High Commissioner John Chancellor Argues to End Jewish National Home

January 17, 1930

Sir John Chancellor was the third British High Commissioner in Palestine. He served from 1928-1931, and had no particular pro or anti view of Zionists or Arabs when he began his tenure. While he was High Commissioner, there were major riots in August 1928 and August 1929. In addition, during his service major British investigatory reports were commissioned and written which looked into the economic and political causes of these disturbances. All the of these reports cited responsibility for unrest in Palestine on a wretchedly impoverished Palestinian Arab rural economy, Arab incredulity for allowing Zionism to grow (Jewish land purchase and Jewish immigration), Jewish growth, a fragmented Arab leadership, and the Zionist’s unyielding drive to build a national home. During his sojourn in Palestine, Great Britain issued the October 1930 Passfield White Paper reflecting the intention to slow down Jewish growth; that White Paper was rescinded and virtually not enforced.

Greatly influencing these (Shaw and Hope-Simpson) reports and the issuance of the White Paper, was John Chancellor’s growing anti-Zionist views. He expressed them in this January 17, 1930 dispatch to the Colonial Office.  Some 90 pages in length, it is the longest known dispatch written by a high ranking British official to enumerate why the Arabs in Palestine were so vexed. The contents of the dispatch are a succinct and pointed brief of Arab grievances toward the Zionists and British policies and a call to stop the Jewish national home. The dispatch was drafted initially no doubt not by the Chancellor, but by several British officials deeply familiar with  the history and nuances of the emerging Arab-Zionist confrontation in Palestine, all who held the profoundly pronounced view that the Jewish National Home must be halted if further violence in Palestine was to be avoided.

As for the dispatch itself, John Chancellor outlined in great detail why Arabs in Palestine have grievance, and why restrictions on Jewish land purchase and immigration are necessary. Short of stopping Zionist growth in the 1930s, Chancellor’s ideas spawned however, British application of dozens of laws and regulations in the early 1930s all aimed at keeping the Arab peasant on the land, away from being displaced because of Arab land sales and Jewish purchase. But legislation and restrictions against Jewish growth would not be fully implemented in the 1930s; nonetheless, they were eventually applied in a draconian fashion against the Zionists in the 1939 White Paper. However, by then the objective of establishing a Jewish National Home could not be stopped, only its pace slowed and contours restricted. Chancellor’s intentions scared the Zionists sufficiently that they reorganized their land settlement and immigration programs in the early 1930s; they now focused on creating consolidated  and contiguous Jewish land enclaves.  Hopeful that Chancellor’s views would be upheld by the Colonial Office, Palestinian Arab political leaders were tremendously dismayed at a promise to help them that faded as quickly as it had appeared. Despite John Chancellor’s dispatch and views, the growth of the Jewish national home marched forward.