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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 instead. 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 were, 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.

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 roads.

Hospitals were not exempted from the wanton violence. On June 24, 1938,
". . . 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 from Nablus."9
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 in 1936,
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.
... 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
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.

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 of 1938.*13

[*A similar list of "moderate" Arabs who have been exterminated recently by the PLO-the modem "Muftism"--could be compiled today.]

Muslim religious leaders murdered or wounded included the following:
March 1938 Sheikh Yunis el Husseini, head of El Aqsa Mosque administration, was wounded.
July 1938 Sheikh Ali Nur el Khatib, of El Aqsa Mosque, was murdered.
Dec. 1938 Sheikh Dauoud Ansari, Imam of El Aqsa Mosque, was killed (after fourth attempt).

Other Sheikhs who were murdered then by Arab terrorists included:
July 1938 Sheikh Nusbi Abdul Rahim, Counsel to the Moslem Religious Court, murdered at Acre.
July 1938 Sheikh Abdul el Badawi, murdered at Acre.
Nov. 1938 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.

... 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

Just before the Mufti fled to Syria, the British Commander of the Arab Legion was convinced that
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 class, 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. I 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 be supported.

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 state.

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, confiding that

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 back.20

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 tomorrow.

1. Palestine Royal Commission Report, p. 366.

2. Ibid., p. 135.

3. "Japheth 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).

5. James Parkes, A History of Palestinefrom 135 A.D. to Modern Times (N.Y: Oxford University Press, 1949), pp. 321-322.

6. Ibid., p. 321.

7. Ernest Main, Palestine at the Crossroads (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1937), p. 107,.

8. Stuart Emeny, News Chronicle, London, December 10, 1938.

9. Martin Gilbert, Exile and Return, The Struggle for a Jewish Homeland (Philadelphia, 1978), p. 204.

10. Lieutenant 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.

12. November 21, 1938; also see Esco, ibid., p. 878 ff.

13. "The murdered were as follows-
Feb. 1937 Mukhtar of Arab Birket Caesarea
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, Nablus

"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."

14. Ibid.

15. Letter 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.

17. PRO FO 371/20817, Havard to Foreign Office, No. 15, "important, repeated to Jerusalem, Paris, Baghdad, and Damascus saving."

18. Ormsby-Gore Cabinet Papers 24/272, November 9, 1937; cited in Gilbert, Exile, p. 191.

19. August 21, 1938, Cabinet Papers, 24/278, cited in Gilbert, ibid., p. 206.

20. August 12, conversation with Dr. Izzet Tannous, Arab Christian head of the Arab Centre, London; cited in Gilbert, ibid., p. 206.

21. Palestine 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.

22. Esco Foundation for Palestine, ibid., p. 1156.

23. October 24, 1938, Cabinet Committee Minutes: Cabinet Papers 27/651, cited in Gilbert, Exile and Return, p. 210.

24. League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission, 1937, Minutes of the 32nd Session, pp. 73-74.

25. Ibid.

26. Colonel Wedgewood, June 1938, Survey of International Affairs, 1938, vol. I, p. 417, n. 1.

27. Palestine Partition (Woodhead) Commission Report, 1938, from Martin Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, Its History in Maps (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1974), p. 28

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source: "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters, 1984
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