Sunday, May 17, 2009

The MacDonald White Paper is approved by British Parliament - May, 17 1939

The White Paper of 1939, also known as the MacDonald White Paper after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary who presided over it, was a policy paper issued by the British government under Neville Chamberlain in which the idea of partitioning the Mandate for Palestine, as recommended in the Peel Commission Report of 1937, was abandoned in favor of creating an independent Palestine governed by Palestinian Arabs and Jews in proportion to their numbers in the population by 1949. A limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944, consisting of a regular yearly quota of 10,000, and a supplementary quota of 25,000, spread out over the same period, to cover refugee emergencies. After this cut-off date, further immigration would depend on the permission of the Arab majority. Restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs.

The British believed that in the event of war (the paper was approved a few weeks after Britain agreed to Germany annexing the rest of Czechoslavakia), Jewish support was guaranteed or unimportant. However they feared that the Arab world might turn against them. This geopolitical consideration was decisive.

The restrictions on Jewish immigration effectively closed Palestine which had been the only available destination for Jews fleeing the persecution in Europe. The Zionists responded by organizing illegal migration which the British countered by blockading Palestine. This resulted in some famous incidents (Struma (ship), Patria disaster, and Exodus (ship).

During the Parliamentary debate, Lloyd George described the White Paper as an act of perfidy while Winston Churchill voted against the government in which he was a minister. The Manchester Guardian described it as 'a death sentence on tens of thousands of Central European Jews'. The Liberal MP James Rothschild stated during the parliamentary debate that 'for the majority of the Jews who go to Palestine it is a question of migration or physical extinction. (House of Commons Debates, Volume 347 column 1984).

By the autumn of 1943, it was discovered that only 44,000 of the 75,000 promised certificates had been issued, and the British authorities ruled that the remaining 31,000 passes could be used immediately. By the end of the following year, the whole quota had been exhausted.

At the end of World War II, the British Labour Party conference voted to rescind the White Paper and establish a Jewish state in Palestine, however the Labour Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin persisted with the policy and it remained in effect until the British departed Palestine in May 1948.

After the war, the determination of Holocaust survivors to reach Palestine led to large scale illegal Jewish migration to Palestine. British efforts to block the migration led to violent resistance by the Zionist underground.

Illegal immigrants detained by the British Government were imprisoned in camps on Cyprus. The immigrants had no citizenship and could not be returned to any country. Those imprisoned included a large number of children and orphans.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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