The British Mandate
World War I (1914–1918) changed the map of the old Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. The region was split into two great sections. The northern half went to France (the French Mandate), which included what today is Lebanon and Syria. The southern half, including the west bank of the Jordan River westward to the Mediterranean Sea, went to England (the British Mandate). The British called their occupied area by the geopolitical term Palestine.
Britain’s specific task was to create a homeland for the Jewish people. History shows that what actually transpired was far different.
As the war was ending, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour made a momentous declaration on November 2, 1917, announcing the British government was prepared to establish a Jewish home on the Jewish people’s ancestral land. The document became known as the Balfour Declaration. An estimated 85,000 to 100,000 Jewish people lived in Israel at the time.
The prospect for the Jewish people was promising. However, certain pro-Arab leaders and political figures in the British Foreign Ministry had other plans. They got busy carving up the territory. In 1920 Britain created Iraq. In 1921 it took 77 percent of the remaining territory, all of which was supposed to go to the Jewish people, and created Jordan—which did not include the west bank of the Jordan River. (Jordan captured the West Bank in 1948, made it off-limits to Jewish settlement, and expelled all the Jewish people living there.)
Though aware of Britain’s actions, Jewish people continued to immigrate. It has been suggested that between 1919 and 1923, about 35,000 came to the land. Between 1924 and 1928, another 80,000 arrived. Then between 1929 and 1939, as Nazism was overtaking Germany, an estimated 250,000 Jewish people returned to their ancestral homeland.
From 1929 to 1939, Arab riots broke out. Many Jewish people were massacred. The situation grew so intense Britain forsook the Balfour Declaration and in 1936 convened what became known as the Peel Commission. It restricted Jewish people to a tiny piece of land along the Mediterranean coast and a small area in the north, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. Yet even this small concession to the Jews irritated the Arabs, who reacted to the Peel Commission proposal with uprisings that lasted until 1939.
The concession was never initiated. However, Britain failed to uphold the Balfour Declaration. Instead, it issued a new policy called the MacDonald White Paper. From 1939 to 1943, when Jewish people were still able to escape from World War II Europe, desperate to find refuge from the Nazis, Britain limited Jewish immigration to the Promised Land.
After the war, a few Jewish groups fought Arab and British oppression. Eventually, the British had enough. They handed the entire problem over to the UN.
On November 29, 1947, the UN gave the Jewish people a meager 11 percent of the land that had been designated for them. All the rest went to the Arabs.1 And much of the land the Jews received was barren, uninhabitable, and too narrow a sliver to defend. But even that was more than the Arabs were willing to concede.
Five Arab armies descended on the newborn State of Israel, certain they would be able to destroy it. Instead, the Arabs lost the war, and Israel had gained an additional 2,500 square miles.2 After 2,000 years, Israel was again in Jewish hands. Wrote Bible scholar Dave Hunt, “No other people have returned to reestablish their own nation and language after being cast out of their land for such a period of time.”3
God has promised the Jewish people, “Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places;…I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;…and I will punish all who oppress them” (Jer. 30:18–20).
Israel’s rebirth is a pinnacle event in history and shows that God keeps His promises and continues to fulfill His prophecies.
- Elwood McQuaid, For the Love of Zion (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 2007), 168.
- Ibid., 169.
- Dave Hunt, “Judgment Day Approaching,” The Berean Call, June 1, 2005 <thebereancall.org/content/judgment-day-approaching>.