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Mandates Commission Says British View That Riots Were Not Premeditated nor Directed Against Mandator

August 26, 1930
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Regarding as unjustified the view that the Palestine outbreaks were not directed against British authority or that they were unexpected disturbances “in the midst of a political calm like those sudden explosions of popular passion so often witnessed in Eastern states,” the long delayed report of the League of Nations Mandates Commission on the 1929 Palestine outbreaks to the Council of the League of Nations, published today, blames the limited number of British troops in Palestine and the inadequacy of the police force as the principal causes for the spread of last Summer’s Arab attacks on the Jews and for the serious consequences which followed.

In differing from the view that the Palestine troubles did not arise suddenly, the Mandates Commission points out that “they were preceded during the last four months of 1928 and the early part of 1929 by a number of premonitory incidents usually connected with the Wailing Wall. That historic spot became the focus of claims of both races concerned, each of which sought to utilize the incidents, unimportant in themselves, in order to establish their respective claims de jure or de facto. The historical account of the troubles contained in the Shaw Commission’s report on pages 26 to 70 had not been seriously disputed and has, therefore, been referred by the Mandates Commission to the Council.”


Referring to the four conclusions of the Shaw Commission’s report which the British Government adopted, the Mandates Commission takes the stand that two of them call for certain reservations and draws attention to a contradiction which seems to exist between certain declarations made in the body of the report and the second of the conclusions regarding the question of premeditation on the part of those who caused the disorder.

(In a White Paper issued by the British Government on May 27th, it accepted the four conclusions of the Shaw Commission, namely that the outbreak was not premeditated, nor was it aimed at British authority, that the Zionist complaints against the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem were not justified, that the Zionist charges of premeditation and of organization of the disturbances by the Palestine Arabs were not proven and that no blame can be attached to the Palestine Administration and to the acting High Commissioner, Harry Luke, for failure to obtain reinforcements from neighboring countries before August 23).

The Mandates Commission also expresses doubts whether the kindly judgment passed by the majority of the Shaw Commission upon the attitude of the Arab leaders, both political and religious, was fully justified by the Commission’s report. The fourth conclusion of the Shaw Commission, that the outbreaks were not directed against British authority, the Mandates Commission finds, “seems to be expressed too categorically. Doubless the Arab attacks were directed only against the Jews, but the resentment which caused the Arabs to commit these excesses was ultimately due to political disappointments which they attributed to the parties concerned in the Mandate, and primarily the British Government.


“All declarations by persons and organizations representing the Arab sections of the community tend to emphasize the fact that the Arab movement was a movement of resistance to the policy of the Mandatory Power solely in its capacity as the Mandatory. This has never been more clearly stated than in a letter from the Palestine Arab delegation to London and in a telegram from the Arab Executive.

“The first read, ‘We believe the main cause of the disturbances which have led to continual bloodshed in Palestine for the last twelve years is the persistence of the British government in depriving the Arabs of their natural rights. We feel there can be no security in the future against the recurrence of disturbances such as those which have taken place, or perhaps of even a more serious nature, unless the British Government promptly and radically changes its policy.’

“The telegram from the Arab Executive read, ‘The Palestine Arabs vehemently protest against the declaration of Dr. Drummond Shiels (British under-secretary for the Colonies) that the government desires to continue its old policy with repressive measures. We declare that any policy inadequate to safe-guard our rights will result in troubles for which the British Government and the League of Nations will be responsible. The Arabs are determined to defend their lives and rights no matter what the results.’

“Because in actual fact the Arab attacks were directed against the Jews and it was the Jews who suffered, it would be a mistake to believe that the movement was entirely devoid of any intention to resist the British policy in carrying out the Palestine Mandate,” says the Mandates Commission’s report.


Seeing its duty in another light than the Shaw Commission, “which sought to establish the degree of responsibility attaching to the Jews and the Arabs respectively for both the immediate and more remote causes of the disturbances,” the Mandates Commission points out that it is not its business to decide between the two sections of the population “which these events brought into collision, but only to consider the Mandatory Power’s attitude during and before the disturbances.

“The Mandatory Power alone is responsible to the League for Mandated territory which it administers on behalf of the League of Nations. That the immediate causes of the events include some for which the Mandatory Power and its local agents are responsible, have already been established by the Shaw Commission, and the Mandatory Power has not hesitated to admit that fact.”

On this matter the Mandates Commission arrives at the following conclusions: “It has already been observed that numerous incidents centering at the Wailing Wall from Sept., 1928, to August 16, 1929, contributed largely to the creation of a state of mind which eventually led to the outbreaks. For the most part these incidents were provoked by attempts of both parties to alter arrangements at the Wall and the customary use made of it.


“The Palestine Government’s declaration of November 19, 1928, regarding the status quo would have gained by being supplemented by police regulations specifying practices in which the Moslems and Jews might engage and those which were forbidden. In the absence of such regulations the status quo had no definite meaning in the eyes of both parties who were equally disposed to exaggerate their claims. Moreover, the consequent uncertainty necessarily made it difficult for the police to act.

“The regulations, which might well have been issued earlier, were finally promulgated in September, 1929. They inevitably gave rise to recriminations on the part of both peoples who found an equivocal position convenient, and it is reasonable to suppose that if the regulations had been issued earlier many incidents would have been avoided. The dangerous excitement to which they led was kept at a high pitch until the eve of the disturbances.”

The Mandates Commission agrees with the Shaw Commission’s report that this state of mind was maintained by “the continual incitement of the Jewish, and more especially, of the Arab local press. It has, however, been established that the Palestine Administration had not always used its power under the press law to suspend seditious publications.”


That the Palestine Government in several instances was taken by surprise is beyond question, the Mandates Commission concludes. In the course of the agitation, the Palestine Administration “displayed a lack of insight, especially on the occasion of the Jewish demonstration before the Wailing Wall on August 15, and the Moslem counter-demonstration on the following day, the gravity of which the government had apparently not foreseen, and again during the days from August 20 to 23 when the danger, though imminent, could probably still have been warded off by proper precautions. The inadequacy of the Intelligence Service, which is admitted by the Mandatory Power, explains the failure to appreciate the situation.”

The hesitation of the Palestine Administration during this period is explained, the Mandates Commission finds, “by the fact that at that time the Administration had altogether inadequate armed forces at its disposal. The Mandates Commission several times, particularly at its ninth session, had drawn the attention of the Mandatory Power to the danger of excessive reduction of British forces in Palestine. The last British regiment was withdrawn from Palestine in 1925 and from that time onwards the maintenance of order was entrusted to a body of native police, mostly Arabs, but partly Jews, with a section of British police, whose strength was reduced year by year.


“As might have been expected in a country where explosions of a religious and racial nature constantly threaten public peace there was a defection on the part of the native contingents as soon as rioting brought both races into conflict. Some of them even joined the rioters. Lastly, in a country of nine hundred thousand inhabitants order at a critical moment was entirely in the hands of one hundred and seventy-five British policemen, one squadron of aeroplanes and one armored car company.

“It has been urged that the presence of larger forces would have had no decisive effects, and reference has been made to the massacres of 1920-1921 in which larger British garrisons were unable to prevent rioting. This argument seems unconvincing, and the Mandates Commission cannot help feeling that the insufficient number of British troops and the inadequacy of the police force was the main cause of the large area over which the outbreaks spread. The casualties attendant upon the outbreaks in Hebron and Safed sufficed to show that this inadequacy was largely responsible for the loss of many lives.”

Regarding the disturbances themselves “which followed upon the protracted period of tension between Arabs and Jews,” the Mandates Commission finds it necessary to ascertain whether the Mandatory Power by the general policy it has followed since the Mandate came into force, “has done everything that could legitimately be expected of it to prevent an explosion of the antagonisms that were known to exist and to lessen their violence. As far back as 1924, the Mandates Commission pointed out that the task of the government entrusted with the Palestine Mandate is particularly delicate and difficult. It is to ensure simultaneously the Jewish National Home and the development of self-governing institutions for a population with a great majority of Arabs. Up to the present, the execution of the Mandate has certainly not given satisfaction either to the impatient advocates of the Jewish National Home or to the Arab extremists, alarmed by the influx of immigrants who do not share their religious faith and their national aspirations.


“The Jews accuse the Mandatory Power of hindering rather than promoting Zionist immigration and of having done too little to ‘encourage the close settlement of Jews on the land including state waste lands not required for public purposes’ according to article six of the Mandate. On the other hand, the Arabs consider that the newcomers are receiving unduly generous treatment, that the number of immigrants authorized to enter the country is too great and that there has not been a development of self-governing institutions provided for in article two of the Mandate.

“These two problems set both elements of the population at variance and they sum up the whole Palestine conflict. The first is a social and economic problem raised by Jewish immigration and settlement, and the second is a political problem arising from the obligation to develop self-governing institutions in a country thus divided against itself.

“It is neither possible nor has the Mandates Commission the power or the wish to judge these conflicting complaints in all their details and bearings. It is required only to give a general opinion about them, and the Mandates Commission cannot conceal its regret that on certain points the Mandatory Power has not yet succeeded in giving full effect to all provisions of the Mandate. The Mandates Commission’s only desire in making them is to contribute to a solution to the present difficulty.”


The Mandates Commission views with approval the Mandatory Power’s intention of “keeping Jewish immigration proportionate to the country’s capacity of economic absorption in accordance with the White Paper of 1922. The Mandates Commission is inclined to ask whether the obligation to encourage close settlement by the Jews on the land does not—as a measure for the preservation of the social order and economic equilibrium—imply the adoption of a more active policy which would develop the country’s capacity to receive and absorb immigrants in larger numbers without ill results.

“Such a policy has been no more than outlined in the form of encouragement and protection for embryo industries. It is quite clear, however, that the Jewish National Home, so far as it has been established, has in practice been the work of the Jewish organization. The Mandate seems to offer other prospects to the Jews. It must be recognized that their charge against the Palestine Government, that it has not fulfilled by actual deeds its obligation to encourage the establishment of a Jewish National Home, has been notably reinforced by the fact that the government has shown itself unable to provide the essential condition for the development of the Jewish National Home—security for persons and property.

“The ill-effects of the inaction, or at least the partial inaction of the Palestine Government confronted by the unprecedented phenomenon of the Zionist movement has not been limited solely to Jewish interests. In such economic and social conditions as prevail in Palestine a scheme of colonization undertaken on such a vast scale was bound, as soon as it began to develop independently of the active intervention of the public authorities, to cause profound disturbance in the lives of that section of the population which is not concerned in the movement.


“Faced by a strongly organized Jewish body under single control and with considerable capital, the Arabs, without an organization or financial resources, were bound before long to have legitimate apprehensions regarding their economic future. The Arab element in the population might have found its interests safe-guarded by the government agricultural policy, including not only public workers to develop cultivable area, but also the organization of agricultural credit, land credit cooperative societies and an educational campaign. This would have initiated them into working these institutions, convinced them of their advantages and familiarized the fellaheen with modern methods of working the soil.

“The fears that the Arabs felt when they saw the land passing into Jewish hands, would certainly have been largely allayed had they observed that the cultivable area and the yield of the available land of the country as a whole, were increasing at the same time. Such action, both social and economic in character, could only be taken by the government because it could not be expected that the Arabs would take it themselves.

“Though undertaken for the direct benefit of the Arabs it would have indirectly helped towards the establishment of the Jewish National Home. Consequently the Mandates Commission believes that if the Mandatory Power concerned itself more closely with the social and economic adaptation of the Arab population to the new conditions due to Jewish immigration it would have served the interests of both sections of the population. Moreover, if in a working economic organization, which would have been desirable in a country, where more than anywhere else, economic problems affect the outlook on life of the population, the Mandatory power had endeavored to bring both sections into close association, it would have helped to bring about a fusion of interests which is the best possible means of developing a sense of solidarity and blunting the edge of antagonism.”

Pointing out that hitherto all those institutions which should have been equally open to both sections of the population associated together under the patronage of the Mandatory Power had been established entirely on the initiative of Jewish organizations, “and naturally in the interests of the Jewish population alone,” the report of the Mandates Commission notes that “if institutions were now to be founded on official initiative for the benefit of the whole population and more especially for the Arab element, which so far has been left to its own resources, there is some reason to fear that they in their turn will be viewed with indifference by the Jewish population which is already provided for.”


To avoid the danger of perpetuating the existence in so small a country of two sections of the population, “strangers to each other,” the Mandates Commission advises the Mandatory Power to counteract this tendency by the association of capital in industrial, agricultural and commercial concerns. To help towards the same result, the Mandates Commission advocates vocational training for the youth of both Jewish and Arab communities as far as possible.

Dealing with the complaints of the Arabs that the Mandatory Power has been insufficiently active in the developing of self-governing institutions, and noting the reply of the British Government which refers to its repeated attempts to introduce a legislative council, attempts which failed through the Arabs’ refusal to associate themselves with this scheme, and the established autonomous municipalities and the proposed creation of advisory bodies such as an Arab Agency, the Mandates Commission finds it not surprising to discover a claim for self-government in “a people who can watch the operation of representative institutions in some neighbors of the same race and civilization.”


The Mandates Commission warns that “if those responsible for the agitation hoped by its means to secure the triumph of their opposition to the League of Nations as a party to the Palestine Mandate they will not find encouragement from the Mandates Commission.” Addressing itself to “all sections of the population which are rebelling against the Mandate whether on the principle of objection or the wish to retain its provisions favoring their particular cause,” the Mandates Commission points out that the Mandatory Power “must obviously return a definite and categorical refusal so long as the leaders of the community persist in repudiating what is at once the fundamental charter of the country and, so far as the Mandatory Power is concerned, an international obligation which cannot be set aside.”

Pointing out that negotiations with these leaders would only unduly enhance their prestige and raise dangerous hopes among their partisans as well as apprehensions among their opponents, the Mandates Commission expressed the hope that the necessity of continually acting as umpire between hostile factions will not prevent the Palestine Government from proceeding to carry out a constructive program in the interests of the peaceful masses of the population more vigorously than hitherto.


Such action, the report of the Mandates Commission finds, is necessary not only for the complete execution of the Mandate but also because there is “no better means of bringing about general pacification than to encourage and to organize in every possible way, effective cooperation between the various sections of the population.

Similarly, the Mandates Commission reports, such an attitude on the part of the British Government would assuredly have given it better protection “against the continual demands of representatives of both parties. It would have enabled the Mandatory Power to convince the fellaheen more easily of the undeniable material advantages that Palestine derived from the Zionist efforts. By enhancing the moral authority of the Mandatory Power as the natural protector of the Holy Places, it would have enabled it to dispel Arab apprehensions of the intentions attributed to the Jews to encroach upon El Burak.”

Admitting that it is not proved that a more active policy by the Mandatory Power and a firmer, more constant and unanimous determination on the part of all the Palestine government officials to carry out the Mandate in all its provisions would have eliminated the racial antagonism from which the country suffers, the Mandates Commission expresses the belief that “it seems at least probable that the force of that antagonism would have been diminished.

“Any uncertainty or hesitation regarding the application of the various provisions of the Mandate must inevitably leave the extremists in both camps to seek by propaganda and force to obtain what the Mandate loyally interpreted and energetically carried out, could not give them. The capacity of the government to establish this accord among those whom it governs is proportionate to the confidence in itself and its policy and the likelihood of its being obliged to resort to force in order to impose its will is proportionate to the uncertainty of its intentions.”


After noting the steps taken by the British Government to prevent a recurrence of the disturbances, such as reinforcement of the garrisons, the reorganization of the police force and the mission of Sir John Simpson, the Mandates Commission records the Mandatory Power’s statement that the stoppage of immigration is a strictly temporary measure and should, therefore, “dispel the fears expressed in Jewish circles regarding the Mandatory Power’s inclination to discharge in full its obligation to encourage Jewish immigration and to insure the establishment of the Jewish National Home under the conditions stipulated in the Mandate.”

Summarizing the various British declarations made since last year’s riots, including those of Premier MacDonald at Geneva and in the House of Commons, and by Dr. Drummond Shiels at the last session of the League of Nations, the report of the Mandates Commission declares that two assertions emerged from these declarations which should be emphasized; “first, that the obligations laid down by the Mandate regarding the two sections of the population are of equal weight, and secondly that the two obligations imposed on the Mandatory Power are in no sense irreconciliable.”

The Mandates Commission does not object to these two assertions which it feels accurately expressed what it concedes to be the essence of the Mandate, but to insure the country’s future and in the interests of the restoration of a peaceful atmosphere in Palestine, the Commission opines that “the time has come to define the legal foundation of the first assertion.


“The interpretations of the Palestine Mandate are too often confused with quite different matters, namely the objects of the Mandate and the immediate obligations of the Mandatory Power. The objects of the Mandate are the establishment of the Jewish National Home and the establishment of self-governing institutions. The Mandate does not fix the time limit for the accomplishment of these objects because that depends on circumstances over which the Mandatory Power has no control.

“Even the most energetic action and the employment of immense financial resources cannot alone achieve the establishment of the Jewish National Home which is dependent upon economic factors in the process of time and that political maturity without which independence is a mere illusion. Between the two terms of the Mandate obligations, namely the establishment of the Jewish National Home and the development of self-governing institutions, the Mandate recognizes no primacy in order of recordance or priority in order of execution. It would be equally unfair to complain against the Mandatory Power that eight years after the Mandate is enforced a regime of self-government has not yet been granted or the Jewish National Home has not yet reached its full development. Those are objects of the Mandate and it is not the Mandatory Power’s obligation to bring them into immediate completion.


“The Mandatory Power’s immediate obligation is solely to create and maintain in Palestine general conditions favorable to the gradual accomplishment of both objects of the Mandate. The Mandate Commission’s conception of the immediate duty of the Mandatory Power is in accord with that expressed by the accredited representative of the Mandatory Power when he compared the regime instituted in Palestine to an organism not static but dynamic and in constant process of evolution.

“The Mandatory Power’s task is a particularly difficult one. To this difficulty, which could not have escaped the British authors of the Balfour Declaration or the framers of the Palestine Mandate, the Mandates Commission refers here only to record its satisfaction that the Mandatory Power does not consider it insuperable. The excessive impatience of the inhabitants of Palestine would only work to their own deteriment by interfering with the operation of a system whose international basis they are not in a position to challenge.

“The League of Nations is entitled to expect that Palestinians of all races will recognize the fairness and merits of the regime, which while providing an effective safeguard against arbitrary action, is leading the country steadily onwards to a political state which they will better appreciate in the course of time since most of them never possessed political freedom or even had full assurance of individual freedom.”

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