By Ted Belman
One hundred years ago the British government published the Balfour Declaration which stipulated,
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors 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.”
In 1920, the WWI victorious allies met in Sam Remo for the purpose of drawing up boundaries for the captured territories. It was decided, among other things, to put Palestine under British Mandatory rule. Thus the Allies confirmed the pledge contained in the Balfour Declaration concerning the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine and made it a legal obligation on Britain and a legal entitlement for the Jews.
When the Palestine Mandate was drafted by the League of Nations pursuant to the San Remo Resolution, it added this important recital,
“Whereas 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.”
This addition was of great importance as it affirmed the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, which, by the way, the PA and the UN today are doing their best to deny. In addition, the Jewish right to “reconstitute” their national home was recognized. Thus the Jews were in Palestine as a matter of right and not sufferance.
The Mandate provided,
“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.“
The first betrayal of that promise and right came in 1921 before the Mandate was signed. The Arabs had rioted and Britain decided to reduce Jewish immigration to “absorptive capacity” and told Chaim Weizmann that the mandate wouldn’t be signed if the Jews didn’t agree to delete temporarily, the east bank of the Jordan. The Jews had no choice but to agree and the Palestine Mandate was signed in 1922. This territory amounted to 78% of what was promised to the Jews and it ultimately became Jordan. The deletion of the east bank became permanent contrary to Article 5 which prohibited any removal of land from the Mandate.
While the British Cabinet was generally sympathetic to the Zionist project, the Civil Administration appointed by it to manage the mandatory was antisemitic. It restrained the Jews and emboldened the Arabs thereby violating its pledge to use its best efforts to facilitate the creation of a homeland. Whenever the Arabs rioted, the Jews were made to pay the price. Sound familiar?
After the Arab riots of 1929. A white paper was issued by Britain that stated that because of the shortage of arable land, Jewish settlement would be permitted only under stringent government supervision. Thus, another betrayal.
From 1936 to 39, The Arab Revolt against the British took place which led to the Peel Commission being appointed to study the matter and make recommendations. The Commission recommended that the Mandate be partitioned between Arabs and Jews thereby further diminishing what was promised to the Jews and what they had the legal right to. This recommendation was passed by the British Parliament but ultimately abandoned.
In and by virtue of the 1939 White Paper, Jewish immigration to Palestine was limited to 75,000 for the first five years, subject to the country’s “economic absorptive capacity”, and would later be contingent on Arab consent. Stringent restrictions were imposed on land acquisition by Jews.
This betrayal was all the more egregious as Hitler, who had been in power for six years had systematically denied Jews their rights and their property and removed them from their jobs and their professions. The Jews were is dire straits and needed to emigrate.
The Jewish Agency for Palestine issued a scathing response to the White Paper, saying the British were denying the Jewish people their rights in “darkest hour of Jewish history. It was to no avail.
During WWII, Hitler attempted to exterminate the Jews, by first transporting them to extermination camps, like Auschwitz, and then killing them with the use of poison gas. Britain still refused to allow more Jews into Palestine.
In effect, Germany was herding the Jews into barns before setting fire to them and Britain was guarding the burning barns to make sure no Jews escaped, metaphorically speaking.
After the war, Britain still wouldn’t let the survivors in. Instead they were housed in “displaced persons” camps in Europe until Israel’s declaration of Independence on May 19. 1948.
Just imagine the millions of Jews who would have emigrated to Israel during the holocaust had Britain adhered to her obligation in the Mandate.