The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Palestine Partition Proposition

From the beginning of the British mandate in Palestine following WWI, tensions between the growing Jewish population in Palestine and the indigenous Palestinian Arabs in the region had continued to grow.  The Arabs of Palestine distrusted the British mandate officials, in large part due to their perceived favoritism towards the Zionist claims for a Jewish national home which was sparked by the Balfour Declaration of 1922.[1]  In the aftermath of the Arab revolt of 1936, the Peel Commission was formed to understand and investigate the underlying motives behind Arab resistance to both the Jews and the British Mandate.[2]  The conclusions of the Peel Commission Report and the idea of a partition of two independent states was a last-ditch effort by mandate Britain to attempt a lasting peace between the Jewish and Arab communities, although it was doomed to fail even before its findings were published.

The Peel Commission of 1937 was tasked with two important objectives – to get to the bottom of the causes of tension between the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine and to make recommendations of how that tension could be equitably resolved.[3]  At the outset of the published report, the commission acknowledged the seriousness of their charge, indicating that “no other problem of our time is rooted so deeply in the past,” referencing the historical claim to Palestine shared by Jews and Arabs alike.[4]  The commission also admitted that promises made to both sides in the duration of WWI which led to the mandate of Palestine had given both Arabs and Jews of Palestine expectations that had not been fulfilled satisfactorily.[5]  Neither community had any interest in working together to create or maintain a single state in the region, nor were both willing to reconcile and work together for the formation of a national identity.[6]  Given that, the ultimate recommendation of the Peel report was a revolutionary one that would pave the way for all future reconciliation attempts in Palestine going forward.[7]

In the interest of peace, the commission recommended a partition plan for Palestine, which created two separate and independent states: one for the Arabs and one for the Jews.  Although seemingly equitable from a current viewpoint, the partition becomes less-so when viewed through the lens of Arab sentiments contemporary with the report, the division of land given the demographics or the time and the way that the land was to be divided.[8]  In addition, the Peel Commission recommendation did not allow for the creation of a third separate state for Palestinian Arabs – rather the division would make the Arab section of the partition a part of Jordan, since historically the region had been encompassed by the Southern Syrian Empire.[9]  This would mean that the Arabs living in Palestine would forgo their growing national identity and become absorbed by the Jordan Emirate.[10]  For the Arab community in Palestine, this compromise was untenable.  While other Arab populations in the Middle East were gaining autonomy and independence from colonial interference, those in Palestine viewed the potential of Jewish State as a takeover of their homeland by a foreign (and often hostile) people.[11]

While ultimately rejected as impractical, the Peel Commission Report viewed their recommendations as the only available method to creating lasting peace in a region torn apart by dueling national identities by two distinctly different cultures that could not – or would not – see eye to eye.  There would be no compromise possible amidst the growing tensions of a region where both communities had a valid and historical claim to the same homeland, especially in light of perceived Western interference in Middle Eastern affairs.  Where Palestinian Arabs rightly viewed themselves as capable of independence and self-governance based on a long-standing presence in the region dating back to the 7th century.  On the other hand, Jews had a historical claim to the land that they believed was given to them by God himself, a claim that even many Muslims acknowledged openly.[12]  The unfortunate truth was that both communities shared claim to the same territory, and neither were willing to accept a lesser portion of that claim than they believed they deserved – namely all of Palestine.  Anything short of the entire land of Palestine would be unacceptable to Arabs and Jews alike, making the Peel Commission recommendations doomed to fail almost before they could be published.    Although the commission report ended on a hopeful note, stating that “if it offers neither party all it wants, it offers each what it wants most, namely freedom and security,” and it was most likely the only possible solution for peace, it fell short of the goal and was rejected by both sides.[13]  Instead of easing inherent tensions between the two opposing sides, the idea of partition sparked new ones, which put Jews, Arabs and British mandate powers simultaneously at risk for growing violence in the region going forward.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bartal, Shaul.  “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept.”  Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 51-70.

 

Gill, Natasha.  “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters.”  Middle East Policy Council. Accessed March 10, 2018http://www.mepc.org/commentary/original-no-why-arabs-rejected-zionism-and-why-it-matters.

 

Jewish Virtual Library.  “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”  July 1937.  Accessed March 18, 2018.  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/text-of-the-peel-commission-report.

 

Smith, Charles D.  Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

[1] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict 9th Edition, (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017), 129.

[2] Charles D Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 134.

[3] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept,” Jewish Political Studies Review 28, no. 1/2 (Spring 2017): 52.

[4] “British Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report,” July 1937, Jewish Virtual Library, accessed March 18, 2018, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/text-of-the-peel-commission-report

[5] “British Palestinian Mandate Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[6] “Palestinian Mandate: Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

[7] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[8] Natasha Gill, “The Original ‘No’: Why the Arabs Rejected Zionism, and Why it Matters,” Middle East Policy Council, accessed March 10, 2018, http://www.mepc.org/commentary/original-no-why-arabs-rejected-zionism-and-why-it-matters.

[9] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[10] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 57.

[11] Shaul Bartal, “The Peel Commission Report of 1937,” 58.

[12] Charles D. Smith, “Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict,” 134.

[13] “Palestinian Mandate: The Text of the Peel Commission Report.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s