On 2 November 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, which permitted the Jews, after almost 1,900 years of exile, to return to their home in Palestine. Seeking to replace the Turks as the protector of the Suez lifeline to India, there were those in Prime Minister Lloyd George’s cabinet who believed that the Jews would be a more dependable ally than the Arabs in protecting Great Britain’s imperial interests in the Middle East. Not everyone in Lloyd George’s government agreed with the decision. The Arabists in the British Foreign Office opposed the decision, as did Sir Edwin Montagu, a Jew, who was a member of the cabinet. The support for a Jewish national home in Palestine also marked the culmination of years of intense persuasion by Chaim Weizmann, the leader of British Zionism, among the leaders of the British establishment. In 1922, the League of Nations incorporated the Balfour Declaration into the document that assigned Great Britain the mandate over Palestine, and gave its final approval on 29 September 1923. Almost from the beginning of the mandate, it became clear that the Arabs resented the presence of Jews in large numbers in Palestine. Fearing that the Jews would attempt to create a state in Palestine rather than to live as a “guest” in their homeland, the Arabs agitated against Jewish immigration into Palestine and discouraged Jews from purchasing land from the Arab landowners. Following the arrival of approximately 35,000 Jews from Poland in 1925 because of antiSemitism and a severe economic crisis, the Arabs of Palestine, under their leader Hajj Mohammad Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, intensified their attacks against Jewish settlements. The growing violence between the Arabs and the Jews led the British to investigate ways of resolving the conflict.
   Against the background of intensified violence, the British government established a series of commissions to make recommendations regarding the deteriorating conditions in Palestine. The first of these commissions, chaired by Sir Walter Shaw, took place in 1930, and criticized the Zionist leadership for encouraging immigration and for actively pursuing land purchases. The report became the basis for the British government’s white paper issued in late 1930, when Lord Passfield (the former Sidney Webb) was secretary of state for the colonies. The white paper was the first direct sign that many in the British government regretted the decision to support a Zionist home in Palestine. The white paper threatened to prohibit land purchases and recommended a cessation of Jewish immigration into Palestine. Under pressure from pro-Zionist elements in the government, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald backed down from the implications of the white paper. The issue of immigration into Palestine, however, became an urgent matter once Adolf Hitler attained power in January 1933. As the persecution against the Jews in Germany intensified, Zionist leaders in Palestine entered into the so-called Transfer Agreement with Nazi authorities. The agreement facilitated Jewish immigration to Palestine by allowing the transfer of their capital in the form of German goods. In 1935, 69,000 Jews from Poland and Germany arrived in Palestine, the largest number to arrive since the start of the British mandate. The Arab response was to form the Arab Higher Committee in April 1936, which demanded that the British halt immigration into Palestine and prohibit land sales to Jews. The Arab demands were followed by a six-month strike that was accompanied by an armed uprising. In October 1936, the British promised to investigate the Arab demands, and the strike was called off. Arab agitation resumed in the summer of 1937 when the British government endorsed the recommendation of the Peel Commission, which called for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Palestinian state. The Jewish Agency accepted the plan but the Arabs rejected it, and a revolt against Great Britain followed that continued throughout 1937–1938.
   In the same year as the Arab revolt, the Haganah, Palestine Jewry’s defense force, organized a committee for illegal immigration to rescue the Jews of Europe and bring them into Palestine (Aliya Bet). As violence between Jews and Arabs intensified, Great Britain wavered in its support for a Jewish home in Palestine. In May 1939, the British government issued a white paper (White Paper of 1939) that called for an independent Palestinian state within 10 years and a limit on Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 over a five-year period, and limited the sale of land to Jews. The British government’s repudiation of the Balfour Declaration was made because of the certainty of war and its awareness that Jews would be on their side regardless of what happened.
   On the day when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, a ship carrying illegal Jewish immigrants from Europe was intercepted by the British navy off the coast of Palestine, and the passengers were interned in Mauritius. The efforts of the Haganah to circumvent the white paper through illegal immigration would continue throughout the war. As news reached the Jewish Agency concerning the Final Solution, an Extraordinary Zionist Conference was convened in the Biltmore Hotel in New York City in May 1942. The assembled delegates voted to support the creation of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine as expeditiously as possible, inasmuch as it was obvious that Palestinian Jewry could no longer rely on Great Britain to carry out its mandatory responsibilities.
   Although Great Britain’s unwavering enforcement of the white paper was calculated on keeping the Arabs from siding with Nazi Germany, it wasn’t the only reason. As the violence in Palestine escalated between Arabs and Jews, the pro-Arab officials in the British colonial office found support from members of the British government. Oliver Harvey, Foreign Minister Anthony Eden’s private secretary, noted in his diary that “Eden was immovable on the subject of Palestine inasmuch as he loved the Arabs and hated the Jews.” British anti-Semitism intensified as the British came under attack from dissident Jewish underground groups such as the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization) and the Stern gang. Bombings, the kidnapping of British soldiers, and the assassination of Lord Moyne, the British deputy minister of state for the Middle East and a close friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, by the Stern gang in Cairo in 1944 all contributed to a growing estrangement between the Yishuv and the British. In January 1944, the conflict intensified as the Irgun organized an armed revolt against British authorities in protest over Great Britain’s enforcement of the white paper. The Jewish Agency condemned the Irgun because their attack against the British would impair their ability to defeat Nazi Germany. Following the end of the war, the British continued to rigidly enforce the provisions of the white paper, although during the war approximately 20,000 of the allotted 75,000 certificates available for immigration went unfilled. The Jewish Agency responded by intensifying its illegal immigration operation. Between November 1945 and April 1948, 54 ships brought more than 67,000 survivors of the Holocaust to Palestine. The conflict over the white paper came to a head when Ernest Bevin became foreign secretary in November 1945. Bevin denied that Great Britain ever intended to support a Jewish state in Palestine. He urged that Jewish refugees seeking to leave Europe should not try and get ahead of the queue but wait their turn.
   If Great Britain’s pro-Arab policy during the war was grounded on keeping them out of the enemy camp, its policy after the war was based on the importance of oil, and that it was in the country’s national interest to curry favor with the Arabs. The anti-Jewish policy of the Bevin government, in turn, gave rise to further violence between the British and the Yishuv. Ultimately, it was the United Nations that stepped in to resolve the clash. Between April 1946 and May 1947, several commissions were appointed to study and make recommendations regarding the future of the area. At the same time, the British announced that all illegal Jewish refugees attempting to enter the country would be sent to Cyprus. The most sensational of Great Britain’s efforts to enforce its policy occurred in July 1947, when the British ordered the return of 4,550 Jews from displaced persons (DP) camps on board the ship Exodus 1947 to be returned to their point of origin.
   On 14 February 1947, Bevin announced that Great Britain had decided to turn the entire question of Palestine over to the United Nations. The cost of supporting 100,000 British soldiers in Palestine, as well as being on the receiving end of negative world opinion, took its toll. In April 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations appointed the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) to study the issue of Palestine. On 31 August 1947, UNSCOP recommended the termination of the British mandate and proposed the partition of Palestine into separate and sovereign Arab and Jewish states. On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly voted in favor of partition by a vote of 33 to 14. The Arab Higher Committee rejected the partition, and subsequently violence broke out between the Jews and Arabs of Palestine. Although ostensibly a neutral, Great Britain increasingly sided with the Arabs in the conflict. Bevin, in fact, was determined not to cooperate with the implementation of partition and insisted that as long as the mandate remained in effect, it would not permit any interference by the United Nations in any part of Palestine. Convinced that a Jewish state could not survive the attack of an army composed of military from the combined Arab states, Bevin appears to have been determined to facilitate an Arab victory by leaving Palestine in chaos.
   The British mandate came to an end on 14 May 1948, and on the same day, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the new State of Israel. Within two days, the Jewish state was recognized by the Soviet Union and the United States. The proclamation that established the State of Israel was followed by the invasion of the Arab states in a war that continued until the United Nations negotiated an armistice between both sides in July 1949.
   See Israel, State Of.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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