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.