curzon wrote:

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 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:

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:

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:

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:

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.


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:

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:

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:

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 table below shows immigration figures during the 1920s.

Immigration into Palestine, 1920-1929 68/

    1920 (September-October)
5 514
9 149
7 844
7 421
12 856
33 801
13 081
2 713
2 178
5 249
1 317

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.

Immigration was virtually under the control of Zionist organizations, as described in the report of an official Commission:

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 following provisions are included:

Commenting on the Zionist attitude towards the Palestinians, the report noted the Zionist policy of allaying Arab suspicions:

At the same time, the Commission, rejecting Zionist arguments in support of their discriminatory policies, considered that they violated the Mandate:

The report noted in the strongest terms the effect on indigenous Palestinians of Zionist policies.

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.

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:

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:

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:

Immigration into Palestine 1930-1939 84/

4 944
4 075
9 553
30 327
42 359
61 854
29 727
10 536
12 868
16 405

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.


The start of Palestinian resistance

Throughout the period of the mandate, Palestinian resentment against the denial of their inherent right of national self-determination, and against the colonization of their land by non-Palestinians, manifested itself in a series of outbreaks of violence which, becoming virtually endemic in Palestinian politics, mounted in intensity as the mandate prolonged. The British Government regularly appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the "disturbances" and to present recommendations. But as long as the inherently conflicting lines of policy in the mandate were implemented, violence and resistance continued.

On 2 November 1918, non-violent protests marked the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. As early as April 1920, while Palestine was still under military government, anti-Jewish riots broke out just as the San Remo Conference was finalizing the allocation of the Palestine Mandate to Great Britain. The report of the military commission of inquiry was not published at the time, but was referred to in the report of the Royal Commission in 1937. The underlying causes of the riots were cited as:

"The Arabs' disappointment at the non-fulfilment of the promises of independence which they believed to have been given them in the War.

"The Arabs' belief that the Balfour Declaration implied a denial of the right of self-determination and their fear that the establishment of a national home would mean a great increase of Jewish immigration and would lead to their economic and political subjection to the Jews." 85/

Within a year of Palestine's coming under civil administration, riots again broke out in May 1921, spreading from a clash between Jewish factions. There were 95 dead and 220 injured. A formal inquiry commission, headed by Sir Thomas Haycraft, Chief Justice of Palestine, found:

The revolt of 1929

The "Churchill Memorandum" reaffirmed the "national home" policy, and Palestinian resentment again broke out into violence in August 1929, sparked by a dispute over the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The clashes between Palestinians and Jews left 220 dead and 520 injured on both sides, and British reinforcements, including aircraft, naval vessels and armoured cars, had to be called in from outside Palestine before the situation was brought under control.

A special Commission, headed by Sir Walter Shaw, a retired Chief Justice of the Straits Settlements, investigated this outbreak. The Shaw Commission observed:

The Commission's findings on the causes of the violence:

The Shaw Commission's report was a major factor in the issue of the Passfield White Paper towards redressing these grievances, but it proved abortive, and the people of Palestine were soon to resort to violence again.

The riots of 1933

In 1933, the Nazis took power in Germany, and their imminent infamous persecution of Jewry brought an exodus of Jews from Germany and other European countries. Large numbers came to Palestine, exciting the already simmering resentment again into violence. No formal commission was appointed to inquire into this new outbreak in 1933, which was surveyed in the Peel Report of 1937.

Examining the effects of the sudden increase in immigration, the report comments:

Clashes erupted mainly in Jerusalem and Jaffa, with considerable casualties, although not as heavy as those of 1929. The report continues:

This Palestinian antagonism and resistance to the Mandate from then on gathered strength. By 1933, the various Palestinian political parties and groupings had united to form an Arab Executive Committee, and showed more inclination to co-operate with the British authorities. At this stage the Jews, still in a minority despite massive immigration, were the party to feel apprehension over representative government, and a new move in 1936 to set up a legislative council was defeated in Parliament after the Zionist Congress had:

The Palestinian rebellion against the British Mandate

In 1936, the Palestinian resistance to foreign rule and to foreign colonization broke out into a major rebellion that lasted virtually until the outbreak of the Second World War. Palestinian demands for independence drew impetus from the simultaneous nationalist agitations in Egypt and Syria which had forced Great Britain and France to open treaty negotiations with those two Arab countries neighbouring Palestine.

In April 1936, what started as minor Arab-Jewish clashes quickly flared into a widespread revolt. A new union of Palestinian political parties was formed, the Arab Higher Committee, headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Hajj Amin al-Husseini. The Committee called for a general strike to support the demand for national government. Despite strong Palestinian resistance to Jewish immigration, the British Government issued permits for several thousand new immigrants, offering further provocation to Palestinian nationalists. An unprecedented feature of this nationalist movement was the open identification with it by senior Arab officials of the Palestine administration who protested to the High Commissioner that Palestinians had been forced to violence because of loss of faith in British pledges and alarm at the extent to which Britain was susceptible to Zionist pressure.

As the strike prolonged, violence increased. There were attacks on British troops and police posts as well as on Jewish settlements, sabotage of roads, railways, pipelines and so on. The British administration imposed curfews, called in troop reinforcements from Britain, Egypt and Malta, and resorted to mass arrests, collective fines, and internments in concentration camps and other emergency measures. Large parts of the Arab quarter in the town of Jaffa were demolished by the authorities on the grounds of urban improvement - in the midst of the revolt - but order could not be restored.

During earlier Palestinian Arab uprisings, Jewish settlers often had restrained retaliation under the doctrine of the Havlaga, or restraint. But now, not unexpectedly, there were Jewish reprisals. The principal vehicle was the Haganah, a covert paramilitary force formed early in the mandate years (and which was to play a leading role in later events in Palestine). The Jewish settlers also benefited from 2,800 of their number being enrolled in the police forces as supernumeraries.

The failure of the Palestine authorities to suppress the revolt by military means led to political measures. The British Government announced the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the causes of the "disturbances" and turned to the rulers of other Arab States for the mediation that eventually led to the calling off of the strike in October 1936. The official count of casualties was 275 dead and 1,112 wounded, but the Royal Commission's estimate was 1,000 deaths. 92/

The end of the strike was to prove a lull in the rebellion. The issue of the Royal Commission's report brought an almost immediate renewal of violence, starting with the assassination of a British District Commissioner. Although it was not conclusively established that the assassins were Arab, the High Commissioner declared the Arab Higher Committee proscribed, arresting its prominent leaders and deporting them to the Seychelles Islands, while the Mufti of Jerusalem was able to escape to Lebanon, from where he continued to direct the rebellion.

Military courts were established, awarding 58 death sentences by the end of 1938, apart from numerous life imprisonments. 93/ To interdict support for the guerrillas, a barbed-wire fence, called the "Teggert line" was set up along portions of the Syrian, Transjordanian and Lebanese borders.

As in the first phase of the rebellion, the Jewish side also conducted its own retaliations and reprisals. In addition to the Haganah, another organization, the Irgun Tzeva'i Leumi was active, as were "special night squads", trained by Major Orde Wingate, a serving British officer. According to Christopher Sykes, "the SNS gradually became what Wingate secretly intended, the beginnings of a Jewish army". 95/

By 1939, the large-scale military operations by the British Government against the Palestinian nationalist guerrillas were showing success. Meanwhile, Palestinian grievances were at last being heard in London at a conference attended by other Arab States. As war approached, Britain again turned to these friendly Arab States to intercede in Palestine, and the rebellion was ended after three and a half years.

The rebellion of 1936-1939 culminated 15 years of Palestinian resistance to the Mandate, and was to bring far-reaching consequences in Palestine. It left no doubt that the Palestinians would not acquiesce in the loss of their country under the Balfour Declaration and disproved the Churchill policy's insistence that the "dual obligations" undertaken could be reconciled and would not disturb the peace in Palestine. The response of the British Government had been to propose, in place of the independence pledged two decades earlier, a plan to partition Palestine.


The Peel Commission Report

The Royal Commission to inquire into the "disturbances" was headed by a former Secretary of State for India, Lord Robert Peel, and presented a 400-page report, a document of major importance in any examination of the Palestine problem. While defending the British Government's record in Palestine and standing by the Balfour Declaration, it recognized the force and justice of the demands by the Palestinian people for independence. It acknowledged that, contrary to the previous official position, Palestinian resistance to the Mandate had shown that the "dual obligations" were not reconcilable. Faced with this dilemma it recommended, in Solomonian fashion, the partition of Palestine.

Because of its importance as a major turning point, after the Balfour Declaration, in British policy in Palestine, the Royal Commission's report is quoted below at some length.

Commenting on the assumption that the "dual obligations" were reconcilable:

On the rebellion:

On its causes:

On the new Arab hostility towards the Jews:

On the Arab-Jewish relationship:

On Palestinian demands for independence:

Before making its recommendations, the Royal Commission recapitulated the political situation in Palestine in a chapter entitled "The Force of Circumstance", recognizing that the terms of the Mandate, with its inclusion of the Balfour Declaration, could only be implemented by force; and with no assurance of success:

The Royal Commission then made its recommendations:

This public recognition that the irreconcilable terms of the Mandate had made it unworkable signalled its imminent end. The radical recommendation of partition was accepted by the British Government in a White Paper in July 1937:

Partition was unacceptable to the Palestinians, whose struggle for self-determination had brought the British Government to admit the unworkability of the Mandate. The rebellion flared up again, lasting until 1939. The Arab Higher Committee formally reasserted the right of Palestinians to full independence in the whole of Palestine, and the replacement of the Mandate by a treaty between Great Britain and an independent Palestine.

The Royal Commission's report was the subject of intense debate at the twentieth Zionist Congress in Zurich in August 1937. Dr. Weizmann urged acceptance of the partition plan (with fundamental modifications) since the world was now viewing the problem in terms of a Jewish State. However, the Congress apparently did not consider that the time had come to accept a Jewish State in only part of Palestine. It was too early - the ultimate aim was to establish the Jewish State in all of Palestine, and at this point the numbers of immigrants were too small and, in Zionist eyes, the mission of the Mandate was unfulfilled. The Congress declared that it:

The Royal Commission's partition plan (which, the Commission emphasized, was not a final or definitive proposal) allotted roughly the northern quarter of Palestine and the major part of the western coastal plain to the Jewish state, about a third of the country's area. Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, with a corridor to the sea at Jaffa, would continue under a British Mandate (map at annex VII).

The British Government then dispatched another "technical" commission, known as the "Woodhead Commission" to examine the practicability of partition. This Commission, which held its inquiries in Palestine from April to August 1938, concluded that the Royal Commission's plan was unworkable since almost half of the population of the proposed Jewish State would be Palestinian Arab, and raise the danger of mass population transfers. The Commission proposed two other plans. One amended the Royal Commission's plan by placing Galilee under mandate instead of allotting it to the Jewish State (annex VIII). The other proposed that virtually the southern half of Palestine, the Jerusalem enclave, and a large area in the north remain under mandate, the Jewish State occupying the coastal plain north of Jaffa, with the Arab state being allotted the remainder of the territory (annex IX).

The Commission itself expressed reservations over the viability of any partition scheme, and with the resurgence of the Palestinian rebellion, the British Government abandoned the idea of partitioning Palestine, announcing in a new statement of policy that:

The London Conference, 1939

To discuss alternatives, a round-table conference in London was held to which the British Government invited representatives of Palestinians (excluding those held responsible for violence), Jews (who could select whichever representatives they wished) and Arab States. If the Conference could not produce an agreement, the British Government announced, it would decide and implement its own policy.

The London Conference turned out to be parallel but separate Anglo-Arab and Anglo-Jewish conferences in February-March 1939, since the Arabs refused to formally recognize the Jewish Agency. All the independent Arab States participated: Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan and the Yemen. It was for this conference, which reached to the roots of the Palestine issue, that the British Government made public the Husain-McMahon correspondence, which was examined by the Anglo-Arab Committee.

The Arabs were determined to secure the inherent right of the Palestinians to their independence, which had been pledged 20 years earlier and for which the Palestinians had risen up in arms. The Jews, backed by the Balfour Declaration and its incorporation in the Mandate, were determined to achieve a Jewish State, particularly at a time when Nazi persecution of Jewry in Europe was inflicting its notorious excesses and his people were facing what Dr. Weizmann described as "this, the blackest hour of Jewish history". Although meetings between all three sides took place towards the end of the London Conference, British proposals for an agreement were first rejected by the Jewish side and, after revision to partially meet the Jewish objections, by both sides.

The "MacDonald White Paper"

The end of this attempt to reach an agreement left the British Government facing the situation which its policies of two decades had created in Palestine, and now it presented its unilateral policy. A new White Paper was issued in May 1939, disclaiming any intention to create a Jewish State, rejecting Arab demands that Palestine become independent as an Arab State, and envisaging the termination of the mandate by 1949 with independence for Palestine in which both Palestinians and Jews would share in government. Immigration would end, after the admission of 75,000 new immigrants over the first five years. The Government would strictly regulate transfer of land.

Important excerpts from this last major British policy statement on Palestine before the Second World War deserve note:

After two decades of Mandatory rule and colonization from abroad, the inherent rights of the Palestinians finally had been acknowledged. But the independence now being pledged was to a country where population and land patterns had been so transformed while it had been a territory under a League of Nations mandate, that the road to independence was full of pits and obstructions. For the Zionist movement the White Paper was a severe setback to their plans, and a new strategy was to be devised outside the framework of the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in any event, was nearing its end.


The international sanction for Great Britain to implement the Balfour Declaration's policy in Palestine had formally derived from the League of Nations, which conferred the legal title, and in whose name the Mandatory Power had governed. The question of where the ultimate sovereignty of a Mandated Territory lay has been the subject of varying interpretations, which need not be examined in this study. Several authorities, basing their views on the wording of Article 22 of the Covenant, and stressing that the League was founded on the principle of non-annexation of territories and that the mandates prohibited the alienation of territory (article 5 of the Palestine Mandate), have ruled that sovereignty rested with the people of a Mandated Territory, albeit in suspense since they could not exercise it. One representative view may be quoted:

"The drafters of the Treaty of Versailles, bearing in mind above all the right of peoples to self-determination, formally declared that Mandated Territories were not to be annexed by any Power, be it the community of States known as the League of Nations that was based at Geneva or any individual State. To all intents and purposes, these Territories belong to the indigenous inhabitants and communities, which the League has set out to defend and on whose behalf it acts as a kind of family council". 110/

The view taken by the International Court of Justice in the question of the status of South-West Africa is that sovereignty was not transferred to the Mandatory Power:

According to Professor Quincy Wright:

Since Palestine as an "A" Mandate whose sovereignty could not be alienated either by the Mandatory Power or by the League, it is of interest to glance briefly at the supervisory responsibility of the League of Nations, as exercised through the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC), during the life of the Palestine Mandate.

In a report to the League Assembly the Council noted:

In practice this meant that the PMC required annual reports from the Mandatory Power and offered comment on policies and developments in the mandated territory. Only when there was a major outbreak of violence, as in 1929 or in 1936, did the PMC exercise the functions in any wider manner.

In its very first meeting after the Palestine mandate came into effect in 1923, the PMC noted its sui generis nature and recorded its concern over its inherent contradictions, observing:

In the following years the reports from the Mandatory Power were treated in a routine fashion. In 1929, however, the PMC expressed sharp criticism of the Shaw report on the "disturbances" that year, expressing the opinion that the violence arose from direct opposition to British policies that the Palestinian Arabs considered as a denial of their inherent natural rights.

Yet, paradoxically, the principle of self-determination was not upheld by the Commission. While it expressed understanding of the Palestinian desire for self-government, it warned that this was contrary to the terms of the Mandate, and that therefore the Commission could not support those aspirations:

This session of the PMC had heard statements on the "dual obligation", asserting that:

The view of the Chairman was:

However in its report, the PMC made clear that in its view the dual obligations were of equal weight and were not irreconcilable.

(On this occasion, the League Council, on the request of the British Government, dispatched a League Commission to investigate Jewish and Muslim claims concerning the Wailing Wall. Their recommendations in 1931 in general confirmed the status quo and were implemented by the Palestine authorities.)

For the following five years the reports on the Palestine Mandate again received routine comments, until the outbreak of the Palestinian rebellion in 1936, when the League Council called the PMC to formulate a "Preliminary Opinion" on the Royal Commission's proposal for terminating the Palestine Mandate by partition rather than independence, a radical proposal with weighty implications for the Mandates system. The PMC elaborated on the contradictions inherent in the mandate, and the problems raised by the British proposal:

The Commission noted the repercussion of the Peel report on the mandate and expressed reservations on the partition proposal:

The PMC proposed alternate forms of "apprenticeship", and the Council authorized Great Britain to prepare a partition plan for the League's consideration.

The situation remained fluid as the rebellion in Palestine continued, the PMC commenting in 1938:

The 1939 White Paper's reversal from immediate termination of the Mandate by partition to its prolongation with eventual independence for a united Palestine created a new situation for the PMC which, faced with fluctuations in British policy, was unable to make any definite recommendations:

There was no consensus in the PMC, but its comment that the 1939 White Paper was not in accordance with the accepted interpretation of the Mandate - with the establishment of the Jewish National Home as its principal objective - was further to complicate the controversy, though any further interest or activity by the League of Nations in the problem of Palestine was precluded by the outbreak of war in September 1939.


Palestine in 1939

By 1939 the situation in Palestine had reached a crucial point. The Royal Commission had declared the Mandate unworkable. The Commission's own partition proposals had proved equally unworkable. The 1939 White Paper had postulated an independent unified Palestine, with a Palestinian Arab majority, in 10 years, but the League of Nations had expressed reservations on this new policy declaration. Yet the League itself had proved incapable of playing any effective role in arresting the deteriorating situation in Palestine. The Palestinians had sensed that only through violence could they force recognition of their inherent rights. The Zionists in turn had reacted with violence to hold the ground they had gained and to press towards their ultimate aspirations of a Jewish State in Palestine. The monstrous Nazi crimes against the Jewish people led them to look to the "national home" in Palestine as a refuge. The Second World War was to act as a catalyst in the interplay of these forces, and the pace of events accelerated.

Shortly before the war broke out, both the Jewish Agency as well as Palestinian Arab leaders declared their support of the Allies. The Mufti, still in exile, eventually aligned himself with the Axis powers. Violence subsided as the leaders of both sides observed a political truce. Jewish and Arab battalions were formed in Palestine, the Jewish units ultimately forming a Jewish Brigade.

The implementation of the 1939 White Paper

Despite the demands of the war effort, the British Government, disturbed by the dangerous situation in Palestine, proceeded with the policy of the 1939 White Paper in an effort to diminish the political tension. In February 1940, the Palestine authorities issued the Land Transfer regulations, dividing Palestine into three zones. In the largest zone, any transfer of land to a person who was not a "Palestinian Arab" was prohibited, exceptions being permitted only under specific conditions and with the High Commissioner's permission. In the second zone "Palestinian Arabs" were permitted to transfer land only between themselves. In the third zone there were not restrictions on land transfers.

The clauses of the 1939 White Paper relating to immigration were also implemented, but at the end of the five-year period in 1944, only 51,000 of the 75,000 immigration certificates provided for had been utilized. In circumstances where Jewish refugees from Europe were fleeing violence and persecution, the White Paper's limits were relaxed and legal immigration was permitted to continue indefinitely at the rate of 18,000 a year.

The Jewish response

The Palestinian rebellion, the Royal Commission's report and the 1939 White Paper's policies constituted a series of reversals to the aim of political Zionism to establish a settler state in Palestine. It had become evident that the Mandatory Power was re-interpreting its earlier commitment to the Balfour Declaration. Three features of the response by some Zionist groups were illegal immigration, terrorism and an attempt to obtain support from the United States.

Illegal immigration was not a wartime phenomenon. The Hope-Simpson Report of 1930 had recorded that "some thousands each year" of unauthorized immigrants settled in Palestine, either having evaded frontier controls or having arrived as "pseudo travellers" and then staying on. 122/ This type of immigration was bound to increase with the conditions prevailing in Europe, and it is estimated that between April 1939 and December 1943, over 20,000 illegal immigrants arrived in Palestine. 123/ The conditions under which this immigration was swelling were politically exploited by Jewish organizations to exert pressure on the British Government, as described in an official document:

The Jewish immigrants claimed to have practised often the doctrine of Havlaga, or restraint and non-violence, in the face of the various uprisings by Palestinian Arabs, culminating in the rebellion. During the war years, the Jewish community also resorted to violence. The recourse to terrorism is described in an official British document as follows:

Notwithstanding formal disclaimers of its responsibility, there appears to be some evidence of involvement of the Jewish Agency, as indicated in an official report:

This campaign of terror against Palestinian Arabs and the British reached such proportions that Churchill, a strong supporter of Zionist aims and at that time Prime Minister, stated in the House of Commons:

Referring to the appeal of the Jewish Agency to the Jewish community '... to cast out the members of this destructive band, to deprive them of all refuge and shelter, to resist their threats and to render all necessary assistance to the authorities in the prevention of terrorist acts and in the eradication of the terrorist organization', he said:

The "Biltmore Programme"

The Zionist Organization sought to strengthen its position by drawing support from the United States to substitute for that loss from Great Britain. In May 1942 the Jewish Agency Executive, meeting in New York, formally made public in what is known as the "Biltmore Programme", the long-standing aim of the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine through unlimited immigration, declaring that:

The Jewish Agency formally presented its demands to the British Government in May 1945 as follows:

The Zionist Organization formally endorsed the programme as its declared policy and concentrated its efforts in the United States:

As the war ended, the outcome of United States involvement was the appointment of an Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry to make recommendations on Palestine to both Governments. The Foreign Secretary of the new Labour Government in Great Britain, prevented by circumstance from implementing the 1939 White Paper, and faced with a situation where the League of Nations had been extinguished by the war, and succeeded by the United Nations, indicated future policy on the following lines:

The Anglo-American Enquiry Committee

The 12-member Committee began work in January 1946 with a 120-day time-limit and finalized its report in April. As in the case of previous British Commissions, it surveyed the history of Palestine over the years since the Balfour Declaration, but concluded with a set of recommendations that virtually negated those by the British Commission.

Describing the Jewish view, the report observed:

The Palestinian Arab view was summed up as follows:

The Anglo-American Committee rejected the idea of early independence for Palestine, whether partitioned or unified, considering that Palestinian Arab-Jewish hostility "would result in civil strife as might threaten the peace of the world" ... The Committee appeared to anticipate that the hostility would eventually disappear (it did not elaborate how this would happen) and that until such time Palestine should become a United Nations trusteeship, pending which the Mandate should continue. It also appeared to anticipate that unity would somehow be maintained and recommended a declaration.

and that the future government would be internationally guaranteed.

Among immediate measures the Committee recommended the rescinding of the 1940 Land Transfer Regulations so as to allow free transfers of land, and the immediate issue of 100,000 immigration certificates to the victims of Nazi persecution. It also recommended a declaration that terrorism would be suppressed, and called on the Jewish Agency to co-operate with the authorities to this end.

In effect the Committee recommended the continuation of a Mandate that the Mandatory Power had found unworkable. Immediately on publication of the Committee's report, the United States President issued a statement in which, inter alia, he said:

However, the British Government stated that it could not accept the Committee's recommendations immediately, and they would be examined further. In the course of this examination by British and American officials, a scheme was produced for two autonomous provinces in a Palestine that continued to be governed under a British High Commissioner. This scheme received the approval of the British Government, but not of the United States Government, and the issue remained unresolved.

Both Governments then requested the views of the independent Arab Governments which, in the meantime, had formed the Arab League in March 1945, envisioning the future membership of an eventually independent Palestine. Since the Palestinian Arabs could not present their own views, the Arab Governments actively advocated their case, and obtained assurances from the United States Government of consultation on any formula for Palestine. They now proposed a conference to discuss the Palestine problem.

The London Conference

The new London Conference met from September 1946 to February 1947, starting in the absence of representatives of either the Palestinian Arabs or Jews both of whom had refused the invitation. The Arab countries attending opposed the provincial scheme, and presented to the British Government their own proposals, with the following principal features:

(a) Palestine would be a unitary State with a permanent Arab majority, and would attain its independence as such after a short period of transition (two or three years) under British Mandate;

(b) Within this unitary State, Jews who had acquired Palestinian citizenship (for which the qualification would be 10 years' residence in the country) would have full civil rights, equally with all other citizens of Palestine;

(c) Special safeguards would be provided to protect the religious and cultural rights of the Jewish community;

(d) The Jewish community would be entitled to a number of seats in the Legislative Assembly proportionate to the number of Jewish citizens (as defined) in Palestine, subject to the proviso that in no case would the number of Jewish representatives exceed one third of the total number of members;

(e) All legislation concerning immigration and the transfer of land would require the consent of the Arabs in Palestine as expressed by a majority of the Arab members of the Legislative Assembly; and the safeguards provided for the Jewish community would be alterable only with the consent of a majority of the Jewish members of the Legislative Assembly". 138/

On its side the Zionist Congress, meeting in Basle in 1947 five decades after the Basle Declaration, rejected the provincial autonomy scheme as "a travesty of Britain's obligation under the Mandate", also rejecting any form of trusteeship and demanding:

In February 1947, the British Government then presented its own proposals to the Arab representatives, by then joined by representatives of the Palestinian Arab Higher Executive, and to the Jewish Agency, which had entered into unofficial negotiations with the British Government. Both sides rejected the proposals. The Zionist Organization, fortified by new large-scale immigration, legal and illegal, well equipped forces, with the Jewish Brigade providing the nucleus, and powerful foreign support, was unprepared to compromise on its long-standing objective towards which it had advanced so close - a Jewish State in Palestine. The Palestinian Arabs, with the support of other Arab peoples, were determined to guard and hold their country, and to prevent it from being dominated further by continued Jewish immigration. The impasse was total, and large-scale violence was imminent in Palestine.

Faced with this situation, Great Britain decided to relinquish its mandatory role and to hand over the Palestine problem, created over three decades by the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate, to the United Nations. On 18 February 1947, the Foreign Secretary stated in the House of Commons:

The transformation of Mandated Palestine

At the culmination of a quarter century of Mandatory rule, Palestine had been radically transformed in demographic terms. The population of Palestine had increased tremendously - from the 750,000 of the 1922 census to almost 1,850,000 at the end of 1946 - an increase of nearly 250 per cent. During this period the Jewish population had soared from 56,000 after the First World War to 84,000 in 1922 to 608,000 in 1946, an increase of about 725 per cent. 141/ From constituting less than a tenth of the population in Palestine after the First World War, the Jewish community in 1947 constituted nearly a third. A good part of this was due to births within Palestine but legal immigration alone accounted for over 376,000, with illegal immigration being estimated at another 65,000 - a total of 440,000. 142/ This Jewish population was primarily urban - about 70 per cent to 75 per cent in and around the cities of Jerusalem, Jaffa-Tel Aviv and Haifa. 143/

Land holding patterns had also changed considerably. From the 650,000 dunums held by Jewish organizations in 1920, of the total land area of 26 million dunums, the figure at the end of 1946 had reached 1,625,000 dunums - an increase of about 250 per cent 144/ and Jewish settlement had displaced large numbers of Palestinian Arab peasants. Even so, this area represented only 6.2 per cent of the total area of Palestine and 12 per cent of the cultivable land. 145/

Ironically, the Palestinian Arabs were to suffer an experience similar to the Jews - a diaspora. That the Jews deserved sympathy was unquestionable. Even before the Nazi terror, this sympathy existed for the Jewish people among the Palestinian Arabs. The absence of racial rancour before the Balfour Declaration received emphasis in virtually every official report. Even as late as 1937, during the Palestinian rebellion for independence, the Royal Commission on Palestine said:

Arnold J. Toynbee who, before becoming recognized as an eminent world historian had dealt directly with the Palestine Mandate in the British Foreign Office, wrote in 1968:


1/ Hurewitz, J. C., Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East (Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1956), vol. II, p. xvi.

2/ British Government, Correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sherif Hussein of Mecca, Parliamentary Papers - Cmd. 5957 (1939).

3/ Ibid., Report of a Committee on Correspondence between Sir Henry McMahon and the Sherif of Mecca, Parliamentary Papers - Cmd. 5974 (1939), p. 48.

4/ Ibid., p. 49.

5/ Ibid., pp. 50 and 51.

6/ Ibid., p. 11.

7/ Ibid., p. 11. A historical footnote to the Anglo-Arab understandings appeared in the "Feisal Documents", consisting of correspondence exchanges in 1919 between Sherif Husain's son and Weizmann. It has been asserted that this correpondence (in English, which was unknown to Feisal) invalidated the preceding understandings.

However, it is evident that this later correspondence was not official, and the opinion of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine is conclusive:

"The Feisal-Weizmann agreement did not acquire validity, since the condition attached (i.e. Arab independence) was not fulfilled at the time". United Nations document A/364, report of the Special Committee on Palestine to the General Assembly, 3 September 1947, p. 35).

The question of the validity of these documents has been examined by an authority who possesses the original of the document. See Jeffries, J. M. N.: Palestine: The Reality (London, Longmans Green, 1939), pp. 248-257.

8/ Robert John and Sami Hadawi, The Palestine Diary, vol. I (1914-1945), (New World Press, New York, 1970), p. xiv.

9/ Laqueur, Walter, The Israel Arab Reader (New York, Bantam Books, 1976), pp. 6-11.

10/ Herzl, Theodor, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl (New York, Herzl Press and Thomas Yosecoff, 1960), vol. I, p. 343.

11/ Sykes, Christopher, Crossroads to Israel (London, Collins, 1965), p. 24.

12/ Esco Foundation for Palestine, Palestine: A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1947), vol. I, p. 41.

13/ Stein, Leonard, The Balfour Declaration (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1961), p. 64.

14/ Sokolow, Nahum, History of Zionism, 1600-1918 (London, Loggmans, Green, 1919), vol. I, p. xxi.

15/ Kohn, Hans, "Ahad Ha'am: Nationalist with a Difference" in Smith, Gary (ed.): Zionism: The Dream and the Reality (New York, Harper and Row, 1974), pp. 31-32.

16/ Weisgal, Meyer (ed.), Chaim Weizmann (New York, Dial Press, 1944), p. 131.

17/ Weizmann, Chaim, Trial and Error (New York, Harper, 1949), p. 149.

18/ Ibid., pp. 177-178.

19/ Ibid., p. 181.

20/ Ibid., p. 374.

21/ Ibid., p. 375.

22/ Ibid., p. 386.

23/ Ibid., p. 416.

24/ Ibid., p. 186.

25/ Stein, Zionism (London, Ernest Benn, 1925), pp. 113-115.

26/ Stein, op. cit., chapters 31, 34 and 35; Jeffries, J. M. N., Palestine: The Reality (London, Longman, 1939), pp. 163-171; and Robert John and Sami Hadawi, op. cit., pp. 75-91.

27/ Jeffries, op. cit., p. 172.

28/ Stein, op. cit., p. 552.

29/ Weizmann, op. cit., pp. 207-208.

30/ Stein, op. cit., p. 470.

31/ Weizmann, op. cit., p. 207.

32/ Jeffries, op. cit., p. 178.

33/ Mallison, W. T., "The Balfour Declaration: An Appraisal in International Law" in Abu Lughod, Ibrahim: The Transformation of Palestine (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1971), p. 6.

34/ Ibid., p. 67-69.

35/ Temperley, Harold (ed.), A History of the Peace Conference at Paris, vol. VI (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1924), p. 173.

36/ British Government, British Public Record Office, Cabinet No. 24/24 (August 1917).

37/ Weizmann, op. cit., p. 212.

38/ Linowitz, Sol M., "The Legal Basis for the State of Israel" American Bar Association Journal, vol. 43, 1957, p. 522.

39/ Cattan, Henry, Palestine and International Law (London, Longman, 1973), Mallison, op. cit.

40/ Hurewitz, Op. cit., pp. xvi-xvii.

41/ Weisga, Op. cit., p. 297.

42/ British Government, Public Record Office Cabinet No. 27/23 (1918) (as reproduced in Ingrams, Doreen, The Palestinian Papers, London, John Murray, 1972).

43/ Ibid., Foreign Office No. 371/3398 (1918), op. cit.

44/ Ibid., Foreign Office No. 800/215 (1919).

45/ Antonius, George, The Arab Awakening (New York, Putnam, 1946), p. 283.

46/ Hurewitz, op. cit., p. 39.

47/ Ibid., p. 45.

48/ United States Government, Foreign Relations of the United States: the Paris Peace Conference (Washington, 1944), vol. I, pp. 1-14.

49/ Nutting, Anthony, The Arabs (London, Hollis and Carter, 1964), p. 68.

50/ United States Government, op. cit., vol. XII, pp. 780-781.

51/ Ibid., vol. XII, pp. 793 ff.

52/ British Government, op. cit., Foreign Office No. 800/217 (1919).

53/ Ibid., Foreign Office No. 371/4183 (1919).

54/ Royal Institute of International Affairs, Great Britain and Palestine (London, Chatham House, 1946), p. 13.

55/ British Government, op. cit., Foreign Office No. 371/5114.

56/ Weizmann, op. cit., pp. 279-280.

57/ British Government, op. cit., Foreign Office No. 371/5199.

58/ Ibid., Foreign Office No. 371/5245.

59/ Ibid., Foreign Office No. 371/5248.

60/ British Government, Hansard's Reports, House of Lords, 21 June 1922, p. 1025.

61/ Esco Foundation, op. cit., vol. I, p. 252.

62/ British Government, Palestine Royal Commission: Report - Cmd. 5479 (1937), p. 108.

63/ Cattan, op. cit., pp. 30-33.

64/ British Government, Palestine: Statement of Policy - Cmd. 1700 (1922), pp. 19-20.

65/ Report of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (A/648), p. 21.

66/ Moore, John Norton, The Arab-Israeli Conflict (Princeton, University Press, 1974), pp. 22 ff.

67/ British Government, The Political History of Palestine under the British Administration (Memorandum to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine), Jerusalem, 1947, p. 3.

68/ Ibid., Palestine Royal Commission Report - Cmd. 5479 (1937), p. 279.

69/ Ibid., Report and General Statement of the Census of 1922, Jerusalem, 1922, p. 3.

70/ Ibid., Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances - Cmd. 3530 (1930), pp. 104-105.

71/ Palestine, Government of, A Survey of Palestine, Jerusalem, 1946, vol. I, p. 244.

72/ British Government, Palestine: Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development - Cmd. 3686, p. 39.

73/ Ibid., p. 23.

74/ Ibid., pp. 52-53.

75/ Ibid., p. 54.

76/ Ibid., p. 55.

77/ Ibid., pp. 141-142.

78/ Ibid., Palestine: Statement of Policy, Parliamentary Papers - Cmd. 3692 (1930), pp. 4-5.

79/ Ibid., pp. 10-11.

80/ Ibid., pp. 18-21.

81/ Ibid., pp. 22-23.

82/ Moore, op. cit., pp. 143-149 (text of letter).

83/ Weizmann, Trial and Error, p. 335.

84/ RIIA, Great Britain and Palestine, p. 61.

85/ British Government, Palestine Royal Commission: Report, Cmd. 5479 (1937), p. 50.

86/ Ibid., Palestine: Disturbances in May 1921, Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Cmd. 1540 (1921), p. 59.

87/ Ibid., Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929, Cmd. 3530 (1930), p. 150.

88/ Ibid., pp. 124-131.

89/ British Government, Palestine Royal Commission: Report, Cmd. 5479 (1937), p. 82.

90/ Ibid., pp. 84-87.

91/ Ibid., pp. 91-92.

92/ Ibid., p. 105. An account of the revolt can be found in this report at pp. 96-106. See also RIIA Great Britain and Palestine, pp. 88-97.

93/ RIIA, op. cit., p. 115.

94/ Ibid., pp. 116-118.

95/ The Sunday Times (London), 12 April 1959.

96/ British Government, Palestine Royal Commission: Report - Cmd. 5479 (1937), pp. 41-42.

97/ Ibid., pp. 55-56.

98/ Ibid., p. 58.

99/ Ibid., p. 104.

100/ Ibid., pp. 110-111.

101/ Ibid., p. 124.

102/ Ibid, p. 370.

103/ Ibid., pp. 130-132.

104/ Ibid., p. 373.

105/ Ibid., pp. 375-376.

106/ British Government, Palestine Partition Commission: Report, Cmd. 5854 (1938).

107/ Esco Foundation, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 855-856.

108/ British Government, Statement of Policy, Cmd. 5893 (1938).

109/ Ibid., Statement of Policy, Cmd. 6019 (1939).

110/ Translated from Pic, Pierre, "Le Régime du Mandat d'après le Traité de Versailles": Revue générale de Droit International Public, vol. XXX, p. 334.

111/ International Court of Justice, "Advisory Opinion regarding the Status of South-West Africa", ICJ Reports. (1950), p. 132.

112/ Wright, Quincy, "Sovereignty of the Mandates" American Journal of International Law, vol. 17 (1923), p. 696.

113/ League of Nations, Responsibilities of the League arising out of Article 22 (Mandates), Doc. No. 20/48/161, Geneva, 1920, p. 3.

114/ Report to Council on the 5th Extraordinary Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C. 661. 1924 VI, Geneva, 1924, p. 4.

115/ Report to the Council on the 17th Extraordinary Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.355 (1) M.147 (1), 1930, VI, Geneva, 1930, pp. 139-140.

116/ Ibid., p. 143.

117/ Minutes of the 17th Extraordinary Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.355 M.147, 1930 (VI), p. 49.

118/ Report to the Council on the 32nd Extraordinary Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.330 M.222, 1937 (VI), Geneva, 1937, pp. 226-228.

119/ Ibid., pp. 229-230.

120/ Report to the Council on the 34th Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.216 M.219, 1938, VI, Geneva, 1938, p. 228.

121/ Report to the Council on the 36th Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.170 M.100, 1939, VI, Geneva, 1939, p. 275.

122/ British Government, Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development, Cmd. 3686 (1930), pp. 120, 125-126.

123/ RIIA. Great Britain and Palestine, p. 132, fn.

124/ British Government, The Political History of Palestine (Memorandum to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) (Jerusalem, 1947), p. 30.

125/ Ibid., pp. 31-32.

126/ British Government, Palestine: Statement Relating to Acts of Violence, Cmd. 6873 (1946), p. 3.

127/ British Government, Survey of Palestine, vol. I, p. 73.

128/ Laqueur, op. cit., pp. 78-79.

129/ RIIA, op. cit., pp. 139-140.

130/ Ibid., p. 139.

131/ Ibid., p. 142.

132/ British Government, Report of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, Cmd. 6808 (1946), pp. 26-28.

133/ Ibid., p. 34.

134/ Ibid., pp. 39-41.

135/ Ibid., pp. 29-30.

136/ Ibid., pp. 1-10.

137/ British Government, The Political History of Palestine, p. 35.

138/ Ibid., p. 38.

139/ Ibid., p. 39.

140/ Ibid., p. 40.

141/ Government of Palestine, A Survey of Palestine - Supplement, Jerusalem (1947), p. 10.

142/ Ibid., pp. 17, 23.

143/ Abu Lughod, Janet, "The Demographic Transformation of Palestine" in Abu-Lughod, op. cit., p. 153.

144/ Government of Palestine, A Survey of Palestine - Supplement, p. 30.

145/ Ruedy, John, "Dynamics of Land Alienation" in Abu-Lughod, op. cit., p. 134.

146/ British Government, Palestine Royal Commission - Report, Cmd. 5479 (1937), p. 395.

147/ Robert John and Sami Hadawi, op. cit., pp. xiv-xv.


Sykes-Picot Agreement - Extract and Map
"Excluded areas" under Hussein-McMahon Correspondence Map
Ottoman Administrative Districts - Map
Article 22 of Covenant of the League of Nations - Text
The Palestine Mandate - Text
Zionist Claims for Palestine - Map
Royal Commission's Partition Plan "A" - Map
Palestine Partition Commission Plan "B" - Map
Palestine Partition Commission Plan "C" - Map


The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 16 May 1916


"It is accordingly understood between the French and British Governments -

1. That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States in the areas (A) and (B) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (A) France, and area (B) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (A) France, and in area (B) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

2. That in the blue area France, and the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States.

3. That in the brown area there shall be established in an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other Allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca."

Annex II

The areas "reserved" under the Hussein-McMahon correspondence (Source: Jeffries: Palestine - The Reality)


(Showing Ottoman administrative units)
(Based on maps in Cmd. 5957, 1939)


Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919

Article 22. To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the formance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant.

The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.

The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Other peoples, especially those of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, the prohibition of abuses such as the slave trade, the arms traffic and the liquor traffic, and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other Members of the League.

There are territories, such as South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, which, owing to the sparseness of their population, or their small size, or their remoteness from the centres of civilization, or their geographical contiguity to the territory of the Mandatory, and other circumstances, can be best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory, subject to the safeguards above-mentioned in the interests of the indigenous population.

In every case of Mandate, the Mandatory shall render to the Council an annual report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.

The degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.

A permanent Commission shall be constituted to receive and examine the annual reports of the Mandatories and to advise the Council on all matters relating to the observance of the mandates.
The Mandate for Palestine, 24 July 1922

"The Council of the League of Nations:

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to entrust to a Mandatory selected by the said Powers the administration of the territory of Palestine, which formerly belonged to the Turkish Empire, within such boundaries as may be fixed by them; and

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 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 connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country; and

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have selected His Britannic Majesty as the Mandatory for Palestine; and

Whereas the mandate in respect of Palestine has been formulated in the following terms and submitted to the Council of the League for approval; and

Whereas His Britannic Majesty has accepted the mandate in respect of Palestine and undertaken to exercise it on behalf of the League of Nations in conformity with the following provisions; and

Whereas by the aforementioned Article 22 (paragraph 8), it is provided that the degree of authority, control or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory, not having been previously agreed upon by the Members of the League, shall be explicitly defined by the Council of the League of Nations;

Confirming the said Mandate, defines its terms as follows:

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 3

The Mandatory shall, so far as circumstances permit, encourage local autonomy.

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 5

The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power.

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.

Article 7

The Administration of Palestine shall be responsible for enacting a nationality law. There shall be included in this law provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine.

Article 8

The privileges and immunities of foreigners, including the benefits of consular jurisdiction and protection as formerly enjoyed by Capitulation or usage in the Ottoman Empire shall not be applicable in Palestine.

Unless the Powers whose nationals enjoyed the aforementioned privileges and immunities on August 1st, 1914, shall have previously renounced the right to their re-establishment, or shall have agreed to their non-application for a specified period, these privileges and immunities shall, at the expiration of the mandate, be immediately re-established in their entirety or with such modifications as may have been agreed upon between the Powers concerned.

Article 9

The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that the judicial system established in Palestine shall assure to foreigners, as well as to natives, a complete guarantee of their rights.

Respect for the personal status of the various peoples and communities and for their religious interests shall be fully guaranteed. In particular, the control and administration of Waqfs shall be exercised in accordance with religious law and the dispositions of the founders.

Article 10

Pending the making of special extradition agreements relating to Palestine, the extradition treaties in force between the Mandatory and other foreign Powers shall apply to Palestine.

Article 11

The Administration of Palestine shall take all necessary measures to safeguard the interests of the community in connection with the development of the country, and, subject to any international obligations accepted by the Mandatory, shall have full powers to provide for public ownership or control of any of the natural resources of the country or of the public works, services and utilities established or to be established therein. It shall introduce a land system appropriate to the needs of the country having regard, among other things, to the desirability of promoting the close settlement and intensive cultivation of the land.

The Administration may arrange with the Jewish agency mentioned in Article 4 to construct or operate, upon fair and equitable terms, any public works, services and utilities, and to develop any of the natural resources of the country, in so far as these matters are not directly undertaken by the Administration. Any such arrangements shall provide that no profits distributed by such agency, directly or indirectly, shall exceed a reasonable rate of interest on the capital, and any further profits shall be utilized by it for the benefit of the country in a manner approved by the Administration.

Article 12

The Mandatory shall be entrusted with the control of the foreign relations of Palestine, and the right to issue exequaturs to consuls appointed by foreign Powers. He shall also be entitled to afford diplomatic and consular protection to citizens of Palestine when outside its territorial limits.

Article 13

All responsibility in connexion with the Holy Places and religious buildings or sites in Palestine, including that of preserving existing rights and of securing free access to the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites and the free exercise of worship, while ensuring the requirements of public order and decorum, is assumed by the Mandatory, who shall be responsible solely to the League of Nations in all matters connected herewith, provided that nothing in this article shall prevent the Mandatory from entering into such arrangements as he may deem reasonable with the Administration for the purpose of carrying the provisions of this article into effect; and provided also that nothing in this Mandate shall be construed as conferring upon the Mandatory authority to interfere with the fabric or the management of purely Moslem sacred shrines, the immunities of which are guaranteed.

Article 14

A special Commission shall be appointed by the Mandatory to study, define and determine the rights and claims in connection with the Holy Places and the rights and claims relating to the different religious communities in Palestine. The method of nomination, the composition and the functions of this Commission shall be submitted to the Council of the League for its approval, and the Commission shall not be appointed or enter upon its functions without the approval of the Council.

Article 15

The Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.

The right of each community to maintain its own schools for the education of its own members in its own language, while conforming to such educational requirements of a general nature as the Administration may impose, shall not be denied or impaired.

Article 16

The Mandatory shall be responsible for exercising such supervision over religious or eleemosynary bodies of all faiths in Palestine as may be required for the maintenance of public order and good government. Subject to such supervision, no measures shall be taken in Palestine to obstruct or interfere with the
enterprise of such bodies or to discriminate against any representative or member of them on the ground of his religion or nationality.

Article 17

The Administration of Palestine may organize on a voluntary basis the forces necessary for the preservation of peace and order, and also for the defence of the country, subject, however, to the supervision of the Mandatory, but shall not use them for purposes other than those above specified save with the consent of the Mandatory. Except for such purposes, no military, naval or air forces shall be raised or maintained by the Administration of Palestine.

Nothing in this article shall preclude the Administration of Palestine from contributing to the cost of the maintenance of the forces of the Mandatory in Palestine.

The Mandatory shall be entitled at all times to use the roads, railways and ports of Palestine for the movement of armed forces and the carriage of fuel and supplies.

Article 18

The Mandatory shall see that there is no discrimination in Palestine against the nationals of any State Member of the League of Nations (including companies incorporated under its laws) as compared with those of the Mandatory or of any foreign State in matters concerning taxation, commerce or navigation, the exercise of industries or professions, or in the treatment of merchant vessels or civil aircraft. Similarly, there shall be no discrimination in Palestine against goods originating in or destined for any of the said States, and there shall be freedom of transit under equitable conditions across the mandated area.

Subject as aforesaid and to the other provisions of this mandate, the Administration of Palestine may, on the advice of the Mandatory, impose such taxes and customs duties as it may consider necessary, and take such steps as it may think best to promote the development of the natural resources of the country and to safeguard the interests of the population. It may also, on the advice of the Mandatory, conclude a special customs agreement with any State territory of which in 1914 was wholly included in Asiatic Turkey or Arabia.

Article 19

The Mandatory shall adhere on behalf of the Administration of Palestine to any general international conventions already existing, or which may be concluded hereafter with the approval of the League of Nations, respecting the slave traffic, the traffic in arms and ammunition, or the traffic in drugs, or relating to commercial equality, freedom of transit and navigation, aerial navigation and postal, telegraphic and wireless communication or literary, artistic or industrial property.

Article 20

The Mandatory shall co-operate on behalf of the Administration of Palestine, so far as religious, social and other conditions may permit, in the execution of any common policy adopted by the League of Nations for preventing and combating disease, including diseases of plants and animals.

Article 21

The Mandatory shall secure the enactment within twelve months from this date, and shall ensure the execution of a Law of Antiquities based on the following rules. This law shall ensure equality of treatment in the matter of excavations and archaeological research to the nationals of all States Members of the League of Nations;...

Article 22

English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages of Palestine. Any statement or inscription in Arabic on stamps or money in Palestine shall be repeated in Hebrew and any statement or inscription in Hebrew shall be repeated in Arabic.

Article 23

The Administration of Palestine shall recognize the holy days of the respective communities in Palestine as legal days of rest for the members of such communities.

Article 24

The Mandatory shall make to the Council of the League of Nations an annual report to the satisfaction of the Council as to the measures taken during the year to carry out the provisions of the mandate. Copies of all laws and regulations promulgated or issued during the year shall be communicated with the report.

Article 25

In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.

Article 26

The Mandatory agrees that if any dispute whatever should arise between the Mandatory and another Member of the League of Nations relating to the interpretation or the application of the provisions of the mandate, such dispute, if it cannot be settled by negotiation, shall be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice provided for by Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

Article 27

The consent of the Council of the League of Nations is required for any modification of the terms of this mandate.

Article 28

In the event of the termination of the mandate hereby conferred upon the Mandatory, the Council of the League of Nations shall make such arrangements as may be deemed necessary for safeguarding in perpetuity, under guarantee of the League, the rights secured by Articles 13 and 14, and shall use its influence for securing, under the guarantee of the League, that the Government of Palestine will fully honour the financial obligations legitimately incurred by the Administration of Palestine during the period of the mandate, including the rights of public servants to pensions or gratuities.

The present instrument shall be deposited in original in the archives of the League of Nations and certified copies shall be forwarded by the Secretary-General of the League of Nations to all Members of the League.

DONE AT LONDON the twenty-fourth day of July, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-two." 1/


1/ The Palestine mandate came into force on 29 September 1922.


"Palestine" claimed by World Zionist Organization, 1919
(Source: Alan R. Taylor, in Abu-Lughod, The Transformation of Palestine)


Palestine Partition Plan A, 1937

(Royal Commission's Partition Plan, 1937, as elaborated by Palestine Partition Commission, 1938)

(Based on map in Cmd. 5854, 1938)


Palestine Partition Plan B, 1938
(Proposed by Palestine Partition Commission, 1938)
(Based on map in Cmd. 5854, 1938)

Palestine Partition Plan C, 1938
(Proposed by Palestine Partition Commission, 1938)
(Based on map in Cmd. 5854, 1938)