Following the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd 1917 and the fall of Jerusalem to Allenby’s troops in December 2017, Britain’s involvement in Palestine continued unabated. In spite of serious questioning from several sources, including the Mandate being voted down in the House of Lords by 60 to 29 votes, the government continued its policy to support the Zionist project. 1923 brought serious reconsideration, but the policy continued. Here are several articles covering the following 5 years.
November 7, 1918 Britain and France issued the Anglo-French Declaration the main goal being complete and final liberation of the peoples who have for so long been oppressed by the Turks, and the setting up of national governments and administrations deriving their authority from the free exercise of the initiative and choice of the indigenous populations. It was published in the Levant including Palestine.
Sir Anthony Nutting, writing around 1975, reflects on Doreen Ingram’s book “The Palestine Papers: 1917-1922: Seeds of Conflict”. This book made clear that during and after the First World War British Government ministers and officials had intentionally rather than accidentally laid the groundwork for a Jewish state in Palestine, while deliberately keeping this from the Arabs
The King-Crane Commission was sent to Turkey and the Levant in June 1919 by President Wilson to report the facts as it found them. They recommended serious modification of the extreme Zionist program for Palestine. Their report was suppressed and not published until December 1922, after Britain had acquired the Mandate.
Mr. Balfour, Mr. Justice Brandeis, Lord Eustace Percy and Mr. Frankfurter met in Paris to discuss Palestine. One of Balfour’s statements: Palestine presented a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to re-constitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future
Ernest Richmond ETR was a an architect who spent many years in the Arab World and was invited in 1920 by Sir Herbert Samuel to join the Palestine administration….from the very beginning, Britain operated a policy totally supporting Zionist aims. ETR writes ‘the people begin to regard the Government as Jewish camouflaged as English. They will not accept Jewish rule. We denied them all the representative institutions which they enjoyed under the Turks. We allowed them no authoritative voice in their own affairs. Hence we turned friendliness into distrust.
The commission was sent to the region in May 1920 by the British authorities, to examine the reasons for the Jerusalem riots, which took place between 4 and 7 April 1920. It foresaw increasing problems between the various parties and the administration. Allenby advised that it should be published; but in anticipation of Zionist objections, it was decided only to convey the gist of the report verbally to a ‘responsible’ Zionist leader. It was never published.
On 21 June 1922, Arthur Balfour – now the Earl of Balfour – delivered his maiden speech to the House of Lords, in response to a motion in the name of Lord Islington that the Mandate was inacceptible to this House. Britain’s Palestine policy was rejected 60 to 29
The following day, July 22nd there was a meeting at Balfour’s home in London. Foreign Secretary Balfour and Prime Minister Lloyd George confirm verbally to Weizmann that ‘by the Declaration they always meant an eventual Jewish state’. Colonial Secretary, Churchill [responsible for Palestine] also present at the meeting when Lloyd George tells Churchill that ‘we’ must not allow such a thing as representative government to happen in Palestine. Sahar Huneidi, A Broken Trust p 59
Churchill made two major interventions as Colonial Secretary that decisive to the survival of the Governments Zionist policy See also Balfour 1922-23: Fragile commitment and Zionist Response
In the White Paper (initially drafted by Sir Herbert Samuel and Sir John Shuckburgh) Churchill made a major intervention as Colonial Secretary that proved absolutely decisive to the survival of the government’s Zionist commitment. He redrew the geography of the Levant and asserted, among other things, that there had been no promise of political independence to Palestine in the form of the war-time McMahon-Hussein correspondence.
Agreed in 1922, ratified in September 1923. Contained one of the promises Britain reneged on, Article 22. See also Britain’s betrayal of the sacred trust in Palestine by John Dugard and Britain’s historic responsibility to the people of Palestine, Gaza and Israel by John McHugo.
A series of articles in the Daily Mail in 1923 presented a hitherto uninformed British readership with details of official promises made to the Arabs in 1915-16 of post-war independence for Palestine in exchange for their support in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire and its German ally – something that London later reneged on.
The British Cabinet’s confidential re-assessment in 1923 of the advisability of promoting a Jewish national home was later made public, but not before the end of Britain’s mandate. It has largely escaped the attention of lawyers and historians who analyze the League of Nations mandate system, and Britain’s role in Palestine. Examining that re-assessment – as the present article attempts – will hopefully shed light on Britain’s eventual failure in Palestine and may contribute to an understanding of the genesis of the Arab-Israeli conflict that can inform present-day efforts at resolving it.