Palestine in 1923

Palestine_south_1924

Map of Palestine, 1924. (map: British War Office / National Library of Scotland)

How a 1923 college textbook describes the nascent conflict in Palestine.

[Ed. note: I recently came across my father’s college textbook, Europe Since 1815.* I was curious to see how it described the then-recent events in Palestine. Here is the complete entry on Palestine.]


It is quite obvious that the vague term “a national home” does not mean, and cannot safely be made to mean “a Jewish State.” For Palestine as a Jewish State with supreme authority in the hands of the Jews would mean a clear and flagrant defiance of the principle of self-determination. . . . [The Arabs] consider Palestine their country, as it is, if majorities have any rights which the world is bound to respect.


. . . Great Britain has also been given by the League of Nations a mandate for Palestine. Embodied in the mandate is a provision for the establishment of a “National Home” for the Jewish People according to the principle laid down in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, which reads as follows: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of that object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may 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.”

What this may mean remains to be seen, the term and conception of a “national home” being new to political science and of uncertain scope and significance. It represents the presented status of the Jewish nationalist aspiration expressed in recent times in the movement called Zionism. Great Britain as the mandatory power is responsible for the carrying out of this purpose. It has not yet indicated what its interpretation of the Balfour Declaration will actually be. It is quite obvious that the vague term “a national home” does not mean, and cannot safely be made to mean “a Jewish State.” For Palestine as a Jewish State with supreme authority in the hands of the Jews would mean a clear and flagrant defiance of the principle of self-determination accepted as the underlying basis of the system of mandates created by the Conference of Paris.

Palestine has a population of somewhat less than 800,000, of whom only about 80,000, or one in ten, are Jews, most of the rest being Arabs. The Arabs are absolutely opposed to the aims of Zionism. They consider Palestine their country, as it is, if majorities have any rights which the world is bound to respect. They regard the Balfour Declaration as the work of British politicians who have an eye to the advantage of British commerce and imperial expansion and who are sensitive to the influence of Jewish world finance. They see no reason why the should themselves be sacrificed to such considerations. There is an Arabic nationalist aspiration as there is a Jewish nationalism and a British imperialism. Whether the three can live together in harmony within the restricted area of Palestine remains to be seen. There are materials sufficient for a serious conflict. It should be noted, further, that there are nearly as many Christians as Jews in Palestine, 73,000 of the former, 83,000 of the latter. . . .


*Hazen, Charles Downer. Europe Since 1815. Henry Holt and Company, 1923. Excerpts from pages 999–1000.

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