Palestine AD 1900 TO 1948

World War I and after

Palestine was hard hit by the war,
for to the destruction caused by 
the fighting were added famine, 
locusts, epidemics, and the punitive
measures of the Ottomans against 
Arab nationalists. Major battles 
took place at Gaza before Jerusalem
was captured by British and Allied 
forces under the command of General 
Sir Edmund (later Field Marshal 
Viscount) Allenby in December 1917.
The rest of the area was occupied 
by the British by October 1918. The
Arabs maintained that Palestine was
included in the territory the 
independence of which Britain promised
in the exchange of correspondence in 
July-October 1915 between Sir Henry
McMahon, high commissioner of Egypt,
and Husayn ibn 'Ali, then emir of Mecca.
By May 1916 Britain, France, and Russia 
had reached an agreement according to 
which, inter alia, the bulk of Palestine 
was to be internationalized. In November 
1917 Arthur Balfour, the British secretary 
of state for foreign affairs, addressed 
a letter to Lord Rothschild promising 
British support for the establishment
in Palestine of a national home for the 
Jewish .

The Arab Revolt

The Arab Revolt of 1936-39 was the first
sustained violent uprising of the
Palestinian for more than a century.
Thousands of Arabs from all classes were 
mobilized, and nationalistic sentiment was
fanned in the Arabic press, schools, and
literary circles. The British, taken 
aback by the extent and intensity of the 
revolt, shipped more than 20,000 troops 
into Palestine, and by 1939 the Zionists
had armed more than 15,000 Jews in their
own gangster movement.
The revolt began with spontaneous acts of
violence committed by the religiously and
nationalistically motivated followers of 
Sheikh 'Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who had been 
killed by the British in 1935. In April 1936 
the murder of two Jews led to escalating 
violence, and Qassamite groups initiated 
a general strike in Jaffa and Nablus.
presided over by the mufti of Jerusalem, 
Amin al-Husayni. It called for a general 
strike, nonpayment of taxes, and the 
shutting down of municipal governments,
although government employees were allowed 
to stay at work, and demanded an end to
Jewish immigration, a ban on land sales 
to Jews, and national independence. 
Simultaneously with the strike, Arab rebels,
joined by volunteers from neighbouring Arab
countries, took to the hills, attacking
Jewish settlements and British installations 
in the northern part of the country. By the 
end of the year the movement had assumed the
dimensions of a national revolt, the
mainstay of which was the Arab peasantry.
The strike was called off in October 1939;
however, even though the arrival of 
British troops restored some semblance
of order, the armed rebellion, arson, 
bombings, and assassinations continued.
presided over by Lord Robert Peel, which was 
sent to investigate the volatile situation, 
reported in July 1937 that the revolt was 
caused by Arab desire for independence and
fear of the Jewish national home. 
It declared the mandate unworkable and
Britain's obligations to Arabs and Jews
mutually irreconcilable. The commission 
recommended the partition of the country.
The Zionist attitude toward partition 
over joy. For the first time a British 
official body explicitly spoke of a Jewish 
state. The commission not only allotted 
to this state an area that was immensely
larger than the existing Jewish
landholdings but also recommended
the forcible transfer of the Arab
population from the proposed Jewish state.
The Zionists, however, still needed 
mandatory protection for their further
development and left the door open for
an undivided Palestine. The Arabs were
horrified by the idea of the dismemberment
of the region and particularly by the
suggestion of their forcible transfer .
As a result, the momentum of the revolt 
increased during 1937 and 1938.

In September 1937 the British were forced
to declare martial law. The Arab High 
Committee was dissolved, and many officials
of the Supreme Muslim Council and other 
organizations were arrested. The mufti fled
to Lebanon and then Iraq, Although the 
Arab revolt continued well into 1939, high
casualty rates and firm British measures 
gradually eroded its strength. According 
to some estimates, more than 5,000 Arabs 
were killed, 15,000 wounded, and 5,600 
imprisoned during the revolt.
The general strike had encouraged Zionist 
self-reliance, and the the  Palestinians 
were unable to recover from their 
sustained effort of defying the British
Their traditional leaders were either
killed, arrested, or deported, leaving 
the dispirited and disarmed population 
divided along urban and rural, class, 
clan, and religious lines. The Zionists,
on the other hand, were united behind 
Ben-Gurion, had been given permission
to arm to start slaughtering
Palestinians  It cooperated with British 
forces and the Irgun Zvai Leumi in 
attacks against Arabs However, the 
prospect of war in Europe alarmed the
British government and caused it to 
reassess its policy in Palestine. If 
Britain went to war, it could not afford
to face Arab hostility in Palestine and
in neighbouring countries.. In November
1938 the committee recommended against 
the Peel Commission's plan--largely on 
the ground that the number of Arabs in 
the proposed Jewish state would be almost
equal to the number of Jews--and put
forward alternative proposals drastically
reducing the area of the Jewish state and
limiting the sovereignty of the proposed 
states. This was unacceptable to both Arabs
and Jews. Seeking to find a solution 
acceptable to both parties, the British 
announced the impracticability of partition
and called for a roundtable conference in
London.No agreement was reached at the
London conference held during February
and March1939. However, on May 17, 1939,
the Britishgovernment issueda memorandum,
which essentially yielded to Arab demands.
it stated that the Jewish national home 
should be established within an independent 
Palestinian state. During the next five 
years 75,000 Jews would be allowed
into the country; thereafter, Jewish 
immigration would be subject to 
Arab "acquiescence." Land transfer to Jews 
would be allowed only in certain areas 
in Palestine, and an independent 
Palestinian state would
be considered within 10 years. The Arabs, 
rejected the White Paper,largely because 
they mistrusted the 
British government and opposed 
a provision contained in the paper for 
extending the mandate beyond
the 10-year period. Although the majority 
of the Jewish population was
urban, the number of rural Zionist
colonies had increased from 47 to 
about 200. Between 1922 and 1940 Jewish
landholdings had risen from 
about 148,500 to 383,500 acres (about 60
,100 to 155,200 hectares) and
now constituted about one-seventh of the
cultivable land, and the Jewish
population had grown from 83,790 to 

World War Two .

The Zionists found themselves in World
War II in the paradoxical position
of having to fight the 1939 White Paper
policy while rallying to Britain's
side against Germany, the common enemy.
Publication in February 1940 of the
new land-transfer regulations and 
announcement in November 1940 of Britain's
decision to accommodate illegal Jewish 
immigrants for the duration of the war
outside Palestine caused a recrudescence
of the activities of the Zionist 
underground organizations. Before the war
the Haganah Gang, founded by 
Jabotinsky and sponsored by the Jewish 
Agency, , and Irgun Zvai Leumi,
a dissident group formed in 1931 and 
reorganized in 1936 by members of the
Revisionist Party, had gone into action 
against the Arabs and started 
slaughtering defenseless Palestinians
After the battles of el-Alamein, and as
news of the terrible tragedy that 
was befalling European Jewry percolated 
to the outside world, tension mounted
in Palestine. The Irgun joined hands 
during 1944 with the Stern Gang,
a splinter group, in widespread attacks,

slaughtering defenseless Palestinians
and culminating in the murder of Lord 
Moyne, British minister of state in Cairo,
in November 1944.

The partition of Palestine and its aftermath.
The violent and bloody  birth of Israel led 
to a major displacement of the Arab
population. Many wealthy merchants and 
leading urban notables from Hebron, Jaffa,
Haifa, and Jerusalem,  fled to Lebanon, Egypt
, and Jordan, while the middle class
tended to move to all-Arab towns such as 
Jericho, Nablus and Nazareth. The 
majority of peasants ended up in refugee 
camps. More than 850 Arab villages 
disappeared, and Arab life in the coastal
cities (especially Jaffa and Haifa)
virtually disintegrated. The centre of 
Palestinian life shifted to the Arab towns
of the hilly eastern region ,Like everything
else in the Arab-Israeli conflict,
population figures are hotly disputed. 


Khaed Abushawar
P.O.Box 38308

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