The British are ComingAt the close of 1917 400 years of Ottoman rule came to an end as British forces under the command of General Allenby entered Jerusalem. He had replaced Sir Archibald Murray as commander, British Forces in Egypt, in June 1917, and employed a surprise attack at Beersheba to win the third Battle of Gaza (31 October 1917). November 13-15 he routed the Turks at Junction Station and entered Jerusalem on 10 December 1917. The rest of the Turkish Empire had to wait. Allenby's troops were systematically transferred to France, causing the failure of his attack on Amman in March and April 1918, but eventually troops from Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, along with the Arab Army under Feisal and Lawrence, allowed him to resume offensive operations in the summer of 1918. The Turkish front was destroyed at Megiddo (by the Australian cavalry) on 19-21 September 1918, who pursued the Turkish troops hotly. They captured Damascus (October 1), Homs (October 16) and Aleppo (October 25). This rapid conquest of Syria was the main reason Turkey capitulated on October 30, 1918.
British Rule 1918-1948The war had caused extensive damage. In addition to the havoc wrought directly by the fighting and Ottoman punitive measures against Arab and Jewish nationalists, famine and disease were widespread. After the capture of Jerusalem, Britain set up a military administration and attempted to secure international sanction for the continued occupation of the country. She now tried to make good on her hazy and seemingly conflicting wartime commitments.
During the war the Great Powers made a number of decisions concerning the future of the Middle East with little regard to the wishes of the locals. July 1915 to March 1916 had seen an exchange of letters between Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt, and Hussein ibn ‘Ali , emir of Mecca under Ottoman rule, in which the British made certain (vague) promises in return for Arab support against their Ottoman rulers during the war. A few months later Great Britain, France, and Russia reached an agreement (the Sykes-Picot Agreement) dividing the Middle East into areas of Great Power influence. The Arabs, however, including those in what was about to become Palestine, believed that Great Britain's undertaking in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence had promised them independence. Yet a third undertaking by Britain expressed sympathy for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people in the Balfour Declaration. This declaration was not due to some heartfelt sympathy with the Jewish people's bitter fate, it was not some disinterested noble act. It was meant, in part, to induce American Jews to pressure the U.S. government into support for British postwar policies and to encourage Russian Jews to help keep Russia in the war.
It was not long before Arabs expressed their opposition to the new administration. On March 20, 1920, Arab delegates at the general Syrian congress in Damascus passed a resolution rejecting the Balfour Declaration and elected Feisal, son of Hussein ibn Ali who ruled the Hejaz, king of Syria, a Syria which they saw as including the Holy Land. Earlier, in Jerusalem in February 1919 the first (Palestinian) Arab conference of Muslim-Christian associations had passed a similar resolution. This body had been founded by leading Arab notables to oppose Zionist activities. After the San Remo Conference and Feisal's expulsion by the French, the hope of an independent united Syria collapsed. 1920 became the Arab am an-nakba, the year of catastrophe.
In the meanwhile uncertainty in the Holy Land increased political tensions. In April 1920 anti-Zionist riots broke out in a Jerusalem demonstration which began with demands to be part of the Syrian state the Damascus rally was trying to create. Amin al-Husseini stood on a balcony holding up a picture of Feisal, declaring 'Here is your king.' The gathering soon turned violent, and Arabs killed 5 Jews and wounded more than 200; as the British forcibly restored order 4 Arabs lost their lives and 21 were injured.
In July the British replaced the military administration with a civilian administration; Sir Herbert (later Viscount) Samuel was appointed high commissioner and proceeded to implement the Balfour Declaration, announcing in August a quota of 16,500 Jewish immigrants for the first year. In December 1920, Palestinian Arabs at a congress in Haifa established an executive committee (known as the Arab Executive) to act as the representative of the Arabs. It was never formally recognized and was dissolved in 1934. However, the platform of the Haifa congress, which set out the position that Palestine was an autonomous Arab entity and totally rejected any rights of the Jews to Palestine, remained the basic policy of the Palestinian Arabs until 1948. The arrival of more than 18,000 Jewish immigrants between 1919 and 1921 and land purchases in 1921 by the Jewish National Fund (established in 1901), which led to the eviction of Arab peasants (fellahin), further aroused Arab opposition, which was expressed throughout the region through the Christian-Muslim associations.
On May 1, 1921, anti-Zionist riots in Jaffa spread to Petah Tikva and other Jewish communities, in which Arabs killed 47 Jews and wounded 140; the British restored order killing 48 Arabs and injuring 73. An Arab delegation of notables visited London in August - November 1921, demanding that the Balfour Declaration be repudiated and proposing the creation of a national government with a parliament democratically elected by the country's Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Alarmed by the extent of Arab opposition, the British government in June 1922 declared that Great Britain did “not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded in Palestine.” Immigration was not to exceed the economic absorptive capacity of the country, and steps would be taken to set up a legislative council. The Arabs, quite naturally, rejected the proposals.
The Genesis of PalestineGermany and Turkey's Asian and African possessions were judged by the victors as not yet ready to govern themselves. In line with this thinking, they were distributed among the Allied powers under the authority of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which itself was an Allied creation. Basically the mandate system was a compromise between the Allies' wish to keep the former German and Turkish colonies and their pre-Armistice declaration (November 5, 1918) that annexation of territory was not their aim in the war. The mandates were divided into three groups on the basis of their location and their level of political and economic development and were then assigned to individual Allied victors (known as mandatory powers, or mandatories). Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Palestine (modern Jordan and Israel) were assigned to Great Britain, while Syria went to France.
During the week of April 19–26, 1920, the prime ministers of Great Britain, France, and Italy, and representatives of Japan, Greece, and Belgium met at San Remo, on the Italian Riviera, to decide the future of the former territories of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The conference approved the final framework of a peace treaty with Turkey, which was later signed at Sevres, on August 10, 1920. The Treaty of Sevres abolished the Ottoman Empire and obliged Turkey to renounce all rights over Arab Asia and North Africa. It also provided for an independent Armenia, an autonomous Kurdistan, and a Greek presence in eastern Thrace and on the Anatolian west coast, as well as Greek control over the Aegean islands commanding the Dardanelles. When the new Turkish nationalist regime rejected the Treaty of Sevres, the Treaty of Lausanne was agreed instead in 1923; the earlier Allied demands for Kurdish autonomy and Armenian independence were scrapped, and Turkey's current borders were recognized.
During the Conference of San Remo, two class “A” mandates were created out of the old Ottoman province of Syria: the northern half (today's Syria and Lebanon) was mandated to France, the southern half (Palestine - today's Jordan and Israel) to Great Britain. The province of Mesopotamia (Iraq) was also mandated to Great Britain. An Anglo-French oil agreement was also concluded, which gave France 25 percent of Iraqi oil and favorable oil transport terms, and in return France agreed to the inclusion of Mosul in the British mandate of Iraq. Under the terms of an “A” mandate the individual countries were deemed independent but subject to a mandatory power until they reached political maturity.
The Sherif of Mecca's son Feisal, the Arab ally of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and the British, had arrived in Damascus with his forces October 3, 1918 (shortly after the Australian cavalry, who, in hot pursuit of the Turkish army, did not stay) and was hailed by the Arabs as their King. When the British forces reluctantly withdrew in 1920, finally honoring their agreement with the French, he was expelled by the French Army, and took refuge with the British. They later installed him as ruler of Iraq instead and, in the interim, to prevent his brother Abdullah from joining the Arab rebels against the French, divided their future mandate of Palestine along the lines of the Jordan River, offering Abdullah the eastern side (75% of Palestine), a move to be made formal 2 years later.
In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine (the name by which the country was then known). Recognizing "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine," Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael). Two months later, in September 1922, the Council of the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three fourths of the territory included in the Mandate ("Transjordan" in 1946 would become the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). The mandate officially came into force September 29, 1923.
Palestine was now a distinct political entity, with clearly defined borders, for the first time in over 1000 years.
British AdministrationArticle 2 of the Mandate made Britain responsible for
Article 4 enjoined that:
An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised 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 recognised 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.
The World Zionist Organization (founded 1897) was thus regarded de facto as the Jewish Agency stipulated in the mandate. The WZO president, Chaim Weizmann, however, remained in London, close to the British government; on the ground David Ben-Gurion became the leader of a standing executive. The Jewish community, the Yishuv, established its own assembly (Va‘ad Leumi), trade union and labour movement (Histadrut), schools, courts, taxation system, medical and transportation services, and a number of industrial enterprises. Under attack by the Arabs, it also formed a military organization, the Haganah.
Although the Jewish Agency was controlled by Labour Zionists who, for the most part, atempted to work in cooperation with the British and Arabs, the Revisionist Zionists were founded to protest the oficial leadership's failure to reject the British decision to exclude 3/4 of Palestine from the promise to promote a Jewsih national Home and they refused to recognize the official leadership's authority. Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionists in 1925, had even been jailed by the British when he led a protest against them. The revisionists formed their own military arm, Irgun Zvai Leumi, which went beyond mere defence in its decison to use retaliatory force against Arab attacks.
As noted above the British had offered the Arabs a legislative council of their own in June 1922. In 1923 the British high commissioner tried again to win Arab cooperation by offers once more of a legislative council that would reflect the Arab majority and then of an Arab agency. Both offers were rejected by the Arabs as falling far short of their national demands. Nor did the Arabs wish to legitimize a situation they rejected in principle.
On top of this opposition, efficient Arab political action was difficult in a naturally fragmented society, with tension between clans and religious groups, between urban Arabs and peasant famers.These were exacerbated by the traditional rivalry between the two dominant Jerusalem families, the Husseinis and the Nashashibis. Most Arabs opposed Jewish immigration, as expressed by the Palestine Arab Congress, by the various Muslim-Christian associations, and by the Arab Executive. The Husseini family was also actively opposed to the British administration, while the Nashashibi family were less so.
Nevetheless, in an attempt to bring the opposition on board, the British High Commissioner appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini to be the (grand) mufti of Jerusalem (persuading 2 candidates who had won more votes to withdraw) and made him president of the new Supreme Muslim Council, which controlled Muslim courts and schools as well as funds of religious endowments. However Haj Amin used this position to transform himself into the most powerful political figure among the Arabs, and to be a far more effective oppostion to both the British and the Jews.
Overall, British rule was responsible and efficient. They developed administrative institutions, municipal services, public works, and transportion. The water and electricity supply grew as required, and infrastructure such as ports, railways and roads was developed. Nevertheless, in a sense the British set the tone from the beginning by providing separate Arab and Jewish administrative bodies to oversee separate Jewish and Arab affairs. And as Arab opposition grew more and more violent British attempts to keep order became more and more difficult. In the long run the goals of the three parties in Palestine proved incompatible. The Palestine triangle could not be squared.
From the beginning of the Mandate there was little political cooperation between Arabs and Jews. Although it was clear that Jewish immigration brougth Arab opposition, the years from 1923 to 1929 were relatively quiet. This time saw the Polish immigration known as the fourth Aliya, lasting from 1924 to 1929. Difficult economic times and anti-Semitism in Poland combined with the new immigration quotas imposed in the United States, to bring a wave of Polish Jews to Palestine. Uninterested in the socialist utopia advanced by the Second and even more strongly by the Third Aliya, these immigrants settled in the towns, developing stores and businesses in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Difficult going in Palestine led in 1927 to a large number of departures, so that the number of Jewish emigrants exceeded that of immigrants. Matters improved only slowly; in 1928 there was a net Jewish immigration of only 10 persons.
Nevertheless, the Jewish national home continued to make strides, developing towns, farms and industry, as well as social and cultural facilities. Large blocks of land were purchased from Arab owners, usually large landowners whose land was worked by peasant farmers in return for a share of the produce. And August 1929 finally saw the establishment of the Jewish Agency, which from then on, would act as the local Jewish government. And it now included influential Jews who had previously wanted nothing to do with the Zionist movement.
This development gave the Zionist movement a boost and upset the Arab opposition. That very month Arab oppostion to Jews putting up a curtain dividing men and women praying at the Western Wall (they claimed this was against the status quo in religious affairs), led to Arab attacks on Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Zefat, and Hebron, in which 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded. The British security forces, trying to restore order, killed 116 Arabs and wounded 232 more.
A royal commission of inquiry under the aegis of Sir Walter Shaw attributed the clashes to the fact that “the Arabs have come to see in Jewish immigration not only a menace to their livelihood but a possible overlord of the future.” A second royal commission, headed by Sir John Hope Simpson, issued a report stating that there was at that time no margin of land available for agricultural settlement by new immigrants. These two reports highlighted the British dilemma: what should Britain do if its specific obligations to the Zionists under the Balfour Declaration clashed with its general obligations to the Arabs under Article 22 of the Mandate.
They also formed the basis of the Passfield White Paper, issued on Oct. 20, 1930, which stressed Britain's obligations to the Arabs; It called for a halt to Jewish immigration, recommended that land be sold only to landless Arabs and that the determination of “economic absorptive capacity” be based on levels of Arab as well as Jewish unemployment. The Zionists saw this as an attempt to stymie the development of the Jewish national home and protested strongly. In response the British prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in February 1931 sent a letter to Chaim Weizmann nullifying the Passfield White Paper, which virtually meant a return to the policy of the 1922 White Paper. This letter led politically conscious Arabs to believe that recommendations in their favour made in Palestine could be annulled by Zionist influence in London and stepped up efforts to enlarge their own base of support; in December 1931 a Muslim congress at Jerusalem was attended by delegates from 22 countries to warn against the danger of Zionism.
From the early 1930s onward, developments in Europe once more intruded into Palestine. The Nazi rise to power in Germany in 1933 and the widespread persecution of Jews throughout central and eastern Europe significantly boosted Jewish immigration, which rose to 30,000 in 1933, 42,000 in 1934, and 61,000 in 1935. By 1936 the Jewish population of Palestine had reached almost 400,000, or 30 percent of the total. This new wave of immigration brought in its wake major acts of violence against Jews and the British in 1933 and 1935. The Arab population also grew rapidly, by both natural increase and Arab immigration as capital growth fueled by middle-class Jewish immigrants and British public works provided jobs. Nearly 90 percent of the Arabs worked as farm laborers.
By the mid-1930s, however, deteriorating economic conditions led landless Arabs to join the expanding Arab workforce that worked in construction, helping to build the rapidly growing Jewish urban centres. This was the beginning of a shift in the foundations of Palestinian economic and social life with both immediate and long-term effects. On the immediate level the Arab political parties got together in November 1935 to demand an end to Jewish immigration and land sales to Jews, the establishment of democratic institutions and a boycott against Zionist and British goods.
In December the British responded by offering a legislative council of 28 members, in which the Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) would have a majority. The British would retain control through their selection of non-elected members. The Arab leaders favored the proposal, the Zionists called it an attempt to strangle the Jewish national home. London turned down the proposal. This rejection combined with growing nationalism in Egypt and Syria, growing unemployment at home, and a citrus crop that didn't grow, to spark a long-smoldering Arab rebellion.
The Arab RevoltThe Arab Revolt of 1936–39 was the first sustained violent uprising of Palestinian Arabs. Thousands of Arabs from all classes took part, nationalistic sentiment was fanned in the press, in the schools, in literary circles. The British were caught unawares, and shipped more than 20,000 troops into Palestine. And by the end of the revolt in 1939 the Zionists had armed more than 15,000 Jews, a significant boost to their own nationalist movement.
The revolt began with spontaneous acts of violence committed by the religiously and nationalistically motivated followers of Sheikh ‘Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who had been killed by the British in 1935. In April 1936 the murder of two Jews led to escalating violence, and ‘Izz ad-Din groups initiated a general strike in Jaffa and Nablus. At this point the Arab political parties formed an Arab High Committee presided over by the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini. It called for a general strike, nonpayment of taxes, and the shutting down of municipal governments, although government employees were allowed to stay at work, and demanded an end to Jewish immigration, a ban on land sales to Jews, and national independence. Simultaneously with the strike, Arab rebels, joined by volunteers from neighboring Arab countries, took to the hills, attacking Jewish settlements and British installations in the northern part of the country. By the end of the year the movement had assumed the dimensions of a national revolt, the mainstay of which was the Arab peasantry. The strike was called off in October 1939; however, even though the arrival of British troops restored some semblance of order, the armed rebellion, arson, bombings, and assassinations continued.
A royal commission of inquiry presided over by Lord Robert Peel, which was sent to investigate the volatile situation, reported in July 1937 that the revolt was caused by Arab desire for independence and fear of the Jewish national home. It declared the mandate unworkable and Britain's obligations to Arabs and Jews mutually irreconcilable. In the face of what it described as “right against right,” the commission recommended the partition of the country. The Zionist attitude toward partition, though ambivalent, was overall one of cautious acceptance. For the first time a British official body explicitly spoke of a Jewish state. The commission not only allotted to this state an area that was substantially larger than existing Jewish landholdings but also recommended the forcible transfer of the Arab population from the proposed Jewish state. The Zionists, however, still felt the need for mandatory protection and left the door open for an undivided Palestine. The Arabs were horrified by the idea of the dismemberment of the region and particularly by the suggestion of their forcible transfer (to Transjordan). As a result, the momentum of the revolt increased during 1937 and 1938.
In September 1937 the British were forced to declare martial law. The Arab High Committee was dissolved, and many officials of the Supreme Muslim Council and other organizations were arrested. The mufti fled to Lebanon and then Iraq, never to return to an undivided Palestine. Although the Arab revolt continued well into 1939, high casualty rates and firm British measures gradually eroded its strength. According to some estimates, more than 5,000 Arabs were killed, 15,000 wounded, and 5,600 imprisoned during the revolt. Although it signified the birth of a national identity, the revolt was unsuccessful in many ways. The general strike had encouraged Zionist self-reliance, and the Arabs of Palestine were unable to recover from their sustained effort of defying the British administration. Their traditional leaders were either killed, arrested, or deported, leaving the dispirited and disarmed population divided along urban and rural, class, clan, and religious lines. The Zionists, on the other hand, were united behind Ben-Gurion, and the Haganah had been given permission to arm itself. It cooperated with British forces and the Irgun Zvai Leumi in attacks against Arabs.
However, the prospect of war in Europe led the British government to reassess its policy in Palestine. If Britain went to war, it could not afford Arab hostility, neither in Palestine nor in neighboring countries. The Woodhead Commission was set up to examine the practicality of partition - a euphemism for scrapping the Peel proposals. In November 1938 it recommended against the Peel Commission's plan - largely on the ground that the number of Arabs in the proposed Jewish state would be almost equal to the number of Jews - and put forward alternative proposals drastically reducing the area of the Jewish state and limiting the sovereignty of the proposed states. This was unacceptable to both Arabs and Jews. Unable to find a solution acceptable to both parties, the British announced the impracticability of partition and called for a roundtable conference in London.
No agreement was reached at the London conference held during February and March 1939. However, on May 17, 1939, the British government issued a White Paper, which essentially yielded to Arab demands. It stated that the Jewish national home should be established within an independent Palestinian state. During the next five years 75,000 Jews would be allowed into the country; thereafter, Jewish immigration would be subject to Arab “acquiescence.” Land transfer to Jews would be allowed only in certain areas in Palestine, and an independent Palestinian state would be considered within 10 years. The Arabs, although in favour of the new policy, rejected the White Paper, largely because they mistrusted the British government and opposed a provision contained in the paper for extending the mandate beyond the 10-year period. The Zionists were outraged by the paper, which they considered a death blow not just to their program but to Jews who were desperately seeking refuge in Palestine from the growing persecution they were enduring in Europe. And thus the 1939 White Paper marked the end of the Anglo-Zionist entente.
Progress toward a Jewish national home had, however, been remarkable since 1918. Although the majority of the Jewish population was urban, the number of rural Zionist colonies had increased from 47 to about 200. Between 1922 and 1940 Jewish landholdings had risen from about 148,500 to 383,500 acres (about 60,100 to 155,200 hectares) and now constituted about one-seventh of the cultivatable land, and the Jewish population had grown from 83,790 to 467,000, or nearly one-third of a total population of about 1,528,000. Tel Aviv had developed into an all-Jewish city of 150,000 inhabitants, and £80,000,000 of Jewish capital had been introduced into the region. The Jewish literacy rate was high, schools were expanding, and the Hebrew language had become widespread. Despite a split in 1935 between the mainline Zionists and the radical Revisionists, who advocated the use of force to establish the Zionist state, Zionist institutions in Palestine became stronger in the 1930s and helped create the preconditions for the establishment of a Jewish state.
World War IIWith the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 Zionist and British policies came into direct conflict. Throughout the war Zionists sought with growing urgency to increase Jewish immigration to Palestine, while the British sought to prevent such immigration, regarding it as illegal and a threat to the stability of a region essential to the war effort. Ben-Gurion declared on behalf of the Jewish Agency: “We shall fight [with Great Britain in] this war as if there was no White Paper and we shall fight the White Paper as if there was no war.” British attempts to prevent Jewish immigration to Palestine in the face of the terrible tragedy befalling European Jewry led to the disastrous sinking of two ships carrying Jewish refugees, the Patria (November 1940) and the Struma (February 1942). In response, the Irgun, under the leadership of Menachem Begin, and a small terrorist splinter group, LEHI (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), known for its founder as the Stern Gang, embarked on widespread attacks on the British, culminating in the murder of Lord Moyne, British minister of state, by two LEHI members in Cairo in November 1944.
During the war years the Jewish community in Palestine was strengthened significantly. Its moderate wing supported the British; in September 1944 a Jewish brigade was formed - a total of 27,000 Jews having enlisted in the British forces - and attached to the British 8th Army. Jewish industry in general was given immense impetus by the war; more specifically, a Jewish munitions industry developed to manufacture antitank mines for the British forces. For the Yishuv, the war and the Holocaust confirmed that a Jewish state must be established in Palestine. To this end an effort was made to gain the support of American Jews. In May 1942, at a Zionist conference held at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City, Ben-Gurion garnered support for a program demanding unrestricted immigration, a Jewish army, and the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish commonwealth.
The Arabs of Palestine remained largely quiescent throughout the war. Amin al-Husseini had fled - by way of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Italy - to Germany, whence he broadcast appeals to his fellow Arabs to ally with the Axis powers against Britain and Zionism. Yet the mufti failed to rally Palestinian Arabs to the Axis cause. Although some supported Germany, the majority supported the Allies, and approximately 23,000 Arabs enlisted in the British forces (especially in the Arab Legion). Increases in agricultural prices benefited the Arab peasants, who began to pay accumulated debts. But the Arab Revolt had ruined many Arab merchants and importers, and British war activities, although bringing new levels of prosperity, further weakened the traditional social institutions of family and village by fostering a large urban Arab working class.
The discovery of the Nazi death camps at the end of World War II and the undecided future of Holocaust survivors led to an increasing number of pro-Zionist statements from U.S. politicians. In August 1945 U.S. President Harry S. Truman requested that British Prime Minister Clement Attlee facilitate the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors into Palestine, and in December the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives asked for unrestricted Jewish immigration to the limit of the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine. Truman's request signaled the United States' entry into the arena of powers determining the future of Palestine. The question of Palestine, now linked with the fate of Holocaust survivors, became once again the focus of international attention.
As the war came to an end, the neighboring Arab countries began to take a more direct interest in Palestine. In October 1944 Arab heads of state met in Alexandria, Egypt, and issued a statement, the Alexandria Protocol, setting out the Arab position. They made clear that, although they regretted the bitter fate inflicted upon European Jewry by European dictatorships, the issue of European Jewish survivors ought not to be confused with Zionism. Solving the problem of European Jewry, they asserted, should not be achieved by inflicting injustice on Palestinian Arabs. The covenant of the League of Arab States, or Arab League, formed in March 1945, contained an annex emphasizing the Arab character of Palestine. The Arab League appointed an Arab Higher Executive for Palestine (the Arab Higher Committee), which included a broad spectrum of Palestinian leaders, to speak for the Palestinian Arabs. In December 1945 the league declared a boycott of Zionist goods. The postwar struggle for Palestine had begun.
Post-World War IIThe major issue between 1945 and 1948 was, as it had been throughout the mandate, Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Yishuv was determined to remove all restrictions to Jewish immigration and to establish a Jewish state. The Arabs were determined that no more Jews should arrive and that Palestine should achieve independence as an Arab state. The primary goal of British policy following World War II was to secure British strategic interests in the Middle East and Asia. Because the cooperation of the Arab states was considered essential to this goal, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin opposed Jewish immigration and the foundation of an independent Jewish state in Palestine. The U.S. State Department basically supported the British position, but Truman was determined to ensure that Jews displaced by the war were permitted to enter Palestine. The issue was resolved in 1948 when the British mandate collapsed under the pressure of force and diplomacy.
In November 1945, in an effort to secure joint American responsibility for a Palestinian policy, Bevin announced the formation of an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. Pending the report of the committee, Jewish immigration would continue at the rate of 1,500 persons per month above the 75,000 limit set by the 1939 White Paper. A plan of provincial autonomy for Arabs and Jews was worked out in an Anglo-American conference in 1946 and became the basis for discussions in London between Great Britain and the representatives of Arabs and Zionists. The Committee concluded unanimously that 100,000 Jewish refugees should be permitted to enter Palestine immediately, but Bevin, despite his prior committment to honor any unanimous decision, refused to abide by it.
In the meantime, Zionist pressure in Palestine was intensified by the unauthorized immigration of refugees on an unprecedented scale and by closely coordinated attacks by Zionist underground forces. Jewish immigration was impelled by burning memories of the Holocaust, chaotic postwar conditions in Europe, and the growing feasability of a Jewish state where the victims of persecution could guarantee their own safety. The underground's attacks culminated in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, when the Irgun blew up a part of the King David Hotel containing British government and military offices, with the loss of 91 lives.
On the Arab side, a meeting of the Arab states took place in June 1946 at Bludan, Syria, where secret resolutions were adopted threatening British and American interests in the Middle East if Arab rights were disregarded. In Palestine the Husseinis consolidated their power, despite widespread mistrust of the mufti, who now resided in Egypt. While Zionists pressed ahead with immigration and attacks on the government, and Arab states mobilized in response, British resolve to remain in the Middle East was collapsing. World War II had left Britain victorious but exhausted. After the war it lacked the funds and political will to maintain control of colonial possessions whose inhabitants were pressing, with increasing violence, for independence. A conference in London in February 1947 failed to resolve the impasse. Great Britain, already negotiating its withdrawal from India and struggling to maintain its costly military presence in Palestine (over 280,000 troops were stationed there during the war, more than 80,000 still remained), referred the Palestine question to the United Nations.
On August 31 a majority report of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended the partition of the country into an Arab and a Jewish state, which, however, should retain an economic union (see map). Jerusalem and its environs were to be international. These recommendations were substantially adopted by a two-thirds majority of the UN General Assembly in a resolution dated Nov. 29, 1947, a decision made possible partly because of the agreement of the United States and the Soviet Union on partition and partly because of pressure on some small countries by Zionist sympathizers in the United States. All the Islamic Asian countries voted against partition, and an Arab proposal to query the International Court of Justice on the competence of the General Assembly to partition a country against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants (in 1946 there were 1,269,000 Arabs and 678,000 Jews in Palestine) was narrowly defeated.
The Zionists welcomed the partition proposal both because it recognized a Jewish state and because it allotted 55 percent of (west-of-Jordan) Palestine to it. As in 1937, the Arabs fiercely opposed partition both in principle and because a substantial minority of the population of the Jewish state would be Arab. Great Britain was unwilling to implement a policy that was not acceptable to both sides and refused to share with the UN Palestine Commission the administration of Palestine during the transitional period. It set May 15, 1948, as the date for ending the mandate.