Harold MacMichael Ends His Term as High Commissioner of Palestine

August 30, 1944

Appointed as the fifth British High Commissioner to Palestine, Macmichael arrived in Palestine amid much fanfare in March 1938.  Macmichael’s term as High Commissioner was punctuated by a shift in British policy, which changed from supporting Zionist aspirations to blocking them.  As part of that shift, Macmichael oversaw the implementation of the 1939 White Paper which greatly restricted Jewish immigration and land purchases. (Click here to see more.).

In 1942, Macmichael refused to allow the nearly 800 refugees aboard the SS Struma for entry into the Land of Israel.  When the ship sank in the Black Sea, presumably by a Russian submarine, Macmichael was held responsible for the nearly 800 deaths by many in the Jewish community.  Following the Struma, there were several attempts on his life by members of Lochamei Herut Yisrael (“The Warriors for the Freedom of Israel,” known as Lehi or the Stern Gang).

In March 1943, Macmichael delivered a radio address that outlined his plans for the future economic development of Palestine.  The address only exacerbated the anger of Jewish leaders in the yishuv.  Macmichael emphasized the needs of the Arab population, and focused in particular on increasing and improving Arab employment opportunities.  In 1944, he privately told his fellow Colonial Office peers that the only solution to the conflict in Palestine would be found through the establishment of an Arab and Jewish state.

Scarred by the attempts on his life, and fearing for the safety of his family, Macmichael stepped down in August 1944, after another assassination attempt injured his wife.  He was replaced by John Verker.

Photo: Sir Harold Macmichael