This post is in part a response to comments on a FB thread.
The primary reference here is to what is known as ‘The Peel Commission’, more formally ‘Palestine: Report of the Roayl Commission, 1936’ submitted to the British Cabinet on 22nd June 1937.
First, to clear out of the way a few inaccuracies. There was indeed a preconceived plan, admitted in private correspondence by Ben Gurion, to force the Arabs off the land, see e.g. Ilan Pappe. Second, there are, indeed, some settlers on Palestinian land who seek reconciliation, but sadly, they are in a minority compared with those who seek confrontation. Third, Palestinians were not offered any kind of comprehensible ‘political autonomy in 1922, nor 1937’ and what was ‘offered’ in 1947 in the partition proposed by the UN, was an insult which would only have been accepted initially by Zionism as a first step to conquest of the whole land. (Chaim Weizmann had rejected the idea of a legislative council, proposed as early as 1022 and repeated in 1931 on the ground that, ‘to talk of elected Arabs represnting their people was to contradict the democratic principle which it was supposed to further’ (Trial and Error. Hamish Hamilton, 1949. page 467. The proposed council would have over-represented the Jews (14:7 + 7 others)). Isn’t it rather arrogant to believe that Arabs who had had no experience of democracy would revert to feudalism whilst Jews mainly from Eastern Poland and Russia would easily embrace it?
I’ve dealt with criticism of Husseini elsewhere. Was he a saint, of course not; but then, neither were those he was contending against, both British and Zionist. The ‘Jewish virtual Library’ provides a copy of the suggested ‘partition’ map, based on the ‘Peel Commission’ report. Let us assume that 20:80 is approximately correct, giving the Arabs 80% of their historic land. That sounds generous? Take a moment to think about it.
Suppose you come and stay with me as an uninvited ‘guest’. And suppose you invite friends to stay with you so that in a few weeks or months my family of 20 (it’s a large house) finds itself ‘hosting’ 4 ‘guests’. Then suppose I say to you that you and your friends should all leave my house and go somewhere else: you refuse. Instead, you involve a ‘mediator’ who suggests we split the house: you are to get 20% of it including the front door and most of the best parts of the garden. If I reject that proposal, am I being unfair?
Here are a few quotes from the ‘Peel Commsssion’ report: ‘ The following sentence deserves special attention. ” A National Home for the Jews, in the sense in which it was widely understood, was inconsistent with the demands of Arab nationalists while the claims of Arab nationalism, if admitted, would have rendered impossible the fulfilment of the pledge to the Jews.”‘ (Chapter III sect.52).
‘But we have tried to make it clear on previous pages of this Report that in our view the root of the trouble lay deeper. The overriding desire of the Arab leaders in 1931 was precisely what it had been in 1920-national independence: and the overriding cause of their antagonism to the National Home in 1931, as in 1920, was the conviction that it barred the way to the realization of that desire.’ and ‘In that stark contradiction between Arab aspirations and British obligations lay and had always lain the one insurmountable crux.’ (Chapter III sect. 64 & 65).
The following from Chapter XX states the origin of ‘the problem’; ‘ Under the stress of the World War the British Government
made promises to Arabs and Jews in order to obtain their support. On the strength of those promises both parties formed certain expectations.’ (S.2). and from section 12, ‘Thus, for internal and external reasons, it seems probable that the situation, bad as it now is, will grow worse. The conflict will go on, the gulf between Arabs and Jews will widen.’ The Commission, noted the possibility of renouncing the Mandate, but believed Britain had a responsibility to ‘solve the problem’. Acknowledging, reasonably, I think, that they were going beyond the precise terms of the Commission, they suggested the partition. The Arabs rejected it; it is widely assumed that the Zionists accepted it. This is mistaken. (I have noted elsewhere that by any reasonable reading of the McMahon correspondence, Hussayn was justified in his belief that he had been promised an independent Arab state to include Palestine).
Chaim Weizmann notes (Trial and Error. page 473), that the subject of partition was mentioned to him on January 8th 1937. He writes (p.474), ‘I believed that a small Jewish state, well-organised, living in peace with its neighbours … would be a great credit to us and an equally great contribution to civilization.’ Weizmann may have been willing to consider partition, but it is clear that many of his co-religionist, if such they could be called, didn’t agree. The resolution of the Zionist Organization declared that: ‘the scheme of partition put forward by the Royal Commission is unacceptable’. (op cit. 474). The only possible conclusion is that they wanted more. Later, in a letter to Ormsby-Gore, Weizmann wrote ‘the present situation has not been brought about by any inherent defect in the Mandate …’ (p.479 acknowledging that it may have had its weaknesses!). It seems strange that so intelligent a man could not (would not?) see that the Mandate was fatally flawed, based as it was on contradictory promises and equally contradictory expectations.
It is possible that had the American King-Crane Report been made public following its submission in 1919 rather than in 1922 by which time the Mandatory process was already in full swing, events might have taken a different course. Possible but not certain. Britain still saw itself as the pre-eminent world power, France would have been suspicious of American imperialism, and America was withdrawing from international engagement. Instead, the contradictory promises, the tendency to ‘divide and rule’ and the rising forces of nationalism all contributed to a situation where, once again, the weakest went to the wall.