Opinion

Understanding the Jewish National Home

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This is the first in a series of articles which will examine some of the important historical documents concerning Palestine and Israel. Some of these have been ignored, some misunderstood, some suppressed, and some have had their meaning distorted by propagandists. A just and lasting peace between the two peoples requires reconciliation, and a correct common understanding of their shared history could be an important contribution to this.

The Zionist goal of a “Jewish national home in Palestine” arose in the 19th century. This article traces the development of this initially vague concept into the idea of Palestine as the “common home of two nations, Jewish and Arab” as expressed in the League of Nations Mandate in 1922.

Declaration of the First Zionist Congress (1897)

The first Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, under the chairmanship of Theodore Herzl, the father-figure of Zionism. The Congress made the following declaration:

Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable:

1. The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine.
2. The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries.
3. The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness.
4. Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.

The articles of this “Basel Program” were merely preliminary steps. Herzl made clear in his diary that what he meant by an “assured home for the Jewish people” was a Jewish State:

Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.

The Balfour Declaration (1917)

In 1917, towards the end of the First World War, it became clear that Britain, one of the Allied Powers, would end up in control of Palestine. The Zionist leaders asked the British Government to make a declaration of support for their aims, proposing the following draft declaration:

His Majesty’s Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as the national home of the Jewish people. His Majesty’s Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organization.

Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in the British Cabinet, was strongly opposed to Zionism. He suggested that the “reconstitution of Palestine as the national home of the Jewish people” implied that Muslims and Christians were to make way for the Jews, who would be put in all positions of preference; and that the Muslims would be regarded as foreigners in Palestine, and that Jews would be treated as foreigners in every country except Palestine (which is why he described Zionism as anti-Semitic).

His views clearly influenced the final version proposed by Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, which gives weaker support than hoped for by the Zionists:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 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.

The “reconstitution of Palestine as the Jewish national home” has become “the establishment in Palestine of the Jewish national home”. Here the word ‘in’ could be interpreted geographically: only part of Palestine is to become the Jewish national home; or it could be interpreted abstractly: there could be other entities which are ‘in’ Palestine, for example the national home of the existing Palestinians. A further change between initial and final versions is the weakening from the British intention to ‘secure’ the objective of a Jewish national home to an intention to ‘facilitate’ it, perhaps indicating a degree of uncertainty about the ultimate success of the project.

The final part of the Balfour Declaration safeguards the rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, and the rights of Jews outside Palestine. It does not begin to explain how creating a Jewish national home in Palestine could possibly be achieved without prejudicing the rights of the existing inhabitants.

The King-Crane Commission (1919)

In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson of the USA sent the King-Crane Commission to areas of the former Ottoman Empire to seek opinions about their future government. Its report concerning Palestine and Zionism said, in section 5(3):

If the strict terms of the Balfour Statement are adhered to it can hardly be doubted that the extreme Zionist Program must be greatly modified. For a “national home for the Jewish people” is not equivalent to making Palestine into a Jewish State; nor can the erection of such a Jewish State be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The fact came out repeatedly in the Commission’s conference with Jewish representatives, that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase.

The non-Jewish population of Palestine, nearly nine-tenths of the whole, are emphatically against the entire Zionist program. To subject a people so minded to unlimited Jewish immigration, and to steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land, would be a gross violation of the peoples’ rights. No British officer, consulted by the Commissioners, believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms… Decisions, requiring armies to carry out, are sometimes necessary, but they are surely not gratuitously to be taken in the interests of a serious injustice. The initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a “right” to Palestine, based on an occupation of two thousand years ago, can hardly be seriously considered.

In view of all these considerations, and with a deep sense of sympathy for the Jewish cause, the Commissioners feel bound to recommend that only a greatly reduced Zionist program be attempted, and even that, only very gradually initiated. This would have to mean that Jewish immigration should be definitely limited, and that the project for making Palestine distinctly a Jewish commonwealth should be given up.

League of Nations Covenant, Article 22 (1920)

Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations established the principle of self-determination for former colonies, and set up the system of Mandates to help them achieve independence:

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 civilisation and that securities for the performance 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 recognised 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.

The word “Certain” at the beginning of the last paragraph indicates that not all such communities were to be provisionally recognized as independent states. We will see later that Palestine was the exception.

Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation (1921-22)

In 1918, while Palestine was under British Military Occupation, a Zionist Commission under Chaim Weizmann, a leading British Zionist, went to Palestine to assist in the the repatriation and settlement of exiled Palestinian Jews. This later became the Palestine Zionist Executive. To counter its influence, political clubs called Muslim-Christian Associations were established in major towns, and these formed a national body, the Palestine Arab Congress. This body sent a delegation to London in 1921 which met with the Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill. Later, he sent to them a draft of the Palestine Order in Council, which specified the scheme of government to be adopted by the British administration. This led to a correspondence between the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Colonial Office, in which the delegation expressed their objections to the Jewish National Home policy, the resulting Jewish immigration, and the denial of their independence. In a letter dated February 21, 1922 they said:

Whilst the position in Palestine is, as it stands to-day, with the British Government holding authority by an occupying force, and using that authority to impose upon the people against their wishes a great immigration of alien Jews, many of them of a Bolshevik revolutionary type, no constitution which would fall short of giving the People of Palestine full control of their own affairs could be acceptable….[Otherwise] they would be in the position of agreeing to an instrument of Government which might, and probably would, be used to smother their national life under a flood of alien immigration.

The proposed constitution is wholly unsatisfactory, because, in the preamble to the Palestine Order in Council “the declaration of November 2nd, 1917, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People” is made a basis for this Order. The People of Palestine cannot accept this Declaration as a basis for discussion.

The Delegation requests that the constitution for Palestine should… provide for the creation of a national independent Government in accordance with the spirit of paragraph 4, Article 22, of the Covenant of the League of Nations.

The Colonial Office replied on March 1, 1922:

His Majesty’s Government have no intention of repudiating the obligations into which they have entered towards the Jewish people. Mr. Churchill has informed you on more than one occasion that he cannot discuss the future of Palestine upon any other basis than that of the letter addressed by the Right Honourable A. J. Balfour to Lord Rothschild on the 2nd November, 1917, commonly known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

The Colonial Office did however try to assuage their fears about “a flood of alien Jewish immigration” by quoting a recent speech in Palestine by the High Commissioner (head of the administration):

These words (National Home) mean that the Jews, who are a people scattered throughout the world, but whose hearts are always turned to Palestine should be enabled to found here their home, and that some amongst them, within the limits fixed by numbers and the interests of the present population, should come to Palestine in order to help by their resources and efforts to develop the country to the advantage of all its inhabitants.

This was the first and last time that the British Government said that Jewish immigration should be limited by “the interests of the present population”. The Colonial Office also said that “Mr. Churchill is reluctant to believe that your Delegation, or the people whom they represent, can entertain any objection in principle to the policy as thus interpreted.” The Delegation was not convinced that Jewish immigration was benefiting all the country’s inhabitants. In a letter of March 16, 1922 they said:

It is an incontrovertible fact that public security in Palestine has been greatly disturbed by those Jews who have been admitted into the country from Poland and Russia, that arms are continually being smuggled in by them, and that their economic competition with the Arabs is very keen.

In a later letter, on June 17, 1922 they gave further examples:

“Immigrant Jews in the towns are competing with the townspeople for their daily bread, permanently endangering public security and rioting occasionally; Arab railway employees are being turned out of their jobs in order to make room for Jewish employees, who lack experience in railway work and cannot speak the language of the country”.

The letter of March 16, 1922 also suggested that the Jewish National Home policy was inconsistent with the Covenant of the League of Nations, and that the British obligation towards the Jewish people should be renounced:

The object aimed at by Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations is “the well-being and development of the people” of the land. Alien Jews not in Palestine do not come within the scope of this aim, neither is their association with Palestine more close than that of Christians and Moslems all over the world. Consequently the Jewish National Home policy is contrary to the spirit of the Covenant. We would [also] point out that a large section of the Jews in Palestine and the majority of the Jews of the world are not in favour of the Zionist Movement.

Article 20 of the Covenant states that: “In case any Member of the League shall, before becoming a Member of the League, have undertaken any obligations inconsistent with the terms of this Covenant, it shall be the duty of such Member to take immediate steps to procure its release from such obligations.”

Early in June 1922 the British Government produced a Memorandum on British Policy in Palestine, essentially a draft of the Churchill White Paper (see below). This introduced a new point of controversy into the correspondence with the Palestinian Arab Delegation: the role of the Zionist Commission. The Delegation’s letter of 17 June, 1922 said:

The Memorandum says:— “The Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country. Nor does the special position assigned to the Zionist Organisation in Article IV of the Draft Mandate for Palestine imply any such functions.”

Any one who is not intimately connected with the actual facts of Palestine cannot but admit that the above exposition of Zionist functions in Palestine is very plausible and appropriate. Those of us, however, who have had four long years’ experience of the activities of this Commission are, unfortunately, unable to subscribe to the above exposition. In Palestine, as everywhere else, deeds speak better than words.

In the first place we would point out that since its establishment in Palestine the Zionist Commission has very much interfered with the Administration of Palestine under one pretext or another, all of which were based on solicitude for Jewish interests. One military Administrator after another, and one British official after another, had to go because they could not and would not govern the country on lines laid down by the Zionist Commission.

We may be allowed here to quote from a statement made to The Times as recently as 3rd June by Mr. Charles R. Crane [of the King-Crane Commission] who has just returned from a visit to Palestine. Mr. Crane says:—”The Zionist Commission which has so much control over the political machinery of Palestine seems to have more power than the authorised Government. Practically all of the official world is under its control, and is more ardent to carry out its instructions than to carry out the policy of the Mandate Government.”

The correspondence ends as follows:

We see division and tension between Arabs and Zionists increasing day by day and resulting in general retrogression. Because the immigrants dumped upon the country from different parts of the world are ignorant of the language, customs, and character of the Arabs, and enter Palestine by the might of England against the will of the people who are convinced that these have come to strangle them. Nature does not allow the creation of a spirit of co-operation between two peoples so different, and it is not to be expected that the Arabs would bow to such a great injustice, or that the Zionists would so easily succeed in realising their dreams.

The fact is that His Majesty’s Government has placed itself in the position of a partisan in Palestine of a certain policy which the Arab cannot accept because it means his extinction sooner or later. Promises avail nothing when they are not supported by actions, and until we see a real practical change in the policy of His Majesty’s Government we must harbour the fears that the intention is to create a Jewish National Home to the “disappearance or subordination of the Arabic population language, and culture in Palestine”

The Carlsbad Resolution (1921)

The Twelfth Zionist Congress was held in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia in December 1921. It welcomed the decision of the Allied Powers to accept the Balfour Declaration and award the Mandate over Palestine to Britain. It also discussed the question of relations with the Arabs, which had become serious as a result of Arab riots in Jerusalem (1920) and in Jaffa (1921).

The Congress passed a resolution declaring that Zionism “seeks to live in relations of harmony and mutual respect with the Arab people.” To understand what they meant by this we need to look at the full text of the Resolution and the accompanying notes:

We do thereby reaffirm our desire to attain a durable understanding which shall enable the Arab and Jewish peoples to live together in Palestine on terms of mutual respect and co-operate in making the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which will assure to each of these peoples an undisturbed national development.

In the spirit of this resolution the following notes have been drafted:

Taking note of the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd, 1917, and of its subsequent reaffirmation by His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Principle Allied Powers: Deploring the misconceptions which still exists as to the manner in which the Balfour Declaration is to be construed:

1. The promise of a national home in Palestine made to the Jewish people by His Britannic Majesty’s Government (and concurred in by the Principle Allied Powers) is to be interpreted as a promise to secure the international recognition, under the guarantee of the League of Nations, of the right of the Jews to constitute themselves in Palestine as a national unit.

2. (a) The Jews on the one hand and the Arabs on the other are to be regarded as living side by side on a footing of perfect equality in all matters, including the official use and recognition of their respective languages.
(b) In areas in which there is a mixed population, the rights of the minority are to be fully guaranteed, including the right of representation on the local administrative bodies.
(c) The existence in Palestine of the Jewish National Home is not to be a bar to the recognition of Palestine, when the time is ripe, as a self-governing commonwealth.

3. The Zionist leaders and the Jews of Palestine will support the demand for the development of self-governing institutions on a representative basis, it being clearly understood that the terms of this agreement will remain binding and inviolable, as will also the provisions of the Mandate, so long as the Mandate is in force.

4. The Zionist leaders and the Jews of Palestine will support the demand that non-Palestinian officials, with the exception of the High Commissioner, the Civil, Financial and Legal Secretaries, and the heads of the Principal Departments, shall be gradually replaced by Palestinians, due regard being had, in the case of District officials, to the Arab or Jewish character, as the case may be, of the population concerned.

5. Jewish immigration is to be limited by the capacity of Palestine, from time to time, to absorb it, but not otherwise. It is declared that there is not nor has there ever been any intention to disturb the existing Arab population or any part of it. The right of the Arab inhabitants and their descendants to the secure enjoyment of their homes and prosperity is unequivocally recognised and guaranteed.

6. (a) It is agreed that the Law of Nationality should recognize as citizens of Palestine all persons who being presently resident in the country at a date to be subsequently fixed, do not decline such citizenship, provided that no person owing allegiance to another state shall become a citizen until he has renounced such allegiance.
(b) It is further agreed that facilities should be provided for the acquisition of citizenship by persons who take up their permanent residence in Palestine, the qualifying period to be settled by common agreement with the Mandatory Power.

7. The Zionist leaders and the Jews of Palestine will give all the moral and material support in their power to the various Arab States which have been constituted or are in the process of constitution and will, in general, co-operate whole-heartedly with the Arab people in its efforts to realise its national aspirations. The Arabs, on their side, will loyally work with the Jews in all matters appertaining to the establishment of the Jewish National Home.

It is the intent of both parties to lay the foundations of a generally Arab-Jewish understanding to the advantage of the Jewish people and to the Arab world as a whole and in the interest of the fruitful development of the Near and Middle East.

8. The Zionist Leaders categorically re-affirm their repeated assurances that they do not contemplate and have never contemplated the smallest interference with the religious rights and customs of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, for which they undertake to show the most rigorous and scrupulous regard. In particular, do they recognise the Moslem and Christian Holy Places as inviolable and formally repudiate the injurious and wholly unfounded suggestion that it is desired, directly or indirectly to trespass upon them. The Arabs, on their part, undertake to show an equal regard for the Holy Places and the religious rights and customs of the Jews.

9. All the various Jewish Organisations, which have in view the economic reconstruction of Palestine on an extensive scale, will welcome the co-operation of the Arab inhabitants and undertake to afford them a full opportunity of participating in such economic endeavours as they may initiate.

I expect that most readers will be reading these words for the first time, and with some surprise. The link to the Resolution above is to my own website, and at the time of writing it is the only copy on the internet. This is one of those historical documents considered embarrassing by today’s Zionists, and which they have done their best to suppress. Of the Carlsbad congress, the Jewish Virtual Library says only that “Zionism seeks to live in relations of harmony and mutual respect with the Arab people”.

But there you have it: Palestine as a single state with perfect equality between Jew and Arab; the common home for two peoples, Arab and Jewish; co-operation for them both to reach their national goals; a guaranteed right for the Arab population to the secure enjoyment of their homes and prosperity; limits on Jewish immigration.

Usually the idea of ‘nation’ involves a defined location, but Paragraph 2 makes it clear that no partition of the territory is envisaged. There will be Arab areas, Jewish areas and mixed areas, as occurs naturally in a region with mixed ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.

Paragraph 8 about the inviolability of the Holy Places is surely a response to the report of the King-Crane Commission, which said:

With the best possible intentions, it may be doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or Moslems proper guardians of the holy places, or custodians of the Holy Land as a whole. The reason is this: the places which are most sacred to Christians, those having to do with Jesus, and which are also sacred to Moslems, are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them.

It is simply impossible, under those circumstances, for Moslems and Christians to feel satisfied to have these places in Jewish hands, or under the custody of Jews. There are still other places about which Moslems must have the same feeling. In fact, from this point of view, the Moslems, just because the sacred places of all three religions are sacred to them, have made very naturally much more satisfactory custodians of the holy places than the Jews could be.

There are two points on which the Carlsbad Resolution differs from the King-Crane report. First, it claims a “right” of Jews to a national home in Palestine: King-Crane says this should not be taken seriously. Second, the Resolution says that Jewish immigration should be limited only by Palestine’s capacity to absorb it: King-Crane says that it should be “definitely limited”.

The Churchill White Paper (1922)

In this White Paper, Winston Churchill, Colonial Secretary, explained the British Government’s view of the Jewish national home policy, which had already been incorporated in a Draft Mandate. The policy was essentially in accord with the Carlsbad Resolution, which it quoted.

The White paper emphasized that it was not the intention to create a wholly Jewish Palestine: “the Balfour Declaration does 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.” Nor did it contemplate “the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine… The status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status”.

It described the development of the Jewish National Home in the following terms:

When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a center in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognised to rest upon ancient historic connection.

For the fulfillment of this policy it is necessary that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration. This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals.

The White Paper followed the Carlsbad Resolution, and not the King-Crane report, in two matters: recognition of the historic connection between the Jewish people and Palestine as a basis of the policy; and the restriction of Jewish immigration according to economic capacity, not otherwise.

League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922/23)

The Mandate for Palestine describes how Britain was to administer the territory of Palestine.

The Preamble repeats the Balfour Declaration, saying also that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” The Preamble is all about the Jewish national home, and does nothing to clarify the respective positions of Jews and non-Jews under the Mandate, other than in the quoted phrase from the Balfour Declaration about protecting the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.

To better understand the Mandate, we need to consider the actual Articles in detail.

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.

Britain is in charge: there is no hint here of “provisional independence”. Britain needed total control in order to establish the Jewish national home without obstruction from any indigenous government. Contrast this with the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon: “The Mandatory is charged with the duty of rendering administrative advice and assistance to the population, in accordance with the provisions of Article 22 (paragraph 4) of the Covenant of the League of Nations.”

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.

This article, with its rather complex grammatical structure, has been a source of confusion: the closeness of “Jewish national home” with “self-governing institutions” can suggest that it is the Jews who are to do the governing. This is incorrect, as can be seen by laying out the sentence in the following way.

The Mandatory shall be responsible for
(A) placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure
(1) the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and
(2) the development of self-governing institutions
and also for
(B) safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.

There are two responsibilities, (A) and (B); under (A) there are two separate things to be secured: (1) the Jewish national home, (2) self governing institutions. It is the country, Palestine, which is to achieve self government. Britain had already planned, as a tentative first step towards self-government, a legislative assembly with some elected members: all male Palestinians over 25 years of age were eligible to vote.

Of the remaining 26 articles, only the following two specifically concern Jews:

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.

The key phrase here is “subject always to the control of the Administration”. This was an attempt to avoid the Jewish Agency seeing itself as an independent political body. We have seen above, in discussing the correspondence with the Palestinian Arab Delegation, that the Zionist Commission was already out of control. It was the Jewish Agency which eventually formed the Israeli government in 1948.

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.

Here there are two significant changes from the wording of the Churchill White Paper. First: as well as the rights of the non-Jewish population being protected, so is their “position”. I suggest that this can only mean their position as a numerical majority. Many Zionists did not conceal their hope that immigration would eventually lead to a Jewish majority and hence a Jewish State. Second: Jewish immigration should be facilitated only “under suitable conditions”. This vague wording gave the British administration greater flexibility in the control of immigration.

This flexibility was put to use later in the 1939 MacDonald White Paper (Section II). The British Government decided that Arab opposition made conditions no longer suitable for unlimited Jewish immigration. A final limit to the Jewish population was set as one-third of the total.

Other articles of the Mandate make it clear that Jews and Arabs would be treated on an exactly equal basis, both as individuals and as communities, for example:

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 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 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.

Author’s comments

Although not using the same words, the Mandate for Palestine is compatible with the concept of the Carlsbad Declaration: a common home for two nations, Jewish and Arab, living in harmony and mutual respect. The essential reason it failed was because Palestine was too small to become the Jewish national home.

In 1922 the total number of Jews in the world was about three times that of the indigenous population of Palestine. The Arabs of Palestine did not object to the presence of Jews; they had accepted Jewish immigrants down the centuries; but they refused to accept the Jewish national home policy of the British Government which was expected to lead to the arrival of alien European immigrants in overwhelming numbers.

There was a possibility in 1939, when the MacDonald White Paper put a final limit on Jewish immigration, that the Arabs could have accepted such a Jewish presence in Palestine. But this did not satisfy the Zionist ambitions. They adopted a campaign of terrorism, illegal immigration and arms smuggling that led to the end of the Mandate, and to the Partition Plan and civil war.

In 1993 there was another possibility of progress towards “harmony and mutual respect” in the Oslo agreement, when Yasser Arafat for the PLO accepted “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security”. But Prime Minister Rabin for Israel did not accept the right of the State of Palestine to exist in peace and security, or even the right of Palestine to live in peace and security, or even the right of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security. More than twenty years have been wasted on an invalid and fruitless “peace process”.

In 2015 will there be another chance of progress? I believe that there will, and that Zionist Israel will be prevented from thwarting it, by pressure from the international community. But what do readers think? I will respond to all comments.

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Dr. Fincham, Thank you for this excellent historical review. For the most part, I tend to focus on the present and future, but history is certainly relevant. As for your question, I think that 2015 could be a year of progress if Mr. Obama were willing to make it so.… Read more »

Thanks for all of the historical excerpts, very fascinating. As for 2015 and international pressure being a catalyst for change in Israel i doubt it very much. The Zionist project is very well funded and deeply enmeshed into so many political organizations and gov’t’s that i only expect them to… Read more »

I’ve known the history, but have rarely read such an impressive and clear piece. Thank you, David. It’s no small wonder that Southampton University and the High Court refused to allow the conference that was to have begun today: “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”… Read more »

hi David Gerald Fincham,

saving this to favorites

i’m surprise the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) wasn’t mention.

This is great stuff! Thanks, Dr. Fincham.