What was the purpose of the British Mandate for Palestine?
The preamble to the League of Nations document that establishes the British Mandate for the territory of Palestine states the purposes as follows:
- Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have agreed, for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, to entrust to a Mandatory selected by the said Powers the administration of the territory of Palestine, which formerly belonged to the Turkish Empire, within such boundaries as may be fixed by them; and
- Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty [the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country; and
- Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;
Article 6 further states:
- The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
By this document, the British government was made responsible for the territory known as Palestine for the specific purpose of facilitating Jewish immigration, settlement, and the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people”. While it is noted that the “civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” shall not be prejudiced by the purpose of the Mandate, the clear intent was to go forward with the Zionist program of Jewish immigration and settlement.
Unfortunately for all parties, early optimism that this could be done with justice for all was destroyed by Arab hostility to the basic concept, however implemented, and increasing anti-Jewish violence from the Arabs as the Mandate period proceeded. Ultimately the British reneged on their obligations and adopted alargely pro-Arab approach to policies in the Mandate territory.