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Mandate Palestine

Error (Kids Discover, March 2003): In return for Arab support, the Allies had promised Arab control of lands that were formerly held by the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine.


This version of history reflects an Arab view of events after World War I, while the facts paint a much more ambiguous picture as to promises regarding Palestine. Indeed, British sources dispute that version of events. British pledges concerning Arab independence in exchange for Arab support of the British against the Turks were set out in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence from July 14, 1915 to March 10, 1916. According to Bernard Reich in An Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict:

Although initially evasive on the issue of boundaries, in his second letter to Hussein [the Turkish-appointed emir of Mecca], dated October 24, 1915, [the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry] McMahon pledges to "recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca," subject to certain modifications. These modifications were the exclusion of the two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria, "lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homas, Hama, and Aleppo." McMahon cited Britain’s desire not to act to the detriment of its ally, France, on this issue. . . . Palestine was never directly mentioned or addressed in the correspondence [emphasis added]. This letter, in particular, contained the pledges that became the basis for the Arab view of British betrayal after World War I.

. . . His Majesty’s government claimed that the whole of Palestine west of the Jordan River had been excluded from Arab rule as part of the portions of Syria lying west of Damascus excluded by Sir McMahon’s pledge. (P. 234)

Clarifying his position later on, McMahon stated:

I feel my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein. (London Times, July 23, 1937)