9. British Palestine (1917-1948)

 

Crisis Phase (November 2, 1917-April 19, 1936): Jewish nationalists began a struggle for a Jewish state in Palestine following the issuance by the British government of the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917. In the document, the British government declared its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. Palestinian Arabs rioted in Jerusalem in March 1920 (“Bloody Passover”), resulting in the deaths of five Palestinian Jews and four Palestinian Arabs. Representatives of seven Allied countries (Belgium, Britain, France, Greece, Italy, Japan), which were meeting in San Remo, Italy beginning on April 19, 1920, decided to provisionally grant Britain the mandate over Palestine. Palestinian Arabs, who were opposed to the principles contained in the Balfour Declaration, opposed the efforts of the British government beginning in April 1920. Six Palestinian Jews were killed in political violence in Jerusalem in April 1920. The Jewish Self-Defense Organization (Haganah) was established by Vladimir Jabotinsky on June 15, 1920. Some 47 Palestinian Jews and 48 Palestinian Arabs were killed in political violence in Jaffa, Jerusalem, and other cities between May 1 and November 2, 1921. The League of Nations (LON) formally adopted a British mandate for Palestine in July 1922, which incorporated the principles of the Balfour Declaration in the mandate. Arab nationalists opposed the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Some 75,000 Jews emigrated to Palestine between 1922 and 1926. Muslims and Jews clashed in Jerusalem and other cities from August 16 to September 2, 1929, resulting in the deaths of some 250 individuals. Britain established a commission of inquiry, which investigated the situation in Palestine from October 24 to December 29, 1929. Jewish militants led by Avraham Tehomi established the National Military Organization (Irgun Zvai Le’umi – “Irgun”) in April 1931. Some 60,000 Jews emigrated to Palestine in 1935. Palestinian Arabs demanded that the British government halt Jewish emigration to Palestine, but the British government ignored the demand. Some 500 individuals were killed during the crisis.

Conflict Phase (April 20, 1936-September 1, 1939): Palestinian Arabs led by Fawzi El Kaukji, a former Turkish military officer, rebelled against the British government beginning on April 20, 1936. The British government appointed a royal commission headed by Lord Peel in October 1936. On July 7, 1937, the Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Arab rebels killed Lewis Andrews, British commissioner of the Galilee district, on September 26, 1937. Palestinian Arabs killed five Palestinian Jews near Jerusalem on November 9, 1937, and members of the Irgun retaliated by killing several Palestinian Arabs on November 14, 1937. Palestinian Arabs killed four Palestinian Jews near Safed on March 28, 1938. The British government executed Shlomo Ben-Yosef, a Jewish nationalist, on June 29, 1938. Some 21 Palestinian Arabs were killed in a Jewish militant bombing in Haifa on July 6, 1938. The British government published the White Paper on May 17, 1939, which provided for an Arab-majority Palestinian state within ten years. David Raziel, commander of the Irgun, was arrested by British government police on May 19, 1939. Palestinian Arabs ended their rebellion against the British government on September 1, 1939. Some 3,000 individuals, including 2,200 Palestinian Arabs, 547 Palestinian Jews, and 126 British government soldiers, were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (September 2, 1939-January 31, 1944): The Irgun split into two factions headed by David Raziel and Avraham Stern on July 17, 1940. Avraham Stern’s faction became known as the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel (Lohamei Herut Yisrael – LEHI).  David Raziel was killed during a joint British-Irgun mission against the Germans in Iraq on May 18, 1941, and Avraham Stern was killed by British government police in February 1942. Menachen Begin was appointed as commander of the Irgun in December 1943.

Conflict Phase (February 1, 1944-May 15, 1948):  Members of the Irgun launched a rebellion against the British government beginning on February 1, 1944.  Jewish militants attacked several British immigration offices in Jerusalem and other cities on February 12, 1944.  The Irgun, Haganah, and LEHI (“Stern Gang”) organizations established the United Resistance Movement (Tenuat Hameri) against the British government in October 1945.  Jewish militants attacked and destroyed railway tracks throughout the country on October 31-November 1, 1945, resulting in the deaths of one government policeman, one British government soldier, and two civilians.  On November 13, 1945, the US and Britain announced the establishment of a committee of inquiry to investigate the problems of European Jews and Palestine.  Jewish militants attacked a British police station in Jerusalem on November 27, 1945, resulting in the deaths of eight British government policemen and one Jewish militant.  Jewish militants attacked British government facilities in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Jaffa on December 27, 1945, resulting in the deaths of ten British government personnel.  Jewish militants killed seven British government soldiers near Tel Aviv on April 25, 1946.  On July 25, 1946, the Anglo-American committee of inquiry proposed the partition of Palestine into Arab, Jewish, and British-controlled sectors.  Jewish militants bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, resulting in the deaths of 41 Palestinian Arabs, 28 British, 17 Palestinian Jews, and five other individuals.  The United Resistance Movement was dissolved on August 23, 1946.  Jewish militants bombed the British Officers’ Club in Jerusalem on March 1, 1947, resulting in the deaths of 17 British government soldiers.  The British high commissioner declared martial law in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, and some 20,000 British troops launched a military offensive against Jewish militants on March 2, 1947.  The British government lifted martial law in Jerusalem on March 17, 1947.  The United Nations (UN) Security Council established the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) on May 13, 1947.  Jewish militants executed two British soldiers near Nathanya on July 29, 1947.  On August 31, 1947, UNSCOP proposed that Palestine be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states.  Jewish militants bombed the police headquarters in Haifa on September 29, 1947, resulting in the deaths of four British policemen, four Arab policemen, and two Arab civilians.  The UN General Assembly approved the partition proposal on November 29, 1947.  Palestinian Arabs killed seven Jews near Jerusalem on November 30, 1947.  Some 20 Palestinian Arabs, five Palestinian Jews, and two British government soldiers were killed in political violence in Jaffa and Ramleh on December 12, 1947.  Irgun militants killed 11 Palestinian Arabs and two British government policemen in Jerusalem on December 29, 1947.  Palestinian Arabs bombed the headquarters of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem on March 11, 1948, resulting in the deaths of 13 individuals.  Some 850 Palestinian Jews were killed by Arabs between December 1, 1947 and March 31, 1948.  Irgun militants attacked the Arab village of Deir Yassim on April 9, 1948, resulting in the deaths of some 254 Arabs and five Jewish militants. The UN Security Council appealed for a ceasefire on April 1 and April 18, 1948.  Jewish militants clashed with British troops and Arabs in the Jaffa region on April 25-May 12, 1948, resulting in the deaths of 32 Jewish militants. British troops withdrew from Jaffa, and Jewish militants captured Jaffa on May 13, 1948.  Britain’s mandate in Palestine ended on May 14, 1948, and the Jewish state of Israel was proclaimed on May 15, 1948.  Some 3,000 individuals, including 2,500 Jews, were killed during the conflict.  Some 750,000 Arabs were displaced during the conflict.

[Sources: Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 57-58; Butterworth, 1976, 66-68; Clodfelter, 1992, 631-632, 1032-1036; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 45-50; Facts on File, September 28-October 4, 1947; Lapping, 1985, 104-148; Survey of International Affairs (SIA), 1929, 512; Tillema, 1991, 157-159.]