From the Commonwealth Round Table Journal archives - Palestine: The wider hope. Picture shows covers of old journals

[This excerpt is from an article in a 1939 edition of the Round Table Journal.From 1921 the UK administered the former Ottoman territories of Palestine and Transjordan as League of Nations ’mandates’. This followed the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which supported the establishment of a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine. By the late 1930s, communal violence between Arabs and Jewish settlers had resulted in the so-called ‘Arab uprising’. This article brought together (anonymously) contributions from Canon Charles Bridgeman (of Jerusalem), A. Alexander (of the Anglo-Jewish Association), Neville Laski (brother of Harold), and historian Arnold Toynbee; the latter (on behalf of the Round Table) advocated a federal solution in the wider region. The article is currently free-to-access under our ‘From the Archives’ series.]

From A Federal Solution: An editorial

Cannot  the  French and  British  Governments  put  their heads  together  to  compass  the  common  solution  of  their parallel   problems   in   the  Levant? Together   they   may hope to  extricate  themselves  from  the analogous  difficulties in which their  respective mandates have involved  them.

The   wider   federation, which would no doubt   have special  relations with neighbouring States—Turkey,  ‘Iraq, Saudi  Arabia,  Egypt—obviously  cannot  be  brought  into being  at  once.  Even if  there  were  no  other  obstacles, the  French  Government  have  matters  almost  as   difficult as the Jew-Arab  conflict to settle in  Syria and the Lebanon before   they  will  feel  able  to  relinquish  their  mandatory control.  But   it   will   surely   be   wise   for   the   British Government, if it can obtain the concurrence  of the French to  declare publicly  now  that  this  is the goal towards  which its  eyes  are  turned,  as  it  continues  to  carry  out  its  under-takings  to  both  Jews  and  Arabs.  Only  with  the  compensation  of  a  promised  wider  unity  are  the  Arabs  likely to  be  reconciled  both  to  the  continuance  of  Jewish  immigration  into  Palestine  and  to  what  that  necessarily  implies, the creation  of an Arab minority in the mixed  Jewish-Arab area. Only thus can Great  Britain be permanently  assured of the friendship  of  a group  of peoples  occupying  territory of  extreme importance  for  British  Commonwealth  defence, while  at  the  same  time  she  can  be  rid  of  the  arduous  and painful  task  of  internal  defence  that  she  now  shoulders  in Palestine.These are  the  fundamental  strategic  considerations  for  Great  Britain,  though  there  are  other  important questions,  such  as the  use  of  Haifa  for  naval  purposes  and the  defence  of  the  oil  pipe-line,  which  would  have  to  be settled  after  the  model  of  the  Anglo-Egyptian  treaty  of alliance.

In   the   meantime, a form of territorial rather than numerical limitation of immigration into Palestine is the only path towards  self-government  for  Palestine  that  is  compatible  with  realism  and  with  Great  Britain’s  international duty. Numerical limitation on the  lines  of  a  maximum Jewish  percentage,  which  may  be found   advisable  as  a temporary  expedient,  cannot  be  more  than  that.    And if the revised cantonisation idea—partition without  partition—is to  be  a stepping  stone to  something  greater  and  more lasting,  it  must  provide  for  the  establishment  of  common democratic  institutions  for  all  matters  of  common  concern to  the  Arab  and  the  mixed  areas.  The two communities must not be allowed to  grow further  and further  apart,  but from  the  beginning  must  have  the  means  of  facing  their common  problems—which  are  many—not  as  enemies  but as  co-operators  in  self-government. At first, while Great Britain retains her full mandatory powers, these representative institutions will have to be only advisory in the more important   fields; but the  unwritten  principle  should  be adopted that if the two communities  are agreed the  mandatory  Power  will  concur,  subject  to  any  over-riding  reasons of  state. Among the matters of greatest moment that will fall to the all-Palestinian democratic institutions to consider will be the collection and distribution of revenues from joint sources, such as the yield of the common customs tariff.  By this process, rather than by any direct book-keeping adjustment, will the greater wealth of the Jewish community serve to raise the administrative and economic standard among the Arabs.

The common interests of the two communities—indeed of all the peoples dwelling in the lands that lie between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean with its two north-western fingers—are plain both in the economic and in the strategic spheres.  The problem is to combine the service of the common interests with satisfaction for the national aspirations of both Jews and Arabs. It can only be done if those aspirations find scope on two different  planes—those of the Jews in that portion  of Palestine  of which they will  have  freedom  to  make  whatever  they  can,  those  of the Arabs in the wider confederation  of the Near East.

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