Daniel Mande: The British Mandate in Palestine ... A Lost Opportunity of Historic Proportions





Daniel Mandel is a Fellow in History at Melbourne University and author of H. V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (Routledge, London, 2004). 

Ninety years ago last month, the League of Nations, the precursor to today's United Nations, approved the Mandate for Palestine, out of which Israel was to emerge in 1948. Israel's neighbors have been in varying states of war and hostility with it from that date to this. As this conflict has flared up across the decades and is even cited, persistently but wrongly, as the root cause of regional and even global turbulence, its origins repay attention.
 
On July 24, 1922, all 51 member states of the League affirmed in the Mandate, conferred upon Britain, that "recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country." This reflected Britain's Balfour Declaration of 1917, which "viewed with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."
 
Palestine was then sparsely populated -- fewer than 700,000 people at the end of World War One (512,000 Muslims, 66,000 Jews and 61,000 Christians). It had scant history of local nationalism -- a new, imported concept. The former Muslim overlords, the Ottomans, had been defeated and evicted. Britain and France, who had done the evicting, were preparing neighboring lands for Arab statehood. Surely Zionism in the biblical Jewish homeland, too, could be sponsored to the general good?..


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