McDonald White Paper of 1939

What was the McDonald White Paper of 1939?

Arabs and Jews were called by Britain in 1939 for a conference where they were to discuss different issues relating to each other. The Arab and Jewish delegations came together to look for a solution to their internal differences in the Round Table Conference in 1939, a meeting which is also known as The St. James Conference. Chaim Weizmann came as a representative of Jews with groups of both Zionist and non-Zionist agencies while the Arab delegation came under the supervision of Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and also included the renowned al-Nashashibi family. Apart from the Palestinian Arabs, the conference was also attended by the delegations of other Arab countries like Syria, Transjordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The conference took off with a bad start. The Arab delegates refused to recognize the authenticity of the Jewish agency and therefore denied the direct and formal meeting with Jewish representatives. Resultantly, the British took up negotiating with each party individually and when both these would not agree to the same terms, the British formed the final policy itself.

Named after the British Colonial Secretary Malcolm McDonald, McDonald White Paper is also known as The British White Paper of 1939 and Parliamentary Document 6019, issued as a result of the St. James Conference by the British. The conference failed to produce the desired results of bringing peace in Palestine; therefore, the British adopted a new policy to handle the drastic situation prevailing in the region.

The 1939 White Paper laid out permanent limitation on Jewish immigration. It allowed the entrance of 75,000 Jewish immigrants over a period of five years, after that, the immigration would need Arab consent. Although McDonald White Paper laid out lenient strategies for the Arabs and Jews were agitated over it, but Arabs still objected to it, stating that it does not imply the formation of an all-Arab state which was unacceptable to them.

The key provisions laid out in the McDonald White Paper of 1939 were:

  • It is the not the will of the British to form a Jewish state in Palestine.
  • The Palestinian territories lying West of the Jordan River were to be considered excluded from the decrees of the McMahon correspondence.
  • After the interim period, British forces two independent states in Palestine of Arabs and Jews, sharing a government in a way where the interests of both the nations are safeguarded.
  • Transfer of the Arab land to the Jews in most of the regions of the country is to be severely controlled.
  • Keeping in view the Arab apprehension regarding the Jewish immigration, the five year allowance of 75,000 Jews in Palestine was implemented so that the population of Jews in Palestine remains under one-third of the total.

From the start of the World War II till the end of the mandate, the White Paper remained the basis to set out British policies and all other stood irrelevant. Jews in Palestine as well as in the rest of the places were outraged, considering The White Paper a betrayal by the British. Therefore, right with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the decrees of the White Paper were rescinded.

6 thoughts on “McDonald White Paper of 1939”

    1. Well, when you say “Palestinians”, at that time, they were both Jews and Arabs. I suspect the White Paper of 1939 was totally in favor of the Arabs, insomuch as it benefited British interests in the region.

  1. I have read in Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen’s diary that through his own intelligence operation he discovered that British officers had colluded with Palestinian Arabs to thwart the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. In Meinertzhagen’s diary dated 26 April 1920, he claimed that Colonel Waters-Taylor had told the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, that “if disturbances of sufficient violence occurred in Jerusalem at Easter, both General Bols and General Allenby would advocate the abandonment of the Jewish Home.”

    I’m wondering if you have ever heard of these things.

    Thank you for the article, by the way.

  2. The White Paper was complete rubbish because it totally reneged on the promise by Britain for a separate Jewish state in the Balfour declaration.What many people forget is that Muslims were few in numbers in this region, including that of Lebanon. These regions were mostly Jews and Christians with some Muslims though the Turkish Muslims controlled the area. If you look at the Middle East the majority of it in the early 1900’s was dominated by Christians and Jews, but with Muslim overlords.
    The disgruntled Muslims, we call Palestinians today, did not accept the status of being Muslims until Yasser Arafat declared Muslims in this area to be Palestinians. This he did as a political ideology to gain sympathy from the west. Jordan and Syria were not nations until Britain made them and was original partition of Jews and Muslims living in the area. Israel should have been declared after Jordan and Syria were declared nations, but Britain had a bad habit of reneging on deals. The Muslims that call themselves Palestinians, most of which are as phony as a three dollar bill, do not want a Palestine state, but rather the destruction of the Israeli state. When land is taken by the Muslims it is no longer oppressed since they view all lands as being Allah’s. All Muslims must wage Holy Jihad to reclaim the land, thus the wars between Arabs and Jews is actually Islam versus Judaism, and in the west it is Islam versus Christianity.

    1. L.J. Middleton


      Firstly, I remind you that given the fact that Palestine was a province of the Ottoman Empire in 1917, the Balfour Declaration had no legal status, i.e., it violated the legal maxim “Nemo dat quod non habet” (nobody can give what he does not possess). Even Chaim Weizmann knew the Declaration had no legal status: “The Balfour Decalaration of 1917 was built on air.”

      Furthermore, the 1922 League of Nations British Mandate for Palestine was a Class A Mandate, i. e, Palestine was to be administered by Britain AS A WHOLE until its citizens were able to assume democratic self-rule. By incorporating the Balfour Declaration the mandate did facilitate Jewish immigration to “secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home,” but it did not call for the creation of a Jewish state or homeland in Palestine or any form of partition. (Nor did the Balfour Declaration itself which favoured “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish peoples”). As declared in the Churchill Memorandum (1 July 1922), “the status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.”

      Furthermore, regarding the British Mandate, as approved by the Council of the League of nations, the British government declared: “His Majesty‚Äôs Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” (Command Paper, 1922) The 1939 White Paper reiterated this fact.

      The rest of your comment is replete with ignorance and racism and unworthy of further response other than to recommend you conduct some serious research into the subject.

  3. You’re wrong!
    All I know is that people don’t like the truths to be said always but Israelite were the best by that time because of the high technology they have acquired in Europe by then has enabled them to win the war of 1948 rather than some writers claim that Arabs were the majority that was another trick but the truth is that they were superior after being defeated by Arabs during the reign of Omer Ibn El Kitab.

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