Why did the British oppose Jewish immigration to Palestine?
The Jewish immigration to Palestine dates back to the 19th century while the land was ruled by Ottoman Turks. World War 1 saw the fall of Ottoman Empire, and Britain from among the victors, was chosen by the United Nations for Palestine Mandate. The terms of the Mandate, laid down at the 1920 San Remo Conference and became effective in 1923, was an echo of the Balfour Declaration with Britain responsible for its implementation until the time the region could become able to handle its government on its own.
The Jews and Zionists held the view that they were betrayed by the British and all their favors shifted to Arabs through Churchill White Paper, establishment of Transjordan and White Paper of 1939. However, they failed to see the British strategies, calling it a bias due to the factors such as keeping good relations with Arabs for their oil supply and such. Mainly, the British were worried about the offense it would create among the Arab population if it did not put a stop on Jewish immigration which led to unstable relations between the two nations as the British were responsible for peace in the land.
Chaim Weizmann, Jewish representative at the Paris Peace Conference, was sure that he had made clear the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine and that Britain would go along with it. However, British authorities did not do so and maintained the stance that the Balfour Declaration called for the protection of Palestinian rights as well. The same statement was clarified through the White Paper of 1922, which stated that a Jewish national home within Palestine does not stand for imposing Jewish nationality on entire Palestine; while clearly noting that the Jews had a right to come to Palestine. The hostilities between Zionists and Arabs arose when the British High Commissioner failed to control massive migration to Palestine. The situation was exacerbated once Jewish immigration increased so much that the ratio which was 82:16 for Arabs and Jews in 1931 became 67:31 in 1946.
The antagonism kept building up with Jewish immigration and land acquiring. Tensions kept rising and Arabs let out their protests through violent riots and the Wailing Wall disturbance in 1929. This made the British realize the intensity of the situation and they responded with the Shaw Commission which declared that Arab rights were being violated. Later, Hope-Simpson Commission was established where it was recommended that Jewish immigration needs to be put under a control keeping in view the limitations of the economic capacity of Palestine.
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