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Interwar Palestine: Arab Uprisings and the White Paper

The British administration of Palestine did not proceed smoothly. The competing nationalist aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs and Jews were manifested in periodic uprisings and riots. The two groups directed violence toward each other, and increasingly toward the British, who were regarded as an unwelcome occupying force. There was a common belief that the British mandate period would be brief and would be followed by an opportunity for the establishment of an independent state.

Riots broke out throughout the mandate period. Arabs rioted against the British presence in 1920 and 1921.  The Jewish population formed their own defense with the Haganah, poorly equipped localized groups that later developed into Israel's army.

In 1929, there were more riots culminating in a massacre of Jews in Hebron. The remaining Jewish population of the city was forced to flee for safety.

The Stren gang focused their efforts on clandestine operations to attack the British. The Irgun was another group, which was formed in 1931, that carried out attacks on Arab civilians in retaliation for attacks on Jews. These groups demanded the unrestricted immigration of Jews into Palestine and the establishment of Israel.

In the 1920s and 1930s there was a world-wide trend to not accept Jewish refugees. Jews were facing wide spread anti-Semitism and persecution as well. Irving Abella and Harold Troper point out in their book, None Is Too Many, that Canada, like countries around the world, had harsh restrictions on the immigration of Jews.

British policy on the number of Jews allowed to enter Israel changed several times in the interwar period. In 1939, the British government released a policy statement, known as the White Paper, which restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine and limited Jewish ability to purchase land. These restrictions came into effect just as Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe were attempting to flee the persecution of the Nazis. Thus, the White Paper was responsible for a great deal of animosity on the part of Jews toward the British, a sentiment that came to a head after the conclusion of the Second World War.

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