The terms of the 1922 Palestine Mandate included recognition of “an appropriate Jewish agency as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish National Home and the interests of the Jewish population of Palestine.”
In 1923, the British High Commissioner in Palestine offered to set up an Arab Agency, parallel to the Jewish Agency that was mentioned in the Mandate, to help build local governance and fulfill a similar purpose for Palestinian Arabs as the Jewish Agency was for Palestinian Jews.
The Palestinian Arab leaders, represented by the Arab Executive Committee, flatly refused.
The entire long refusal letter is proudly displayed in the “Palestinian Journeys” website, a joint project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies. It is a prototype of the absolute Arab refusal to allow Jews to have any rights to self determination, and their perfect record of happily punishing their own people for their own shortsighted goals.
The Jewish Agency was a quasi government that was able, in 1948, to step in and run the new State of Israel without having to build a government from scratch. An Arab Agency could have filled the same role, but Arab refusal to do anything strategic for Arabs of Palestine is a century-old constant. Saying “no” is the most consistent Arab position.
The refusal letter gives many reasons that an Arab Agency would be an insult. The main argument is that Palestine must be for Arabs only, period, and that the British had promised this to them in the controversial McMahon-Hussein correspondence. The Balfour Declaration was illegal, the Arab Executive Committee said, and even though the wording was enshrined in the League of Nations Mandate system, the Arab leaders insisted that a Jewish national home was violating the spirit of the League of Nations.
The letter even complains about the proposed name “Arab Agency,” saying “the name of the agency makes them feel that they are strangers in their own country as well . “
Notably, the letter not once refers to the Arabs of Palestine as “Palestinians.”
Today’s Palestinians still celebrate this rejectionism.
Then as now, pride prompts Arabs to make decisions that have always proven to be disastrous to their own people,
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