British Mandate

Jewish History >> British Mandate

The British Mandate for Palestine was a legal commission for the administration of the territory which formalized British rule in the southern part of Ottoman Syria from 1923–1948. The draft of the Mandate was formally confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922. The document was amended on September 16, 1922 and came into effect on September 29, 1923. The document was based on the principle of the Covenant of the League of Nations Article 22 as well as the Sam Remo Resolution of April 1920.1

The objective of the Mandate system was to administer parts of the now-defunct Ottoman Empire which had control of the Middle-East since the 16th century. The Mandate formalized the division of the British protectorates. Palestine was to include a national home for the Jewish People under direct British rule. Transjordan was to be an Emirate governed semi-autonomously from Britain under the rule of the Hashemite family.1

“The character of the mandate must differ according to the stage of the development of the people, the geographical situation of the territory, its economic conditions and other similar circumstances.

Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.” (The Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 22)2

The Balfour Declaration was a letter dated November 2, 1917 from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild. The letter made the British support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine public. This Declaration led the League of Nations to entrust the United Kingdom with the Palestine Mandate in 1922.3

In 1919 the Muslim-Christian Associations joined together to hold the first Palestine Arab Congress in Jerusalem. The main platforms of this Congress were a call for representative government and opposition to the Balfour Declaration.4 In May 1919 the American King-Crane Commission was set up to determine the wishes of the people in the Middle-East. France and Britain decline participation in this Commission. The August recommendation of the Commission called for “a serious modification of the extreme Zionist program for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish State….”5 In July 1919 the people of the Palestinian Territory sent delegates to the Syria General Congress. The Resolutions of the Congress called for a completely independent Syria which would include all of the Palestine Territory. In the same year the Zionists asked the Paris Peace Conference to provide a territory for them within a landmass that included all of “Mandate Palestine, the Golan Heights, both sides of the Jordan River, and southern Lebanon up to the Litani River.”5

Following the occupation of the Palestinian Territory by British troops in 1917-1918 the area was governed by the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration. Later this governance was replaced with the High Commissioner. The first High Commissioner is Herbert Samuel who began his office on July 1, 1920.

“On 25 April 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers agreed to assign the Mandate for Palestine to Great Britain on the understanding that the Balfour Declaration54/ would be put into effect. The draft mandate was confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922, and entered into force formally on 29 September 1923. Following its occupation by British troops in 1917-1918, Palestine had been controlled by the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration of the United Kingdom Government. Anticipating the establishment of the Mandate, the United Kingdom Government, as from 1 July 1920, replaced the military with a civilian administration, headed by a High Commissioner ultimately responsible to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in Great Britain.” (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, 1947)6

Samuel attempted to establish self-governing institutions in the Palestinian Territory as required by the mandate but he became frustrated by the refusal of the Arab leadership to cooperate with any institution that included participation of the Jewish community. In 1922 a Legislative Council was established. This Council was to consist of 23 members – 12 elected, 10 appointed, and the High Commissioner. The 12 elected officials were to consist of eight Muslims, two Arab-Christians, and two Jews however the Arabs argued against this seat distribution. In February and March 1923 elections were held for the Council but due to an Arab boycott the election results were annulled and a 12-member Advisory Council was established. In October 1923 Britain provided a report of administration of Palestine to the League of Nations for 1920-1922 which covered the period of time before the Mandate.4


*Britain is granted the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations.
*Transjordan is set up on three-fourth of the British Mandate and Jewish immigration was forbidden.
*The Jewish Agency representing the Jewish community in the British Mandate is set up.
*The United States Congress and President Harding approve the Balfour Declaration.
*The Supreme Muslim Council was created under the jurisdiction of the British government in order to centralize religious affairs and institutions.
*The First British census of Palestine showed a total population of 757,182 – 11 percent of whom were Jewish.
*The Fifth Palestinian National Congress met in Nablus where an agreement was made for an economic boycott of Zionists.

*The Palestine constitution was suspended by the British due to Arab refusal to cooperate.
*The Sixth Palestinian national Congress was held in Jaffa.
*The first institute of technology – The Technion – was founded in Haifa.
*The end of the third aliyah of Jews from Eastern Europe to the Palestine Territory which began in 1919. (The first aliyah was from 1882-1903 and the second aliyah was from 1904-1914.)

*The fourth aliyah of Jews mostly from Poland to the Palestine Territory began and would continue through 1932.
*The first conference of the General Zionist movement was held in Jerusalem.
*Haredi Jews founded an agricultural settlement – B’nei Brak – between Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva.

*The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was opened on Mount Scopus.
*The Palestinian National Congress meets in Jaffa.

*France proclaims an independent Republic of Lebanon

*Britain recognized the independence of Transjordan.
*The Seventh Palestinian National Congress met in Jerusalem where a new 48-member executive committee was established.

*Two-thousand Arabs attack Jews praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) on the Ninth of Av. The British refuse to condemn the attacks and the Arabs view this as support for their actions.
*Arab militants massacred 67 Jews in Hebron.
*The fifth aliyah of Jews from Germany to the Palestine Territory began and would continue through 1939.


*The Hope-Simpson Report recommended an end to all Jewish immigration to the Palestine Territory.
*Lord Passfield issued a White Paper which banned further land acquisition by Jews and also slowed Jewish immigration to the Palestine Territory.
*The Second British census showed a total population of 1,035,154 people in the Palestine Territory of which 16.9 percent were Jewish.

*Etzel (also known as the Irgun), a Jewish underground organization was founded.

*Abd al-Aziz al-Saud proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
*The British Mandate over Iraq was terminated and Iraq gained independence.
*The First Maccabiah athletic games took place in Tel Aviv.
*The first constituted Palestinian-Arab political party, Istiqlal Party, was constituted and Awni Abdul-Hadi was elected president.
*The ending of the fourth aliyah of Jews mostly from Poland to the Palestine Territory which began in 1924.

*There were riots in Jaffa and Jerusalem to protest British “pro-Zionist” policies.

*Two-thousand Jews were expelled from towns in Afghanistan and forced to live in the wilderness.

*The religious kibbutz movement Hikibbutz Hadati is founded.
*Ze’ev Jabotinsky founded the New Zionist Orgnaization.
*The first official Palestine-Arab Party, Al Hisb Al-Arabi Al Falastini, was established in Jerusalem with Jamal al-Husseini elected president.

*Anti-Jewish riots instigated by Arab militants began and continued through 1939.
*With support from the Axis powers the Arab Higher Committee encouraged raids on Jewish communities in the Palestine Territory.
*Syria ratified the Franco-Syrian treaty and France granted Syria and Lebanon independence.
*The World Jewish Congress convened in Geneva.
*The Peel Commission set out to propose changes to the British Mandate after a general Arab strike.

*The British declared the Arab Higher Committee in the Palestine Territory illegal and the Mufti of Jerusalem – Mohammad Amin al-Husayni – escaped to Syria.
*The Peel Commission recommended for the first time a partition of the British Mandate which was condemned by the Arabs.
*Chaim Weizmann and David ben-Gurion accept the partition plan despite the opposition at the 20th Zionist Congress.

*The Woodhead Commission called the partition plan of the Peel Commission to not be implementable.

*Jewish immigration was severely limited by the British White Paper.
*Anti-Jewish riots instigated by Arab militants which began in 1936 came to an end.
* The fifth aliyah of Jews from Germany to the Palestine Territory which began in 1929 came to an end.


*The British refused to permit the immigrant ship “Patria” to dock in the Palestine Territory.

*Britain and France guarantee Syrian independence.
*The Lehi (also known as the Stern Gang), and underground Jewish movement, is formed.
*Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, is constituted.

*The Biltmore Conference of American Zionists convenes.

*The British deported illegal immigrants of the British Mandate to Cyprus.
*The Biltmore Conference formulated a new policy creating a “Jewish Commonwealth” in the Palestine Territory and called for an organized Jewish army.

*The Covenant of the League of Arab States which emphasized the Arab character of Palestine was signed in Cairo by Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan, and Yemen.
*The United Nations was established.
*President Truman asked Britain to permit 100,000 Jews to enter the British Mandate.
*The Arab League Council decided to boycott goods produced by Zionist firms in the Mandate.
*Two convicted members of the Stern Gang were hanged for the murder of Lord Moyne.

*A number of attacks by the Jewish underground were perpetrated against businesses, railroads, power stations, prisons, individual police and military personnel, British government officials, and British military instillations.
*The Irgun radio “Fighting Zion” warned that three kidnapped British officers were being held as hostages for two Irgun members that faced execution as well as 31 other Irgun members facing trials. One Irgun member was sentenced by the British to life imprisonment while 30 other members were sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Tel Aviv British officers kidnapped by the Irgum and held as hostages were released unharmed.
*The Irgun issued a declaration of war against the British.
*The west wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed British government officials and the British Military Headquarters, was destroyed by explosives planted by the Irgun.
*The British government released a White Paper that accused the Haganah, Irgun, and Stern Gang of planned sabotage and violence.
*Two ships arrived in Haifa carrying 3,200 illegal Jewish immigrants.
*The British announced they would no longer allow unscheduled immigration in the Mandate.
*Two ships carrying 1,300 Jewish refugees arrived at Haifa. British military and navy units began deporting the illegal immigrants to Cyprus.
*Two Jews and two Arabs were killed in fights between Arabs and a group of Jews attempting to establish a settlement at Lake Hula.
*The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned the Jewish underground groups that had threatened to export their attacks to England.

*A number of attacks by the Jewish underground were perpetrated against pipelines, ships, banks, water supplies, Arab villages, businesses, individual police and military personnel, American government offices, British government officials, and British military instillations.
*Dov Gruner was sentenced to hang for taking part in a raid on the Ramat Gan police headquarters in 1946.
*Yehudi Katz was given a life sentence for robbing a Jaffa bank in 1946 to obtain funds for the Jewish underground.
*The British Cabinet officially announced the intentions to partition Palestine.
*General Cunningham ordered the families of all British civilians to leave Palestine.
*The Palestine Government issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Jewish Agency to cooperate with the police and armed forces in bringing to justice the members of the Jewish underground.
*British District Commissioner James Pollock ordered 1,000 Jews to evacuate parts of Jerusalem in preparation for a military occupation of three sectors of Jerusalem. The Vaad Leumi rejected the British ultimatum and the Irgun declared a fight to the death against the British authority.
*British troops removed 650 illegal Jewish immigrants from the schooner “Negev” at Haifa and forced them aboard the ferry “Emperor Haywood” for deportation to Cyprus.
*Lt. General Barker confirmed the death sentences of three Irgun members and the life sentence of another young Irgun member.
*The British military captured most of the 800 illegal Jewish immigrants from the ship “Susanne” which beached just north of Gaza. The immigrants were placed aboard the “Ben Hecht” and transported to Cyprus.
*A military court sentenced Moshe Barazani to be hanged for possessing a hand grenade.
*The British Royal Navy took the disabled “Moledeth” with 1,600 illegal Jewish immigrants on board under two about 50 miles outside Palestinian waters.
*Britain requested a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to consider the future government of Palestine.
*Two members of the Irgun were sentenced to death by a Jerusalem court for attacks on the Jerusalem railroad station.
*The British government requested that France and Italy prevent Jews from embarking to Palestine.
*Asher Eskovitch was beaten to death by Muslims when he entered the Mosque of Omar.
*Stern Gang broadcaster Guela Cohen escaped from a British military hospital.
*The British navy boarded the Jewish refugee ship “Guardian” and seized its 2,700 passengers.
*Four Irgun prisoners were hanged by the British at Acre Prison.
*Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, Jewish underground members, used smuggled bombs to kill themselves in prison a few hours before they were to be hanged.
*The British First Lord of the Admiralty, Viscount Hall, blamed contributions from American Jews to the Jews in Palestine for aiding the Jewish underground groups.
*The Irgun proclaimed its own military courts in which to try British troops and police.
*A Jew was ambushed and shot to death by a group of Arabs near Tel Aviv.
*British authorities announced that 312 Jewish political prisoners were held in Kenya, 20 in Latrun, and 34 in Bethlehem.
*The U.N. General Assembly established a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP).
*The Haganah freighter “Trade Winds” was seized by the British navy off the Lebanon coast. The ship was escorted to Haifa and the 1,000 illegal Jewish immigrants were disembarked pending a transfer to Cyprus.
*The British government protested to the United State government about American fund-raising drives for the Jewish underground.
*Arabs attacked a Jewish labor camp in the south.
*The Jewish immigrant ship “Mordei Haghettoath” was boarded by the British nay and took control of the 1,500 passengers.
*The ship “Yehuda Halevy” arrived under British naval escort and its 399 illegal Jewish immigrants were immediately transferred to Cyprus.
*President Truman asked all persons in the United States to refrain from helping Jewish underground groups.
*New York Secretary General of the U.N. forwarded a request to all countries from the British asking them to guard against the departure of illegal immigrants bound for Palestine.
*The “Exodus” ship carried 4,500 Jewish refugees to Palestine from France where the British intercepted it and forced it back to France where is stayed for more than a month. Ultimately the British forced the refugees aboard the “Exodus” to Hamburg, Germany, and forcibly returned them to Displaced Persons camps.
*Two small ships with 1,174 Jews from North Africa were intercepted by the British navy off Palestine. They were transported to Haifa and then placed upon British transports to be taken to Cyprus.
*The British authorities hanged three member of the Irgun at the Acre prison.
*Thirty-three Jews were injured in an anti-British riot in Tel Aviv during a funeral procession for five civilians killed by British soldiers.
*A man believed to have been kidnapped by men in British uniforms was found dead on a road near Tel Aviv.
*Arab-Jewish clashes led to the deaths of 12 Arabs and 13 Jews in areas of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
*The U.N. Special Committee on Palestine issued a majority report that recommended that partition of Palestine with the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Arab Higher Committee rejected this plan while the Jewish Agency accepted the plan.
*Approximately 185 Jews landed near Netanya from a small schooner and escaped before the British could capture them.
*The ship “Kadimah” was seized and all 794 Jews were transported from Haifa to Cyprus.
*On November 29 the U.N. General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into two states – one Jews and one Arab. The Arab leadership rejected the plan but the Jewish leadership accepted the plan.
*Arab attacks against Jews and their property escalated across Palestine.
*The U.S. Department of Stated announced an embargo on all American arms shipments to the Middle-East.
*Three Jews were hanged for involvement in an Acre Prison break.

* A number of attacks by the Jewish underground were perpetrated against Arab governmental offices, businesses, and banks. While the escalation of Arab attacks against Jews also continued.
*The U.S. War Assets Administration was ordered to cancel its sale of 199 tons of M-3 explosives to the Jewish Agency.
*The FBI arrested six New York men on charges of attempting to ship 60,000 pounds of TNT to Haganah.
*The U.S. proposed a suspension of the partition plan calling for a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss trusteeship for Palestine.
*The Arabs of Jaffa surrendered to the Haganah forces.
*On May 14 an independent State of Israel is declared. David ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv and declared unrestricted Jewish immigration into the new State. The U.S. immediately recognized an independent State of Israel.
*The British Mandate came to an end.


 1Palestine Royal Commission Report.” H.M. Stationary Office, London, 1937.
2The Covenant of the League of Nations.” Yale University, 2008.
3Jennifer Rosenberg. “Balfour Declaration.” 20th Century History, n.d.
4Mandatory Palestine.” Wikipedia, n.d.
5Nizar Sakhnini.Palestine Through History: A Chronology.” The Palestine Chronicle, n.d.
6Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Supplement No. 11, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, Report to the General Assembly, Volume 1.” Lake Success, NY, 1947. A/364, 3 September 1947, Chapter II.C.68.
7British Rule in Palestine Timeline: 1918-1947.” The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 20013.
8Modern Israel and the Diaspora Timeline: 1946-1949.” The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 20013.