PALESTINE UNDER THE BRITISH MANDATE
The decision to award Britain the Mandate for Palestine in 1920 was guided by the provisions of the Treaty
of Versailles, drawn up at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference following WW1. There, the establishing
Covenant of the League of Nations stated, in Article 22, that “certain communities formerly belonging to the
Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be
provisionally recognized, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory
until such time as they are able to stand alone.”
The announcement made in 1920 at the San Remo Conference allotted the Mandate for Palestine to
Britain, but it was not until 1923, after the League of Nations approved and ratified its terms, that the
Mandate officially came into full force. Drawing up the terms of the Mandate, Britain drew on the Balfour
Declaration and the government’s position, “in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for
the Jewish people.” Article IV of the Mandate document invited the Zionist Organization to, “take steps in
consultation with his Britannic Majesty’s Government to secure the cooperation of all Jews who are willing to
assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.” Other articles committed Britain to facilitating and
encouraging Zionist settlement and land acquisition. The final draft of the Mandate was drawn up in 1922.
That same year, the first full British census was conducted in Palestine, revealing the Jewish population to
be 11.4% of the total. Of these, at least 32.2% had immigrated since the British took power in 1918.
Winston Churchill’s June 1922 White Paper on Palestine officially divided the territory of the original
Mandate (which had potentially conjoined Transjordan and Palestine), and thereby confined the terms of the
Mandate to the territory of Palestine. With the approval of the League of Nations in September 1922, Britain
thus formalized the territorial boundaries of Transjordan and Palestine, limiting its approval for the
establishment of a Jewish national home to Palestine. Soon after, in April 1923, Britain recognized the
Hashemite Amir Abdullah as the legitimate ruler of the autonomous Emirate of Transjordan.
Following the 1920 San Remo announcement, Palestinian leaders presented their case before the British
government, in an effort to reverse the draft clauses of the Mandate relating to the Jewish national home,
but again in vain. With the US Congress formally endorsing British pro-Zionist policies and the content of
the Balfour Declaration on 21 September 1922, the Palestinians found themselves yet further distanced
from decision-making processes. Domestic political activities were relentlessly thwarted by the British, who
were not afraid to employ force and severe punishments in their drive to smother the many popular protests,
strikes and boycotts initiated by the Palestinian National Congress and the national political parties.
By virtue of Article IV of the Mandate, the Jewish Agency (JA) was formed in Palestine with the express
purpose of facilitating the foundation of the Jewish national home in Palestine. The JA was to act as the
unofficial Jewish government in Mandate Palestine and as such was tied closely with the British
administration; its first head was Frederick Kisch, a British colonel and Zionist. Kisch encouraged his Zionist
colleagues to learn from his British compatriots and sponsors in order to facilitate their development of an
independent administrative system in Palestine. The Zionist camp was, though, split over the exclusion of
Transjordan from the terms of the Mandate. The WZO leadership was content to quietly seek Amir
Abdullah’s recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine, in exchange for the dropping of Zionist demands to
settle east of the Jordan. Others, led by Vladimir Jabotinsky of Poland, rejected any compromise and
insisted on the forcible and accelerated colonization of both Palestine and Transjordan.