Monday, March 23, 2009

The British Mandate PRT 4 - Britain's Failure

Some Zionists objected to the idea that the biblical Land of Israel had included the East Bank of Jordan, moreover, there were many Palestinian Arabs who were against the separation of Transjordan from Palestine. However, this separation was approved by the League of Nations in 1922 and began the development of two separate territories: Transjordan and what is known today as Palestine.

Within Palestine, the British Mandate was trying to establish two things:
  1. Building a Jewish national homeland
  2. To prepare the population for a self-government

Due to the fact that many Palestinian Arabs were against the idea of creating a Jewish national homeland within Palestine, these two tasks became very difficult for the British. Even though the British were genuinely trying to find a common ground between both peoples, it seemed that in the end the British will have gained enemies instead of being allies with the Jews and the Arabs.

Under the first stage of building a Jewish national homeland, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill issued a White Paper which stated that a “national home” did not mean making all of Palestine into a Jewish nation and that Jewish immigration would be regulated and limited through “absorptive capacity” of the country.

Immigration was both the fears and dreams of both peoples and became the core issue of this conflict. “For Jews, only be achieving majority status could they fulfill the 2,000-year-old-dream; any limit on Jewish immigration was too much. For the Arabs, the ultimate nightmare was losing majority status in their own land; any Jewish immigration was too much” (Alan Dowty).

Thus, this was ultimately a zero-sum battle because no compromise would satisfy either side. Every new wave of Jewish immigration (also known as an "aliya") resulted in Arab demonstrations and riots and each outbreak of violence resulted in the British response of an investigation by the Royal Commission to try and figure out what went wrong.

A total of five Royal Commissionoccurred during the time of the Mandate and each of them pointed out that the guidelines that the British had set up were all contradictory with one another. Every time the British would try to create a new compromise, both sides would reject it because it was either too little or too much for one party or the other. This only resulted in more violent outbreaks which made the state more unstable.

As a result of the chaos and as a result of the British failing at trying to establish national institutions that would bring together both the Jews and the Arabs, Britain ended up stepping out and left these two people to fight amongst themselves and to figure it out on their own. The end result was that each community developed its own institutions, and the separation between them intensified over time.


Dowty, Alan . Israel/Palestine. 2nd. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2008.

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