Episode 10 - Britain's Betrayal of the Mandate Exposed
In the aftermath of World War Two the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in Europe who had survived Auschwitz and the other death camps wanted just one thing – to return to their ancestral homeland in what was then known as Palestine. But the British government, contrary to the terms of the Mandate she had signed up to in 1922, kept the doors of what had been designated under International Law as the Jewish homeland firmly closed.
Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp"In 1945, after the elections in England and when Labour came to power and Bevin was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, they decided in a very drastic and cruel way, to stop any immigration of the Jews from Europe who had nowhere to go. After the war they had nowhere to go, and they did not want to go to the places where all their families had been exterminated. The only place that would receive them was here in Palestine. But somehow the British navy was opposing these miserable refugees who came from Europe. Then it became clear to us that we had to face the worst. And this is actually what happened." Shlomo Hillel, Former Israeli government minister and Speaker of the Knesset
Struma Monument, AshdodThe Holocaust survivors tried to reach their ancestral homeland in every way possible, mostly in small unseaworthy vessels. This is a memorial to more than 3,000 of them drowned making the perilous journey. 768 people died on one boat in early 1942 – the Struma – having fled from Nazi-occupied Europe. One person survived. Many others drowned also while trying to run the British naval blockade of their promised homeland. Those who did make it were imprisoned in Detention Camps, either in Atlit, or on the island of Cyprus – by the very nation who had been mandated to recreate a National Home for the Jewish people – and to encourage their immigration. Then in July 1947 something happened that would publicly expose the plight of these homeless Jewish refugees – the Exodus incident.
Refugees on The ExodusThe British government sent its 4,500 Holocaust survivors back to Europe to be imprisoned again in Displaced Persons camps in the very country they were fleeing from – Germany. Many nations around the world – and especially the United States – called for the end of Britain’s trusteeship of the Mandate. The late Yossi Harel was the commander of the Exodus Operation in July 1947. "The State really was born when the Exodus came to Haifa and was the centre of the fight to bring any Jew who wanted to come to Israel. And the reaction of the world opinion – they saw the injustice which was done to people who survived Auschwitz: ‘They don’t have a place in this world.’ The only place which we believe we could have was Palestine." Yossi Harel
Members of the UN Committee descending the ramp of The Exodus at HaifaIt just so happened that members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine were present at Haifa Port when the Exodus arrived. What they witnessed was the catalyst that brought about the historic Resolution 181 at the UN General Assembly on 29th November 1947. ‘The Resolution of the UN Special Committee for Palestine was adopted by 33 votes. 13 against. 10 abstentions’
Dr Jacques GauthierIt is often claimed that the historic vote for Resolution 181 at the UN General Assembly on 29th November 1947 not only gave legitimacy to the State of Israel in International Law, but also to the Palestinian Arabs for their own State as well. Is this the case? "The answer is ‘No’. Generally speaking in International Law, General Assembly Resolutions are not binding. If the Jewish people and the Arabs had agreed to enter into a treaty based on the terms of the Resolution, then rights and obligations could have been created in International Law. But that didn’t happen." Dr Jacques Gauthier
Partition Plan 1947The Arab rejection of Resolution 181 precludes the Arabs from any legal claim they might otherwise have to that territory. And moreover the Arabs have actually not even recognised the right of the Jewish people to have a sovereign state." Dr Cynthia Wallace.
Creation of the State of Israel in Independence Hall, Tel Aviv"The State of Israel was not created by the United Nations. This is a kind of misunderstanding – people tend to think that somehow Israel was as a result of the Partition Plan. When the State of Israel was created on 14th May 1948 it was established on the basis of the preceding legal situations. Those were the San Remo Resolution which was incorporated into the Mandate for Palestine, which then transported itself, or became the State of Israel. And we know that Article 80 of the UN Charter protects and preserves all pre-existing rights of peoples prior to 1945 when the UN was created. And we know that that applies to the situation in Palestine. " Andrew Tucker, Legal Counsel for the European Coalition for Israel.
Professor Eugene Kontorovich"The fact that the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the Mandate for Palestine be split and partitioned does not change matters because that was just a recommendation. The United Nations General Assembly does not have the authority to change the borders of countries, make rules of international law or do anything else of substance. And, in any case, the recommendation it made in 1947 to partition the Mandate for Palestine was not adopted by the British." Professor Eugene Kontorovich.
Dr Jacques Gauthier"I want to make it clear that today the Arab people – more specifically ‘the Palestinians’ – do not have any rights or entitlements as a result of the Partition Resolution which was presented on November 29, 1947. The very resolution they rejected, and refused to accept, was a recommendation of the General Assembly, not a binding document in international law." Dr Jacques Gauthier.
Arabs attackingNot only did the Arabs reject Resolution 181 out of hand, but the very day after it was carried they resorted to armed conflict against the Palestinian Jews. The aim: to try to thwart the possible emergence of any Jewish nation, and to make Resolution 181 null and void. Nevertheless, the vote was passed with the required two-thirds majority, despite the abstention of the Mandatory power Great Britain who, by this time, had given notice that they were going to relinquish their stewardship of the Mandate. What were the intentions of the British government?
King Abdullah and John Glubb Pasha"Britain went to the United Nations hoping that they would decide that the whole country would be given to the Arabs, to King Abdullah from Jordan, because King Abdullah’s Chief of Staff, John Glubb Pasha – he was a British officer. Then the Jordanian army would take all of Palestine, and King Abdullah with his British Chief-of-Staff would rule the whole of Palestine." Shlomo Hillel, Former Israeli government minister and Speaker of the Knesset.
Field Marshall Viscount MontgomeryFollowing Resolution 181 in the United Nations General Assembly, the declaration of a Jewish State in Palestine looked pretty certain. However, the surrounding Arab countries swore that they would invade and destroy an independent Jewish State as soon as it was declared. Any international lawyer will tell you that such an aggressive invasion is illegal under International Law. Some years earlier the British government had sent Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery to Palestine to assess their chances of survival in the event of an invasion by the surrounding Arab armies. Monty’s assessment was that the Jewish State would last no more than three weeks. Instead of helping the Jewish community of Palestine to defend itself, Britain had imposed an arms embargo on the Jewish fighting forces, while at the same time arming and training the armies of Egypt and Jordan.
King Farouk of Egypt"Even before 1947 you had the Iraqi Prime Minister calling for Jihad against the Jews in Palestine. Once 1947 happens almost everybody is doing it – not calling for war, they are calling for Jihad – by the name Jihad. King Farouk of Egypt, his Foreign Minister. A whole bunch of others in Jordan and elsewhere are all stating this is a Jihad war that we are going to fight against the Jews." Dr Denis MacEoin.
David Ben GurionOn 14th May 1948, Britain withdrew its forces from Palestine, thus ending it’s administration as the Mandatory power. Later that same day David Ben Gurion declared the Independence of the State of Israel. It was the most momentous event in 2,000 years of Jewish history. And so the Jewish nation was reborn in the homeland from which it had been expelled nearly 19 centuries earlier. The commitment made to the Jewish people in the Balfour Declaration had come to fruition. Sadly, in the end, the rebirth of the Jewish nation happened in spite of Britain rather than because of it. And even then it was only in a fraction of the territory allotted to them at the San Remo conference.
Israeli FlagThe other Mandates that came out of the San Remo Conference of 1920 successfully gave birth to four Arab nations – Iraq and Jordan, also under the British; and Syria and Lebanon under the French. But when it came to the Mandate for Palestine it was a different story. Following a continual policy of appeasement of Arab demands, in the final years of the Mandate the British government did everything it could to obstruct the emergence of a Jewish state. Britain actually forsook its ‘sacred trust of civilisation’ towards the Jewish people and, from a legal perspective, violated the terms of the Mandate it had signed up to on almost every single level. Indeed, British government refused to even recognise Israel as a sovereign state for several months after David Ben Gurion gave his historic declaration. The very day after Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence, five Arab armies invaded the Jewish state and attempted to annihilate it. That attempt failed. Nevertheless, seven decades later the State of Israel continues to live under the constant threat of war, and its legitimacy – and even its very existence – continues to be challenged.