The Struggle for Statehood
In 1936, after and Arab campaign of sabotage and terrorism which developed into a veritable revolt, the British Government appointed a Royal Commission headed by Lord Peel to investigate the situation. It proposed that Palestine be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states, leaving the Jerusalem area and a broad corridor to the coast under British rule. The Jewish representative organisations agreed to negotiate on the implementation of the proposal, but the Arab Higher Committee rejected it outright, and the terrorist campaign was resumed. From 1936 - 1939, 517 Jews were killed, about one half of them in the July - October 1938 period. The British Government gave way: in 1939 it published a White Paper restricting Jewish immigration and land purchases.
Before, during and after World War II the British Government enforced the White Paper policy which increased immigration restrictions. In 1942, the Zionist Movement adopted the Biltmore Program, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
"We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war."
The publication of the White Paper led David Ben Gurion to declare war on the British. However, throughout the struggle against Nazism, the Zionist leaders did not hesitate to fight alongside Britain.
After the war, the Haganah, the largest Jewish military organisation, concentrated its efforts on increasing the clandestine immigration of the survivors of the Holocaust to Palestine. Military operations against the British were, by and large, undertaken to further the end. Two other Jewish military groups, the Irgun Zeva'i Le'ummi and Lohamei Herut Israel, attacked British troops and installations. For a short period in 1945/46 all three organisations joined forces in the Jewish Resistance Movement.
In 1946, the British rejected the recommendations of an Anglo- American Committee, supported by US President Truman, for the admission to Palestine of 100 000 European Jews, mainly from the Displaced Person's camps. The Haganah section of the Jewish Resistance Movement reacted by blowing up the bridges linking Palestine with the neighbouring states. Throughout 1947, tension continued to rise and there was no end to the acts of terror. The government response was further acts of repression; seven members of the IZL and Lehi were executed and the IZL responded by hanging two British sergeants. The spectacle of refugee ships turned back from the shores of Palestine roused world opinion. Finally unable to cope with the growing pressure the British handed over the problem to the United Nations.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly accepted the recommendations of an international committee for the establishment of Jewish and Arab States in Palestine. Reluctantly, the Jewish representative bodies accepted it, but the surrounding Arab states declared that they would oppose it by armed force. Aware of this, the British still refuted to cooperate in its implementation and announced their impending withdrawal for May 15, 1948.
Next Step : The War of Independence
Index to Footsteps through Jewish History