November 2nd, 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour
1920 – First Limits on Immigration
Limits on immigration under the British Military rule began in 1920. The Zionist organization was only allowed to bring in 16,500 heads of household per year, and there were standard requirements in place, such as being able to support ones self and dependents, good health, possession of a passport. But after the riots of 1921, with the British feeling that Jewish immigration had contributed to the angry Arab feelings, more limits were enacted. Quoting from the British Parliamentary Papers,
“…labor certificates were assigned first to employers, then to private applicants with assured prospects of work, and finally the unexpended certificates were given to the Zionist Organization which was permitted to request the entry of persons for whom it estimated that work might be found and for whom it stood ready to promise a year’s maintenance.”
You have asked me in the first place to repudiate the Balfour Declaration and to veto immigration of Jews into Palestine. It is not in my power to do so, nor, if it were in my power, would it be my wish. The British Government have passed their word, by the mouth of Mr. Balfour, that they will view with favour the establishment of a National Home for Jews in Palestine, and that inevitably involves the immigration of Jews into the country. This declaration of Mr. Balfour and of the British Government has been ratified by the Allied Powers who have been victorious in the Great War; and it was a declaration made while the war was still in progress, while victory and defeat hung in the balance. It must therefore be regarded as one of the facts definitely established by the triumphant conclusion of the Great War. It is upon this basis that the mandate has been undertaken by Great Britain, it is upon this basis that the mandate will be discharged. I have no doubt that it is on this basis that the mandate will be accepted by the Council of the League of Nations, which is to meet again shortly.
Moreover, it is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated? We think it will be good for the world, good for the Jews and good for the British Empire. But we also think it will be good for the Arabs who dwell in Palestine, and we intend that it shall be good for them, and that they shall not be sufferers or supplanted in the country in which they dwell or denied their share in all that makes for its progress and prosperity. And here I would draw your attention to the second part of the Balfour Declaration, which solemnly and explicitly promises to the inhabitants of Palestine the fullest protection of their civil and political rights.
The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
“The immigration of Jews and their close settlement upon the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes, are integral and indispensable factors in the execution of the charge laid upon the mandatory of establishing in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people. Article 6 of the draft mandate, which provides for these measures…expressly reaffirms that the rights and position of other sections of the population must not thereby be prejudiced.” p. 4
Palestine Arab Delegation to the Secretary of State for the Colonies – June 17, 1922, pp. 21-28
“We have shown over and over again that the supposed historic connection of the Jews with Palestine rests upon very slender historic data. The historic rights of Arabs are far stronger than those of the Jews…” p. 24
“Since the immigration of a foreign element into any country affects the native population of that country – politically, economically and socially – it is only right and proper that the people who are so affected should have complete say in the matter. The committee proposed above does not give the people of Palestine control of immigration. It powers are merely consultative, while we see that in Article 6 of the draft Mandate, the Jewish Agency…a foreign body, has been given more powers than the actual inhabitants of the country. Nothing will safeguard the interests of the Arabs against the dangers of immigration except the creation of a Representative National Government which shall have complete control of immigration.” p. 25
1925 – Report by His Britannic Majesty’s Government to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine and Transjordan for the Year 1925
Thirty-three thousand eight hundred and one Jewish immigrants entered Palestine during the year.
This Jewish immigration, which was nearly three times as large as that of 1924, whilst unquestionably conferring benefits, has introduced new problems. The ready absorption into the economic life of so small and unproductive a country of men and women of various types, tastes and capacities, is a difficult matter which has required all the energy and resources of the Zionist Organization to deal with satisfactorily. A number of these immigrants would like to become farmers, and the ratio of Jewish rural to urban settlement tends to increase, but agricultural settlement is a slow and costly process, and although 129,366 dunums were acquired by Jewish agencies and individuals in the course of the year, it has hitherto–and for reasons given in previous reports–been impossible for the Government to put State or waste lands at the disposal of new settlers. As the result a large proportion of immigrants gravitate to the principal towns and are dependent for their livelihood on commercial and industrial enterprises.
Most of the new industries find their development retarded by the high cost of living with its corollary, costly production. Many of them ask for measures of protection which, if granted, would tend to raise the cost of living. The Government policy in these matters is to grant customs facilities in respect of raw material, and to assist the development of an export trade in those industries which are capable of utilizing local products, and in certain others in which the raw material is an inconsiderable item in the cost of production as compared with the value of the capital, energy and commercial capacity engaged…
IV.–IMMIGRATION AND EMIGRATION.
1.Q. What measures have been taken to facilitate Jewish immigration?
A. The new Immigration Ordinance and Regulations came into force in September (for particulars see [pages ] in this Report).
In addition to the persons who entered Palestine as immigrants, 1,674 travellers, including 1,251 Jews, were granted permission to remain permanently in Palestine after it had been ascertained that they fell within the categories of settlers defined in the Immigration Ordinance.
The general reply to this question in the Report for 1924 still holds good.
2.Q. What measures have been taken to safeguard the rights and position of other sections of the population?
A. So far as possible the new Immigration Ordinance and Regulations were framed on the principle that immigration to Palestine must be regulated by the economic capacity of the country to absorb new settlers, thus safeguarding the rights and position of the existing population. Seven hundred and thirty-one persons, including 534 Jews, who failed to comply with the Regulations were rejected at the frontiers and ports in 1925.
Clearly, if immigration of Jews results in preventing the Arab population from obtaining the work necessary for its maintenance, or if Jewish unemployment unfavourably affects the general labour position, it is the duty of the Mandatory Power under the Mandate to reduce, or…suspend such immigration until the unemployed portion…is in a position to obtain work. p. 21
Oct. 1930 – Sir John Hope’s “Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development” (Command Paper 3686)
“It has emerged quite definitely that there is, at the present time, and with the present methods of Arab cultivation, no margin of land available for agricultural settlement by new immigrants, with the exception of such undeveloped land as the various Jewish Agencies hold in reserve.”
1937 – Statement of Policy by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, Cmd. 5513
In the immediate future, while the form of a scheme of partition is being worked out, His Majesty’s Government propose that, as an interim measure, steps should be taken to prohibit any land transactions which might prejudice such a scheme. Further…they propose that a total Jewish immigration in all categories of 8,000 persons shall be permitted for the eight months’ period August 1937 to March 1938, provided that the economic absorptive capacity of the country is not exceeded. p. 3
The Right Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore, P.C., M.P.,
Downing Street, S.W.1.
On behalf of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine I have the honour to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of the letter addressed to them on your behalf under date March 14th, embodying the main provisions of your Despatch to the High Commissioner of March 10th…
8. The Executive of the Jewish Agency feel bound to challenge the view that the present arbitrary restrictions on immigration are consistent with the international obligation of the Mandatory Power under the Mandate. Any departure from the economic absorptive capacity principle is contrary to the most authoritative interpretations of the Mandate. In 1930, the League Council, at the request of the Mandatory Power itself, approved the principle that “Jewish immigration should be authorised to the extent allowed by the country’s capacity of economic absorption,” and the Permanent Mandates Commission at its last session (August 1937), expressed the view that the imposition of an over-riding maximum of 8,000 for an eight months’ period was a departure from this principle. The positive obligation under the Mandate to “facilitate Jewish immigration” can, in our view, hardly be interpreted as meaning the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on Jewish immigration…
10. The Executive of the Jewish Agency therefore feel justified in insisting that the present arbitrary restriction of Jewish immigration is contrary to the international obligations of the Mandatory Power, and that, so long as the present Mandate remains in force. Jewish immigration should be proportionate to the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine, as sanctioned, at the request of H.M.G., by the Council of the League of Nations.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
D. Ben Gurion
CHAIRMAN OF THE EXECUTIVE OF THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR PALESTINE
Political Report of the Executive of the Jewish Agency submitted to the Twenty First Zionist Congress and the Sixth Session of the Council of the Jewish Agency at Geneva August 1939. Jerusalem 1939, p.76-80.
d) That the Governments of the countries of refuge and settlement should not assume any obligations for the financing of involuntary emigration;
It has been urged that all further Jewish immigration into Palestine should be stopped forthwith. His Majesty’s Government cannot accept such a proposal. It would damage the whole of the financial and economic system of Palestine and thus affect adversely the interests of Arabs and Jews alike. Moreover, in the view of His Majesty’s Government, abruptly to stop further immigration would be unjust to the Jewish National Home. But, above all, His Majesty’s Government are conscious of the present unhappy plight of Jews who seek a refuge from certain European countries, and believe that Palestine can and should make a further contribution to the solution of this pressing world problem. In all these circumstances, they believe that they will be acting consistently with their Mandatory obligations to both Arabs and Jews, and in the manner best calculated to serve the interests of the whole people of Palestine, by adopting the following proposals regarding immigration- –
(1) Jewish immigration during the next five years will be at a rate which, if economic absorptive capacity permits, will bring the Jewish population up to approximately one-third of the total population of the country. Taking into account the expected natural increase of the Arab and Jewish populations, and the number of illegal Jewish immigrants now in the country, this would allow of the admission, as from the beginning of April this year, of some 75,000 immigrants over the next five years…
(2) The existing machinery for ascertaining economic absorptive capacity will be retained, and the High Commissioner will have the ultimate responsibility for deciding the limits of economic capacity…
(3) After the period of five years, no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it.
(4) His Majesty’s Government are determined to check illegal immigration, and further preventive measures are being adopted…
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES ANNOUNCED TODAY IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF PALESTINE WOULD STOP FURTHER JEWISH IMMIGRATION INTO THE COUNTRY AS FROM NEXT OCTOBER. This decision is attributed to the fact that in the last few months numbers of Jews found refuge in Palestine in contravention of immigration regulations. The statement that these refugees emanate from Poland and Rumania is misleading. In fact it is common knowledge that the greater part of them came from Germany, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia and Danzig.
THE JEWISH PEOPLE AS A WHOLE IS BY THIS DECISION TO BE PENALISED BECAUSE THESE REFUGEES SOUGHT AN ESCAPE FROM PERSECUTION BY FLEEING TO THEIR NATIONAL HOME. THE PENALTY AMOUNTS TO NOTHING LESS THAN THE CLOSING TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE OF THEIR HOMELAND AND THE DENIAL OF THE ONLY SALVATION OPEN TO JEWS WHO ARE DOOMED TO EXTERMINATION IN THE ANTI-SEMITIC INFERNO OF CENTRAL EUROPE.
For three years Palestine was a prey to the terrorism of Arab bands and the Government failed to enforce law and order. Now that the Mandatory Government has surrendered to Arab terrorism and violated its obligations to the Jewish people, it makes a display of firmness in enforcing the new immigration restrictions.
THE JEWISH PEOPLE REGARDS THE NEW POLICY WHICH, UNDER THE PRESSURE OF TERRORISM, HAS PLACED A STRANGLE-HOLD ON JEWISH IMMIGRATION, AS DEVOID OF ANY MORAL JUSTIFICATION AND BASED ONLY ON THE USE OF FORCE.
The Jewish people has not acquiesced, nor will it acquiesce, in this rule of force proclaimed in the White Paper. Its right to its homeland cannot be invalidated by the White Paper. Its right to its homeland cannot be invalidated by the breach of faith perpetrated by the Mandatory Government. The right of the Jews to return to their country is their natural and historic right.
IT IS NOT THE JEWISH REFUGEES RETURNING TO THEIR HOMELAND WHO ARE VIOLATING THE LAW BUT THOSE WHO ARE ENDEAVOURING TO DEPRIVE THEM OF THE SUPREME RIGHT OF EVERY HUMAN BEING – THE RIGHT TO LIVE.
Political Report of the Executive of the Jewish Agency submitted to the Twenty First Zionist Congress and the Sixth Session of the Council of the Jewish Agency at Geneva August 1939. Jerusalem, 1939, p.114.
3. The policy laid down in the White Paper of May, 1939, proposes first, by permitting Jewish immigration after the lapse of five years only if the Arabs of Palestine acquiesce in it, to relegate the Jews in Palestine to the position of a permanent minority; secondly to prohibit Jewish settlement altogether in certain parts of Palestine, and to restrict it in other parts; thirdly, to terminate the Mandate and to convert Palestine into an independent State, thereby placing the Jewish National Home under the domination of the Arab majority. The White Paper in effect abrogates the recognition, expressed in the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, of the special status of the Jewish people as a whole in relation to Palestine, and takes into account, as far as Jewish rights and interests are concerned, only those Jews already established in Palestine. Taken as a whole, the new policy is in direct contradiction to the whole trend and purpose of the Palestine Mandate. More particularly, it ignores the Preamble to the Mandate, and is in conflict with various specific injunctions contained in its Articles.
The migration work in the ensuing period was not only a German problem, but also one that concerned the offices of the countries of destination and immigration. Financial difficulties, such as increasingly demanding regulations on the part of various foreign governments for money to be shown by the immigrant or to be paid by him on landing, insufficient berths on ships, constantly increasing immigration restrictions and suspensions-all this placed extraordinary burdens on emigration efforts. In spite of all these difficulties, some 537,000 Jews were moved out from the day of the seizure of power to October 31, 1941.
Preliminary Committee of the General Arab Conference-
The Committee also is of the opinion that the pledges binding the British Government and providing for the cessation of Jewish immigration, the preservation of Arab lands, and the achievement of independence for Palestine are permanent Arab rights whose prompt implementation would constitute a step toward the desired goal and toward the stabilization of peace and security.
The Committee declares its support of the cause of the Arabs of Palestine and its willingness to work for the achievement of their legitimate aims and the safeguarding of their Just rights.
The Committee also declares that it is second to none in regretting the woes which have been inflicted upon the Jews of Europe by European dictatorial states. But the question of these Jews should not be confused with Zionism, for there can be no greater injustice and aggression than solving the problem of the Jews of Europe by another injustice, i.e., by inflicting injustice on the Arabs of Palestine of various religions and denominations.
Mr. Crick- Mr. Ben Gurion, may we come down to the realm of political philosophy, which is rather more mundane. There are three matters I would like to take up with you.
The first one is this question of the relevance of the concept of economic absorptive capacity in immigration policy. You would agree that for the greater part of the period between the two wars, the test for the determination of the volume or rate of immigration was the economic absorptive capacity of the country?
Q. You would agree also that that test was set aside by the White Paper of 1939?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Therefore, the test holds good today?
A. No, sir, it doesn’t follow. It is illegal not because of setting aside absorptive capacity. It has nothing to do with that. There is no absorptive capacity principle at all. The White Paper is illegal for other reasons, because it is illegal to deny that we are here as of right. The Mandate said that recognition was given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine, to be created for reconstituting their national home there. The White Paper is a denial of that.
July 31, 1946 – Speech by Herbert Morrison in House of Commons
As part of this plan, the experts suggest that it would become possible to accept the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine, and for continuing immigration thereafter.
LONDON, Aug. 13 (AP)—A colonial office spokesman charged today that “American financial sources” were responsible for “encouraging and directing” illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine.
Asked to elaborate on the government’s statement yesterday that “very large financial contributions” supported the mass exodus of European Jews to Palestine, the spokesman declined to specify individuals or organizations.
He recalled, however, “the many advertisements in United States newspapers appealing for money to aid European Jews to get to Palestine by illegal means.” He cited one advertisement, published last April, which he said carried the phrase- “American dollars pitted against British arms.”
It will be recalled that, when Mr. Earl Harrison reported on September 29, 1945, concerning the condition of displaced persons in Europe, I immediately urged that steps be taken to relieve the situation of these persons to the extent at least of admitting 100,000 Jews into Palestine.(2) In response to this suggestion the British Government invited the Government of the United States to cooperate in setting up a joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, an invitation which this Government was happy to accept in the hope that its participation would help to alleviate the situation of the displaced Jews in Europe and would assist in finding a solution for the difficult and complex problem of Palestine itself. The urgency with which this Government regarded the matter is reflected in the fact that a 120-day limit was set for the completion of the Committee’s task.
The unanimous report of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was made on April 20, 1946, and I was gratified to note that among the recommendations contained in the Report was an endorsement of my previous suggestion that 100,000 Jews be admitted into Palestine. The administration immediately concerned itself with devising ways and means for transporting the 100,000 and caring for them upon their arrival. With this in mind, experts were sent to London in June 1946 to work out provisionally the actual travel arrangements. The British Government cooperated with this group but made it clear that in its view the Report must be considered as a whole and that the issue of the 100,000 could not be considered separately…
In the light of the situation which has now developed I wish to state my views as succinctly as possible-
1. In view of the fact that winter will come on before the Conference can be resumed I believe and urge that substantial immigration into Palestine cannot await a solution to the Palestine problem and that it should begin at once. Preparations for this movement have already been made by this Government and it is ready to lend its immediate assistance.
2. I state again, as I have on previous occasions, that the immigration laws of other countries, including the United States, should be liberalized with a view to the admission of displaced persons. I am prepared to make such a recommendation to the Congress and to continue as energetically as possible collaboration with other countries on the whole problem of displaced persons.
3. Furthermore, should a workable solution for Palestine be devised, I would be willing to recommend to the Congress a plan for economic assistance for the development of that country.
In the light of the terrible ordeal which the Jewish people of Europe endured during the recent war and the crisis now existing, I cannot believe that a program of immediate action along the lines suggested above could not be worked out with the cooperation of all people concerned. The administration will continue to do everything it can to this end.
(1) Department of State Bulletin of October 13, 1946, pp. 669-670.
(2) For text of Mr. Harrison’s report to the. President, see Department of State Bulletin of September .10, 1945, p. 456; and for the statement of the President, see Department of State Bulletin of November 18, 1945, P. 790.
Exodus was a ship carrying Jewish emigrants, that left France on July 11, 1947 with the intent of taking its passengers to Palestine. Most of the emigrants were Holocaust survivors. The British Royal Navy seized the ship, and deported all its passengers back to Europe.
Nov. 16, 1947 – The Kadimah (Forward) and the Quom Aliyah (Immigration) ships arrive in Tel Aviv with 1350 immigrants.
Jewish sources in Tel Aviv said two ships carrying 1350 illegal immigrants were off the coast seeking a chance to land. The sources, connected with Haganah, moderate Jewish underground movement, named the ships the Kadimah (Forward) and the Quom Aliyah (Immigration).
The passengers on Kadimah were sent to Cyprus.
ISTANBUL, Dec. 23 (UP).-Diplomatic sources said today that the American ship Pan Crescent, flying the flag of Panama, left Constant empty yesterday, two months after it entered that Romanian port to pick up Jewish illegal immigrants to Palestine. A sister ship, the Pan York, also empty, was expected to leave today.
Local sources believed the trips were canceled because the United Nations decision to partition Palestine will soon open the door to increased legal immigration.
41. It is in the same spirit that the Memorandum specifically defends the immigration restrictions of the White Paper. Immigration is  treated as a matter of “policy” to be determined by a sovereign, not an obligation to be carried out by a trustee. Arab opposition to Jewish immigration–so runs the argument, taken over from the White Paper–had produced disturbances of the peace, held up economic progress and created bitterness between Arabs and Jews. Hence Jewish immigration must be curbed. The positive obligation imposed by the Mandate to facilitate Jewish immigration is read to imply a negative obligation to prohibit it if the Arabs oppose it. Jewish immigration, which the British Government had in 1922 described as being among the “integral and indispensable factors in the execution of the charge laid upon the Mandatory,”* was in 1939 declared to be a matter for complete prohibition unless acquiesced in by the Arabs. Neither the terms of the Mandate nor the grounds for the establishment of the Jewish National Home had changed in the interval. The latter had, if anything, become far more urgent and compelling. But the political orientation of the Mandatory had changed. In 1917 and 1922 it had been concerned to establish a National Home for the Jewish People. In 1939, its aim was to restrain Jewish growth and permanently to subject the Jewish community to Arab majority rule. That could only be attained by the imposition of a political high level limitation on Jewish immigration in flagrant violation of the Mandate.
LAKE SUCCESS, L. I., Jan. 21.-Great Britain flouted a part of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on Palestine for the first time today by refusing to open up a port and hinterland area in the Holy Land by Feb. 1 for increased Jewish immigration.
At the same time, the British told the U. N. flatly that they will continue to drive away ships carrying “illegal” Jewish immigrants to Palestine, and that they intend to maintain the current immigration quota of 1,500 Jews a month until the British mandate is ended.
Mar. 29, 1948 – Illegal immigrants sent to Cyprus
An official announcement said that 737 Jews without immigration certificates were intercepted aboard the schooner Yehiam by the British last night off Haifa. They left today for internment camps on Cyprus.
Feb. 28, 1948 – Illegal immigrant ship intercepted
JERUSALEM, Feb. 28 (AP)-The British blockade today intercepted a ship carrying more than 1,000 Jews seeking to enter Palestine without immigration certificates.
Informants from Haganah, the Jewish militia, said the ship, named “Builders and Fighters,” left a western European port recently.
R. A. F. planes spotted the vessel near the Palestine coastline. Subsequently a British navy party boarded the ship. The vessel was reported proceeding to Haifa under destroyer escort.
ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) – The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood…
Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland…
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
LAKE SUCCESS, Aug- 4 (AP)-Israel formally demanded today that the Security Council act to free 11,000 Jews detained by Britain on the Island of Cyprus.
The Israeli government told the United Nations Britain is misinterpreting the Council’s truce resolution of May 29, regarding immigration into Palestine.