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The preamble in the British Mandate for Palestine has the following:

... 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Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917 by the Government of His Britannic Majesty

This is referring to the Balfour Declaration

and adopted by the said Powers, in favour 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 & religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine ...

The mandate came into effect in September 1923 and was terminated in May 1948; prior to termination in November 1947 the General Assembly of the UN adopted resolution 181 dealing with the future government of Palestine and which envisaged the creation of seperate Jewish & Arab states operating in an economic union with Jerusalem being transferred to UN trusteeship.

During the period of the Mandate - from September 1923 to May 1948 - did the Mandatory power institute any acts both overt and covert, that were 'prejudicial' to the 'civil and religious rights' of the existing 'non-Jewish communities' in Palestine?

  • Are you looking for an opinion or are you after a legal case, that the British lost, that referred to that wording? – Alex Oct 5 '17 at 16:59
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    Israelis will tell you that the British favoured the Arabs. Palestinians will say that they favoured the Jews. The British wil insist that they were as impartial ad humanly possible. You won't get an objective answer. – ugoren Oct 5 '17 at 18:56
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    @ugoren: it's always difficult to get objective opinions in politics especially on contentious issues; that, however, doesn't stop people looking for them; asking whether the British favoured the Jews is a reasonable point to begin with, particularly since the Balfour Declaration was made in 1917 well before the Holocaust. – Mozibur Ullah Oct 5 '17 at 23:24
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    @MoziburUllah In some legal specifics, such as their commitment to the terms of the Treaty of Berlin, the British acted in compliance with the law. In terms of political rights,they complied though the Palestinians boycotted the Legislative Council. As there was more or less continuous armed insurrection, it's very hard to determine whether rights to movement were compromised. The British were also subject to worldwide condemnation for their treatment of Jewish immigrants so it definitely a mixed picture. – Alex Oct 6 '17 at 10:30
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    @MoziburUllah In some parts of the world e.g. East Africa, Malaya etc. Britain insisted, as a condition of independence, that indigenous populations (e.g. African, Malay) held priority over settler populations of Indians, Chinese etc who had become economically dominant. Rather than upset the US Administration too much, and to get out of Palestine as cheaply as possible, insufficient attention was given to the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. The Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin, did once opine that Truman's enthusiasm for Israel, was "to get 'em off the streets of New York". – WS2 Jun 9 '18 at 12:23
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It's hard to answer your question because you are using the verb "prejudically." A preducial opinion is one that has been delivered before all relevant facts have been heard. But who decides what the relevant facts are and how do you know if they have been heard or not?

However, I will try and answer a simpler question: Did the British, by issuing the Balfour declaration, that the preamble to the mandatory document is based on, side with the Zionists?

The answer to that question yes and I will explain why.

First of all, the Balfour declaration was drafted by Lord Walter Rotschild, a leader of the British community and Chaim Weizmann, both convinced Zionists in close coperation with officials of the British government. The declaration was delivered as a letter to Rotschild and was published in the British press on 9 November 1917. Notably absent from the drafting process were representatives of the Arab population of Palestine.

At the time the declaration was issued, the population of Palestine was 78% Muslim, 10% Christian and 11% Jewish.

The second argument is the phrase "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." The wording of this phrase was intentially left vague, to placate the Arabs who were hostile towards the Zionist plan. A "national home" wasn't and isn't a precisely defined term. But in private, many British officials acknowledged that a Jewish state was inteded with the phrase.

In August 1919, in a memorandum on Syria, Palestine and Mesopotamia Balfour wrote:

The contradiction between the letter of the Covenant and the policy of the Allies is even more flagrant in the case of the independent nation of Palestine than in that of the independent nation of Syria. For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country, though the American Commission [the 1919 King-Crane Commission] has been through the form of asking what they are. The four great powers are committed to Zionism, and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices [sic] of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

Later during the three decades of Mandatory Palestine, British policy towards the region shifted as other geopolitical goals gained precedence. For example, in 1939 in a move that greatly angered the Zionists, the British severly restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Last year, Abbas tried to get the British government to apologize for issuing the declaration. He threatened to sue if it didn't comply with his request. His attempt didn't go so well, and he was widely ridiculed for it. But it caused some British citizens to create a petition calling upon the government to apologize for the declaration.

The government declied to apologize, but the response it drew included two noteworthy statements from British foreign office.

We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.

One can infer from this that the Foreign office consider that the Balfour declaration had a role in creating the State of Israel. If so, it must be admitted that the declaration sided with the Zionists.

the Declaration should have called for the protection of political rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly their right to self-determination

Which could be seen as an admittance that the declaration was flawed because it contradicted the inhabitants right to self-determination.

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    Those aren't two statements: they're two extracts from one statement. They're not a response to Abbas but to an online petition. And reading "it should have said X" as "it said the opposite of X" is a logical fallacy. – Peter Taylor Oct 6 '17 at 12:00
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    The question isn't if the Balfour declaration was pro-Zionist. It's whether the promise, within the declaration, for no prejudice against non-Jewish residents, was betrayed. – ugoren Oct 7 '17 at 16:14
  • +1: It's not usually understood that Zionism was actually a small movement back then; the term 'prejudicial' here doesn't mean what you say in your first paragraph, that's the modern sense; here it means a more like a definite and sustained bias, though that's not really a strong enough term here. – Mozibur Ullah May 20 '18 at 10:33

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