AJC eBook: Israel’s Triple Anniversary - Page 9

2 01 7— I SR A E L’ S T RIP LE ANNIVERSARY YEAR 7 in August 1929, ignited by disturbances at the Western Wall and whipped up by Muslim religious authorities—Haj Amin el Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, in particular—and it spread to other cities. One hundred and thirty-three Jews were killed, 60 of them in Hebron; the surviving Hebron Jews escaped the city, leaving it without Jews for the first time in centuries. As conditions for Jews deteriorated in Europe—and especially with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933—Jewish immigration to Palestine rose, and by 1935 Jews made up some 30% of the population. Palestinian Arab leaders responded by organizing an armed revolt against the British in 1936, demanding formation of an Arab state and the prohibition of further Jewish immigration and sale of land to Jews. The uprising was not put down until 1939. While the Arab demands were not officially met, the British government sought to assuage Arab resentments by sharply reducing Jewish immigration to Palestine beginning in 1936, ostensibly for economic reasons. That year Great Britain also sent a commission to investigate the situation in Palestine. The recommendations it made, conveyed in the Peel Report published in 1937, called for partition into Jewish and Arab states, a solution that would maintain the Balfour Declaration’s promise of a Jewish homeland and also furnish self-government for the local Arabs. While the proposed Jewish state was severely truncated and would be almost impossible to defend against attack, the majority of delegates at the Zionist Congress that year voted their approval, desperate to provide a haven in Palestine for the Jews under threat in Hitler’s Europe. The Palestinian Arab leadership, adamant in opposition to Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine, announced it would accept only a unitary government in which the Arab majority would rule. With war against Germany looming and the British fearful that the Nazi regime might attract significant support in the Arab world, London issued the White Paper of 1939 stating that after five years immigration to Palestine would be allowed only with consent of the Arabs—an outright repudiation of the Balfour Declaration that would close off Palestine to Jews fleeing for their lives from World War II, which would begin that fall, and from the Holocaust. Addressing the House of Commons on the subject of the White Paper, Winston Churchill noted the success of Zionism in building up a Jewish national presence in Palestine and asked, “How can we find it in our heart to strike them this mortal