Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Israel – CCXXII. Where Are We Going? (2 of 4)

The British Mandate in Palestine (1923 – 1948)

World War I spelled the end of the Ottoman Empire.  It was at this point an empire in name only; and the defeat of Turkey in the war sounded its death knell.

One of the questions facing the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations) was what to do with Palestine.  Problems abounded even under Ottoman rule; and the need for supervising the affairs of this divided nation became imperative.

The solution was to give Britain a mandate to rule Palestine; there were, however, a number of constraints.  Some of these restrictions follow.

Good government that respected the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants; recognizing the sacred holidays of the existing congregations; protecting the holy places and guaranteeing easy access to them. English, Arabic, and Hebrew were to be the official languages of the realm. Each community was authorized to maintain its own school system.

Britain was to submit an annual report to indicate it has fulfilled the requirements of its mandate.  The report was to be filed with the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.

Remember that ultimately these were guidelines only; it was up to the British to decide how to govern Palestine.  So how well did it work?  As we shall see it didn’t work well at all!  Because of the circumstances, Palestine became another colony of the British Empire, and the mandate was in name only.

Herbert Samuel was the first British High Commissioner for Palestine. One of his first duties was to establish a legislative council; this council was to be subject to the terms of the mandate. The high commissioner could veto ordinances passed by the council.  Considering the different factions, Britain established a system that protected the rights of the Jewish and Christian minorities.  Some members were nominated and the rest were elected.  I am not going into the details since this system ultimately didn`t work.

So what difficulties were encountered?

First, a census was taken; it indicated a population composed of 650,000 Muslims, 87,000 Jews, and 73,000 Christians.  At the onset, no serious opposition to the format of the council were encountered.  That changed a few weeks later when Arab leaders expressed their opposition to giving Jews even limited consultative authority with Arabs. Most of the Arab population boycotted the elections, and the government was forced to cancel the rest of the voting.

Having no other options, Britain reverted instead to a purely nominated legislative body.  But that didn’t the resolve the issue since the Arabs boycotted this council (which at this point was strictly advisory).

In despair, Samuel approached the Arab leaders and suggested that they organize their own Arab Agency; it would serve as a counterpart to the Jewish Agency, and would protect Arab interests in Palestine.  This proposal was rejected on the spot.  With this third rejection, Samuel had no option but to announce that the legislative and the executive functions of the government will reside with the high commissioner and subordinate officers of the Palestine administration.

From 1923 until the end of the mandate in 1948, the high commissioner had close to absolute power. On the legislative front his office issued as many laws as the English Parliament did for Britain!  In fairness to the British administrators, they needed to revise a host of near medieval Ottoman legal practices, especially in the area of criminal and commercial law.  As well, often, the legislation related to the nation’s administration.

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