1895 - 1920
The total population ofPalestine is approximately 500,000. Of this population, around 47,000 are Jews, some of which are part of the indigenous population and the remainder of which represents small groups which had immigrated to Palestine for purely religious reasons.
Theodore Hertzl, founder of the Zionist movement, writes in Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) that “the idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one: it is the restoration of the Jewish state.” Hertzl mentionsPalestine and Argentina as possible sites.
The 1st Zionist Congress is held inBasle , Switzerland , and declares that the goal of Zionism is to “create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.” The Congress also decides to establish the World Zionist Organization (WZO).
Correspondences are exchanged between Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner inEgypt , and Sherif Hussain, the Emir of Mecca, in which the Sherif demands the “independence of Arab countries”, specifying in detail the boundaries of the territories under Ottoman rule, which clearly included Palestine . McMahon confirms that “ Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.” (McMahon-Hussain Correspondences)
Negotiations betweenBritain , France , Russia , and later Italy , lead to the secret Sikes-Picot Agreement on the allocation of Ottoman Arab territories to spheres of influence of the European Powers. Since sites sacred to the three world religions are located there, an international regime is initially envisaged for Palestine .
A declaration is issued by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Arthur James Balfour, in a letter dated 2 November and addressed to Lord Rothschild, stating that “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” The Declaration is approved by the Cabinet.
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, leader of the Zionist movement, is critical in influencing the drafting of the Balfour Declaration. He is successful in stirring up Zionist support by spreading the slogan “A land without people for a people without a land.”
The British government, in a special message to Sherif Hussain, states that ‘the Entente powers are determined that the Arab race shall be given full opportunity of once again forming a nation in the world . . . so far as Palestine is concerned, we are determined that no people shall be subject to another.”
Allied powers convene the Paris Peace Conference and decide to bring the territories ruled by the Ottoman Empire under the Mandate System introduced by the Covenant of theLeague of Nations , signed on 28 June as part of the Treaty of Versailles. Article 22 of the Covenant, which establishes the Mandate System, considers the Arab lands as class “A” mandates and states that: “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 principle consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.”
President Woodrow Wilson declares that “one of the fundamental principles to which the United States of America adheres is the consent of the governed.” This leads to the King-Crane Commission, whose jurisdiction includes Palestine . Its findings receive little attention and, in any case, become moot with the US decision to stay out of the League of Nations .
The San Remo Conference convenes on 25 April and the Allied Supreme Council decides, as a compromise, thatPalestine , which under the Sikes-Picot agreement had been destined for international administration, will pass into British tutelage. The decision is taken without any heed to the requirements of article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations .
Soon after World War I ends, large-scale immigration of Jews from