Israeli History/Palestine under the Mandate

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World War I

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In December 1914, as the machinations of World War I made it apparent that Britain would enter into battle with the Ottoman Empire, Ze'ev Jabotinsky proposed that a Jewish regiment be formed in Palestine to assist the British. This battalion, called the Jewish Legion, was formed in 1917. A Jewish espionage network called Nili also assisted the British.

British cannons capture Jerusalem from the Ottomans.

In November 1917, as General Allenby was preparing to conquer Palestine, the British Foreign office issued the Balfour Declaration, a letter from the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, head of the British Zionist movement. The declaration stated:

His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

Thus, when Palestine was captured in December some part of it was designated as an area of Jewish settlement. It was not as much as the Zionists would have liked, but it was the first official recognition of the Zionist movement.

After the war ended, the Allied powers began to partition up the Ottoman Empire, as had been their plan for several years. With the Balfour Declaration in mind, the region they dubbed Palestine was set aside as a Jewish "National Home". However, the intention of the Allies was not to expel those already living in Palestine, but only to state as policy that other groups should make room for the Jews. The final mandate read, in part, as follows:

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country [...]

The Mandate was implemented in 1922. During next 25 years, 367,845 Jews and 33,304 non-Jews immigrated legally to Palestine, and many more Jews came illegally.

Zionism flourishes under the Mandate

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In America, Jewish organizations forwarded money to the Jewish National Fund, a branch of the World Zionist Organization, to plant trees in Israel.

Successes of Zionism so far: "Jewish homeland" semi-guaranteed. Hebrew language. Haganah: Jewish paramilitary force. But what about the Arabs? More than two-thirds of the population of Palestine was non-Jewish; could it really become a Jewish state?

The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years. Prior to 1850 there were in the country only a handful of Jews. [...] After the persecutions in Russia forty years ago, the movement of the Jews to Palestine assumed larger proportions. Jewish agricultural colonies were founded. They developed the culture of oranges and gave importance to the Jaffa orange trade. They cultivated the vine, and manufactured and exported wine. They drained swamps. They planted eucalyptus trees. They practised, with modern methods, all the processes of agriculture. There are at the present time 64 of these settlements, large and small, with a population of some 15,000. Every traveller in Palestine who visits them is impressed by the contrast between these pleasant villages, with the beautiful stretches of prosperous cultivation about them, and the primitive conditions of life and work by which they are surrounded.
A Jewish educator from Romania opened a nursery school in Rishon LeTzion, a tiny experimental Zionist settlement, and was among the editors of the first Hebrew children's newspaper. Someone began making ice cream--that was Simcha Whitman, who also built the first kiosk in Tel Aviv. A man named Abba Cohen established a fire department, and a Berlin-born entrepreneur built the first beehives. A Ukrainian conductor founded a local opera company, and an Antwerp businessman set up adiamon-polishing shop. A Russian agronomist who had been in Zurich planted eucalyptus trees, and an industrialist from Vilna launched Barzelit, the first nail factory. A Russian physician, Dr. Aryeh Leo Boehm, set up the Pasteur Institute, and a man named Smiatitzki, who came from Poland, translated Alice in Wonderland into Hebrew.
—Tom Segev, Haim Watzman. One Palestine, Complete. 2001. p.2.

Rachel Bluwstein, one of the greatest Hebrew poets, lived during this time.

The kibbutz movement expands

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During the Mandate, the kibbutzim of the Second Aliyah became a model for intentional communities throughout Palestine, called the settlement movement.

The kibbutzim and other intentional communities were considered the pride and joy of Zionism throughout the Mandate years. After Israel became a nation, collectivist kibbutz politics became independent of Zionism in general; fierce debates were held over the desirability of consumerism or affiliation with Germany or Communist Russia. Kibbutzim and other intentionally organized settlements still exist today, encompassing a diverse range of political ideals.[1]

Competing school systems

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The British government had no interest in regulating schools, so under the Mandate four different Jewish schooling systems developed from the four major factions of olim. All of these schools accused each other of stealing students and immigrants away, and while all four expressed a desire that the schools one day be unified, they all insisted that their own system must be used in the future unification.

Mandate School Systems[2] General Zionist Labor Mizrahi Agudat Israel
Founding dates 1913 1920s 1920 Early 1800s
Ideology Sanctity of Zionism, love of country, modern society Social equality, revolutionary spirit, solidarity with farmers and workers "Modern religious" viewpoint, discipline, religion over science (e.g. Creationism) Continuing Old Yeshiva lineage of Haredic Judaism
Classes taught Hebrew, Zionism, science, math Independent studies, often political Religion, Hebrew, math Religious study with a token amount of spelling and math
Dress code Formal clothes None Yarmulkes Haredic uniform
Theology Zionist readings of Bible Humanist readings of stories of liberation and salvation, including Bible Orthodox memorization and readings of Bible, Talmud, and other rabbinical authorities
Form of address for teachers Last name with "Mr." or "Mrs." First name or nickname Rabbi

Politics during the Mandate period: Chaim Weizmann

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  A. Born November 27, 1874 in Motol, Poland- part of Soviet Union
   B. 3rd child of 15
   C. Love of trees from boyhood
   D. Strict Orthodox school during childhood
  K. Zionism
     i. at 11 he wrote to a teacher saying that Jews must return to Zion
     ii. leader of "Young Zionist" opposition to Herzl
        a. especially with Uganda Proposal
        b. 1903 - 1905
     iii. 1905 elected to General Council (Actions Committee)
        a. played secondary role till 1914
        b. took part in negotiations during war that led to the Balfour 
           Declaration - Nov. 1917
     iv. June 1918
        a. met with Amir Faysal of Hejaz (later first king of Iraq)
        b. discussed Jewish - Arab cooperation
        c. met again in July 1919
        d. reached written agreement during Versailles Peace Conference
     v. attended San Remo Conference of Allied Powers in 1920
        a. went as an observer
        b. this conference confirmed the Balfour Declaration and awarded 
           Palestine Mandate to British
     vi. From 1917 to 1920
        a. president of English Zionist Federation
        b. 1920 head of World Zionist Organization
     vii. 1920 onward
        a. traveled world preaching Zionist ideology and appealing for funds 
           at mass rallies
     viii. conflicts
        a.people believed he was too influenced by British
        b. 1930 resigned but was asked to stay and did
        c. 1931 Congress
           - subjected to a vote of nonconfidence
           - not reelected
     ix. 1929 main founder of Jewish Agency
     x. 1934 founded Daniel Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot, Palestine
     xi. 1935 in office again
        a. supported British royal inquiry commission, 1937, to divide 
           Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state
        b. tons of opposition
        c. plan failed because Arab rejection

Misc. notes

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The Rutenberg Palestine Electric Company, a utilities building constructed in 1929.

Mandate formalized by league of Nations September 23, 1922. Jewish reaction was mixed. one group protested the creation of Transjordan-both Western Palestinian Arabs and Jews could not buy land or settle in Transjordan because the British prohibited it even though Abdullah was willing -the incensed Jews formed Revisionist for a unified state. The leader of Revisionists was Vladimir Jabotinsky - a Russian Jew. However, a majority of Jews were satisfied with the mandate

Sir Herbert Samuel was a British Jew who served as first High Commissioner of Palestine . Under Samuel's rule the British recognized Vaad Leumi (National Council), Elected Assembly, and local council representatives of Jewish community. He established Hebrew as official language and placed restrictions on Jewish immigration in response to Arab complaints. (Arabs had no restrictions on their immigration by British.)

People questioned if Israel could support the influx of Jews with the existing Arab population. Arab peasants or laborers called Fellaheen were already being displaced. Zionists claimed that adopting European farming techniques would allow Fellaheen to live on smaller tracts of land.

Aliyah Bet

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Aliyah to Palestine resumed as soon as World War I was over. During the Third Aliyah 35,000 Jews came to the country. They were not motivated by the Zionist World Congress, who in fact opposed the mass migration, but by their own volition after the Balfour Declaration and pogroms in the Russian Civil War.

World War I left much of Western Europe devastated, and antisemitism rose dramatically. From 1924-1928 there was the Fourth Aliyah: 82,000 Jews, 23,000 left. With the Nazis came the Fifth Aliyah: 250,000 Jews, and only 20,000 left! There was also the Haavara Agreement between the Jewish Agency and the Nazis, to bring German Jews to Palestine. As a result of Nazi cooperation, 60,000 Jews came to Palestine.

Children fleeing the Nazis on their own were sent to youth villages to be collectively cared for and raised. And not only this, but there was Aliyah Bet: illegal immigration sponsored by covert Zionist groups.

We felt proud and exultant to arrive with the Jewish flag at our mast. The refugees looked for the first time upon the Holy Land with wondering and often tear-filled eyes. This was the sight for which they had longed with all their hearts, the sight for which they had risked their lives crossing one illegal border after another and on the high seas.
—I.F. Stone. Underground to Palestine. 1947.

Arab discontent and revolt

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During the Mandate the Jewish population in Palestine rose sharply: a growth rate of 8.6% per year, compared with 2.7% for Christians, Muslims, Druze, and others. The Arab population of Palestine was flummoxed by the number of immigrants, which with the "Aliyah Bet" was even greater than Britain's most extreme predictions. Groups like the Independence Party and the Black Hand demanded Arab rule. Starting in 1936, an Arab revolt demanded an end to Jewish immigration and independence for Palestine. The British government imprisoned many of these Arabs without trial and demolished some of their houses. By the time the strike concluded in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs; 400 Jews; and 200 Britons had been killed.

Israeli History
The Zionist Movement Palestine under the Mandate From World War II to Partition


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  1. Segev 2007, pp. 77-78
  2. Segev 1986, pp.200-203


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  • Mitchell G. Bard. 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict.' Second Edition. Pearson Eductation, Inc. 2003
  • Tom Segev. 1967. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007.