In 1916 the British rulers signed a pact with their French counterparts dividing the Arab region between them. Lebanon and Syria were to be turned over to France, while Iraq and the territory called Transjordan (today Jordan) would be under "direct or indirect [British] administration and control." Parts of Palestine would be placed under "an international administration."
Dismissing their promises to the Arabs, the British and French imperialists began carving up the region along these lines following the end of the war in late 1918...
The billions to be made from Middle East oil greatly raised the stakes for the imperialists in opposing the aspirations of the Arab peoples for independence and social progress...
Following World War I there was a major alteration in the British-French pact of 1916. The British rulers took Palestine as part of their share of the booty. British rule was formally authorized by a 1922 mandate from the League of Nations, a body set up after the war by the victorious imperialist bloc.
In order to create a powerful new obstacle to the Arab independence struggle, Britain backed plans of the World Zionist Organization to colonize Palestine with European Jews. The British rulers hoped colonial settlers would feel they had a stake in helping combat the Arab democratic movement...
Backed by the British colonial administration, the World Zionist Organization's Jewish National Fund stepped up purchases of land from Arab landowners in Palestine after World War I. Purchase was often followed by expulsion of Arab peasants from the land, which was then turned over to Jewish settlers, set aside for future settlers, or used to foster Jewish-owned industry. The British authorities imposed restrictions on the rights of Arab landlords and peasants to expand their holdings.
Between 1922 and 1939 the amount of land held by the fund rose from 150,000 to nearly 400,000 acres. The massive infusion of capital from abroad to purchase land in Palestine caused a boom in real estate prices that encouraged the expropriation of ever more Arab peasants. Zionist organizations campaigned for the dismissal of Arab workers from jobs in Jewish-owned businesses and their replacement with settlers. Arab-made goods were boycotted. The flow of capital from the Jewish National Fund and other backers of colonizing Palestine spurred the growth of a strong capitalist class among the settlers.
A system of segregation took shape, directed against the Arab population, including wage differentials and other privileges for the settlers. To protect these privileges, the settlers formed armed units that eventually contributed to forging the Haganah and Irgun armies. These armies waged the wars that established and expanded the State of Israel in 1948. The British collaborated with the Zionist organizations as a means of reinforcing their own rule. The two often worked closely together, especially against the growing Palestinian national struggle. But conflicts also arose between British imperialism and the settlers because the British opposed the Zionist goal of transforming Palestine into an independent, exclusively Jewish state.
Resistance by Palestinians to colonization of their homeland spurred the development of national consciousness and opposition to British rule. In 1921 huge protests against British rule and Zionist colonization greeted a visit to Palestine by Winston Churchill, then the minister of colonies in the British cabinet. An Arab general strike greeted [British foreign minister] Arthur Balfour when he visited Palestine in 1925.
In the 1930s the growing national movement exploded into a popular revolt against British rule. This coincided with unrest across the Middle East as an uprising challenged the British in Egypt, and a general strike shook the French grip on Syria. Britain conceded formal independence to Iraq in 1932 and ended its protectorate over Egypt in 1937.
A general strike swept Palestine in 1936 and Arab National Committees were formed across the country. The strike demanded the suspension of Jewish colonization. For the next three years Palestinian peasants waged a guerrilla war against the British occupiers. In 1938 liberation fighters controlled the whole Arab area of the country, establishing an unofficial administration that, only with considerable difficulty, was finally rooted out by British troops. The British imperialists enlisted the Zionist militia to combat the Arabs. A twenty-thousand-member Jewish Settlement Police was established, as well as joint British- settler night patrols.
At the height of this anti-imperialist upsurge, half of the British army was tied down in the Middle East. Official, understated British figures reported that two thousand Arabs were killed in suppressing the rebellion. Some one hundred Arabs were hanged.
The crushing of the 1936-39 Arab revolt made it possible for the colonizers to press the Palestinian people harder...
A 1940 diary entry by Joseph Weitz, onetime head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department, stated this goal frankly. The Jewish Agency was an organ of the World Zionist Organization. Weitz wrote, "Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country... The only solution is Palestine, at least Western Palestine, without Arabs... And there is no other way out but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries; to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left."
In the course of World War II, anticolonial struggles gained steam in many parts of the world. The European imperialist powers emerged from the war in a weakened condition. In the Middle East, Syria and Lebanon became independent of France. British rule ended in Transjordan, which later adopted the name Jordan, British forces had to pull out of Egypt and Iraq. The Arab League, a bloc of governments of Arab countries, was founded in 1945. But the newly independent states were weak and backward, dominated by landlords and ruled in many cases by monarchies set up by the imperialists.
U.S. imperialism, the principal imperialist victor in
World War II, moved rapidly to replace the French and
British capitalists as the dominant power in the Middle
East. With direct colonial rule and occupation of the region
in decline, the U.S. rulers viewed Zionist colonization as a
potentially powerful weapon against anti-imperialist
struggles in the region. Where London had resisted Zionist
demands for independence, Washington emerged as the
strongest backer of the drive to create an Israeli
capitalist state in the Palestinians' homeland.
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