The Mandate: From 1919 to civil war, antisemitism and Bergen-Belsen

I have been spending time recently in the British Archives at Kew. I am working on a project (with Jonathan Hoffman) that is due to be published on Sep 4th. It has meant spending time, inside the files that recorded the British view of the events of the Mandate. Engaging with the mindset of those that wrote the documents. This ‘perspective’, and the bias behind the written conclusions, are often missed by researchers. The British records highlight the growing adversarial nature between the British and the Zionists as the Mandate evolved.

It has been an emotional and yet empowering experience. During the research, I found some files not related to the project, that I simply couldn’t leave idling away on my hard drive. So here are a few interesting snippets taken from British Archive files from the 1919-1948 period.

(copyright note: The images below are from the National Archives (TNA) and are not public domain. They are reproduced here with the permission of the National Archives. To re-publish images, you would need to obtain permission from them separately):

1919: ‘The Whole of Syria is for Syrians’

The British archive file FO 608/99 is full of documentation regarding the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference. It is fascinating because it highlights 1919 attitudes towards the land and the people that are entirely out of sync with the way they are described today.

Nablus Palestinians

A dislike of Jews and Palestine, ‘belongs’ to Syria. Arab communities across the globe were not so vocal about their ‘Jew hating’ credentials, but went straight to the point over Syria. From the same file:

The ‘integrity of Syria’. Reading the British description of the inhabitants is also enlightening (Memorandum by Sir Erle Richards, from section 1, ‘territories in question’:

‘As to the Southern Boundary there are a number of different questions. On the one hand, it is contended that the cultivable areas south of Gaza ought to be part of Palestine because they are necessary to the subsistence of the people. On the other hand, this area is inhabited by Bedouins of the desert, who look really towards Sinai and ought not to be associated with Palestine at all…. the remaining area South of Gaza and to the Dead Sea and Gulf of Aqaba should be reserved to the Bedouins and attached to Egypt, since the tribes are identical with those in the Sinai Peninsula’.

These writings illustrate perfectly the land being discussed was devoid of any national identity. And just as importantly the people in the land, were not connected to each other. The Arabs in the South, aligned with Egypt, those in the East with Syria, and Arab Christians in the Galilee, would have aligned with Lebanon.

This fascinating article, apparently printed in a New York newspaper, clearly contains Arab objection to the title ‘Palestinian’.


There is a civil war inside the Mandate

Jumping through the Mandate, to early 1948. From File FO 141/8742 (most images below are from this file), a casualty count. A British summary of incidents reported to the police, between the time of the Partition vote and late April 1948.

Civil war casualty count

It clearly shows that the fighting was bloody, and at this point, the Jews were suffering badly (remember if they were proportionally a smaller number of the population, then relatively equal casualty figures indicate the serious consequences such figures would imply).

Irregular forces and refugees

The next document is a British diplomatic telegram from Amman from January 15th:

Jordan Mandate telegram

Look at point number three. It indicates that the radio reports (that in January were overstating everything), were leading to an influx of men, arms and money to help fight the Jews. The other important point of note is the ‘crowded’ towns in Transjordan, full of Arab refugees. This is confirmation of refugee flight long before any Zionist offensive (Jan 15th is really early and if the towns are already crowded, then the Arabs were fleeing in December 1947.

The next document is simply fascinating. A weekly intelligence update from 23rd February 1948. From beginning to end, this single document is dripping with historical significance.

1948 context

The first section contains the estimated size of foreign fighters (for the most part the ‘Arab Liberation Army’), that had begun to inflict heavy casualties on Jewish forces. These were foreign fighters from Lebanon and Syria who had crossed into the Mandate lands. This element of the civil conflict is belittled by revisionists *precisely because* it is so important to the real story. Then there is a report on an Arab attack on Tirat Tzvi. The attacking Arab forces were repelled and destroyed by the British. 44 Arab dead. Which in turn means that even at this late stage, while most Jews were being murdered by Arabs, many Arabs were still being killed by the British.

Note too that item four, has the Hagana begin to talk about ‘going over to offensive’. Why? Because of the ‘growing’ strength of the Arab Liberation Army.

Then on the 30th April, a Telegram from the High Commissioner for Palestine to the Secretary of State:

High Commissioner

It starts on the page before (not visible in the image).

‘Fear breeds recrimination and they (the Arabs) are perhaps willfully blind to the fact that for months past they and their press have clamoured for the entry of the Foreign Arab Guerilla bands which, having successfully stirred up the Jews.. are now proving quite unable to protect the local Arabs from the Jewish reaction’ – CONTINUES FROM IMAGE- ‘In their hearts the Arabs realise that their much vaunted Liberation army is poorly equipped and badly led’….’and they themselves misled; in their hearts they must pin the blame on someone’…. ‘the Palestinian administration incessantly requested that armed Arab bands should at all costs be kept out of Palestine under after termination of the Mandate, but the bands entered and were defeated’…. ‘Many of their so called leaders are fleeing the country and the Effendi class do not seem to be ashamed of watching the contest from the touchline’.

‘Jewish traits’ during the Palestine Mandate

This from WO 169/4334. Part OF A Weekly Intelligence Review from January 1942

Mandate antisemitism

‘The old Jewish trait’. In places British antisemitism drips from the files. It isn’t restricted to the British though. And this antisemitism isn’t new. The next image is a Diplomatic report (from file FO 371/ 68365) on a meeting of Arab ministers in December 1947.

Notice how the Arab leaders, when contemplating the support they would receive for the upcoming battle against the Jews, knew they could rely on the ‘anti-Jews‘ in many countries. This deliberate partnership between the anti-Israel cause and (the ‘anti-Jews’) antisemitism, was there from the very start. It is visible today, wherever anti-Israel activity exists.

These documents are only some of thousands I have seen at the archives. The central truth of the conflict has remained constant. The revisionist ‘narrative’ takes carefully selected events, airbrushes out unwanted information, and magnifies unfavourable Zionist actions to the point that the reader is no longer absorbing a factual tale. The underlying narrative is a truth we must own, if we are to fight against those that seek to distort history and rewrite the sequence of events. The journey into the archives was empowering for this reason. It reinforces the central truth behind the history of Israel.

Bergen Belsen

The final document, I posted on my FB page some days ago. I was flicking through a fairly ordinary bureaucratic file, passing over and endless stream of telegrams and there it was. An impossible to describe moment awash with multiple layers of differing emotions. It is from the Jewish DP’s at Bergen-Belsen. Still captive months after liberation. It doesn’t need, introduction or explanation. It just needs you to view it, read it, and reflect.


Bergen Belsen


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32 thoughts on “The Mandate: From 1919 to civil war, antisemitism and Bergen-Belsen

    1. There is no so, Stephen, this is just information. Each can take from it as they please. What it does do to a degree, is put a dam up against a tide of disinformation. But beyond this, there is no ‘so’ on this page. The ‘so’…. can be found perhaps in the release of a new report next week.

        1. Ah bless. Torn between the need to fulfill the media response brief but desperately struggling to find any sort of demeaning response. Best option; avoid the subject and mention something else. Still, every penny counts I suppose.

          Thank you once again for your wonderful efforts David.

  1. Brilliant painstaking research, long overdue and necessary to illustrate the considerable mythology behind some of the Arab Palestinian claims. Especially those regarding the rightful place of Palestinian Jews in mandate Palestine, as compared to the different disparate groups of Palestinian Arabs. And interestingly the real affiliations of these groups to surrounding Arab nationalisms, not the regimes that claim to represent them today.

  2. I think what Stephen is getting at with his original comment “So?” is that there are conclusions which would make the data in the article that much more powerful which we would look forward to. You speak of the narrative of our enemies, as compared with the truth- which would be our narrative. I think taking what you have already written, and adding to that an undermining of the specfics of the Palestinian narrative and a re-stating of the truth- our narrative- would be that much more useful.

    1. This concept of ‘narratives’ is part of the problem. The two sides do not equate. If one person attempts to provide a legitimate account based on historically factual information, it is not the same as if on person attempts to carefully create an account that best suits his political needs. These are not two ‘narratives’. One is a history book that may contain commentary and some unintentional flaws, the other is a deliberate fairytale that is unusable.

      1. Oh dear one man’s legitimate account based on historically factual information is another man’s deliberate fairy tale. Methinks David needs a crash course in the philosophy of history. Which would of course include an analysis of its value.

        1. Stephen you are confusing issues. Not sure whether it is deliberate or not. Nobody is arguing that perspectives cannot create multiple accounts, all seemingly at odds with each other. But the purpose of a historian is to strip away at the ‘narratives’ not promote them. It isn’t about saying whether you view Zionist actions as aggressive or defensive. If you argue that the Arab irregular armies entered Palestine to defend Arab towns, it is a perspective position (seeing as the Zionist arrival could be viewed as the original sin). I can produce enough evidence to refute it, but nevertheless, an argument over historicity can take place. If however you deny Arab violence almost entirely, to create a narrative because it suits your political purpose. That narrative has no historical merit. That people may be duped into believing it, give it no additional meaning. To say that lie and my narrative are equal because there is oral evidence to support both is nonsensical when hard evidence exists of persistent and brutal Arab violence.

          1. If you want to see prime examples of this, you can see the way Stalin and Hitler suppressed accepted versions of historical events, by brilliant use of propaganda. Hitlers ‘narrative’ is not equal to a historical account.

            1. I can tell you, that in one instance, there was a delay of about 10 days, between you posting and me getting it out of the mod queue. I was simply not around. That isn’t really my fault. It’s possible it is because you frequently post with links, it is also possible other sites have marked your IP/email as spam, so WP doesn’t like it. AND, recently I deleted one post of yours attacking Jonathan, and one post of Jonathan’s attacking you. His got in a queue that needed authorisation, I didn’t see why I should okay an off-topic attack post, so I deleted it, and the personal attack post that had provoked it. That is it. Either way, I offer no apologies. As you well know, I let most all of your stuff go up here without edit or comment. I have a really thick skin, I am not here to protect those that don’t.

        2. And I am not whining or complaining David. The right to free speech doesn’t encompass the right to be listened to or a right to a particular platform.

          Just checking that I didn’t have early onset dementia o:)

  3. Oh dear Jonathan’s comment was so racist even David saw fit to moderate it out. Too funny.

    Psst Mike people don’t live in narratives they live in situations.

    History is the last refuge of the scoundrel. It deflects from present realities. It remains of academic interest of course.

    1. What I mean Mike is this……..You are a non Jewish resident of the West Bank. The IOF have just smashed their way into your home in the dead of night, , kidnapped your kid and in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions, whisked it off to a foreign country,to be tortured and stuff. You whinge and whine about it.

      But you say oh ffs you whining Arab ingratiate have you not read David and Jonathan’s account of the history ? ( David and Jonathan hmmm) )

      You of course say well yeah I get it now

      But anyway this is interesting….isen’t it Jonathan ?

      Actually I am beginning to think that I, an Irish Catholic, is more Jewish than either David or Jonathan. Albeit I have not formally taken Jonathan’s proper Jew test o: )

      1. “Kidnapping kids, torture and stuff”. Come on, every job has its perks. Some people get money for writing demeaning responses on social media. That’s right isn’t it. Potato, Potahto.

  4. In order top help with your research, please read:

    The Land of the Three Faiths by Philip Graves..

    Written by an observer of 1923 Palestine, this book will help mitigate some of the propaganda meted out by the PSC. In a nutshell, Palestine was run by Christian Arabs. The Muslim population played only a minor role in 1920s Palestine.

    1. How did this minor role compare to the role of the Jewish population Mike ? Dear God what is happening here is so hard core racist it almost beggars belief. Can’t wait for the next exciting installment especially since it will have input from Tommy Robinson, I mean Jonathan.

        1. Stephen
          You are floundering . Find something substantive to comment on as the ad Homs are not doing you any favours.

          1. I once caught a flounder beach fishing off Bridlington south beach. I had such trouble getting it off the hook it died. It upset me so much I gave up persecuting dumb animals and have been a vegetarian ever since.

      1. S Bellamy: There is plenty of blood and ill-feeling. But race simply is not an issue. “Racist” has become such a hate word that people use it in the absence of any real races. There is fighting over territory and over beliefs and religion. But there is no “One drop rule”, no octaroons, the Jews don’t argue intellectual or moral superiority over the Arabs or Moslems. There are no Jim Crow laws involved. No separate water fountains. Not every fight in the world is about skin color.

        1. Ricky, I assure you that Bellamy is certainly not here to debate. He has admitted as much more than once here. His function is entirely linear and it’s focus is the delivery of paid media response. The tactic is to ignore any of the subject matter and instead post ad hom remarks designed to demoralize and demean. There is little to be gained in engaging.

        1. I do understand that Gert lives in Bridlington. Whether he did so when I briefly did I do not know. Is he occupying Simon Cobbs old cell at Exeter ?

        2. By the way eight months is not at Her Majestys pleasure ( note the lower case p )

          Her Majestys pleasure is an undefined indefinite term of imprisonment.

          Jezuz I really should start charging for this. I would earn more than the forces of darkness are paying me for trolling Zios. Hi Ian.

  5. Wehaay!! Racists, Nazis, Kidnappers, Torturers, Murderers. All we need is a white pussycat and a double secret, subterranean lair under Mount Gilboa and we’d be the best Bond villains ever. Is Roberta Moore the one with the daggers in her shoes?

  6. This an excellent and interesting historical report. But you must really learn how to photograph documents laid flat. Or at least flatter. How dare I criticise this difficult and unpaid labor? I don’t know. But we need more of it.

    Mr. Collier deserves a medal. Or at least a donation.

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