Today the “discovery” of Jew-hatred among British politicians, particularly in the Labour Party, is news. But the relationship of the Jews to Albion, since the citizens of York wiped out their Jewish community in 1190, hasn’t been smooth.
Recently, I read a review by Sheree Roth of a neglected 1938 book, William B. Ziff’s The Rape of Palestine. Although Roth is primarily concerned with the (very important and persuasive) evidence in Ziff’s book refuting the Arab claim to be the “original” or “indigenous” inhabitants of the Land of Israel, the book is primarily concerned with the history of the British Mandatory power over Palestine. The book is available at Amazon (though currently out of stock), but its copyright has lapsed and someone has placed the entire text here for our enjoyment.
The British betrayal of the Jewish people must be reckoned as one of the great crimes of the 20th century. Entrusted with the Mandate to ultimately make possible a Jewish National Home, Britain instead fought its realization tooth and nail, ultimately becoming complicit in the Nazi Holocaust. Even after the war, when the evil consequences of its policies should have been clear, when Germany herself began to recognize her obligation to what was left of the Jewish people, Britain continued to fight against the establishment of a Jewish state, battling attempts to resettle Jewish refugees, even arming and providing military advisors to the Arab armies that in 1948 tried to finish the job Hitler started.
Everyone knows about the series of White Papers issued by the Mandatory Government, which progressively limited Jewish immigration, culminating in the MacDonald White Paper of 1939 which – just as the furnaces of the Holocaust were about to be lit – effectively closed the doors of Palestine to Jews and doomed millions to destruction.
But Ziff explains how, long before 1939, British authorities used every bureaucratic device possible to reduce the number of Jews allowed into the country, while completely overlooking the uncontrolled immigration of Arabs who flocked in to take advantage of the jobs created by the Zionists. “Illegal” Jews were hunted down and punished. Roth quotes Ziff,
Hunting “illegal” Jews became a major game, with illegal Arab newcomers enlisting gleefully in the chase. Savage Bedouins joined in under promise of a reward for any Jewish man, woman, or child they could catch. Palestine was under a virtual reign of terror. Anyone who could not immediately prove his citizenship, or produce his or her certificate of entry, was tracked down, jailed, and brutally beaten. …
A fair example is the case of a woman and six small children, who had arrived legally with the proper passport and visa from Turkestan. On the way, her husband had been killed at a railway station. The whole family was arrested on the grounds that the passport provided not for a woman and six children but for a man, a woman and six children. On this pretext the woman and her children were ordered to prison. [pp. 245-6]
Not only did the authorities try to prevent Jews from arriving, they viciously discriminated against the ones that were already here. The Jewish population was heavily taxed (as they do today, the Arabs tended to favor informal business practices that avoided taxation), but the revenues, which Ziff tells us were plentiful thanks to Jewish enterprise, were either retained by the government for its own purposes or used almost entirely to benefit the Arab sector. The government school system,
…is purely Arab in character. The language of instruction is Arabic . Hebrew is not even taught as a foreign tongue. When in 1937 a rumor circulated that the study of Hebrew was to be introduced, it only evoked incredulity and rendered the Government’s hasty denial superfluous. “Apart from scientific subjects,” the Peel Commission acknowledges, “the curriculum is almost wholly devoted to the literature, history and tradition of the Arabs; and all the school masters from the humblest village teacher to the head of the Government Arab college, are Arabs.” School masters in Palestine appear to have been recruited from the ranks of the most exaggerated pan-Arab agitators. The result, as Lord Peel candidly admits, is to turn the children out as violent “Arab patriots .” “The schools,” he tells us, “have become seminaries of Arab nationalism.” [p. 310]
Jewish schools were built and supported mostly by overseas donors. “During the whole period of British occupation there has never been a single Jewish school built in Palestine out of the public funds,” Ziff reports. Health and sanitation expenditures were allocated similarly. Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem paid full price for its water while Arab hospitals were supplied at no charge. Jews were severely discriminated against for government jobs, and if a Jew did manage to get hired, for promotions. Telegraph messages were only accepted in English or Arabic, until the international commission governing mandates forced the postal service to accept Hebrew messages; but equipment was only installed in a few cities making it worthless in practice. Government employees were required to be fluent in English and Arabic but not in Hebrew, and many did not speak or understand the language. [chap. VII].
The law enforcement and court system were corrupt and biased. Almost all court records were kept in Arabic [p. 326], which makes sense since almost all magistrates, notaries and prosecutors were Arabs. Prison conditions were unspeakable, so bad that prisoners released after a few years were often crippled for life by starvation rations. Justice was anything but blind: Ziff tells of a case of a Jewish watchman at Bat Galim (near Haifa) sentenced to prison for attempted murder, after he wounded an Arab – who was among a gang attacking the settlement. Meanwhile, a Bedouin who took part in the murder of a Jewish boy and girl received a light sentence because the murder was committed consequent to raping the girl, and therefore unintentional (the boy was killed trying to defend her)! Four other Bedouins, who also raped the girl, were set free [pp. 330-1].
I’ve only scratched the surface, but it should be clear that the administration of the Mandate by the “civilized” nation of Great Britain was as ugly as any colonial enterprise, and particularly evil because of the discriminatory way it treated a part of the native population – indeed, the ones the Mandate was intended to benefit. The question is “why?” Why was it so important to the British to prevent Jewish immigration and to support the Arab community in opposition to the Jews?
The common understanding is that the British did not want an independent state to arise in Palestine, which sits in a critical position as the gateway to the “Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire,” India. Possibly they felt that even if they had to accept an independent state, an Arab one – like the British client monarchies of Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – would be more controllable than a democratic Jewish state. They also wanted to stay on the good side of the Arab oil-producing nations, as oil had become much more important as a strategic commodity after WWI.
One problem with this theory is that by 1947 there was no longer a need for a gateway to India, now independent. But Britain fought as hard as ever during the last year of the Mandate to prevent Jews from reaching Palestine. Jews were kept in “internment camps,” some of them on the sites of former Nazi concentration camps, to hold Jewish displaced persons. Although US President Truman wanted to allow them to go to Palestine, the British refused. As mentioned above, they armed and even provided officers to the invading Arab nations – despite their clearly genocidal goals – during Israel’s War of Independence.
What about oil? The fact is that the importance of Arab oil during that period was minimal. In 1945, the five top oil-producers were the US (65.8%), Venezuela (13.2%), USSR (5.5%), Iran (4.9%) and Mexico (1.8%). Iraq was in 7th place with 1.3%, and Saudi Arabia 11th with 0.8%. By 1948, Saudi Arabia had moved up to 5th place, with 4.1%. All of these sources with the exception of the USSR were strongly in the Western (i.e., American) orbit. There was no OPEC in those days, either. It is a stretch to think that Britain needed to be concerned about offending Arab oil producers during the mandate period, even after 1945. Arab oil was a potent political force in the 1970s, but it had not yet become one in 1948.
No, there is another reason that Britain betrayed the Jewish people, and it is that with some very notable exceptions such as Winston Churchill, Jew-hatred was rampant in its military, its Foreign Office, and its ruling classes in general. For example, the commander of British forces in Palestine from 1946-7 was Gen. Evelyn Hugh Barker. Barker famously wrote to his Arab mistress regarding Jews that
Yes, I loathe the lot – whether they be Zionists or not. Why should we be afraid of saying we hate them. Its time this damned race knew what we think of them – loathsome people.
Barker favored the death penalty for “Zionist guerrillas,” and applied it whenever he could. He suggested that the reason there was so much unrest was that previous administrations hadn’t hanged enough Jews. After the bombing of the King David Hotel, he issued an order that read in part,
I am determined that [the Jews] shall suffer punishment and be made aware of the contempt and loathing with which we regard their conduct. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the hypocritical sympathy shown by their leaders and representative bodies, or by their protests that they are in no way responsible for these acts … I have decided that with effect on receipt of this letter you will put out of bounds to all ranks all Jewish establishments, restaurants, shop, and private dwellings. No British soldier is to have social intercourse with any Jew. … I appreciate that these measures will inflict some hardship on the troops, yet I am certain that if my reasons are fully explained to them they will understand their propriety and will be punishing the Jews in a way the race dislikes as much as any, by striking at their pockets and showing our contempt of them.
Ziff’s book, full of details about the countless humiliations and punishments with which the British military and colonial service afflicted the Jews of the yishuv, suggests that there were many Barkers, large and small, in their ranks. And this, at bottom, is the reason Britain fought so hard against the creation of a Jewish state. Not oil, not access to India. Just Jew-hatred.
Are things different today, in Britain or anywhere else that irrational anti-Israel expression is found?