Britain and Its Mandate over Palestine: Legal Chicanery on a World Stage by John Quigley

Anyone who is knowledgeable about Britain and its role in Palestine after World War I knows that Britain was given the territory by Turkey under a peace treaty and that the League of Nations legalized Britain’s tenure, conferring a mandate on Britain to implement a national home for the Jewish people because of a Jewish right to self-determination. What the knowledgeable know, however, is wrong. What they “know” is a product of disinformation, perpetrated by the British Government. Britain tried hard to get a cession of territory from Turkey but failed. Turkey refused to cede sovereignty to Britain. Yet Britain claimed, falsely, that it gained sovereignty from Turkey. Britain made two claims, each one false and each one inconsistent with the other. On the one hand, it claimed sovereignty under a draft peace treaty of 1920. On the other, it claimed sovereignty under the actual peace treaty with Turkey, which dates from 1923. The British Government made these claims publicly in 1946 and 1947 as it was explaining its status in Palestine to the other major powers.

Britain and Its Mandate over Palestine: Legal Chicanery on a World Stage shows that the 1920 draft peace treaty was never ratified and that the 1923 peace treaty did not mention Britain. So there was no sovereignty by cession from Turkey. The same disinformation was at play for the mandate Britain claimed over Palestine. Britain said that its mandate document was given legal force by the League of Nations. The League’s Covenant, however, gives the League no power to legalize such a document, and the League was willing to say that Britain could legally exercise a mandate only if Britain had sovereignty, which it did not. The League never purported to give the territory of Palestine to Britain.

Britain also claimed that the Jewish national home was imposed on it by the Council of the League of Nations. But the Council never discussed whether there should be a Jewish national home in Palestine. A.J. Balfour, who represented Britain in the Council, emphatically told the Council that it had no business discussing any terms of the document that Britain drew up to give itself a mandate for Palestine. The Jewish national home was an idea of Britain’s imagination alone. Britain in fact had claimed to be ruling Palestine under the mandate system even before it said anything to the Council about Palestine.

A key element of Britain’s national home plan was to let the Zionist Organization bring in Jews from Europe, with the idea that they eventually would take over the country. Britain understood that bringing in an outside population with such an aim might be less than legal. To make the idea seem to be one that had international backing, it arm-twisted its allies to say they supported the idea. But no one was biting. The United States refused flat out. France, Italy, and Japan said they would support nothing that infringed on the political rights of the entirety of Palestine’s population.

So what was the harm in Britain’s deception? When the United Nations appointed a committee of know-nothings in 1947 to advise what the General Assembly should recommend on Palestine, the Zionist Organization told the committee that everything Britain claimed was gospel fact. Britain was lawfully the governing authority in Palestine. The League said that the Jews had territorial rights in Palestine. So Jewish statehood – which the committee proposed – was already a commitment of the international community. On the basis of this disinformation, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a Jewish state in Palestine.

One can argue whether that was a good idea. But what cannot be argued is that the United Nations was misled – first by Britain and by the Zionist Organization – into thinking that it could not go back on what it thought had been decided by its predecessor organization. Shockingly, historians of Britain’s role in Palestine have never analyzed what the League did and did not do in regard to Palestine. The disinformation continues to the present day to guide the major powers in regard to Palestine and Israel. Britain and Its Mandate over Palestine: Legal Chicanery on a World Stage explains, for the first time, what the World War 1 peace treaties did and did not say, and what the League did and did not do. It is a must-read for anyone interested in international politics or in governmental deception. It is particularly must-read for anyone who thinks they know something about Britain’s role in Palestine.