This 16 volume work presents a comprehensive collection of British administrative reports and associated documents, including extensive material hitherto unknown and unpublished.
The series includes the pre-Mandate reports of 1918-1923, the Mandate and Departmental Annual Reports from 1923-1947/8, including the unpublished Mandate Reports for 1940 and 1941, the extensive Survey of Palestine 1946/47 and the formal papers covering the termination of the Mandate in 1948.
This is an essential research source for information on British administration in Palestine and Transjordan, on the continuous tensions of the period between the Arab and Jewish populations, on civil disorders and the eventual unworkability of the Mandate.
Palestine, having previously been part of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied in 1917-18 by British forces under the command of General Allenby. A military administration was established for the whole of Syria and Palestine under the general title of Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA)with Palestine as OETA South. The military government was essentially a holding operation until the war was over and a final political solution was agreed. At the 1919 Peace Conference it was decided by the victorious powers that the mandates system should be applied to the non-Turkish parts of the Ottoman Empire; and at the San Remo Conference on 25th April 1920 the mandate for Palestine was given to the United Kingdom. Shortly afterwards, on 1st July 1920, the military administration was replaced by a civilian administration under a High Commissioner.
Although the Palestine mandate had been assigned to the United Kingdom by the victorious powers at the San Remo Conference in 1920, the actual terms of the draft mandate were not agreed by the Council of the League of Nations until 24th July 1922. Even then the Mandate did not come into operation as peace still had not been officially concluded between the Allied Powers and Turkey. It was not until 29th September 1923, after the Treaty of Lausanne had become operative and the war between Turkey and the Allies was officially ended, that the Council of the League was able officially to begin the British Mandate over Palestine.
The position of Transjordan provided some difficulty, especially concerning the question of a Jewish homeland. It was agreed that the Balfour declaration should not apply to Transjordan, and that there should be a separate High Commissioner for Jordan although he should be the same person as the High Commissioner for Palestine.
The Mandate was to remain in force from 29th September 1923 until 15th May 1948, but the whole period was bedevilled by the incompatibility of the aspirations of the Jewish settlers and the rights of the Arab inhabitants. Serious civil disorders caused by tensions between Arabs and Jews had broken out in 1920 and 1921 before the official beginning of the Mandate. In April 1936 the Arab Rebellion began and lasted until 1939, influenced by the recent example of nationalist movements in neighbouring Arab countries.
In August 1936 a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Peel was appointed with the task of enquiring into the underlying causes of the recent disturbances and into the operation of the Mandate; it submitted its report in June 1937. The members of the Commission felt that the obligations imposed on the mandatory Power by the terms of the Mandate were irreconcilable.
The Peel Report was examined by the Permanent Mandates Commission in August 1937, which stated that ´the present mandate became almost unworkable once it was publicly declared to be so by a British Royal Commission speaking with the twofold authority conferred on it by its impartiality and its unanimity, and by the Government of the Mandatory Power itself.´ It went on to recommend that if the policy of partition were adopted, the Jewish and Arab states should remain under a transitional mandatory regime for the time being. On 16th September 1937 the Council of the League of Nations authorised the British Government to prepare a detailed plan for the partition of Palestine but deferred consideration of it until this plan had been submitted.
Accordingly, the British Government appointed in February 1938 a Royal Commission under Sir John Woodhead to investigate partition, but as a result of the findings of that Commission the British Government announced in its 1938 White Paper that ´the political, administrative and financial difficulties involved in the proposal to create independent Arab and Jewish States inside Palestine are so great that this solution of the problem is impracticable.´
The British Government´s White Paper of May 1939 was intended to put an end to uncertainty as to the objectives of their policy in Palestine, and to prepare the way for the termination of the Mandate. The general objective was to be the establishment within 10 years of an independent Palestine State in which Arabs and Jews shared in government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community were safeguarded; in the meantime, Jewish immigration was to be restricted as were the sales of Arab land to Jewish settlers. It was the intention of the British Government to seek the approval of the Council of the League of Nations for their new policy, but they were prevented from doing so by the outbreak of war in September 1939.
The end of the war brought an increase in terrorist activity, and more attempts to find a political solution. The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry met in 1946 but its report did not lead to any solution. The British Government referred the question to the United Nations in 1947, but again no solution was forthcoming. Accordingly, the British Government determined to give up the Mandate and this was done in May 1948.
Some official statements
British Government White Paper, June 1922
"...the terms of the [Balfour] Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded in Palestine . "
British Government White Paper, October 1930
"...a double undertaking is involved, to the Jewish people on the one hand and to the non-Jewish population of Palestine on the other."
Report of Royal Commission on the operation of the Mandate, June 1937
"...we cannot - in Palestine as it is now - both concede the Arab claim to self-government and secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home."
British Government statement in House of Commons, 18 February 1947
"...the Mandate has proved to be unworkable in practice, and the obligations undertaken to the two communities in Palestine have been shown to be irreconcilable."