The 1938 & 2001 proposed partitions of
Western Palestine & Policy of Appeasement
Quote from Text
Winston Churchill cautioned
in 1939, the acts that we engage in for appeasement today we will have
to remedy at far greater cost and remorse tomorrow.
Former President Clinton's talk of the
"Partition of Israel & Jerusalem" harkens back to the last time it
was proposed in 1938, the Palestinians rejected it then too.
Palestine Royal Commission Report had
called "toleration by the [British] Government of subversive [terrorist]
activities, more especially those of the Mufti of Jerusalem,"1
not only Jews but moderate Arabs and those effendis engaged in a
power struggle with the Mufti were murdered. As the Palestine Royal
Commission Report had observed, with uncharacteristic indignation,
... intimidation at the point
of a revolver has become a not infrequent feature of Arab politics. Attacks
by Arabs on Jews, unhappily, are no new thing. The novelty in the present
situation is attacks by Arabs-on Arabs. For an Arab to be suspected of
a lukewarm adherence to the nationalist cause is to invite a visit from
a body of "gunmen." Such a visit was paid to the editor of one of the Arabic
newspapers last August shortly after he had published articles in favour
of calling off the strïke." Similar visits were paid during our stay
in Palestine to wealthy Arab landowners or businessmen who were believed
to have made inadequate contributions to the fund which the Arab Higher
Committee were raising to compensate Arabs for damage suffered during the
"disturbances." Nor do the "gunmen" stop at intimidation. It is not known
who murdered the Arab Acting Mayor of Hebron last August, but no one doubts
that he lost his life because he had dared to differ from the "extremist"
policy of the Higher Committee. The attempt to murder the Arab Mayor of
Haifa, which took place a few days after we left Palestine, is also, we
are told, regarded as political. It is not surprising that a number of
Arabs have asked for Government protection.2
Many Christian Arabs, as well as the Muslims,
opposed the Jews -- now predominantly Zionists -- and this common hostility
toward Jews served to cool down the Muslim-versus-Christian resentments.
As an example of the contributions to terror and violence directed by some
among the Christian Arabs, Professor S. F. Albright cited an instance during
one anti-Jewish onslaught, in which a prominent Christian Arab editor
called his little boy of five
into the room and told him what he must do to a Jewish boy if he should
get a chance. He even put cruel words into the little chap's mouth: "I
will take a knife and stab him; I will take a pistol and shoot him."3
But the Christian Arabs were not exempt from
Arab terrorism. The Christians were compelled at gunpoint to abandon their
traditional head covering, the tarbush, and adopt the Muslim keffiyah
The compulsory Muslim veil was forced upon Christian women. Christian Arab
shopkeepers were forced to close on the Muslims' Friday sabbath as weêl
as on Sundays, thus losing a day's revenue.4
As in the past, the Arab masses responded
only to "the appeal of religious fanaticism and ... their tradition of
violence which a single generation of British rule had. not eradicated."5
The ruling families had never pretended to any sort of reform: the fellahin
in the 1930s, still plagued by "indebtedness and ruinous charges exacted
from them by the Arab landowners and moneylenders."6
The effendi -- led attacks upon
Jews and their supporters still were designed 1) to keep the "sweets" of
feudalism and 2) to prevent the traditional dhimmi Jew from an "inconceivable"
elevation to equality with Muslims.7 As one
British eyewitness press report described the situation, 8
... For the most part the villagers
are decent law abiding folk who have no great sympathy with the Arab rebels
who are fighting to stem the tide of Jewish immigration and demanding an
Arab Government for Palestine.
Hospitals were not exempted from the wanton
violence. On June 24, 1938,
They merely want to be left alone to sow
and harvest; to marry and find the wherewithal in these troubled times
to bring up their families.
Then one night a rebel band descends on
the village. The rebel chief goes straight to the house of the village
headman and orders him to produce 50 young men to come out on the hills
to snipe at the British, and for another 100 men to tear up Government
". . . Two Arabs working in a
Jewish-owned stone quarry near Haifa were wounded by Arab raiders. The
wounded men were taken to hospital, but two of the raiders entered the
hospital in search of them, killing by mistake another Arab, a patient
The "collection" of contributions to fund
the terrorists was equally effective, following the same traditional methods
that the Arabs had applied to extract funds for "protection" against raiding.
According to the Chief of Staff under Lieutenant General Dill's command
The collection of funds for "distressed
Palestine" was carried out by methods similar to those employed by the
racketeer. Large sums were collected under pressure from firms as well
as from individuals. There was always the threat of the gun. At the same
time pressure was exerted on individuals, and sometimes there was the use
of the gun.10
Even though the Mufti had fled to Syria upon
the "resurgence of violence"11 that he had
instigated, Jews, British, and rival or moderate Arabs alike became the
objects of his continued wrath. As the Times of London observed a year
after the Mufti's flight,
... Many of the leaders of the
National Defence Party [opposition to Mufti] have been murdered; others
have been compelled by threats to leave the country.
From April 1936, the Mufti's "systematic extermination"
caused the murder or flight from the country of any Arab suspected of less
than total loyalty to the rebels: mayor, affiliated official, sheikh, village
mukhtar (headman), rival Arab notable, and even prominent Muslim religious
figures-all were victims.
... It is certainly true that during the
last four months far more Arabs than Jews or British soldiers have been
killed by Arab terrorists.12
The mayor of Hebron, Nasr el Din Nasr,
murdered August 4, 1936, was a close ally of the Mufti's chief opponent,
Ragheb Bey Nashashibi; the wife and daughter of the mayor of Bethlehem
were wounded July 1937; the mayor Nablus, Suleiman Bey Toukan, who publicly
warned the government of chaos if terrorism was not squelched, fled after
attempted assassination in December of 1937. No fewer than eleven mukhtars
were slain, along with family members, between February of 1937 and November
[*A similar list of "moderate" Arabs who
have been exterminated recently by the PLO-the modem "Muftism"--could be
Muslim religious leaders murdered or wounded
included the following:
||Sheikh Yunis el Husseini, head of El Aqsa
Mosque administration, was wounded.
||Sheikh Ali Nur el Khatib, of El Aqsa Mosque,
||Sheikh Dauoud Ansari, Imam of El Aqsa
Mosque, was killed (after fourth attempt).
Other Sheikhs who were murdered then by
Arab terrorists included:
||Sheikh Nusbi Abdul Rahim, Counsel to the
Moslem Religious Court, murdered at Acre.
||Sheikh Abdul el Badawi, murdered at Acre.
||Sheikh El Namouri, murdered at Hebron.14
As the MacKereth-versus-British Foreign
Office correspondence (cited earlier) indicated, the terrorists, or "rebels,"
were viewed by an increasing number of British officials and observers
as "sincere Arab patriots" whose violence was "justified."
There were, however, those who resisted
appeasement of the terrorist tactics for a time. One communication with
a British "correspondent in Palestine," transmitted to the former Palestine
High Commissioner Chancellor, expressed outrage at the reports in the London
Times early in 1937:
. . . Who is "the Times" correspondent
out here? This is obvious Arab propaganda. The Mufti has gone to Mecca
with the avowed intention of getting help to continue the contest and as
to objecting to violence, it is absolutely false; "Courage to disavow his
own tactics"! It is their usual method always to disavow anything when
convenient, and unless he wished it, it would not appear in any Arab newspaper.
They are openly saying that the lawlessness will soon begin again, but
if the "disavowal" is in the Arab newspapers ... the Arabs would merely
laugh knowing quite well it was said just to deceive the foolish English.
It is pure bluff. The correspondent is obviously pro-Arab and against his
own country and ought to be shown up. It is disgraceful. The murders continue,
as you will see in the paper I am sending you.
Just before the Mufti fled to Syria, the British
Commander of the Arab Legion was convinced that
... The Arabs hate civilisation and would
like to keep the country in its present backward state but it is horrible
to see it being spoilt. The goats are allowed to eat off all the young
plants and the women take what is left for fuel. Fortunately, the Jews
are enclosing their land and they are the one hope for the prosperity of
the land. The Arabs don't care for taking any trouble. They talk big about
their country but what have they ever done for it? They tread down the
poor and take bakshish and that is all they care for.
You know all this as well as I do, but
I can't help repeating it.15
the Arabs ... are still out of
hand, and in my opinion we shall have in the end to teach them a lesson.
Besides the Mufti's party which is bad enough we have all the young Effendi
products of our education, and beyond them and probably most dangerous
and well-organized are the Communists. That, a few weeks ago a police officer
could be murdered in the middle of Haifa, and the assailants get clear
away is an eye-opener; and now the same thing happens in Jerusalem.
am quite sure that lots of people knew all about those crimes, and probably
many Arab members of the police do also, but they would be murdered if
they came forward with their evidence.16
Upon the Mufti's arrival in Syria, a local
British officer wired the Foreign Office that "Surveillance exercised over
Mufti appears to be little short of a farce ... Mufti ... thanking French
and Lebanese for their warm welcome here."17
Perhaps it was Ormsby-Gore's apparent outrage
at the newest "reign of terror" that reversed his previous attitude toward
offending the Arab world. Whatever the reason, in his capacity as Colonial
Secretary, Ormsby-Gore wrote in a "secret Cabinet memorandum"18
that although the Jewish "mini" state "may temporarily accentuate Arab
hostility in the countries surrounding Palestine," the Jewish state must
The "increase" of "Arab intransigence"
would be caused more by the continuation of the "present uncertainty" of
the British, he asserted, than by a firm position supporting the Jewish
It was Ormsby-Gore who had clung to the
proposed "partition" by sending forth the Woodhead Commission, which, it
was rumored, in the end "would decide against partition."
In August 1938, British Secretary of State
Malcolm MacDonald communicated a "secret note" to friends in the Cabinet,
Great harm had already been done
in Palestine by rumours that the wisdom of Partition had been questioned
in the Cabinet, which have encouraged the Arab terrorists and those behind
them to believe that if only they persist in their campaign they will force
us to abandon this policy.
MacDonald noted that the terrorist leaders
"virtually dictate Arab Policy."19
MacDonald had resisted pleas by influential
Arabs, ranging from the Egyptian Prime Minister to the head of London's
Arab Centre, to "recall" the Mufti and his supporters "from their exile
... to negotiate with them"; MacDonald insisted then that "the Mufti and
his colleagues" were "in general" behind the "campaign of violence in Palestine."
There was "plenty of information on that point." The terrorism was "being
encouraged from a source outside Palestine. Terrorism could not continue
without that encouragement.... I would not," MacDonald vowed, "trust the
word of the leaders who had been exiled," nor would he allow them to come
The Woodhead Commission, as the Arabs had
anticipated, recommended against partition, after which the British government
abandoned the proposal.21 The fact that "Arab
opposition was a decisive factor in" the retraction of Government's partition
plan was "generally understood," although the Woodhead Commission claimed
its "rejection" to be "based ... on practical grounds."22
Malcolm MacDonald expressed the fear that if partition were implemented,
"We should forfeit the friendship of the Arab world."23
The Permanent Mandates Commission complained
of the British "policy of appeasement."
Mr. Van Asbeck ... reverting ...
to the seeming leniency shown by the Palestine Government to the Arab population
in suppressing the revolt, asked whether that leniency did not place other
elements of the population in a very serious situation -- the Jews in their
agricultural settlements were particularly exposed to raids and attacks
by the Arab gangsters. Further, had it not the serious effect of weakening
the authority of, and lessening the respect of, the Arab population for
the Government? Had it not engendered the feeling that they could be as
lawless as they like without feeling the strong hand of the Government
on their neck?24
PMC member Rappard in particular deplored
the "Policy of appeasement" (in 1937) and "felt obliged to confess that
he was himself troubled on that point; he could not help feeling that the
reputation of undue leniency ... was well established."25
Underscoring that observation, a British
colonel explained to the president of the Jewish ex-officers association
in Tel Aviv, "I am afraid that merely asking for justice ... is useless.
In my experience, especially in times of difficulty, governments give way
only to action. . . ."26
Within the Woodhead Palestine Partition
Commission Report, however, was the clearly marked Jewish-settled area
of Western Palestine, differentiated from the rest of the country and divided
according to population of Arabs and Jews. As the Report stated unequivocally,
... no impartial person would
think the Arabs justified in claiming sovereign rights over persons and
property of Jews who have settled in other parts of Palestine on the faith
of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate.27
Throughout the Mandate, the British attempted
to gain peace by appeasing intimidation and terror. It was a self-imposed
intimidation to a perception of oil-power and force that the Western powers
by themselves in fact evoked. Yet, others are considering a similar course.
But the lesson ought to be clear by now that the West's continuation of
the protracted British policy of submission has not brought a peaceful
life. As Winston Churchill cautioned in 1939, the acts that we engage in
for appeasement today we will have to remedy at far greater cost and remorse
Royal Commission Report, p. 366.
in the Tents of Shem," Asia and the Americans, December 1942, pp. 692-694.
4. Arab vs.
Arab, pamphlet (Wadsworth and Co., Rydal Press, Keighley, England, 1939),
p. 3. Rhodes House Doc. 905 17.75 (22).
Parkes, A History of Palestinefrom 135 A.D. to Modern Times (N.Y: Oxford
University Press, 1949), pp. 321-322.
Main, Palestine at the Crossroads (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1937),
Emeny, News Chronicle, London, December 10, 1938.
Gilbert, Exile and Return, The Struggle for a Jewish Homeland (Philadelphia,
1978), p. 204.
Colonel H.J. Simson, British Rule and Rebellion (London: Blackwood, 1937),
p. 315. Simson pointed out that "The label on the money box had been altered
from 'strike fund' to 'distressed Palestine,' but otherwise there was no
change," p. 290.
11. On October
15, 1937, Esco Foundation for Palestine, Palestine, A Study of Jewish,
Arab and British Policies, vol. II, p. 879; the Mufti's "figurehead," Jamal
Husseini, President of the Arab Party, had escaped earlier.
21, 1938; also see Esco, ibid., p. 878 ff.
murdered were as follows-
Feb. 1937 Mukhtar of Arab
Sept. 1937 Balad Esh Sheikh
Dec. 1937 Shahmata
April 1938 Migdal. He was
a Christian Arab. His wife was also murdered.
April 1938 Mafaleen
Aug. 1938 Ejn Razal
Aug. 1938 -Beth Mahsir
Sept. 1938 Wife and three
sons of the Mukhtar of Deir Es Sheikh. Mukhtar was
absent at the time.
Oct. 1938 Mukhtar of Ard-el-Yehud,
near Haifa. He was a Christian Arab.
Oct. 1938 Beth Hema
Nov. 1938 Akaba Quarter,
"During the same period,
attempts were made on the life of the Mukhtar of Lifta
village (July 1937), and
the Mukhtar of Seir (October, 1938)"; cited in Arab v. Arab, pamphlet,
Wadsworth and Co., Rydal Press, Keighley, England, 1939, p. 13; also see
Palestine, October 6, 1937, vol. XII, no. 40, for list of Arab "notables"
"murdered between April and September, 1937."
to James Malcolm, February 22, 1937, transmitted to Former High Commissioner
of Palestine, John Chancellor, RH File 7/Box 15. From "an English correspondent
in Palestine whose name for obvious reasons it is undesirable to disclose
but for whose impartiality and veracity I can thoroughly vouch." J. Malcolm.
16. RH File
No. 7 of Box 15, letter to John Chancellor from Peake, June 20, 1937,
extract, p. 3.
FO 371/20817, Havard to Foreign Office, No. 15, "important, repeated to
Jerusalem, Paris, Baghdad, and Damascus saving."
Cabinet Papers 24/272, November 9, 1937; cited in Gilbert, Exile, p. 191.
21, 1938, Cabinet Papers, 24/278, cited in Gilbert, ibid., p. 206.
12, conversation with Dr. Izzet Tannous, Arab Christian head of the Arab
Centre, London; cited in Gilbert, ibid., p. 206.
Partition Commission Report, 1938, Command #5458, p, 246; Esco Foundation
for Palestine, Palestine, A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies,
pp. 874-875, 1146, 1156ff.
Foundation for Palestine, ibid., p. 1156.
24, 1938, Cabinet Committee Minutes: Cabinet Papers 27/651, cited in Gilbert,
Exile and Return, p. 210.
of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission, 1937, Minutes of the 32nd Session,
Wedgewood, June 1938, Survey of International Affairs, 1938, vol. I, p.
417, n. 1.
Partition (Woodhead) Commission Report, 1938, from Martin Gilbert, The
Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson,
1974), p. 28
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