70. The Preparation for the ultimate struggle

After the failure of the 1939 Jew-Arab ‘London Conference’, the British government unilaterally announced a ‘White Paper’.

The White Paper was a complete Arab-leaning imposition. It proposed for allotment of most of the land of Palestine to the Arabs while leaving an insignificant part of it for the Jews. The White Paper also enforced strict restrictions on Jewish immigration, land purchases by them, etc. The Jews were cared only for the namesake in the White Paper.

Many Arab leaders were in favour of agreeing and approving of the British White Paper. However, it was rejected under the pressure of the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini and some of the Arab leaders who did not want even a trace of the Jews in Palestine.

They also asked for a complete and permanent prohibition on the immigration of the Jews from across the world to Palestine and even demanded to shut out forever, the subject of the formation of ‘National Home for the Jews in Palestine’.

However, the British White Paper did not place a perpetual ban on Jewish immigration to Palestine. As a result, the Arabs held demonstrations at various places across Palestine demanding for its inclusion.

At the same time, the Jews convinced that the White Paper was an ultimate blow to their demand of a ‘National Home’, immediately dismissed it. Many of the hardliners within them were already at a loss of patience. Agitated, the Jews also took to demonstrations at various places across Palestine.

The Jewish demonstrations against the British White Paper of 1939

In continuation to this, Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion warned the British – ‘that the Jews were at a loss of patience and there was discontent simmering in their minds against the unjust treatment meted out to them. Infliction of any more injustice will result in them going back on their policies of ‘no first attack’ and peace. A soupcon of the restlessness was already witnessed at the fag end of the Arab-Jew riots. Thus, the British government must take note that the repetition of discrimination will make Palestine suffer the consequences as dreadful as those of the Arab riots’.

The British and the Palestinian Arabs soon got a glimpse of the seriousness in the warning. The radical Zionist groups like the ‘Irgun’ began a series of attacks against the installations of the British government and against the Arabs who were protesting across Palestine against the Jewish immigration. The attacks continued for a few months. By retaliating against the British White Paper – which was meant to ruin the Jewish aspirations and dismiss their demands – the far-right Jewish groups were trying to achieve the dream of Jewish self-determination.

Also, there was one more elaborate plan that was designed – the Jewish soldiers in Europe, who had undergone military training and were armed, were to be brought in to Palestine under someone like Ze’ev Jabotinsky, are visionist Zionist leader. They would overwhelm all the British establishments and government centres, secure them and unfurl the Jewish flag over them. Countries like Poland not only backed the plan but also initiated military training programmes for the same. However, just at the time, World War II began which changed all the global geopolitical equations. As a result, the scheme was scrapped even before it was operationalized.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky (Bottom R) meeting with revisionist leaders in Poland (1939)

With a steep rise in anti-Semitism across Europe, an independent Jewish Nation State was the need of the hour. By now, the American Jews too were in favour of a Jewish Homeland. At the Zionist Congress held in May 1942 at New York, the Jewish diaspora attending the conference unanimously adopted the demands of David Ben-Gurion–that Palestine be established as a ‘Jewish Commonwealth’; that a Zionist army be raised; most importantly that a ban and the restrictions on the Jewish immigration be revoked and dismissed.

The White Paper brought an end to the cordial relations between the Jews and the British. Yet, the Jews stood by the British in the world war. Though the British betrayed the Jews with the White Paper, on behalf of the ‘Jewish Agency’, David Ben-Gurion assured the British that – ‘We would fight the war as if there is no White Paper and we would fight the White Paper as if there is no war’.

About 27 thousand Jews joined the British army to take part in World War II on the British side.

Marching Jewish troops in the British army

On one hand, when the Jews were supporting the British, on the other, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who after escaping from Palestine, took shelter in a few countries before finally taking refuge in Germany, openly opposed the British and stood by Berlin. He would broadcast his sermons to the Palestinian Arabs in order to incite them against the British. However, the messages failed to provoke any commoner in Palestine except a few Arab leaders; the common people sided with the British.

The Jews were now preparing for the ultimate struggle to gain their rightful ‘Promised Land’.

At the same time, for the Jews who by then had settled in Palestine, efforts and attempt had begun to uplift their standard of living, to develop them as a society and to make the fruits of this development equally available to all of them. Many programmes that began as an ‘experiment’under this pursuit, later proved successful and went on to characterize the identity of independent Israel. (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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