February 13, 1931

In October 1930 the British Government issued the Passfield White Paper, a statement about future policy in Palestine.  The White Paper contained distinct threats to the geographic growth of the Jewish National Home: possible application of restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase restrictions. Both would have delayed building a national home in Palestine. Debate about the White Paper’s contents occurred in the British House of Commons the following month. The discussions were sharp and acrid. The proposed new policy, heavily influenced by the sitting British High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, was viewed ultimately as inconsistent with the policy of promoting the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. Chancellor had made it clear to his colleagues in the Colonial Office that the Jewish National Home policy was wrong and that it had to be stopped. The White Paper made the assertion that Arabs were being made landless because of Jewish land purchase.  After the debate, the British Cabinet met and brought members of the London Zionist Executive into the discussion of the White Paper’s intention.

After intense discussion in London with Zionists, the British Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald (shown in the photo) sent a letter to Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist movement in Britain at the time. In the letter he virtually apologized for the threat posed to Zionism’s growth.  He said in the letter that “the obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration and make possible dense settlement of Jews on the Land is still a positive obligation of the Mandate, and it can be fulfilled without jeopardizing the rights and conditions of the other part of the Palestine population.” The about-face which the British took was well accepted by the Zionists in London and in Palestine. The Palestinian Arab community was angered. The Arab newspaper al-Hayat said that in one stroke, the British had destroyed Arab confidence in the British. For the Zionists not to have the Passfield White Paper implemented was crucial; the subsequent nine years saw Jewish demographic and physical presence grow in unprecedented numbers. And Arab anger against Zionism grew as well. The ideas not implemented in the 1930 White Paper were, however included in the 1939 White Paper policy statement on Palestine.

February 13, 2018