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PERMANENT MANDATES COMMISSION OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS REPORT

29TH JUNE 1939

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Introduction

The British White Paper of May 1939 had announced severe and permanent limitations to Jewish immigration to Palestine. The League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission met for the last time in June of 1939, on the eve of World War II and issued its last report concerning the League of Nations Mandates. The commission was evidently unanimous in finding that the White Paper was in violation of the original terms of the British Mandate:

From the first, one fact forced itself to the notice of the Commission namely, that the policy set out in the White Paper was not in accordance with the interpretation which in agreement with the mandatory Power and the Council, the Commission had always placed upon the Palestine mandate.

The Mandates Commission included representatives of seven countries. Britain, France and Portugal introduced the peculiar idea that the Mandate might be "reinterpreted" to suit the British policy:

The  Commission did not, however, confine itself to establishing this single fact.  It went on to consider whether the Palestine mandate might not perhaps be open to a new interpretation which, while still respecting its main principles, would be sufficiently flexible for the policy of the White Paper not to appear at variance with it.

The British represented to the League Council that "encouragement of close settlement of Jews on on the land" and of Jewish immigration, could somehow be the same as barring Jewish immigration to Palestine:

The Commission learned from the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the mandatory Power considered, on the strength of the opinion expressed by its legal advisers that, in view of the changed situation, the policy that it proposed to pursue was in agreement with the mandate, itself based on Article 22 of the Covenant and on the Balfour Declaration. 

This idea was not acceptable to the other four members of the Mandates Commission. It was, however, sufficient grounds to provide an excuse for not issuing a definitive recommendation and leaving the matter to the discretion of the League Council, which never met to consider the report.

The document excerpt below is taken from the printed report:

Report to the Council on the 36th Session of the PMC, Doc. No. C.170 M.100, 1939, VI, Geneva, 1939, pp 274-275.

A part of this document appears in a 1947 report presented by Britain to the UN, in an attempt to justify their policy in Palestine.  

Ami Isseroff

June 27, 2010


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PERMANENT MANDATES COMMISSION OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS

REPORT 29TH JUNE 1939

 

A.   PALESTINE:  OBSERVATIONS ON THE POLICY LAID DOWN IN THE

WHITE PAPER OF  MAY 1939

 

...Paragraphs 9 to 15

 

9.      From the first, one fact forced itself to the notice of the Commission namely, that the policy set out in the White Paper was not in accordance with the interpretation which in agreement with the mandatory Power and the Council, the Commission had always placed upon the Palestine mandate. 

In order to prove this, it will be enough to say that, only two years ago, the Government of the mandatory declared; in the Statement of Policy which accompanied the report published by the Royal Commission, that the present mandate was unworkable.  In view of this, the Mandates Commission communicated to the Council its opinion that a mandate which was declared unworkable by the mandatory Power almost became so by that very fact. 

10.   In 1937, there was already a conflict between Jewish and Arab aspirations, which the United Kingdom Government admitted its inability to reconcile; that conflict was the principal obstacle to Palestine's being administered in accordance with the mandate.  Since that time the conflict has become more and more intense.  In 1937 the United Kingdom Government, feeling itself unable equitably to administer Palestine under the present mandate believed that the possibility of so doing was to be found in a territorial partition for which no provision was made therein, while to-day it considers its new policy to be in accordance with the mandate.  Does this not show that that instrument had at that time a different meaning in the eyes of the mandatory Power than that which it has to-day.  

11.   The  Commission did not, however, confine itself to establishing this single fact.  It went on to consider whether the Palestine mandate might not perhaps be open to a new interpretation which, while still respecting its main principles, would be sufficiently flexible for the policy of the White Paper not to appear at variance with it.  The Commission was all the less reluctant to raise this question since, according to the mandatory Power, no such contradiction existed.  The Commission learned from the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the mandatory Power considered, on the strength of the opinion expressed by its legal advisers that, in view of the changed situation, the policy that it proposed to pursue was in agreement with the mandate, itself based on Article 22 of the Covenant and on the Balfour Declaration. 

12.   During the examination of this latter question divergent views were found to exist among members of the Commission. 

13.   In view of the divergencies, and of the resultant inability of the Commission to submit on this point conclusions which would be both definite and unanimous, it can only refer the Council to the Minutes of its meetings for an account of the individual views of its members. 

14.  As will be seen therein, four of the latter did not feel able to state that the policy of the White Paper was in conformity with the mandate, any contrary conclusion appearing to them to be ruled out by the very terms of the mandate and by the fundamental intentions of its authors.

15.    The other members, three in number, were unable to share this opinion; they consider that existing circumstances would justify the policy of the White Paper, provided the Council did not oppose it

 

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