British troops enter Jaffa Gate
Lord Balfour visits Tel Aviv
Chaim Weizmann
British and Zionist flags together

A Jaffa beach

The British Mandate in Palestine

The British Mandate lasted from the capture of Palestine in late 1917, until the British left Palestine in May of 1948. The guiding star of the mandate was the Balfour Declaration, which was essentially a promise to the world's Zionists to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine, although it contained a proviso: that the creation of the Jewish homeland shouldn't prejudice Palestine's existing population.

The potential contradiction between the goal of a Jewish homeland, and the restriction that it be done without prejudice to the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, gradually substantiated into terrible realities. The end of the mandate saw a purgatory for the British , and the beginning of the dismemberment of Arab Palestine .


A brief description of the Balfour Declaration, its namesake, Arthur Balfour, and a little known French version, negotiated by Zionists with the government of France.

When the British formally left Palestine in 1948, the British government produced a short history of the British Mandate in Palestine. While it was being written, Arab Palestine was being dismembered by the Jewish military.

Written in the age of colonization, the founding document of the League of Nations doesn't consider the possibility of liberating Palestine or other parts of the Turkish Empire. Article 22 points the way toward the eventual destruction of Palestinian society: "those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world...the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility..."

Although containing the same stipulation as the Balfour Declaration "that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," it's clear that the Zionists had a hand in composing the authorization for the British Mandate in Palestine. It contains the following conditions on the British mandatory government:

  • The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home
  • An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home
  • 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

The 1922 British Whitepaper, the British government's official view of the situation in Palesine in 1922, shows the current Middle East conflict in its embryonic form. The Arabs want independence from Britain, and no further Jewish immigration. The British government declares its intention to create self-government in "gradual stages"...

By 1939, the British government had belatedly noticed that the phrase "a national home for the Jewish people" is ambiguous, and declares that it isn't their intention that Palestine should become a Jewish state. It continues that it "could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population."

A declaration of past British expectations, whether disingenuous or ridiculous, would shortly be tragic for Palestine's Arab population: "It has been the hope of British Governments ever since the Balfour Declaration was issued that in time the Arab population, recognizing the advantages to be derived from Jewish settlement and development in Palestine, would become reconciled to the further growth of the Jewish National Home. This hope has not been fulfilled."