Idealism “Must Not Blind Us”: British Legislators and the Palestine Mandate, 1929-1934
AbstractIn Mandate Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s, the British sought to establish a legal system for the new political entity. This task was fraught with difficulty, as the British soon discovered. Events in Palestine often occurred in such an extreme manner that the British officials could not establish control. As a result of the failure of the legal system to address the new realities on the ground, these officials were often in a position where all they could do was respond to emergencies, as was the case following the Arab Revolt in August of 1929. Despite the fact that much of what occurred on the ground in Mandate Palestine, particularly with regard to land transactions and dispossessions, often occurred outside of British control, officials were acutely aware of the realities facing the Arab agricultural cultivators being threatened with dispossession. The difficulty the British had in suppressing the violence drew attention to their lack of authority over the land question that was creating tensions between the Arab and the Jewish populations. In examining minute sheets of the Colonial Office and correspondence between British officials, it becomes clear that these officials were aware of the impossibility of resolving the contradiction inherent in their position. This paper seeks to examine British responses immediately following the 1929 Revolt to show that the British accurately perceived the problems as they existed on the ground in Palestine but were unable to take actions against them. This will demonstrate the extent to which the failures of the Mandate, with regard to preventing dispossessions, was a failure of the legal system as a whole rather than the result of any individual shortcomings of the officials in control of the territory.
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