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«TOWARDS NAKBA: THE FAILURE OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OF PALESTINE, 1922-1939 A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State ...»

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But His Majesty’s Government have no such aim in view that Palestine should become as Jewish as England is English. Nor do His Majesty’s Government contemplate the disappearance or subordination of Arab population, language, or culture. Status of all citizens of Palestine will be Palestinian. No section of population will have any other status in the eyes of the law. 103 The goal of the Mandate of Palestine, according to Churchill in 1922, was the establishment of a single Palestinian state comprising both Jewish and Arab peoples. The remainder of Churchill’s telegram made it clear, however, that the British, not the Jews nor the Arabs, were in charge and would stay in charge for

the foreseeable future:

His Majesty’s Government intend to foster establishment of full measure of self-government in Palestine, and as the next step a Legislative Council with a majority of elected members will be set up immediately. Special position of Zionist Executive does not entitle it to share in any degree in government of country. Immigration will not exceed economic capacity at the time to absorb new arrivals. Committee of elected members of Legislative Council will confer with administration upon matters relating to regulation of immigration. Any differences of opinion will be referred to His Majesty’s Government. Any religious community of considerable section of population claiming that terms of Mandate are not being fulfilled will have right of appeal to League of Nations. 104 The “legislative council” to which Churchill referred, was to consist of representatives from the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities. The legislative body would consist of a board of four Muslim, three Christian, and three Jewish officials appointed by the

Palestine Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Zionist Organization (London:

His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1922), p. 31.

Palestine Correspondence, pp. 30-31.

High Commissioner and a board made up of six Muslim, two Christian, and two Jewish officials elected by their respective communities.

The World Zionist Congress accepted the terms Churchill dictated. In correspondence with the Colonial Office, Weizmann quoted the organization’s official resolution: “The executive of the Zionist Organization, having taken note of the statement relative to British policy in Palestine, transmitted to them by the Colonial Office under date June 3rd, 1922, assure His Majesty’s Government that the activities of the Zionist Organization will be conducted in conformity with the policy therein set forth.” 105 Weizmann also explicitly asserted that that the Zionists wanted to co-exist with the Arabs in Palestine: “The Zionist organization has at all times been sincerely desirous of proceeding in harmonious co-operation with all sections of the people of Palestine.” 106.

“Harmonious co-operation,” however, proved difficult. Arab nationalists strongly opposed the growing Zionist presence in Palestine and the Zionist aim of a Jewish homeland in the territory. Moreover, not all Zionists agreed with Weizmann’s pledge of “co-operation.” Jabotinsky, moreover, advocated a different concept. In his speech “The Iron Wall” given in 1923, he stated that We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want… Zionist colonization must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach. That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not. What need, otherwise, of the Balfour Declaration? Or of the Mandate? Their value to us is that an outside Power has undertaken to create in the country such conditions of Palestine Correspondence, pp 28-29.

Palestine Correspondence, p. 29.

administration and security that if the native population should desire to hinder our work, they will find it impossible. 107 Jabotinsky saw harmonious co-operation as impossible. The Arabs were bound to resist foreign encroachment. The Jews must act as colonizer and the Zionist settlement of Palestine was a colonial endeavor. 108 “Zionist colonization”, in Jabotinsky’s mind, assumed the use of force to guarantee Jewish settlement. The only way to ensure the survival of a Jewish Palestine was to create one dominated by Jews and backed by British military might.

Arab riots over Jewish immigration to Palestine broke out in 1920 and 1921. To protect themselves, Jews living in Palestine formed armed defense units led by veterans of the Jewish Legion. They called themselves Haganah, which is Hebrew for “the defense.” The role of the Haganah was to protect Jewish settlements and farming colonies from Arab attacks. The Haganah lacked a central command structure and consisted of local volunteers, but, despite being lightly armed, proved effective. The Haganah proved to be the first mechanism in establishing a lasting Jewish presence in Palestine independent of British interference, contrary to Jabotinsky’s wishes.

–  –  –

On May 15, 1923, the British Government officially recognized the Emirate of Transjordan as an independent state under the Mandate system. The British installed Emir Abdullah, the eldest son of their Hashemite ally Sharif Hussein as the new king of Transjordan. With Hashemite power declining in the Arabian Peninsula in relation to the Saud dynasty, the British government decided to create a buffer between Saudi’s Bedouin Vladimir Jabotinsky, “The Iron Wall” Originally published in Russian under the title O Zheleznoi Stene in Rassvyet, 4 November 1923; published in English in 1937;


See Simha Flapan, Zionism and the Palestinians (London: Croom Helm, 1979), ch. 2.

armies fighting against the Hashemites and the British oil pipeline that ran from Iraq, through Transjordan, to the Palestinian port of Haifa. The emirate of Transjordan was allotted 600,000 dunams 109 out of the 900,000 dunams that constituted the original Mandate of Palestine. British policy towards Transjordan was stated plainly, “His Britannic Majesty is the mandatory for Transjordan to which the terms of the Mandate for Palestine, with the exception of the provisions dealing with the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people, are applicable.” 110 Because of his role as head of the Jewish Agency in Palestine, Chaim Weizmann was privy to British intentions in Transjordan. He warned the Colonial Office on 15 February 1923 that it is very doubtful whether the Emir carries any weight in Palestine or even in Transjordania itself, and whether his promises and guarantees do represent a political asset of any real value. Jewish public opinion in Palestine and in the world generally as far as it can be ascertained would no doubt resent the consummation of such a project. 111 The Colonial Office ignored Weizmann and proceeded with the Partition. Jewish immigration east of the Jordan River was prohibited. The British government confined the Jewish national home to the area west of the Jordan River.

If any single event can be labeled as the catalyst for the process that ultimately led to the failure of the British Mandate of Palestine, the partition of Transjordan would be that event. It marks the beginning of a major fracture within Zionism. The traditional right-wing and left-wing, but co-operative, factions within Zionism split into antagonistic 1 dunam = half an acre Report by His Britannic Majesty’s Government on the Administration under Mandate of Palestine and Transjordan for the Year 1924. (London: His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1925), p. 65.

Chaim Weizmann, Letters, Series B, Volume 1, p 370.

groups. This fissure, which the British Mandate Government was unable to heal, created two Jewish Palestines.

Weizmann did not approve of the partition but the Zionist Organization executive acquiesced to the policy. Bernard Joseph asserts that the Zionist Organization accepted the partition because “the Mandate for Palestine had not at the time been finally confirmed. The Jewish representatives were anxious to have the future position and the rights of the Jewish people therein finally defined by an internationally binding instrument and there was ground for apprehension that non-acceptance of the 1922 statement of policy by the Jews might delay the final settlement of the Palestine question.” 112 In short, the Zionist Organization feared that the Lloyd George government might renege on the promises in the Balfour Declaration. Weizmann certainly did not approve of every British decision regarding Palestine. He possessed a very clear sense of British policy in the Middle East and how the Jews fit into it. Weizmann knew that the British government’s primary concern in Palestine was the oil pipeline and securing the Suez Canal. In a communication to the Zionist Congress, he wrote about the Zionist leadership who accepted the partition of Transjordan, “It is asserted that the British Government is building a strategic position for itself in Palestine without our receiving any equivalent…one is wont to say, ‘The British Empire cannot exist without us. England needs us in material sense for her strategic position. And therefore you are stupid for having sold us for a mess of pottage’.” 113 Weizmann, from the beginning of the Mandate, wanted to exploit the position of Palestine as a buffer between the French Mandates of Bernard Joseph, British Rule in Palestine (Washington, D.C; Public Affairs Press: 1948), pp. 122-123.

Weizmann, Letters, Series B, Volume 1, p. 461.

Lebanon and Syria and the Suez Canal. He was never able to convince the Zionist executive to result to such base means of justification for the national home.

Despite Weizmann’s strong position against the partition of Transjordan, he accepted the British government’s decision rather than risking the British reneging their endorsement of the Jewish state. Hewas determined to hold on to the remaining 300,000 dunams and establish a national home rather than just another British colony. He argued that Jewish immigration into this much smaller area had to be scaled back in order to avoid over-population. Jabotinsky, on the other hand, refused to accept the partition of Transjordan as he felt “Palestine” included all lands on both sides of the Jordan River. 114 This issue became the main point of contention between Weizmann and his supporters and Jabotinsky’s faction.

In 1925, Jabotinsky’s faction, who had taken the name Ha Zohar 115 as its title, made its own platform for the settlement of Palestine public. It rested on Jabotinsky’s interpretation of the Balfour Declaration as the British adopting the creation of a Jewish state as the dominant aim in its Middle Eastern policy. His first point supported “mass immigration into Eretz Israel, as a means of solving the Jewish plight in the Diaspora and the creation of a Jewish majority in Eretz Israel.” 116 This meant that the Jews in Palestine had to be the numerical majority in order for the Jewish state to establish itself. His second point was the establishment of a British colonization regime in Eretz Israel, with as its practical corollaries: the nationalization of all available uncultivated lands in Eretz Israel (including Transjordan) for the purpose of Jewish settlement with suitable compensation to be paid to their present owners;

land grants to Jews( and Palestinian Arabs) on equal terms; a reform of the Hebrew: the Splendor.

See: Schetchtman, Vol 2, pp. 25- 85; Shavit, pp. 192-193.

tax and excise system in Eretz Israel in order to facilitate immigrant absorption and to stimulate local industrial production.” 117 Integral to his plan for the Jewish state was the expansion of Jewish settlement into the Transjordan, which had been prohibited by the 1922 partition and the subsequent establishment of the Hashemite Kingdom. All Jewish taxes would go to setting up homes for immigrants and the stimulation of the Jewish economy only. His third point was “The formation of the Jewish Legion as a permanent part of the British garrison in Israel.” 118 The purpose of the establishment of a Jewish legion as part of the British military was twofold. First, the Jewish Legion would have access to the best weaponry the British military had to offer. Second, this would commit the Jewish state to the British Empire The Revisionist platform envisioned the Zionist organization as a partner with the British in the government of Palestine. Jabotinsky’s fourth point was “The election of a British high commissioner, and the allocation of senior appointments in the mandatory administration in consultation with the Zionist Organization.” 119 This point was obviously aimed at British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. Samuel was Jewish, but Jabotinsky felt he did not support the Zionist aims for Palestine. With point four, however, Jabotinsky was also seeking a governmental role for the Zionist Organizationin direct opposition to Churchill’s telegram of July 1922, which explicitly denied the Zionists any role in the government of Palestine. Jabotinsky’s fifth point also sought to expand the Zionist role in the government: “The transfer of decision about the rate of Shavit, pp 192-193.

Shavit, pp 192-193.

Shavit, pp 192-193.

Jewish immigration to the Zionist organization, and the removal of the mandatory limitations of Jewish immigration.” 120 Jabotinsky’s most controversial point was his sixth: “The establishment of representative institutions in Eretz Israel on the exclusive basis of the numerical ratio between Jews and Arabs, this ration to be based on the Jewish population world wide and the local, Palestinian Arab population.” 121 This method of calculation, in Jabotinsky’s hypothetical state, guaranteed Jewish legal domination regardless of any drastic shifts in population that placed Palestinian Jews in the minority. It also assumed that every Jew, everywhere, was to be regarded as a citizen of the Jewish state- regardless of individuals’ preferences or allegiances.

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