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May 17, 1939 The White Paper

May 17, 1939 The White PaperThe White Paper of May 17, 1939:

In a statement on Palestine, issued on  November 9th, 1938, His Majesty’s Government announced their intention to invite representatives of the Arabs of Palestine, of certain neighboring countries, and of the Jewish Agency to confer with them in London regarding future policy. It was their sincere hope that, as a result of frank discussions, some understanding might be reached. Conferences lasted for a period of several weeks, and served the purpose of a complete exchange of views between British Ministers and Arab and Jewish representatives. In the light of the discussions as well as of the situation in Palestine and of the Reports of the Royal Commission and the Partition Commission, certain proposals were formulated by His Majesty’s Government and were laid before the Arab and Jewish Delegations as the basis of an agreed settlement. Neither the Arab nor the Jewish delegation felt able to accept these proposals, and the conferences failed to reach an agreement.  Accordingly, His Majesty’s Government was free to formulate their own policy, and after careful consideration they decided to adhere generally to the proposals which were submitted and discussed with the Arab and Jewish delegations.

It was therefore necessary for His Majesty’s Government to devise an alternative policy which consisted with British obligations to Arabs and Jews, and met the needs of the situation in Palestine. Their views and proposals are set forth below under three heads, Section I, “The Constitution”, Section II. Immigration and Section III. Land.

I The Constitution


A transitional period will be required before independence is achieved, throughout which ultimate responsibility for the government of the country will be retained by His Majesty’s Government as the Mandatory authority.

At the end of five years from the restoration of peace and order, an appropriate body representative of the people of Palestine and of His Majesty’s Government will be set up to review the working of the constitutional arrangements during the transitional period and to consider and make recommendations regarding the constitution of the independent Palestine State. (pg 7)

II Immigration

His Majesty’s Government does not read either the Statement of Policy of 1922 or the letter of 1939 as implying that the Mandate requires them, for all time and in all circumstances, to facilitate the immigration of Jews into Palestine subject only to consideration of the country’s economic absorptive capacity.

The lamentable disturbances of the past three years are only the latest and most sustained manifestation of this intense Arab apprehension. The methods employed by Arab terrorists against fellow Arabs and Jews alike must receive unqualified condemnation.

The alternatives before His Majesty’s Government are either (i) to seek the expansion of the Jewish National Home indefinitely by immigration (against the strongly expressed will of the Arab people of the country), or (ii) to permit further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it.

Therefore His Majesty’s Government, after earnest consideration, and taking into account the extent to which the growth of the Jewish National Home has been facilitated over the last twenty years, have decided that the time has come to adopt in principle the second of the alternatives referred to above.

(I) 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. These immigrants would be subject to the criterion of economic absorptive capacity and be admitted as follows:

For each of the next five years a quota of 10,000 Jewish immigrants will be allowed on the understanding that a shortage one year may be added to the quotas for subsequent years, within the five year period, if economic absorptive capacity permits.

In addition, as a contribution towards the solution of the Jewish refugee problem, 25,000 refugees will be admitted as soon as the High Commissioner is satisfied that adequate provision for their maintenance is ensured, special consideration being given to refugee children and dependents.

After the period of five years, no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it.

His Majesty’s Government are determined to check illegal immigration, and further preventive measures are being adopted. The numbers of any Jewish illegal immigrants who, despite these measures, may succeed in coming into the country and cannot be deported and will be deducted from the yearly quotas.

His Majesty’s Government are satisfied that, when the immigration over five years which is now contemplated has taken place, they will not be justified in facilitating, nor will they be under any obligation to facilitate, the further development of the Jewish National Home by immigration regardless of the wishes of the Arab population.


III Land

The Reports of several expert Commissions have indicated that, owing to the natural growth of the Arab population and the steady sale in recent years of Arab land to Jews, there is now in certain areas no room for further transfers of Arab land, whilst in some other areas such transfers of land must be restricted if Arab cultivators are to maintain their existing standard of life and a considerable landless Arab population is not soon to be created. In these circumstances, the High Commissioner will be given general powers to prohibit and regulate transfers of land. These powers will date from the publication of this statement of policy and the High Commissioner will retain them throughout the transitional period.

In the light of such development it will be open to the High Commissioner, should he be satisfied that the “rights and position” of the Arab population will be duly preserved, to review and modify any orders passed relating to the prohibition or restriction of the transfer of land.

Source: The White Paper of 1939 Palestine Statement of Policy Cmd. 6019 (pg 2-12)

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