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The Way to Partition

Jewish survivors of World War II arriving in the port of Haifa in 1946
Jewish survivors of World War II arriving in the port of Haifa in 1946

In a bid to somewhat take off the American pressure for admission of Jewish immigrants into Palestine, the British government proposed the establishment of a joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. This committee was to examine the conditions of the Jewish survivors of the Shoah in post-war Europe as well as the situation on the ground in Palestine. In its report to both governments in 1946, the committee concluded that ‘Palestine alone cannot meet the emigration needs of the Jewish victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution. The whole world shares responsibility for them and indeed for the resettlement of all “displaced persons”.’

But in relation to the emergency situation in Europe the report recommended ‘that 100,000 certificates be authorized immediately for the admission into Palestine of Jews who have been the victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution, that these certificates be awarded as fast as possible in 1946 and that actual immigration be pushed forward as rapidly as conditions will permit’.

The report continued: ‘In order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of the following principles should be made: (1) That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine. (2) That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state. (3) That the form of government ultimately to be established, shall, under international guarantees, fully protect and preserve the interests in the Holy Land of Christendom and of the Moslem and Jewish faiths’. ‘We have reached the conclusion,’ the report stated, ‘that the hostility between Jews and Arabs and, in particular, the determination of each to achieve domination, if necessary by violence, makes it almost certain that, now and for some time to come, any attempt to establish either an independent Palestinian State or independent Palestinian States would result in civil strife such as might threaten the peace of the world. We therefore recommend that, until this hostility disappears, the Government of Palestine be continued as at present under mandate pending the execution of a trusteeship agreement under the United Nations.’

According to the report, in 1940 the population of Palestine was made up of 1,068,000 Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) and 460,000 Jews, and at the end of 1946 of 1,269,000 Palestinians and 608,000 Jews.

The recommendations of the Anglo-American report were immediately criticized at a conference of the Arab League in Bloudan (Syria), where they decided to implement an economic boycott against the Jews. The League pledged assistance to the Palestinians, and the conference adopted a series of secret resolutions in relation to military intervention in Palestine and the possibility of sanctions against British and American interests. These sanctions included the cessation of oil concessions in the region.

Zionist pressure in Palestine increased, as did the clandestine immigration of Jews. Zionist underground groups increasingly undertook attacks on British military targets, culminating in the bombing of the British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by the Irgun in July 1946, at the cost of 91 lives.

Meanwhile, the British resolve to remain in Palestine faded. The war had exhausted the Empire economically and morally. It lacked the will to hold out in its colonies, where there was an incessant and violent struggle for independence. When a conference held in London in February 1947 brought no solution for the conflict in Palestine, the British government passed on the problem to the United Nations.

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