I have been severely jolted in reading Chapter 11 in the process of writing this précis. Growing up in England since before the outbreak of the Second World I was imbued with an abiding sense of the admirable core values of the British people, which included, above all else, the highest levels of integrity coupled with a unique sense of fair play. The finest British people that I have encountered embodied these traits as if they were in their genes. Overseeing this benign milieu was always the coterie of British politicians for whom “politics” was a calling to a noble profession.
However, this book, and this chapter, have laid bare a pattern of conduct which will forever be a stain on the history of the English people.
If the argument is to be made that Britain felt forced to conduct this duplicitous, realpolitik campaign in order to win the favour of the Arab countries, then it must be said that Whitehall, Westminster and Britain’s global network of ambassadors failed miserably to foresee the ultimate political landscape of what once was the centre of the civilized world.
Finally, it was the supreme courage and ingenuity of the Israelis, and their over- riding realization that the coming war of independence could not be lost whatever the cost, that ultimately overcame the obstacles planted by the British Mandate Administration, that secured victory for Israel and the survival of the Jewish nation.
The ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israel is grounded in, and has been fuelled by, a false claim regarding the population of Israel and Palestine.
The Arab claim that Jews arrived in Israel in 1948 is a myth that has been perpetuated and aided and abetted by Arab countries and others, in particular the Catholic Pope John Paul ll. While he commemorated the re-birth of Israel in 1948 by the Jewish people after the extermination of “…so many sons and daughters” in the Holocaust he was at pains to mention “…at the same time, a sad condition was created for the Palestinian people. These are facts that everyone can see.” The Pope’s support has been an especially powerful ingredient in the spreading of the myth, -legitimizing it and according it – a false historical basis. The myth has been embellished over time to the extent that it claims that Jews had previously never previously populated Palestine, and that their arrival has displaced the true indigenous population – the Palestinians – from whom the Jews stole their land.
Popular misconceptions about the legitimate population of Palestine were further reinforced by manipulations of, dubious at best, census and other reports. The perpetrators here included the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry and the British Mandate administration.
The British put out ludicrous, non-scientific justifications to explain the demographics, immigration, birth and mortality rates of the Jewish and Arab communities respectively. The explanations were attributed to grossly distorting assessments of the general health and living conditions in Palestine. These distortions maintained that the growth of the Jewish population was largely “immigrant” and that of the Arabs due to “natural increase”.
Further, the propaganda claimed that growth in the Jewish population could never reach parity with that of the Arabs by natural growth alone, implying that immigration would be the necessary method. Any real improvements in the health and mortality rates of the Arabs were accurately attributed, by demographic experts, to the more advanced health services introduced by the Jewish settlements and the British.
Some reports acknowledged that the Arab population had probably remained stagnant, at about 300,000 to 400,000, for the previous two centuries [see Chapt. 10–Editor], and would have remained at that level were it not for the health and other benefits introduced by the Jews. They also failed to mention a significant increase via Arab in-migration.
While immigration levels were publicly blamed for the rise in the Jewish population and its displacement of the “indigenous” Arab community, it was actually the case that high levels of immigration accounted for a significant proportion of the growth in the Arab population. While this reality was obliquely acknowledged in reports from the British Department Of Migration, the British continued to blatantly contradict themselves and discourage monitoring of Arab immigration.
Notable among the glaring evidence of Arab immigration was in the 1931 census which stated that at least 51 languages were spoken by Palestinian Christian and Moslem Arabs, and 20 birth places were given by Arab occupants of Jerusalem alone.
The blatant mendacity and contradiction by the British Colonial office continued with strident mention of “illegal” Jewish immigration and minor references elsewhere in the same reports to “illegal” Arab immigration. While the British persisted in conducting meticulous, minutely detailed recording, and advance estimates of Jewish immigration to be deducted from their quotas, it routinely obscured the reality of illegal Arab immigration with vague references.
“Hints of Substantial Unreported Arab Immigration”
The author first noticed a challenge to the “very foundation to the claim that Jewish settlement in Palestine had caused the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Arabs” in a 1938 statement by Churchill:
“… So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population.”
Churchill’s statement, far from being personal speculation was no doubt based on evidence [He was officially involved in the Palestine Mandate from its very early days as Colonial Secretary having convened the Cairo Conference in 1921—Editor]. He would have known about Tewfik bey El-Hurani, Governor of the Hauran. El-Haurani stated in a 1934 interview with La Syrie, as reported in the Minutes of the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, to the effect that 30,000 to 36,000 Huranese had settled in Palestine “in the last few months”.
Noting that this 30,000 to 36,000 illegal Arab immigrants came from just one area in the Arab Middle east highlights the enormity of the scope of illegal Arab immigration, “without passports or visas”.
While British “private” and “secret” correspondence admitted to Arab immigration “without passport or visa” taking place from after the First World War until the 1940s, the British only openly reported this illegal immigration when obliged by the inescapable public evidence of the presence of these illegal Arab immigrants and by pressure from the Permanent Mandates Commission.
Thus the British continued their mendacious policy of drastically under-reporting the size of illegal Arab immigration, and grossly exaggerating the size of the Jewish immigrant population. While meticulously tabulating specifics about the small numbers of Jewish immigrants, the British compiled practically no data on the masses of illegal Arab immigrants.
The scope of the outright lies given out by the British is breathtaking. The actual miniscule numbers of Jewish immigrants were blamed for uprooting and displacing large numbers of “indigenous” Arabs and this lie was the basis for preventing the influx of Jews attempting to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
It must be said that some British officials did truthfully report the large scale illegal Arab immigration and in fact once such official was subsequently “slain”. In 1936, the British Governor of the Sinai observed wryly that,
This illegal immigration was not only going on from the Sinai, but also from Transjordan and Syria and it is very difficult to make a case out for the misery of the Arabs if at the same time their compatriots from adjoining states could not be kept from going in to share that misery.
And yet, the British “White Paper” even more severely curtailed Jewish immigration in deference to Arab rioting—this in 1939, the eve of the Holocaust. It is an inescapable verity that the outrageous British campaign of baldfaced lies had more effect than merely hiding the truth of the makeup of the Palestinian population, it directly was responsible for the condemnation of thousands of fleeing Jews to the Nazi death camps.