Tuesday, March 21, 2023

100 years ago – Great Britain receives the League of Nations mandate over Palestine

British Soldiers On Guard In The Old City Of Jerusalem In 1938.

British soldiers on guard in the old city of Jerusalem in 1938. On July 24, 1922, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was ratified in London – Great Britain wanted to secure its influence in the Middle East. (pa/United Archives)
Paris, April 1919: a few months after the end of the First World War, the League of Nations was founded in Versailles. But the victorious powers are not only concerned with securing peace, but also with defining their own areas of interest. The whole thing is being sold as an act of charity: According to Article 22 of the League of Nations statute, peoples who are not yet able to govern themselves must be taken by the hand in order to be able to develop better themselves.

“The best way of putting this principle into practice is to confer stewardship over these peoples on the advanced nations which, by virtue of their resources, experience, or geographical position, are best placed to assume such a responsibility .”

1916: Agreement on “Repartition of the Middle East”

It was no coincidence that France and Great Britain were chosen: the two colonial powers had already signed a secret agreement in 1916, after the expected defeat of the Ottoman Empire – the Sykes-Picot Agreement – agreed on a repartition of the Middle East. A year after the founding of the League of Nations, responsibilities were divided at the San Remo Conference. While France was given the mandate for Syria and Lebanon, Great Britain received Mesopotamia and Palestine in trust, according to historian Arnd Bauerkamper.

“This idea of ​​a benevolent empire, so to speak, this paternalistic rule under British protection, which supposedly would ensure the well-being of all residents in this area, that was a guiding principle, so to speak, this imperial paternalism, let me put it, this authoritarian attitude that was yes, so to speak, inscribed in British imperialism, also in the concept of the civilizing mission, which the British also attributed to themselves.”

ulterior motive of continued British rule

The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was ratified in London on July 24, 1922. The focus was on the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. In November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, James Balfour, assured the Zionists of his government’s support for a national Jewish home in Palestine. The fact that the British had already promised the Sherif of Mecca an Arab state in Palestine two years earlier – in order to win the Arabs as allies in the fight against the Ottoman Empire – was not mentioned in the mandate. Strategically, the Jews were the more important allies.

“The long-term aim of the British government was to secure the Middle East for Britain, so to speak, also to mobilize the Jewish organizations as support organs for the continued British rule in the Middle East, which was important for the maintenance of the British Empire. Great Britain was primarily concerned with securing the Suez Canal, which actually remained the lifeline of the Empire until the 1950s.”

“Caught between Arab radicalism and radical Zionism”

In 1923, the Emirate of Transjordan was separated from the mandate area, which shrank to around a quarter of its original size. The problems, on the other hand, did not get any smaller, on the contrary. With the increasing number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine – especially after Hitler came to power – anger and disappointment grew on the Arab side.

“Many Arabs felt marginalized in this area, they felt threatened by the increasing number of Jewish settlers and reacted allergically here. In short: a conflict ensued that escalated in the 1930s. The British mandated power was caught, so to speak, between increasing Arab radicalism and the thoroughly militant Zionist, radical Zionist movements.”

Divided: To date, no Arab counterpart to Israel

In 1936 the British government set up a commission that held talks with representatives from both sides. The conclusion of the commission was sobering: an equal coexistence of Jews and Arabs in Palestine was not possible because of the incompatible national ambitions.

“According to the Arab imagination, the Jews could only claim the place they once held in Arab Egypt or Arab Spain. The Arabs, on the other hand, would be as marginalized in the Jewish imagination as the Canaanites were in ancient Israel. The national home cannot be semi-national.”

In September 1947, Britain returned the mandate. The cost of pacifying the tense situation was disproportionate to Palestine’s strategic importance. Two months later, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. On May 14, 1948, a few hours before the end of the British mandate, the State of Israel was proclaimed – the Arabic counterpart to this does not exist to this day.

Nation World News Desk
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