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View series: The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century

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British Mandate for Palestine

This map is part of a series of 18 animated maps showing the history of The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century.

In Palestine, the Arabs were worried about the proposal for a Jewish homeland announced by Lord Balfour. A new form of Palestinian nationalism emerged, attracting both Christians and Muslims and became increasingly radical as Zionists increased their demands.

With the establishment of the British Mandate for Palestine, at the request of Zionists, the English reassured Arabs that immigration of Jews would be limited and, indeed during the early years, it remained relatively low.

However, the Arabs refused to participate in the proposed “free government” institutions, while the Jewish community became increasingly adamant that Arabs should be excluded from the social and economic structures that were being put in place.

In 1929, violent confrontations took place between Muslims and Jews over the status of the Western (or Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem, a clear sign of rising tensions between the two communities.

In 1933 Hitler’s accession to power caused the situation to deteriorate further. Large numbers of European Jews fled to Palestine, bringing with them financial resources with which to boost the Jewish Homeland’s economy.

The Arabs became increasingly worried about their future and sought solutions from the British whom they saw as responsible for the situation. In 1936, a major revolt broke out, following publication of the conclusions of a committee, designated by London, which claimed that cohabitation between Jews and Arabs was no longer possible and recommended that two separate States be created, with Jerusalem remaining under British administration.  The revolt was not put down until 1938, when the ring-leaders were sent into exile.

During the Second World War, the solutions for the Palestinian Question – limits on Jewish immigration and on transfers of funds denounced by the Arabs – led to an armed revolt against the British, this time by right-wing Zionists, while other Zionists looked to the United States for support.

The revelation of the Holocaust in Europe persuaded President Truman to support the Zionists, but he refused to participate in the administration of Palestine.

In February 1947, faced with the difficulty of maintaining control in Palestine, the British asked the United Nations to find a solution.