The early years

Under Ottoman rule Jerusalem had gradually evolved into a regional center of culture and commerce while preserving its historic character of religious, social, and ethnic diversity and tolerance. The calm was shattered with British General Edmund Allenby’s victorious entry into Jerusalem on December 11, 1917. His proclamation declaring martial law affirmed the sacred nature of Jerusalem:

[S]ince your City is regarded with affection by the adherents of the three great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore do I make known to you that every sacred building, monument, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faiths they are sacred. [SoP, p. 15.]

A military administration, with headquarters in Jerusalem and jurisdiction over southern Palestine was established; its jurisdiction was extended over the whole country in October 1918. The Occupied Enemy Territory Administration continued, with only slight modifications, the existing Turkish legal and administrative systems, the most significant change being the establishment of a new Waqf Council to administer the Islamic endowments that had previously been the responsibility of the Ministry of Awqaf in Istanbul. Having proclaimed his intention to preserve the city’s historic and religious buildings, Allenby summoned the Alexandria City Engineer, William McLean, to develop a scheme to protect the architecture of the Old City. The British Military Governor of Jerusalem, Lt Col. Ronald Storrs, promptly undertook to repair the infrastructure that had been damaged during the war: the sewage system had failed, clean water was no longer available, and the roads were in disrepair.

McLean’s plan was promulgated in 1918. No structure could be built, destroyed or altered in the Old City; a prohibited building zone was delineated around the city wall while construction on the Mount of Olives was restricted. New development was directed to the New City for which a classical street improvement plan was proposed. Building permits would be granted subject to specific conditions:

   1. No buildings intended for industrial purposes were to be permitted in the immediate vicinity of the old city;
   2. No building could be built so as to alter the skyline of the Mount of Olives;
   3. No building was to be taller than 11 meters about ground level;
   4. Roofs were to be constructed of stone or other approved material;

As part of this effort to preserve the integrity of the old city, Storrs established the Pro-Jerusalem Society, whose members included Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious and civic leaders, to help preserve the city’s patrimony by fundraising and organizing the necessary repairs and renovation of public buildings and monuments. The Society decided that all new buildings within the city must use the local pinkish stone, so as not to clash with the local architecture. [Armstrong, 1996] In 1919, the Society solicited the assistance of Sir Patrick Geddes, an early advocate of the Garden City movement. His plan expanded the protected zone around the Old City and the on the Mount of Olives, where he proposed to locate a new Hebrew University on its northern spur. A semi-circular series of new roads centered on the Jaffa Road clarified the structure of the New City.

The work of the Pro-Jerusalem Society led to the enactment of the 1921 Town Planning Ordinance and the formation of a Town Planning Commission. A new plan was adopted in 1922, the first Scheme based on accurate and reliable surveys. It designated four zones, each with its own building regulations:

    *      The Old City, including the valley of Kidrion and Mount Zion, which was reserved for special treatment.
    *      A park system composed of public and private open spaces around the city walls and on the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.
    *      Zones for workshops and factories, near the Railway Station and in Beit Safafa. .
    *      Business and residential zones in the New City.

* * * * * * *

The future of Jerusalem and Palestine was the subject of intense discussion among the victorious Allies. Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, provided for the “tutelage” of colonies and territories formerly ruled by Germany and Turkey “not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world” by “advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.” Paragraph 4 specifically addressed conditions in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria:

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 principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

Despite the vocal opposition in the region, but with the support of the American Jewish Congress and the Zionist Organization, the Supreme Allied Council allotted the Mandate over Palestine to Great Britain (San Remo, April 25, 1920). A few days before, on the occasion of a local festival in honor of the Prophet Moses, the passage of a procession into the Old City through Jaffa Gate led to a minor incident that expanded into several days of violence. Arab rioters attacked Jewish properties. Five Jews were killed and 211 injured and four Arabs were killed and 21 injured before order was restored by British troops.

On July 1, 1920 the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration was replaced by a civil administration on the British colonial model, headed by Sir Herbert Samuel as High Commissioner. A Supreme Muslim Council was formed in December 1921 to administer religious endowments and supervise the smooth operation of Shari’a courts, including the appointment and dismissal of judges, replacing the dismantled Ministry of Awqaf in Constantinople. The following year, Hajj Amin Effendi el-Husseini, the newly
appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, was elected president of the Council.

The choice was highly controversial, as the young man had distinguished himself as an Arab nationalist who had taken a leading role in the April 1920 confrontation between Palestinian Arabs and Jews that had taken place on the occasion of the Nabi Musa pilgrimage. Following the riots, the military commander, General Storrs, dismissed the mayor, Musa Kazem Pasha al-Husseini and replaced him with a former Ottoman official, Ragheb Bey Nashashibi. Hajj Amin openly denounced the Balfour Declaration and opposed Jewish immigration into Palestine, warning that the Zionists dream of rebuilding their Temple threatened the sanctity of the Haram al-Sharif. Jerusalem’s radical Palestinian population gravitated towards him, while the moderates rallied behind Jerusalem’s new mayor, Raghib al-Nashashibi.

In February 1922, a delegation of Arab leaders representing the Moslem-Christian Society of Palestine went to London to protest the idea of a mandate. Their position was that the people of Palestine could not accept the Balfour Declaration. They demanded their national impendence and a constitution for Palestine. Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, rejected their demand. Following the meeting, the Government issued a White Paper defining British policy. It reaffirmed the Balfour Declaration and the creation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine while promising a “timely evolution toward self-government in Palestine.” It also set forth a new interpretation of the agreement
reached in 1915 between Sherif Hussain and Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt. The McMahon letter of October 24, 1915 had recognized Arab sovereignty over Syria and Palestine, with the exception of the districts of Mersin and Alexandretta in southern Anatolia, and “portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo,” that is modern day Lebanon. The Churchill Memorandum extended the exclusion to “the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem.” It concluded that “the whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir H.
McMahon’s pledge.”

The first census of Palestine taken by the British authorities in 1922 enumerated a total population of 752,048 of whom 589,177 was Muslims, 83,790 were Jews, 71,464 were Christians and 7,617 belonged to other religions. The population of Jerusalem within its new municipal boundaries was 62,578: 13,413 Muslims, 33,971 Jews, 14,699 Christians and 495 of other religions. The Old City accounted for only 32% of the population, 74% of whom were Muslim and Christian; only some 5,100 Jews still lived in the Old City, as many had moved to the new housing in West Jerusalem. The New City now housed 67% of the population, 68% of whom were Jews.

The Mandate

The Council of the League of Nations confirmed the British Mandate over Palestine and Transjordan on July 24, 1922 and came into force on September 29, 1923. The preamble reaffirmed “the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

In addition, Article 4 stated that

An appropriate Jewish Agency shall be recognized as a public body for the purpose of advising and
cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.

The Zionist Organization was designated to fulfill this role; no acknowledgment was made of the rights of the Arab Palestinian majority

Article 6 called on the Administration of Palestine to facilitate Jewish immigration “in cooperation with the Zionist Organization” and Article 22 declared that “English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages of Palestine.” The Mandate became officially effective on September 29. 1923.

The possibility of creating an Arab Agency with responsibilities similar to that of the Jewish Agency was explored in correspondence (Cmd. 1989) between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the High Commissioner for Palestine in late 1923.

The steady increase in Jewish immigration to Palestine (42,784 between the last quarter of 1920 and December 1924, according to official statistics) exacerbated the situation. Three general strikes were held by the Arab population in 1925 and 1926 – on the occasion of Lord Balfour’s visit to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus (March, 1925); in protest of events in the French mandates of Lebanon and Syria (November 1925); and on the occasion of the official visit to Jerusalem of the French High Commissioner to Syria (March 1926).

The Wailing Wall

The holding of Jewish prayers in the narrow alleyway facing a 30 meter segment of the western wall of the Haram es-Sherif had been regulated by a series of 19th century Ottoman firmans that granted Jews access to the Wall for ritual purposes, including the use of various implements used during the prayer. Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who headed a Zionist Commission to “investigate and report on the prospects of a National Home and the establishment of friendly relations with the Arabs and other non-Jewish communities”, made new Jewish claims to the area to the British military governor in April 1918. In a
letter to Lord Balfour, he decried conditions around the Wall and offered generous compensation for “the handing over of the Wailing Wall” which was “in the hands of some doubtful Moghreb [sic] religious community.” (Lundsten, 1978)

On May 16, 1920, the President of the Palestine Zionist Executive in Palestine, Menahem Ussishkin, wrote to the British military administration to protested repairs to the enclosure of the Haram as-Sherif by the awqaf authorities. He stated that: “The Wall is a possession of the Jews throughout the world.” On May 30, the Chief Rabbi formally asked that the Wall be entrusted “to the care and control of the representative of Jewry,” and, on June 2, the Council of Rabbis sent a letter to the military governor, Ronald Storrs, claiming that the “Holy Wall is the property of Israel. No other person of persons is allowed to touch it.” (ibid.) In response, the Military Government assumed the oversight of the repairs.

In December 1925, Jewish worshipers brought benches to their services that were removed by the police. In 1926, the Haganah claimed credit for the bombing of a house in the adjoining Maghrabi quarter, claiming that it was in retaliation for the harassing of Jewish worshipers. On September 24, 1928 (Yom Kippur), a screen was erected by the Rabbinate to separate the men from the women. Following a protest by the Arab Executive, the police forcibly dismantled it when the Jewish worshippers refused to take it down. (SoP, 23). As a result of this incident, the Hebrew press in Jerusalem advocated that the Jewish National Fund should purchase Arab properties facing the Wall to enlarge the area to allow large groups to worship. (Lundsten, 1978.) A report on the incident (Cmd. 3229) was given to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on November 28.

In 15 August 1929, a large demonstration by members of the Jewish Betar and Maccabee organizations was held at the Wall where they waved the Zionist flag to the sound of the shofar to ascertain their rights to the area. Arab nationalists held a counter demonstration the following day. The police restored order with some difficulty and seven Arabs were killed and others wounded.

Partially sparked by this incident, violent clashes between the two communities erupted throughout Palestine, particularly in Hebron, where synagogues were desecrated. According to official figures, a total of 116 Arabs and 133 Jews were killed and several hundred persons wounded on both sides. (SoP, p. 24)

In late October, the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini conveyed to the High Commissioner that Jewish prayers at the Wall could continue if the status quo ante was respected, that is without introducing permanent or temporary accessories to the prayers. In late November, a house near the Wall was
converted into a zawiya.

In late 1929, a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Sir Walter Shaw visited Palestine to assess the causes of the worsening relations between Arabs and Jews. Its report (Cmd. 3530), issued in March 1930, concluded that the fundamental cause of the outbreak was

The Arab feeling of animosity and hostility towards Jews consequent upon the disappointment of their political and national aspirations and fear for their economic future.

The Commission made the following recommendations:

   1.      That the British Government issue a clear policy statement on its interpretation of the Mandate’s provisions to safeguard the rights of the non-Jewish communities, particularly on issues of land tenure and immigration.
   2.      That a clear policy on Jewish immigration be issued and that non-Jewish interests be given a voice on setting future policy.
   3.      That the eviction of Arab peasants from their land be suspended pending a scientific inquiry on land cultivation and settlement possibilities.
   4.      That the special position assigned to the Zionist Organization by Article 4 of the Mandate did not entitle it to share in the governance of Palestine and that its role be clarified.
   5.      That it was essential to the peace and security of Palestine that a Commission be appointed to adjudicate the competing rights of Arabs and Jews to the Wailing Wall.
   6.      That a plan to maintain public order be prepared.

In May, Sir John Hope- Simpson was asked to assess the potential for further development in Palestine. His report, issued in October found that further Jewish immigration would result in a decrease in the rural standard of living, of both Arabs and Jews, unless there were major improvements in agricultural practices, including irrigation. Concurrently, the British Government issued a White Paper (Cmd. 3692) that reaffirmed that future immigration would be determined on the basis of the “economic absorptive capacity” of Palestine. Dr. Weizmann, on behalf of the Jewish Agency, protested the Hope-Simpson Report’s conclusions that immigration should be curtailed as being based on inadequate evidence and
that the White Paper “was inconsistent with the terms of the Mandate.”

In June 1930, the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations rejected the Shaw Commission Report and strongly criticized the actions of the Mandatory power.

In accordance with Recommendation 5 of the Shaw Commission, a three-member international commission was appointed with the approval of the Council of the League of Nations on May 15, 1930. It visited Jerusalem in June to hear testimony from the contending parties and determine The rights and claims of Moslems and Jews in connection with the Western of Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It was composed of Eliel Lôfgren, the former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Barde, Vice-President of the Court of Justice in Geneva and President of the Austro-Rumanian Mixed Arbitration Tribunal, and C.J. Van Kempen, the former governor of the East Coast of Sumatra and a member of the Netherlands parliament. After hearing extensive testimony from both sides, the Commission concluded in Chapter Three of its report that:

    *      Sole ownership of the Western Wall, of the pavement in front of the Wall and of the adjoining Maghrabi Quarter was a waqf property belonging to the Muslim community.
    *      Appurtenances of worship that Jews were entitled to place in front of the Wall as part of their worship activities did not establish any proprietary right to the pavement.
    *      No changes were to be made to adjoining Muslim properties that would “impair access of the Jews to the Wall” or interfere with worship.
    *      Free Jewish access to the Wall was subject to specific stipulations:
- Temporary appurtenances of worship were permitted only on New Year’s Day, Yom Kippur and special prayers ordered by the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem “in the consequence of some public distress or calamity, provided due notice was given by them to the Administration.
- The use of permanent or temporary tents, screens, benches, carpeting, etc. was prohibited.
 - Blowing the ram’s horn (shofar) was prohibited, as was the holding of MusliM zikr ceremonies during Jewish prayers.
- Political speeches at the Wall were forbidden to both Muslims and Jews.

Both communities agreed to abide by the Commission’s decision and the status quo ante was restored.

* * * * *

The Town Planning Ordinance was amended in 1929 and 1930. The 1929 Plan focused on the Old City, designating a Green Belt of varying width around the wall and tightening the ban on new construction without a rigorous review. Starting in 1935, the government started to improve the open spaces north of the city wall by clearing illegally built structures, mainly shacks. Improvements were made in the appearance of the gates. The following year, the government started to condemn buildings within the walls that were considered “unsightly.” shops, buildings, and homes within the city walls considered unattractive.

The 1930 Plan detailed zoning regulations for the New City. In the Old City, height restrictions applied to new or altered buildings that had to be built of stone. Corrugated iron roofs were banned. The local authority was the power to remove “dangerous buildings or other buildings which had become offensive by reason of their neglect or decay.” Undeveloped open plots were to be left undeveloped unless special permission was obtained. Allowable business uses were carefully controlled to preserve the quality of the environment. In the New City, new buildings were to conform to the traditional architecture and new roadways in subdivisions had to conform to the overall circulation plan. Minimum plot sizes ranged from 500 m² to 600 m² and 1,000 m². The cutting down of trees was prohibited in an effort to safeguard the scarce vegetation. Although local authorities were given the power to designate up to twenty-five percent of any developable plot for roads or recreational areas, the power was rarely used and many residential zones lacked sufficient open spaces.

The second census of Palestine was taken in 1931. It enumerated a total settled population of 966,761 consisting of 693,147 Muslims; 174,606 Jews; 88,907 Christians and 10,101 of other religious affiliations. The nomadic population was estimated at 66,553 all of whom were Muslims. The population of Jerusalem had risen to 90,503 of whom 19,894 were Muslims, 19,335 Christians, and 51,222 Jews. The population of the Old City had fallen to 19,093 of whom 9,067 were Muslims, 5,095 Christians and 4,941 Jews. West Jerusalem, with a population of nearly 65,000 people, now housed nearly 54% of Muslims, 74% of Christians and 90% of the Jewish population.

The increase in the total Jewish population was mainly due to immigration that was about to start rising sharply following the election of the National-Socialist government in Germany. Migratory flows that had averaged less than 5,000 Jews between 1927 and 1931 jumped to 9,558 in 1932 and averaged over 30,000 immigrants to 1937 before falling back to around 13,000 per year until the outbreak of World War II. Between 1932 and 1940, according to official statistics, 213,634 Jews had entered the country as had 7,495 Christians and 8,274 Muslims (SoP).

Arab opposition to Jewish migration coalesced during the summer of 1933, leading to a general strike called by the Arab Executive in Jerusalem. Extensive rioting occurred in the main towns. In December 1935, in an address to Arab and Jewish leaders, the High Commissioner proposed the establishment of a 28-member Legislative Council composed of 12 elected members (8 Muslims, 3 Jews and 1 Christian), 11 appointed members (3 Muslims, 4 Jews, 2 Christians and 2 representatives of the business community) and 5 ex-officio officials (Cmd. 5119). The scheme was opposed by the Zionist leadership and eventually abandoned.

In May, the Mandatory authorities authorized a six-month immigration quota of 4,500; by the end of the year 29,727 Jews had entered the country.

In April 1936, by the leaders of the five Arab political parties created the Arab Higher Committee with the Mufti of Jerusalem as its president. A general strike was called and widely observed throughout Palestine. In spite of the efforts of the Emir Abdullah of Transjordan the Prime Minister of Egypt, Nuri Basha, the general strike evolved into a full-fledged armed rebellion. Arab forces briefly occupied the Old City in October 1938. British reinforcements were brought in and the rebellion forcefully put to an end. The Arab Higher Committee was disbanded, and prominent members of Jerusalem-based political organizations who had opposed Britain’s plans for a “Jewish homeland” were arrested and deported to the Seychelles Islands. They included Ahmad Halim Pasha, Dr. Hussein Khalidi, Fouad Effendi Saba, Hajj Rashid Ibrahim Effendi, and Youssef Effendi Ghussein; they were released in January 1939. Jamal Effendi al-Husseini evaded arrest by fleeing to Syria, while Hajj Amin al-Husseini, fled Jerusalem in disguise, and boarded a fishing boat to Lebanon, where he continued to hold his office as Mufti of Jerusalem. By the end of the revolt, the official list of casualties was as follow:

Killed Wounded
Defense Forces 114 422
Arabs 698 1,402
Jews 335 698
Non-Arab Christians 2 10
Total 1,149 2,532

Source: SoP (1946) p.38 and 46

As a result of the disturbance, a Royal Commission, chaired by Lord Peel, was appointed in July 1936. Its mandate was:

To ascertain the underlying causes of the disturbances which broke out in Palestine in the middle of April; to enquire in the manner in which the Mandate for Palestine is being implemented in relation to the obligations of the Mandatory towards the Arabs and the Jews respectively; and to ascertain whether, upon a proper construction of the terms of the Mandate, either the Arabs or the Jews have any legitimate grievances on account of the way in which the Mandate has been or is being implemented and if the Commission is satisfied that any such grievances are well founded to make recommendations for their removal and for the prevention of their recurrence.

The Commission’s Report (Cmd. 5854) recommended a termination of the existing Mandate and the partition of Palestine into sovereign Arab and Jewish states. The partition plan was based largely on the existing land ownership pattern: the proposed Jewish state comprised the coastal plan from Isdud, 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv to the Lebanese border and major portions of Galilee. A new mandate was proposed for the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, including a corridor extending westward to Jaffa that would include the Arab cities of Lydda and Ramle. A Statement of Policy (Cmd. 5513) based upon the Peel Commission report was debated in Parliament and approved on July 20, 1937. Later that month, the partition proposal was rejected by the Arab Higher Committee in favor of the termination of the Mandate and the establishment of a Palestinian sovereign state.

The Jewish reaction was mixed. The Twentieth Zionist Congress (Zurich, August 1937) rejected the Peel Commission findings that the Mandate had proved unworkable and that “the national aspirations of the Jewish people and the Arabs of Palestine were irreconcilable.” While declaring that the partition scheme was unacceptable, the Congress empowered the Zionist Executive “to enter into negotiations with a view to ascertaining the precise terms of His Majesty’s Government for the proposed establishment of a Jewish State.” Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency sought a conference of Jews and Arabs to explore the peaceful coexistence of the two communities in an undivided Palestine

Following its examination in the Permanent Mandates Commission, the Council of the League of Nations resolved that the partition of Palestine should be studied further and, in late 1937, the Secretary of State for the Colonies announced the creation of a commission to “recommend boundaries for the proposed Arab and Jewish areas and the enclaves to be retained permanently or temporarily under British Mandate”. (Cmd. 5634) The Partition Commission, headed by Sir John Woodward arrived in Palestine in April 1938 and submitted its report (Cmd. 5854) on November 9, 1938. Three partition proposals were submitted:

   1.      A more precise delineation of the Peel Commission’s proposal (Plan A). The Enclave comprising Jerusalem and Bethlehem to remain as a mandated territory was enlarged to approximately 1.6 million dunums in an effort to provide it with natural boundaries. A new mandated enclave was proposed for Nazareth in keeping with Article 13 of the League of Nations’ mandate and the Peel Commission’s statement that “We think it would accord with Christian sentiment in the world at large if Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee were also covered by this Mandate.”

Plan A - Area and Population of the Mandatory Enclaves

Jerusalem Nazareth
Area (dunums) 1,563,900 19,500
Arab rural population 120,600
Jewish rural population 4,100
Arab urban population 90,800 10,000
Jewish urban population 76,000 100


Plan A - Area and Population of the Proposed States

Arab State Jewish State
Area (dunums) 7,064,900 4,994,900
Arab population 485,200 294,700
Jewish population 7,200 304,900
Total population 482,400 599,600

In its analysis of the implications of the partition plan, the Commission was concerned with the future of the large Arab minority in the Jewish State, most of who were farmers, in the coastal plain and in Galilee. It examined and rejected the feasibility of voluntary population transfers to the Arab State, and concluded that it was necessary to explore alternative partition proposals that more closely reflected the existing distribution of the population.

As part of its examination of the Peel partition plan, the Commission rejected the two counter proposalstwo small enclaves, a southern area comprising Gaza and Beersheba and a northern area extending from Bir Zeit to Jenin. A strip of Transjordanian territory between the Yarmuk River and the southern end of the Beisan plain was to be added to the Jewish state. The second dealt with Jerusalem. Concerned with the fact that Jews would have been a minority in the proposed mandatory enclave, it opposed the inclusion of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem in the redefined mandatory enclave and proposed instead the partition of the city into an Arab and a Jewish segment, the western portion and a corridor to the sea becoming part of the Jewish state with only the Old City and its surrounding Arab neighborhoods included in the Jerusalem-Bethlehem Mandated territory was to be extended to include Hebron and the Sinai.

2.      Plan B proposed a more even distribution of the population by reducing the Jewish enclave south of Jaffa to a few settlements and adding Northern Galilee to the mandated territories. This solution was rejected as not addressing the fundamental problem of a large Arab minority in the Jewish State while denying independence to some 88,000 Arab residents of Northern Galilee

   3.      An alternative proposal, Plan C, was proposed by the Commission and had the support of a majority of its members. It consisted of a sharply reduced Jewish State consisting of the coastal plain from Tel Aviv (plus its southern suburbs) to Tantura with Jaffa as an Arab enclave. The Arab state extended from north of Jenin to Hebron and the Gaza strip. The Jerusalem mandatory territory was retained while Galilee, Haifa, the northern coastal plain and Beersheba and Sinai were to be retained as mandated territories.

Plan C - Area and Population of the Proposed States

Arab Population Jewish Population
Arab State (7.4 million dunums) 444,100 8,900
Jewish State (1.3 million dunums) 54,400 226,000
Northern Area (3.4 million dunums) 231,400 77,300
Jerusalem Area (1.6 million dunums) 211,400 80,100
Southern Area (2.0 million dunums) 60,000 ----

However, pointing out that since none of the proposals would result in the creation of two economically viable states, the Commission proposed instead that the two states should be joined in an economic federation.

Both Arabs and Jews rejected the Woodhead Commission’s recommendations. Shortly after receiving the report, the British government issued a Statement (Cmd. 5893) stating that they had concluded that “the difficulties involved in the proposal to create independent Arab and Jewish States inside Palestine are so great that this solution of the problem in impracticable.”

The future of Palestine was discussed at the February-April 1939 London Conference, that brought together Arab and Jewish representatives. In May 1939 the Secretary of State for the Colonies issued a new Statement of Policy (Cmd.6019) proposing the drafting of a constitution for Palestine, establishing new quotas on Jewish immigration and regulating the transfer of land. The proposal was approved by the House of Commons in May. If was rejected by the Zionist Congress at its August 1939 meeting in Geneva.

There was a marked slowdown in civil disturbances with the outbreak of the war. In May, 1942 the American Zionists Conference adopted the so-called Biltmore Programme that proposed:

    *      The immediate establishment in Palestine of a Jewish Commonwealth as an integral part of the new democratic world.
    *      The rejection of the White Paper of 1939.
    *      Unrestricted Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine.
    *      Jewish Agency control of immigration and settlement in Palestine.
    *      The formation and recognition of a Jewish military force fighting under its own flag.

* * * * * * *

An ambitious new plan for Jerusalem was adopted in 1944, giving a greater review power to the municipal authorities. The plan focused on West Jerusalem that had grown to nearly 139,000 people and now housed 95% of Jews, 84% of Christians and 72% of Muslims in distinct and fairly homogeneous neighborhoods most of which were served by concentrations of commercial activities. A new arterial street system was proposed to facilitate circulation; street widening was programmed for such arterials as the Jaffa Road. Stricter building regulations were proposed and all new construction was to be clad in the honey-colored local stone rather than the exposed concrete that had become prevalent.

In the Old City, whose population had fallen to 18,074, the Town Planner and the Director of Antiquities were empowered to apply special design requirement on both external repairs and new construction. Maximum heights were set at twice the width of the street or alley facing the building and roofs were required to be either flat or domed and covered with stone slabs. The prevalence of “roof towers” on top of a residential building was seen as inconsistent with the skyline. The improvement of the Damascus Gate was proposed.

The 1944 Scheme proposed the acquisition public open spaces that were severely lacking in Jerusalem, especially around the Mount of Olives.

* * * * * * *

The political situation started to deteriorate in early 1944 with the recrudescence of Jewish terrorist activities conducted by the Hagana, Irgun and the Stern Group against the Mandatory authorities’ opposition to increase the Jewish immigration quota and growing Arab opposition to immigration. In a Statement to the House of Commons on 13 November 1945, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs announced the creation of a Joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to “examine the question of European Jewry and to make a further review of the Palestine problem in the light of that examination.” The Committee rejected past proposals for the partition of Palestine, concluding that:

“now and for some time to come any attempt to establish either and independent Palestinian State or independent Palestinian States would result in civil strife such as might threaten the peace of the world.”

They recommended the abolition of the Land Transfer Regulations and the immediate authorization of 100,000 immigration certificates for European Jews, with the following provisos:

   1.      That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine.
   2.      That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state.
   3.      That the form of government ultimately to be established, shall, under international guarantees, fully protect and preserve the interests in the Holy Land of Christendom and of the Moslem and Jewish Faiths.

In July 1946 the British Government invited the members of the Arab League, the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Palestine Arab Higher Executive to attend a conference in London on the future of Palestine. Neither the Jews nor the Palestine Arabs accepted the invitation. The British Government presented a proposal to divide Palestine into two autonomous provinces, a District of Jerusalem and a District of the Negev. The proposal was rejected by the Arab delegates who presented a constitutional proposal for the creation of a Provisional Government composed of seven Arab and three Jewish ministers of Palestinian nationality while a new constitution was written for a unitary state with safeguards for the religious and cultural rights of the Jewish community and the sanctity of the Holy Places. Both proposals were rejected by the Zionist Congress meeting in Basle. The Congress reaffirmed its political programme:

   1.      That Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth integrated in the structure of the democratic world;
   2.      That the gates of Palestine be opened to Jewish immigration;
   3.      That the Jewish agency be vested with the control of immigration into Palestine and with the necessary authority for the upbuilding of the country.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies reported to the House of Commons on the Anglo-Arab Conference and presented a new proposal for the granting of greater autonomy to the Arab and Jewish communities while negotiations continued on the future of Palestine. Its rejection by both Arabs and Jews led the British government to submit the future of Palestine to the United Nations.

Original Arabic



The End of the Mandate

On November 29, 1947 the General Assembly of the United Nations voted the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states by a vote of 33 in favor, 13 against and 13 abstentions. Under the terms of Part III of Resolution 181(II) Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to form an internationalized enclave administered by a governor appointed by the Trusteeship Council and the three areas were to form an economic union. The Arab state, with a population of about 814,000 including 10,000 Jews, was allocated an area of 4,500 square miles; the Jewish state, with an area or 5,500 square miles, including the Negev desert, would be home to 558,000 Jews and 40,500 Arabs. The Jerusalem enclave would have a population of 200,000 composed of a roughly equal number of Arabs and Jews. Its inhabitants would be free to elect citizenship in either the Arab or the Jewish state. A referendum was to be held within ten years to decide the permanent status of the enclave. The Mandate was to end and British troops were to be withdrawn no later than August 1, 1948.

The partition plan was agreed to by the Jewish Agency and rejected by Palestinian Arabs and the member states of the Arab League.

The last Government of Palestine population estimate for the city was made in 1946. It enumerated a total population of 164,410: 60.4% of whom were Jews, 20.4% Muslims and 19.1% Christians. Less than 20% of the population still lived in the Old City.

December 1947
A three-day general strike was organized on November 30 by the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee to protest the participation resolution. Clashes started to occur between Arab and Jews. On December 1, fighting took place on the edge of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and a contingent of the Haganah, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (a terrorist paramilitary splinter group of dissident Haganah elements) and Lehi (Loheimi Herut Israel – the Stern Gang) entered the Old City to organize the defense of the Jewish Quarter.

On December 2, an Arab mob left the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and burned and looted Jewish shops on the Mammillah Road. The next day, Haganah forces blew up a flourmill in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, a soda factory in Romema and the headquarters of the Supreme Moslem Council near the American Colony.

There was a sharp increase in the number of attacks and counterattacks between Jewish and Arab forces during the remainder of the month. The Arab forces in the Jerusalem area consisted of about 430 members of the Jihad Muqqadas led by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini, a hundred or so fighters in the Liberation Army sponsored by the Arab League who were headed by Fawzi Qawuqji and various contingent of part-time irregulars. (Tamari, p.87) Jewish forces consisted of 2,100 regular Haganah forces and 1,000 reserves, and an estimated 5,000 members of Irgun and 1,000 Lehi fighters. (Joseph, pp 29-31) The Jewish strategy aimed to gain control of the Arab neighborhoods that were interspersed among predominantly Jewish areas. (Joseph, pp. 34 ff.) [Map] As the fighting continued, Jews began lo leave their home in the Arab neighborhoods east and north of the city. Haganah and Irgun forces started to clear the Arab villages along the main road to Jaffa. Lifta was cleared of its inhabitants on December 28.

By the end of the month, Arab forces had blocked off access to the Old City. Arab families left the Jewish Quarter while Jews living in other neighborhoods moved to the Jewish Quarter, whose population reached about 2,500.

January 1948
On January 3, the Haganah evacuated the Warsaw Houses in the Old City. On January 4, the Haganah blew up the Semiramis Hotel in the Arab neighborhood of Qatamon and 26 civilians were killed, including a Spanish diplomat. Private homes were also bombed on the following days and Arab residents started to leave. On January 7, Irgun bombed the Arab National Guard post at the Jaffa Gate; fourteen Arabs were killed and 40 wounded; three of the Jewish assailants were killed.

On the eleventh, the house of the mukhtar of the village of Sheikh Badr was blown up and 20 houses damaged in a second Irgun raid two days later. The village was evacuated by its Arab residents and looted by a Jewish mob. By the end of the month, Arab residents were leaving the suburban areas of Deir Abu Tor, Lifta, Romeina and Baq’a. The Jewish Agency started to settle Jews displaced from East Jerusalem and evacuees from the Old City into the abandoned Arab houses.

Starting in late January, three Jewish convoys a week, under British army escort supplied the remaining 1,700 residents of the Jewish Quarter through the Zion Gate to. Haganah and Irgun forces started to fortify individual blocks in anticipation of an Arab attack.

February 1948
On 1 February, unknown assailants blew up the Palestine Post building in the new city.

On the 5th, David Ben-Gurion ordered the take over of Arab districts and their repopulation with Jews. Appearing before the Mapam council on February 7, he declared:

From your entry into Jerusalem, through Lifta, Romeima… there are no Arabs. One hundred percent Jews. Since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, it has not been so Jewish as it is now. In many Arab neighborhoods in the west one sees not a single Arab. I do not assume that this will change…. What has happened in Jerusalem… is likely to happen in many parts of the country… in the six, eight or ten months of the campaign thee sill certainly be great changes in the composition of the population of the country.

On February 9, Lehi (the Stern Gang) blew up an Arab building near the Jaffa Gate. The next day, an Arab force attacked the Jewish neighborhood of Yemin Moshe at the southwestern corner of the Old City. They were repelled by British troops.

On the 22nd, three trucks loaded with dynamite exploded on Ben-Yehuda Street in the city center, causing extensive damage, killing 52 and wounding 152. A Jewish inquiry committee blamed the British but circumstantial evidence implicated Arab deserters from the Palestine Police Force.

Fighting along the main road to the coastal plain gradually cut off supplies to Jerusalem.

March 1948
The Haganah organized the military defense of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. There were a growing number of confrontations with the British troops sealing off the area. On March 28, British forces took over a Haganah position and confiscated a 2-inch mortar. Arab forces shelled a Haganah position in the fortified Hurva synagogue.

The water supply to Jerusalem was cut off.

April 1948
Haganah launched a series of operations throughout the Jerusalem region to gain control of hilltop Arab villages. Beit Naqquba and Beit Thul fell on April 1st and Qaluniya and al-Qastal on April 3rd. On April 9th, Irgun and Stern Gang forces took Deir Yassin, killing 254 persons over two days, mostly women and children. News of the massacre prompted an exodus of the Arab population still living in the West Jerusalem and its surrounding villages. The Jewish Quarter was shelled the same day.

On April 14th, a Jewish convoy on its way to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed; 76 Jews and 14 Arabs were killed. On April 30th, the Arab neighborhood of Qatamon fell to the Haganah with 150 Arabs killed. By the end of April, an estimated 45,000 Arab residents in East Jerusalem had been displaced, many of who took refuge with friends and relatives in the Old City.

On April 21, the Trusteeship Council released its report on the proposed Statute for Jerusalem.

On April 26, the UN General Assembly, asked the “Trusteeship Council to study, with the Mandatory Power and the interested parties, suitable measures for the protection of the city and its inhabitants, and to submit within the shortest possible time proposals to the General Assembly to that effect.” Resolution No. 185 (S-2) The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross initiated negotiations with Arab and Jewish authorities to declare Jerusalem as a “security zone” under the protection of the Red Cross.

May 1948
On May 2, Arab and Jewish authorities proclaimed a cease-fire within the Old City.

On May 5, the UN Trusteeship Council made the following recommendations:

1. Following consultations with the Trusteeship Council, the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency for Palestine ordered on 2 May 1948 within the Walled City of Jerusalem a cease-fire, which is now in effect. The two parties have further agreed that the specific terms of a truce in respect of the Walled City will be elaborated in Jerusalem in consultation with the High Commissioner for Palestine.

2. The Trusteeship Council also brings to the notice of the General Assembly the undertakings given by the representatives of the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency for Palestine that their communities will respect and safeguard all Holy Places.

3. The Trusteeship Council has been informed that the Mandatory Power would be willing, if the General Assembly agrees, to appoint under Palestine legislation before 15 May 1948, a neutral acceptable to both Arabs and Jews, a Special Municipal Commissioner, who shall, with the co-operation of the community committees already existing in Jerusalem, carry out the functions hitherto performed by the Municipal Commission. The Trusteeship Council, therefore, recommends to the General Assembly that it inform the Mandatory Power of its full agreement with such measure.

4. The Council recognizes that the measure here above recommended does not provide adequately for the protection of the City and of its inhabitants. It considers also that urgent attention should be given by the General Assembly to the necessity of providing for the custody of the assets of the Government of Palestine in Jerusalem and for an effective maintenance of law and order in the municipal area pending a final settlement.

On Friday, May 14 the British High Commissioner left Jerusalem. The same day, the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv and Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Transjordan declared war on the new state. The United Nations General Assembly appointed Count Folke Bernadotte as Mediator. On May 16, Baq’a, the last Arab neighborhood in West Jerusalem was cleared of its residents by Israeli forces.

On May 15, Israeli forces launched a massive attack on the northwestern walls of the Old City, from Damascus Gate to Zion Gate. On the 18th they breached Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate from which they resupplied the Jewish Quarter before being repelled by the local Arab militia. They took position on Mount Zion from which they shelled the Armenian and Muslim quarters. On the 19th, they occupied the French Saint-Louis Hospital and the Notre Dame Hospice. On the same day, the Transjordan Arab Legion crossed the Allenby Bridge and took up positions along the partition line. On May 21, an infantry company marched down from the Mount of Olives and entered through Saint Stephen Gate and linked up with the Arab forces in the Old City. An armored column drove down from Ramallah to the Damascus Gate while fierce fighting took place on the edges of the Old City, with the French Notre Dame Hospice and Saint Louis Hospital changing hands several times.

House-to-house fighting intensified within the shrinking perimeter of the Jewish Quarter. The Tiferet Israel and Hurva synagogues that were used as Haganah strongholds were destroyed. On May 28, the Haganah forces agreed to surrender to the Arab Legion in the presence of a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Pablo de Azcarate, the Assistant Principal Secretary of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. Some 300 Palmach and Haganah fighters were marched to the Citadel and later transferred to a prisoners of war camp in Transjordan and 1,200 civilians were escorted through the Zion Gate to the New City.

On May 29, the United Nations Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire in Palestine.

Summer 1948
The first week of June saw sustained mortar shelling of the Old City. The Greek patriarcate, several Greek monasteries, the Casa Nova and the Holy Sepulcher were hit. On June 11, Arab governments and Israel agreed upon a four-week truce. Taking advantage of the truce, many among the Arab population of nearly 70,000 (including an estimated 10,000 refugees from the New City) started to leave the Old City. By the end of the month, only five to seven thousand remained, mainly the very poor.

Fighting resumed on July 10. On July 12, Israeli mortar shells landed near the Mosque of Omar, killing 22 people. On July 16, Israeli forces launched a major attack on the Old City. The Convent of Saint Vassilios, near the New Gate, was destroyed. Several churches and convents were damaged, including the Hospice of Saint John and the nearby markets, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, as were the Hezbekiah Pool, buildings along the Via Dolorosa and the Catholic and Armenian Patriarcates. On July 18, hours before a second truce ordered by the Security Council came into effect, a Jewish assault on the Jaffa and Zion Gates was repulsed. Periodic sniping and shelling continued to occur throughout the summer. On September 17, Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator and Colonel Serot of the French army, were assassinated in Jerusalem by members of the Stern Gang. Shortly before hand, he had submitted a long report on his mediation mission to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The report proposed the demilitarization of Jerusalem. It also contained a number of suggestions as to the modification of the terms of the partition resolution and on the status of Jerusalem.

On August 2, Dov Joseph was appointed military governor of the Israeli portion of Jerusalem, followed by the establishment of its Supreme Court in mid-September. On December 11, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed the decision to internationalize the city.

Sporadic incidents along the cease-fire line continued over the following month. On April 3, 1949 an armistice agreement was signed on the island of Rhodes by Israel and Transjordan. Jerusalem was divided into two cities divided by a no-man’s land.

On April 24, 1950, the union of Transjordan and of the Palestinian territories under Arab control formed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including the Old City of Jerusalem.

On December 9, the United Nations General Assembly once again called for the internationalization of Jerusalem. On December 11, Israel declared Jerusalem as the capital of the newly created state.