History Through World War I to the British Mandate

Palestine Through World War I to the British Mandate

  • The start of the 20thCentury brought with it a period that was to define some substantial events in the history of Palestine. The major elements of the situation at present were primarily activated by these crucial events which lasted from World War I to the British Mandate.Right from the early years of the 20th Century, Palestine had started gaining the attention of differing political interests who all had their own reasons for claiming the territories. Ottoman grip on the empire was loosening and European powers were rising in some territories of the eastern Mediterranean which also included Palestine. During the period of 1915-16, while WWI was still going on, the British High Commissioner stationed in Egypt Sir Henry McMahon started carrying out a secret correspondence with the Ottoman governor of Mecca and Medina and the Patriarch of the Hashemite family, Husayn Ibn Ali. The secret correspondence comprised of McMahon asking Husayn to align with the British and French against Germany and lead a mutiny against Ottoman Empire.In return for the alliance, McMahon promised to help establish an independent state comprised of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire and give it under the Hashemite rule. Arabs complied and led a revolt under the headship of T.E. Lawrence and Faysal, Husayn’s son. They succeeded in defeating the Ottomans and WWI ended with most of the area going under the British control.


    However, Husayn-McMahon Correspondence was not the only one that had been made during the war by the British. The ever shrewd British also made other promises during the war that conflicted with the former. Lord Arthur Balfour, the British Prime Minister issued a document in 1917 known as the Balfour Declaration. The declaration announced the support of the British government for establishing a home for Jews in Palestine. There was also a third promise where Britain and France agreed to divide the control of the acquired Ottoman lands by carving it up.

    After the war was over, Britain and France succeeded in achieving a quasi-colonial authority over the former Ottoman territories, persuading and influencing the newly formed League of Nations (later the United Nations), being dominant. These British and French authorities were known as mandates. The mandate of France included Syria and Lebanon, carved out as a separate state while the British mandate comprised of what is now Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and The Gaza Strip.

    Britain further divided its mandated land in 1921 as a result of which the Emirate of Transjordan was created east of the Jordan River. The west side of the River became the Palestine mandate and so Palestine was given a unified political identity for the first time in modern history.

    All over the former Ottoman territories, Arab were fumed at British for not fulfilling their promise to establish an independent state for them and more so for taking away their right of self-determination because of the mandates.

    The situation was even grimmer in Palestine where the British had promised to establish a home for Jews. European Jewish immigration was taking its toll in the region and the establishment of Jewish settlements and land purchases was inciting Arab leaders, Palestinian people and journalists as they thought their worst fears in the form of the establishment of a Jewish state would actually become true. As stated earlier, the British mandate set out a new era of conflicts and enmities which are there till the present day with no foreseeable way out.



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