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British Mandate of Palestine

The British Mandate of Palestine was a swathe of territory in the Middle East, formerly belonging to the Ottoman Empire, which the League of Nations gave to the United Kingdom to administer.

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Establishment of British League of Nations mandate

Prior to the end of World War I, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. With the Allied defeat of the Central Powers, the United Kingdom was granted control of Palestine by the Peace Conference of Versailles, which also established the League of Nations. The British had promised the local Arabs, through Lawrence of Arabia, independence for a united Arab country covering most of the Arab Middle East, in exchange for their supporting the British.

The banks of Jordan had distinct ethnic identities and were historically different administrative regions, although patterns changed over time ([1] (http://www.danielpipes.org/articles/199810.shtml)). The British had previously promised the Hashemite family lordship over land in return for their support in the Great Arab Rebellion[?] during World War I.

In 1920 at the San Remo conference in Italy, the League of Nations mandate over Palestine and Transjordan was assigned to Britain. This territory at this time included all of what would later became the State of Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, a part of the Golan Heights, and the Kingdom of Jordan. The population of this area was mainly Arab, although with a significant Jewish minority (approaching 10%), and Bedouin and Druze.

In the end, due to political complications, the territory was split into several administrative units. According to some, the British have fulfilled their promise by making an area to the east of Jordan River, consisting of 78% of the whole Mandate of Palestine and Transjordan, into an independent Arab Kingdom of Jordan. However, most Arabs do not accept this. The British did not hand out territories west of Jordan to either Jews or Arabs. This was the source of much of the Palestinian resentment against the British, and the Middle East conflict of today.

In 1921 Britain separated its League of Nations mandate of Palestine and Transjordan east of the Jordan River into a separate territory, Transjordan. This territory was over three quarters (78%) of the Mandate but mostly desert; it was given to the Emir Abdullah. (Britain doing this was foreseen under the terms of the Mandate.) Jews from then on were allowed to immigrate only into the Palestinian Mandate (which roughly corresponded to the territory of modern day Israel). Arabs were allowed unlimited immigration into both Transjordan and Palestine. In 1923 Britain transferred a part of the Golan Heights to the French mandate of Syria, in exchange for the Metula[?] region. Arab immigration was allowed; Jewish immigration was limited to a constantly decreasing quota.

Palestinian opposition to Jewish emigration

During the 1920s, 100,000 Jewish immigrants entered Palestine, and 6,000 non-Jewish immigrants did so as well. Immigration was controlled by the General Federation of Jewish Labour[?], which selected between applicants on the grounds of their political creed. Land purchased by Jewish agencies was leased on the condition that it be worked only by Jewish labour, and that the lease should not be held by non-Jews.

Initially Jewish emigration to Palestine met little opposition from the local Arabs. However, as anti-Semitism grew in Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jewish emigration to Palestine began to markedly increase, to their resentment.

There was violent opposition from the Palestinian population at large. In some cases, land purchases by the Jewish agencies from absentee landlords led to the eviction of the Palestinian tenants, who were replaced by the Jewish kibbutzim. The Palestinians had prior to World War I had the status of peasants (felaheen), and did not own their land although they might own the trees that grew on that land. When Jews, who grew up with European laws, purchased land they did not always realise that the villagers on that land owned the trees. This was often a source of misunderstanding and conflict. The olive tree is particularly important here as it can remain productive for over 1,000 years.

The British government put severe limitations on the Jewish immigration to Palestine. Immigration was allowed, but up to a certain quota. Both Arabs and Jews disliked this policy, each side for its own reasons. The Palestinians would frequently riot or massacre Jewish communities; two Jewish groups, the Irgun and the Stern gang carried out several acts of terrorism against British targets.

Great Uprising

In 1936 the British proposed a partition between Jewish and Arab areas, which was rejected by both the Arabs and the Zionist Congress[?].

In 1936-1939 the mandate experienced an upsurge in militant Arab nationalism, that became known as the Great Uprising[?]. The Palestinian Arabs felt they were being marginalized in their own country, but in addition to non-violent strikes they resorted to terrorism, that left hundreds of Jews dead. The Jewish organization Etzel[?] replied with its own terrorist campaign, with marketplace bombings and other violent acts that killed hundreds. Eventually, the uprising was put down by the British, with the help of the Jewish self-defence organization, Haganah.

The British placed restrictions on Jewish land purchases in the remaining land, allegedly contradicting the provision of the Mandate which said "the Administration of Palestine ... shall encourage, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency ... close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not acquired for public purposes." According to the Israeli side, the British had by 1949 allotted over 8500 acres to Arabs, and about 4000 acres to Jews.

The Holocaust

Most of the Palestinian leadership supported the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. They were hoping that the Axis coming to Palestine would maintain Palestinian control over their country. In particularly the influential mufti[?] Haj Amin El-Husseini[?] supported Hitler openly and convened with Nazi leaders several times. Despite being no great friend of any Arab cause, Hitler accepted Palestinian support in the hope that they would rebel against his enemies, the British, in the region, thereby advancing Hitler's military interests. Eventually the British were forced to imprison the Arabs who supported Hitler.

Arabs who opposed the persecution of the Jews by the hands of the Nazis included Habib Bourguiba[?] in Tunisia, and Egyptian intellectuals such as Tawfiq al-Hakim[?] and Abbas Mahmoud al-Arkad[?] (Source: Yad Vashem)

The Holocaust, the killing of approximately 6 million European Jews by the Nazis, had a major effect on the situation in Palestine. During the war and after it, the British forbade entry into Palestine to European Jews escaping Nazi persecution. This was a calculated move to maximise support for their cause in World War II; the Jews were unlikely to support the deeply anti-Semitic Axis, so the British considered it more important to get Arab backing.

Opposing this policy, which continued after the war's end, as well as the continuous British oppression of the Jewish population in Palestine, the Irgun blew up in 1946 the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the British administration, killing around 100 people. In a more tempered move, the accepted Jewish leadership decided to begin an illegal immigration (haa'pala) using small boats operating in conditions of secrecy. About 70,000 Jews were brought to Palestine in this way between 1946 and 1947, and a similar number were captured an imprisoned by the British while sailing.

Seeing that the situation was quickly spiraling out of hand, the British announced their desire to terminate their mandate and to withdraw by May 1948. This decision threw Palestine into the middle of civil and ethnic unrest.

Division of Palestine by United Nations Main article: 1947 UN Partition Plan

The United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations, attempted to solve the dispute between the Jews and the Palestinians. The UN appointed a committee, the UNSCOP[?], composed of representatives from several states. None of the Great Powers were represented, in order to make the committee more neutral. UNSCOP considered two main proposals. The first called for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, with Jerusalem to be placed under international administration. The second called for the creation of a single federal state containing both Jewish and Arab constituent states. A majority of UNSCOP adopted the first option, although several members supported the second option instead and one member (Australia) said it was unable to decide between them. The UN General Assembly largely accepted UNSCOP's proposals, though they made some adjustments to the boundaries between the two states proposed by it. The division was to take effect on the date of British withdrawal.

The partition plan was rejected out of hand by the Palestinians, although much of the land reserved for the Jewish state was already acquired by Jews, had a Jewish majority, or was under state control . Most of the Jews accepted the proposal, in particular the Jewish Agency, which was the Jewish state-in-formation. Numerous records indicate the joy of Palestine's Jewish inhabitants as they attended to the U.N. session voting for the division proposal. Up to this day, Israeli history books mention November 29 (the date of this session) as the most important date in the Israel's acquisition of independence.

Several Jews, however, declined the proposal. Menachem Begin, Irgun's leader, announced: "The partition of the homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature by institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. The Land of Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for ever". His views were publicly rejected by the majority of the nascent Jewish state. Palestinians, on the other hand, claim that this publicly expressed acceptance was mainly propaganda for the consumption of Western nations, and that Begin's statement more accurately reflected the real intentions of the founders of the State of Israel.

On the date of British withdrawal the Jewish provisional government declared the formation of the State of Israel, and the provisional government said that it would grant full civil rights to all within its borders, whether Arab, Jew, Bedouin or Druze. The declaration stated:

We appeal ... to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

Palestinians do not give way to this, and claim that despite the assurances of equal rights for all, the State of Israel continues to discriminates in numerous ways in favour of Jews against others up until this day. For example, they point to Israeli immigration laws, which give preference to Jews in immigration. Such a policy is uncommon among Western democracies, although both Western (Germany), and particularly Arab states (Algeria) behave in a similar way.

Palestinians consider a far more accurate statement of the intention of the founders of Israel to be that of Chaim Weizmann, who reportedly said:

[Our intention is to] finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English, or America is American.

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