When Hitler came into power in Germany there was a large increase in the demand for Jewish immigration to Palestine as Jews tried to escape. The British allowed around 50,000 Jews to immigrate from 1934-1936 but it infuriated the Arab population.
Based on the higher immigration levels the Arabs started the an intifada against the Palestinian Jews. The Arab attacks continued for three years (1936-1939). Britain did take a stab at limiting the Arab attacks, but it was more important for them to keep the Arabs from jumping to the German side (something that at best met with mixed success). Thus began the British tradition of appeasing Muslim terrorists, that exists even today.
Then to formalize their appeasement, in May 1939, seventy years ago this week, the British Parliament approved a policy paper that sentenced many Jewish people to death. Called the White Paper of 1939, the policy paper had two purposes:
- The first purpose was to quash the Peel Commission Report of 1937 which recommended dividing the Palestinian mandate into two states, one Arab and and one Jewish. The White Paper abandoned the two states in favor of creating an independent Palestine governed by Arabs and Jews in proportion to their numbers in the population by 1949. In other words, a one-Arab State-Solution.
- The Second Purpose was to limit the immigration of Jews to Palestine which resulted in the death sentence. A limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944, consisting of a regular yearly quota of 10,000, and a supplementary quota of 25,000, spread out over the same period, to cover refugee emergencies. After this cut-off date, further immigration would depend on the permission of the Arab majority . Restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs .
The White Paper was first announced on the 9th of November 1938. If that date seems familiar, it’s because it is forever stained with the name Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.” On that same night the Nazis waged coordinated attack on the Jewish people; 91 Jews were murdered and 25,000 to 30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps. More than 200 synagogues were destroyed and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked. The same day as Kristallnacht, the British released a plan to close off a major escape route for European Jews–Palestine–sentencing hundreds of thousands of innocent people who might have been saved, to death at the hands of Hitler.
During WWII, Jews organized an illegal immigration effort, conducted by “Hamossad Le’aliyah Bet” that rescued tens of thousands of European Jews from the Nazis by shipping them to Palestine in rickety boats. Many of these boats were intercepted and some were sunk with great loss of life. The efforts began in 1939, and the last immigrant boat to try to enter Palestine before the end of the war was the Struma, torpedoed in the Black Sea by a Soviet submarine in February 1942. The boat sank with the loss of nearly 800 lives.
When the White Paper was issued Chaim Weizmann called it “a death sentence for the Jewish people.” David Ben-Gurion said it was “the greatest betrayal perpetrated by the government of a civilized people in our generation.”
Weizmann rushed to London to plead his case before prime minister Neville Chamberlain. “The prime minister sat before me like a marble statue; his expressionless eyes were fixed on me, but he never said a word,” Weizmann later recalled. “I got no response. He was bent on appeasement of the Arabs and nothing could change his course.” Well, maybe not quite nothing. Source
Not that Great Britain was the only villain, FDR aided and abetted the British appeasement.
The British were, after all, in a particularly vulnerable position in May 1939. Two months earlier, Hitler had completed his dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, leaving the Munich agreement in tatters. War with England seemed inevitable. “London was in such dire need of American support,” the historian Selig Adler has noted, “that a strong dissent from Washington would have probably forced a British reversal” of the White Paper.
American Zionists thought likewise. In the weeks before the publication of the White Paper, US Zionist leaders repeatedly urged president Franklin Roosevelt to intervene against the anticipated British action. The Jews closest to FDR, Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Stephen Wise, begged the president to step in. Roosevelt tended to deflect these kinds of requests with a dose of charm. Calling Wise “Stevie” made the American Jewish Congress leader feel he was a personal friend of the most powerful man on earth. “The president glad-handed Zionist leaders,” Prof. Adler recalled. “He would pacify his Jewish visitors with promises… but then failed to put these pledges into the executive pipeline.” Source
Seventy years ago this week, the British Parliament decided to abandon doing the “right thing.” With tacit agreement from the United States, they decided to appease Arabs terrorizing Jewish civilians. Who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Jews could have escaped the Holocaust if they were able to escape to the Holy Land.
Looking at the foriegn policy of Great Britian today, very little has changed. They are still appeasing Muslims who are bent of violence instead of “doing the right thing.”